Conesus Lake 5/18 + 5/19


Wind forecasts weren’t looking too good for our planned Lake Erie trip, so we decided on fishing some Western Finger Lakes. I grew up fishing the Western Finger Lakes, mainly Honeoye and Conesus. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a 6th and 7th grader I would join my friend Jeff in his 12′ rowboat, dump out of Honeoye’s south end and spend the day out there casting for bass and pickerel. Fishing for both species was very good then on Honeoye, with fewer but larger bass and plenty of pickerel. Now it’s better number wise for bass (mostly smaller) and the pickerel fishing isn’t as good. From around 1986 onwards I’d mostly fish with my buddy Terry in his multi-species set up and we’d fish for walleyes, pike and bass on Conesus or walleyes and bass on Honeoye.

The main difference between the Eastern Finger Lakes (like Owasco, Otisco, Cayuga and Skaneateles) and the Western Finger Lakes (like Honeoye and Conesus – and to a lesser extent Keuka and Canandaigua)is with usage. The Western lakes generally have a flatter topography, so for better or worse they were heavily developed. Conesus Lake is wall to wall cottages/homes. Same with Honeoye. They are very close to Rochester (and Monroe County,) where you have a five county population of over a million people. Of course you have the opposite situation with Hemlock and Canadice Lakes – the smallest (western) Finger Lakes – where homes were taken over (bought out) by the City of Rochester and the lakes are kept in pristine condition as sources of water for the city of Rochester. (I know Hemlock is a water source, I’m not certain on Canadice – though I think it also is.) I don’t fish Hemlock or Canadice much at all, and it’s not because I don’t want to! The experience out on these lakes is wonderful. I just don’t have the time or the set up right now. But they are treasures.

Honeoye and Conesus offer some fantastic fishing. Conesus is an alewife driven fishery without the salmonids! So the warm water fish get to eat all the alewives without sharing them with trout and salmon – fish get BIG here! The boat traffic here after kids get out of school in late June is intense. There’s no comparison to the eastern lakes. Last time I checked, there was a water-skiing slalom course set up in the south end of Honeoye Lake! Right where the great fishing is. In the 1970s it was understood by cottage owners that the south end was for fishing and the rest of the lake was for other activities. This obviously has changed. Conesus is also crazy. On summer weekends there are plenty of imbibed boaters racing around the lake at 1 am. I love fishing these lakes in May and early June, and again in October and November. There’s some great summer fishing, but be prepared to share the water with plenty of other enthusiasts. Best call is to start at 4 am and get off the water around 11 am during the weekends, or fish rainy days and weekdays.

5/18: Jarrod and I got on the lake just before 9 am with 58-to-59-degree water. On the way down I became a complete believer in his Garmin GPS/Navigator! It was amazing – I learned a new route that was both scenic and saved us a lot of headaches as well as mileage. We had bluebird skies and a light Northwind. We tried a point on the way to the N. end and marked some good fish and bait. Up to the north end we went and I found an area with some very subtle weed growth. Within short order – maybe 10 to 15 minutes on my alewife tube I had a hit was hooked up to a tiger musky around 22″ to 24″. I lost the fish. Jarrod was next, hooking and landing a very hefty pike at 32″ on a jerkbait. The fish fought great. I then landed my first Conesus Tiger musky – a dink around 20″. They’ve been stocked here since the late 1980s or early 1990s. Jarrod had a good pike follow him and I landed a 14″ largemouth. And that was about it. We worked down the lake and found plenty of smallmouths on beds, as well as a few largemouths. Males seemed to have moved up and many females were hovering just off the shelves. I landed a big smallmouth, again on a tube, then Jarrod did the same.

Fishing slowed up for us from around 1 pm till 5 pm. Jarrod had a hit, missed it, made another cast and had a walleye follow him in. We saw some big pike. But the fish seemed to have shut off. Around 5 pm I hooked a big fish and lost it. Then Jarrod put on a swimbait clinic for me, landing a 4lb+ largemouth and another chunky fish. Then he set into the biggest largemouth I’ve seen in person caught on the Finger Lakes. It was huge – 22 1/2″ and weighed in at 6+3/4lbs! At around 6 pm we talked to some guys trolling eyes and they reported slow fishing – 2 fish between 5 and 6lbs on the entire day. That still isn’t too bad IMO, for cooling waters and an alewife driven walleye fishery during the day. By this time, we’d decided we’d stay and fish Conesus on both days, rather than switch over to Honeoye Lake.

We used the Garmin Navigator and located a hotel and pizza place. The unit gave us phone numbers and addresses – how great is that? We grabbed a bite to eat, went to the hotel and set the alarm for 1:30 am.

5/19: We checked out and were on the lake by 2:45 am and met with a good south wind and very cold conditions. There was one trailer in the parking lot and the boat was coming in as we launched. The guys reported landing one 5lb walleye. Water temps dropped to 57. We worked a few good stretches and never had a hit. We didn’t see many baitfish around. At daybreak the bass turned on and we landed 4 or 5 largemouths, incl. one around 4lbs. No walleyes. Jarrod did have one eye follow him in around 7:30 am.

We tried an area my buddy Terry had found years ago, where I used to catch some daytime (early AM) walleyes. At least I THINK it was the same area! I had a wicked bite-off and then Jarrod hooked a very heavy fish before being bitten off. I then landed a pike around 25″ on the tube. We rigged some pike stuff up and I landed a solid 32″ fish. Jarrod does a bit of musky fisheries work and was very impressed with the heft of these pike. They were very well fed and very strong fighters. A few more smallies and another pike rounded off the day. We quit at 2 pm.

Overall the fishing was tough – we fished our butts off on very long days. I fully intend to chase walleyes here in a week or two at night. I think the fishing is going to be very good after the next few hot days bring in the spawning alewives!