Cayuga Lake out of Taughannock 2/24
Met my buddy Mike at the launch at around 10 am with pike and salmon as the target. By 10:30 or so we were launched. Air temps were in the upper 20s and we were the 4th rig in the lot. Two more boats launched after us. People are really enjoying the great winter salmon fishing on Cayuga and Seneca Lakes this year! The launch area was slick and previous fishermen had to break a little ice to get out. FWIW – The outlet area was dug out and the shallowest area is just in from the bridge (on the marina side.) But overall, I appreciate the efforts of the park personnel in dredging the launch area a little bit!
We worked some salmon areas south of the park with our fly-rods. Our first area didn’t produce anything, but further down the lake we found some fish. I had the first grab with a nice 19″ landlocked salmon that I kept. It hit a bionic smelt fly on an intermediate line. Then Mike scored on the same pattern with a 21 1/2″ beauty that he released. A 12″er followed for him. His fish came on Type 3 sinking lines.
At around 1:45 pm we started pike fishing. Water in the southern portions of the lake was a frigid 32.4 degrees on top! Keep in mind that as water gets cooler it sinks until it cools to 39 degrees. 39 is the densest water gets. So as it cools down below 39 degrees it floats. Thus the surface temps were the coldest water in the area, but water underneath it was likely 35 to 37 degrees or something like that.
The runoff from last Friday’s thaw made the south end of the lake a bit murky. Although fly-fishing is my favorite way to catch pike, I guide a lot of spin-fishers for them, so I brought along a spinning set-up with a swimbait. I wanted to see what it felt like working the swimbait with my 7′ Fenwick MH HMG rod and smoke colored Fireline. The Fireline was a little difficult to see. In the future I may go to the Crystal Fireline. It’s hard to say. With good polarized glasses I could watch the line. Mike was working a new integrated shooting head setup.
I caught the first pike on a chart. swimbait. It was around 24″. The spinning set-up performed very well and I had no problems detecting bites and setting the hook. I then landed another pike around 32″, lost a good one and then landed another around 33″ to 34″. By then I had a good idea of where the fish were and how they were hitting. So I started fly-casting with my 8 wt. fly rod with a type 6 full sinking line. I landed another 24″ to 25″ pike on the fly and then another around 32″ or so. The fish were hitting lethargically but fighting pretty well. We think Mike’s set up was sinking too quickly and required too fast of a strip to be effective, so he switched to a Type 6 setup. If I remember right, I got one more in the low 30s.
The fish were really grabbing good, but for the most part fishing the flies painfully slow was the key. This is where fly-fishing excels! I used a heavily dressed streamer that sank slowly. My next fish hit without my moving the fly at all. I made a cast, let the fly sink, felt a jerk and set the hook into a very solid fish. Big pike tend to move at a right angle when hooked. I’ve landed a couple 40″ fish on Seneca and Cayuga Lakes fly-fishing and that’s what they did. I was able to land the fish without any problems even with a lit cigar in my mouth. Well there was one problem – the numerous cuts I got when the gill rakes scraped my hand as they flared open! This was probably my best Finger Lakes northern. Mike’s measuring tape on his boat only read to 36″ and that’s what we had from the fish’s tail to her eye! Add in another 4″ to 5″ of mouth and you have a 41″ northern. The head on this fish was HUGE!!! Not superfat, but a beast. (I don’t recommend weighing any big fish to be released. They thrash on a scale and rip themselves apart, plus their organs get compressed vertically. It’s never a good idea.) We took one quick photo and let her go unharmed. Once Mike switched his setup, he landed a couple decent pike.
Overall some terrific pike action on Cayuga. The fish, for the most part were very healthy looking and clean. No lamprey signs and no outward signs of disease. No ice fishing is the main reason Cayuga produces some good pike on its south end. Add in good lamprey control, light winter fishing pressure and some “catch and release,” and banner days are possible.