Cayuga Lake 2/20 PM + 2/21


Cayuga Lake is back down to its usual winter level, which is LOW.  Launching is still fairly easy at Long Point State Park and Taughannock (I haven’t been there, but that’s the #1 winter launch on Cayuga.)  Other launches may pose some issues until the lake is raised by runoff or naturally (by allowing it to via the dam.)  Water temperature is around 39 to 40 degrees on top, depending on where you’re fishing.

2/20 PM:  I met Debbie and her son Steve at Long Point just before 1 pm.  No other trailers were at the park.  The marina was somewhat iced up after the single-digit temperatures and calm wind of the night before.  I was able to break some of the ice and launched with Deb and Steve’s help.  Today (2/21) I found out in the AM that my transducer was nudged down a bit by the ice but was fine.  Winter launching can be hazardous, and caution must be used!  Ice can knock out trailer lights, low water levels can ding skegs and props and so on.

I did see some snow geese on the lake as I drove down the road to the park but didn’t see them when we were out.  One or two boats apparently launched from Dean’s Cove as well – we weren’t the only boat on the lake.  Steve got interesting in fishing from watching content online.  We wound up having a very nice day with 9 nice fish landed and Debbie getting the lion’s share.  Eventually Steve’s hands got a bit cold, so we wrapped up a little bit early.  I filleted three fish for them and two of them had alewives in their stomachs.

Ice at the launch

Debbie hooked up

A nice way to start the afternoon!

Another on for Debbie

Another hookup = another fish landed

Steve on

Steve with one

Debbie comes back with a bigger one to top Steve!

Another one of Steve's

2/21 Myers Park:  Everything pretty much went right on my trip out of Long Point yesterday.  We didn’t have any big issues launching, despite the low water and ice; we had a terrific day of fishing (and “catching”) out on the water, and lastly, the wind really laid down nicely, and that, combined with the high sun overhead and clear skies, made for a warm-feeling day on the water, despite the cold air temperatures.

Today I had Mark I. out for a full day.  We met at Myers Park just before 9 am.  Last night, on my way home from Long Point, I checked out the launch at Myers.  There was some icing, but it wasn’t too bad and I was pretty certain that it would melt away due to the wind/waves forecast for last night and today.

Launching was a bit of a pain in the butt at Myers due to low water levels, some ice in the harbor/marina area and lastly, a blazing south wind that was gusting into the upper 20s mph range.  You can also factor in the cold and wind chill!  We took our time getting prepared and I let my motor warm up for a while before we broke enough ice around the boat and were able to get the boat turned around and ready to leave.  A couple were walking their dog and the woman mentioned, while laughing in a good-natured way, that we were pretty brave (real meaning – crazy) launching today in that wind.  She did have a good point!  Had I (and Mark) known about how windy it would be, we would’ve postponed the trip, but we were here and were able to get out onto the lake with no issues, other than kicking up a lot of muck and debris on the way out.

Due to the heavy winds, we were relegated to fishing certain stretches of the lake that were somewhat sheltered.  That wasn’t an issue, since those are some of my favorite winter areas to fish and also some of the most productive.  Only problem was the fish didn’t seem to be in or didn’t want what I had Mark throwing.  Fly-fishing was pretty much out-of-the-question with 25 mph winds.  I had Mark work stickbaits in shallow, tubes in mid-depth areas and blade baits out a bit deeper.  He had one solid hit on a blade bait coming up.  That was it!  No follows from young salmon or browns like my prior trips – not even a shallow lake trout.  We did see the first loon that I’ve encountered this “spring.”  That’s always cool to see.

After maybe 4 hours of patiently casting, Mark asked about the jigging prospects.  I said “sure – let’s give it a shot.”  I don’t do a lot of winter jigging in the lower lake, but do on occasion as a secondary pattern when the casting isn’t going well or people want to try something different.  I had been reading through my old fishing logs from around 20 to 25 years ago and noticed that I used to jig more out of Taughannock in the springtime back around in the mid-2000s.  We gave it a try and were soon in business.  In a nutshell, the afternoon of jigging salvaged our day with Mark landing 5 solid fish – mostly from 20″ to 24″ (these are “resident” lakers, not the larger migratory fish that mill around in the deeper basin water north of Long Point.)  Mark had quite a few other hits as well, so the action was decent.

Here’s my take so far on the winter 2023/2024 season:  

This has been one of the milder winters we’ve had in the past decade (last year was also very mild.)  It may be possible that fish haven’t “set-up” the way they often do when the winters are more brutal.  Milder winters are usually accompanied by south winds and westerlies.  (We were very close to the full-moon today, which may have hurt the inshore bite.  The water is also super-clear and we had bluebird skies today, which may keep fish deeper/more offshore.)

During very cold winters, lake trout often move into very deep water.  I try to fish them reasonably shallow for a bunch of reasons – clients get more drops and it’s easier on the fish.  This year, I have not had to fish much deeper than 130′ up north of Long Point.  We’ve found fish deeper, but the fish we’ve been targeting from around 110′ out to maybe 150′ have been very active and consistently around.  I’ve had no need to fish 160′ to 180′ or more this year.

Fish I’ve cleaned have had more baitfish in them than usual for this time of year – this includes the fish I cleaned for Mark today and the fish I cleaned yesterday up north.  The warmer, mild winter has likely kept a larger percentage of alewives in a bit shallower.  Of course, the majority of “sawbellies” will be deep, but I’m finding them in some shallower water.  Lakers we jigged today in the lower lake (from Taughannock on south) were in around 80′ of water and I also marked some bait fish schools out there.

Salmon have been fairly non-existent on Cayuga Lake this winter, apart from some dinks.  I haven’t fished all the areas I like to try in the winter, but certainly should’ve encountered a few at least.  The lack of boats out this time of year also corroborates my observations.  Seneca Lake has been better, but still isn’t as good as it has been in years past.

We have a nice warm up coming up, although winds may get pretty high.  I hope to get back to Seneca for salmon and back to Keuka for some lake trout fly-fishing.  Stay tuned!  I have plenty of openings starting late this week and going into March and onwards.