Cayuga out of Taughannock 12/27


After seeing the nice weather forecast, and watching the skies clear on the radar, I decided to take the boat out for an afternoon of fishing. It’s been kind of hard for me to get up early lately – I feel that I’m making up for my sleep deprivation that takes place from April through November, but it didn’t matter today. I launched the boat at 1:15 pm. The lake level of Cayuga is LOW, even though it looks alright. I found that out on the way back in at 4:30 pm when my prop got introduced to the rubble at the mouth of the marina!

I brought pike and salmon gear and fly-fishing equipment today. I was psyched to try this rod that Mike Canavan sent me – a spinning rod with a split grip and interesting guide configuration. The rod fished surprisingly well – it’s a St. Croix Graphite III blank. The rod cast light X-raps as well as heavier jigs with ease. The handle was ergonomically pleasing and the guide spacing made complete sense when I cast and retrieved lures. The rod has 3 relatively large single foot Fuji guides, then there’s a wide gap and 4 tiny guides and the tip top. The rod was custom built for a particular spinning reel. When reeling in, the line barely touches the outside of the larger guide ring – so there’s next to no friction. While fishing my index finger is on the blank. I was very impressed – it cast and worked a variety of lure types well and was very light and pleasing to fish with. I just received my new BASS Master magazine and can see that most major manufacturers of rods are now offering split grip rods. Mike’s been doing these for years – he’s way ahead of the curve on rod building! But I digress…

Water temps were around 41 degrees. I had a hit and landed and released a 16″ brown off the park. It hit a white (small) X-rap. I worked a few areas both N. and S. of the park, staying on the west shore. Not much was happening. I was hoping for a fish dinner and almost regretted releasing the brown! In one of my favorite areas S. of the park I worked jigs and the X-rap for awhile, then went to the fly-rod. I was pretty much getting ready to leave when I felt a hit and then a solid weight. I knew it wasn’t a snag since I was working an intermediate line and was in 20′ of water or so. The fish was heavy, but didn’t do anything acrobatically – salmon can sometimes be a little lethargic (like steelhead) in the cold. After some good digging near the boat I slid the net under it – it was a very nice fish – a 25″ female that weighed 5lbs and 11.3 oz. The last 25″ salmon we caught in the winter/spring was in April or May and weighed 5lbs. 5 oz. This fish(today) was in excellent condition! No lamprey scars and FAT! It’s great to see.

A lot of people think that these salmon spawn then return to the lake, and then we start catching them. My experience has been that the salmon we catch in November in the lake are not fish that spawned that particular fall. I think that very few salmon survive spawning in Cayuga and Seneca Lakes. In over 10 years of fishing salmon in the Finger Lakes in November and onwards I’ve caught 2 or 3 “post spawn fish”. That’s it. And one of those was on Skaneateles Lake – a lake with no alewives and no EMS problems. The post-spawn fish I’ve caught were males. I have yet to catch a post -spawn female (that I can remember) in the lake! You’d think that after spawning the salmon (and browns) would be very hungry and aggressive like drop-back steelhead, but it isn’t the case. The fish I caught today had IMMATURE eggs in it – tiny skeins. This was clearly a fish that was going to spawn in 2009, not a “drop back”. This fish was also loaded with alewives. Cayuga has had loads of bait for years. We haven’t had a bait-shortage on this lake since I’ve lived here (since at least 1995!). Yet some years the salmon are well-fed and on other years they aren’t. I think the baitfish have different depth preferences and it seems tome that if the alewives go very deep, the salmon don’t always find them. I’m not sure, but it’s a theory.

I had two fish hit today and landed two. I’m not complaining at all, but I didn’t find any numbers today. Conditions weren’t my favorite for salmon – I like sun and north winds on Cayuga, but they weren’t bad. Re: guide trips – think of salmon fishing like steelhead or musky fishing – lots of effort and if you get one or two fish you’re doing well. Casting for these fish is a real thrill – it’s not usually going to produce numbers, but you get to feel the hit and every bit of the battle! Fly-fishing is also very effective for salmon. I love it!

Re: Custom rods – they aren’t for everyone, but they can be surprisingly affordable. If you aren’t happy with what’s out there in the stores, or you do a lot of specialized techniques – let’s say you do a lot of casting with 1/3 oz. spinnerbaits, or lake trout jigging you may find a custom rod the answer. Plus it’s cool as heck to have a rod with your name on it! 😉 Mike can be reached at (570)888-0280or email him at