Cayuga Lake 6/9 – 11, AM trips


We dealt with a lot of smoke in the region, primarily on Tuesday and Wednesday, although some still remained in the air on Thursday.  It was an ominous sight!  It smelled like a roaring campfire was burning maybe 20 feet away and the wood fragrance was very evident.  In order not to add insult to injury, I waited until yesterday to fire up a cigar.

Smoke on the horizon

The haze was thick enough to where you could stare right at the sun without any problems.  Did this smoke impact the lake trout bite?  It may well have.  We wound up with a few days of low-light condition, similar to that of a full-moon – which would give fish a premium feeding opportunity throughout the week.  Fishing was challenging for us on Friday.  It improved slightly on Saturday and got a bit better on Sunday.  Reports from trollers were generally pretty good.  Water temperatures remain fairly cold and laker-friendly in many areas.  On top of that, we had a TON of bait move in lake-wide on Friday.  I hadn’t been out since last Sunday but had an excellent report on Monday from friends.  Fishing appeared to have slowed a bit after that.

6/9 AM:  Guided Kevin, Larry and their friend Joe.  Kevin and Larry joined me earlier this year and have fished with me several times over the past couple of years.   It was Joe’s first time out with me. As an added note, Joe was out fishing the day a year or two ago that an elderly angler died after falling in the water apparently trying to land a lake trout during the April cold-water period.  He and his Captain friend were the first to notice the boat with no angler on it.  They got the man to shore but unfortunately, he succumbed to the cold shortly thereafter.  Joe did tell me that the man apparently didn’t have his net onboard that day, so it’s possible, if not likely that he may have fell in while trying to reach over the gunnel to land the trout (which he had held onto the whole time he was in the water.)

We had some tough fishing today, despite marking tons of baitfish and plenty of lake trout.  They just seemed very negative.  Joe managed to land two nice fish and Larry landed one.  A few fish were dropped and hits missed but given the number of fish and bait around us, the action was quite tough.  Kevin usually has the hot hand between Larry and himself, but not today.   We worked areas all over the lake, covering a lot of ground and had similar results.  Storms came through and I thought they might trigger a bite-window but overall the guys were ready to head in rather than potentially get drenched!  There’s always another day!

Larry with a nice fish along with your Captain

Joe with a good one

What it's all about - good friends sharing time together out on the water!

6/10 AM:  Today was a tutorial trip with Ed and his wife Amy.  They run E+A Automotive Inc. in Groton NY, just outside of Lansing. My friend Todd, who referred them to me, told me that Ed does excellent work!  It was nice to meet him and Amy and we had a fun morning going over locating and catching lake trout in Cayuga Lake.  Amy nabbed the first fish which was a 29″ very dark, old looking lake trout that we released.  Ed nabbed the next 3 fish.  A couple were dropped as well.  The fish I cleaned (the three that Ed landed) were pretty full of bait, which helps to corroborate my theory that the fish fed heavily during the “smoke” event.  We did alright between 45′ to 85′ or so.

Ed with a nice one

6/11 AM:  Today was a trip out of Myers with Dan, who’s joined me a few times over the years. He stays at a rental near Frontenac Point, so I usually pick him up via boat from the place.  I figured that the bite would improve today and it did.  We had a good steady morning of fishing.  Dan landed 7 nice fish, four of which he kept, and again – they were eating plenty of alewives.  We worked three different areas and hooked fish in all of them and on all of the colors that we used today:  white, chartreuse and black.  Fish came from 55′ out to 85′.  Solid day and good fishing!

Dan with a nice one

I’d be remiss not to mention the big BPT (Bass Pro Tour) tournament that went on over the past week on Cayuga Lake.  I’m not going to say a whole lot on this topic.  It was unprecedented in the region for a major organization to schedule a big-time tournament before the season was open for keeping bass – even for catch and release, which is legal here.  This was basically a tournament scheduled during the peak of the spawn in hopes of showing a new potential record bass.  To me, it’s a bad move, especially in a fishery that’s loaded with gobies and has a quite modest smallmouth bass population.

What do we know about gobies and smallmouth bass abundance?  Lake Erie has dealt with round goby for decades.  Round Gobies first showed up in Lake St. Clair (a connecting waterway to Lake Erie) in 1990.  Due to smallmouth bass abundance concerns, in 2004 Ohio shut down the early bass season in Lake Erie due to nest predation.  New York State just released their Lake Erie Annual Report.  Note that according to the report:  “Smallmouth bass abundance has declined every year since 2000 in Lake Erie.”  On Oneida Lake, many anglers have been complaining about a decline in the smallmouth population since gobies showed up.  Gobies are a controversial prey source in general and for smallmouth bass in particular; the bass get big but their numbers decrease.  WE DO NOT YET KNOW HOW MUCH BASS POPULATIONS WILL DECREASE IN THE FACE OF ROUND GOBIES.   I just talked to a Lake Erie bass guide and he told me he was very concerned up to around 5 years ago, when he wasn’t seeing any young bass in Lake Erie.  Now he’s seeing some and is somewhat relieved.  It appears as though successful consecutive spawns amongst the bass may be a thing of the past with gobies, at least in certain waterways.  It’s looking like once or twice every ten years or so, we may see a good bass spawn.  Walleyes and yellow perch seem to be the winners in the goby invasion -at least for now, both are thriving in Lake Erie and Oneida Lakes.  Perch have been doing great in Cayuga Lake in the goby-era.  The jury isn’t quite out yet on the lake trout and other species, but those are topics for another day and article.

BPT’s response to the tournament being conducted in a goby-infested waterway during the spawn is that the average time a smallmouth bass is kept out of the water before it’s released (it’s a catch, weigh and release format scoring the top-5 bass) is approximately 48 seconds or somewhere around that time frame.  What they don’t tell people is that these anglers are targeting the exact same spawners!  So the same female bass could potentially get caught a dozen times or more during the week by a bunch of different fishermen fishing the bed at different times on different days!  Add up just some of that time, and we’re looking at 5 or more minutes of that nest being unguarded or guarded by one fish at best.  Not good!  Don’t be fooled by the numbers of smallmouths being weighed.  I was on the water over the past three days and these guys would work one bed or small group of them for 20 minutes or so, then run miles away to another bed, then perhaps another boat would come in a fish the bed the past angler had been working.  We certainly saw the overlap during consecutive days.  Another note is that lot of areas that were full of smallmouths decades ago, were only holding a few pairs.  Smallmouth bass still have not sufficiently recovered on Cayuga Lake since the VHS or bacterial die-off back in the late 2000s.