Keuka Lake out of Branchport 10/28
Guided Dean for a full day here starting around 8:45 am. He has been renting a place on this lake for the past three years and we previously talked about doing a trip here. Since moving to Lansing from Trumansburg (back in 2012 or 2013) I shifted away from guiding this lake with a few exceptions. I grew up fishing this lake, since it was close to my hometown of Rochester NY. It’s a terrific fishery for lake trout and bass and I do miss fishing here. In recent times I’ve made the trip out here around twice a year.
Dean’s brother Scott, as well as Scott’s son Aidan were both supposed to join us today but couldn’t due to the border issues going on. They reside in Toronto. The goal today was to get into some lake trout then spend the remainder of the day fishing bass and pickerel/pike. Usually this time of year the lake trout fishing is easy, but given the 3″+ of rain we just had on Tuesday, our visibility was diminished in areas.
We started in the Branchport Arm without any luck. I did mark a few fish. We took the run over to the bluff and spent a good 4 hours plus over there. On the way over we came across a “dead” jet ski that was just bobbing around the middle of the lake. Fortunately there wasn’t a human attached to it! The probable scenario is that is was beached on the shoreline and the rising lake level (coming up around 2′) floated it out.
Dean’s brother Scott has often had the hot hand with our trips going back to the first time I guided these guys back in 2006 on Owasco Lake for some ridiculous fishing. After Dean missed his first 7 fish at the bluff, Scott’s absence loomed large over the boat! Dean brought some Cuban cigars which definitely made the day and shifted the focus! I did not mark the numbers of fish around the bluff that we used to see here back in the 2000s and 2010s.
We wound up back on the Branchport Arm and I changed Dean up to some hardware – a spoon. That proved to be the ticket and he started nabbing some fish. He wound up with 4 nice 17 1/2″ to 22″ lakers – mostly on the spoon, but one on a plastic. Not the type of action I expect on Keuka Lake in October, but given the high water and poor visibility (in places) we will take it. All the fish were females and no bait was present in any of them.
We did about an hour of casting for bass and it was top-notch. Dean landed one hard fighting 16″er and had an aggressive chase and blow up from another good fish as well as another. And we didn’t cover much water. It’d be very tempting to come back here on a better day once things settle out. We are looking at another possible inch of rain tonight and showers all next week. Cayuga Lake is at “minor flood stage” and Seneca is also high. We’ll see what the weather brings but I’ve had to cancel and shuffle around trips.
We ran into the DEC Region 8 crew. They were checking the receivers that will track the chip-implanted ciscoes. So far the cisco program doesn’t appear to be working well. It can be very hard to re-establish a bait fish in a lake like Keuka Lake that’s so predator heavy. DEC basically winds up feeding fish. When undertaking a project like that, I think everyone knows that that will be the likely scenario but we always hope that plans will work out. I don’t know whether another stocking took place this fall yet or not. Some alewives have been showing up in a few of the lake trout that anglers have been catching. They are hanging in there.
Anglers in the Finger Lakes and Great Lakes Region tend to have an unrealistic world view of lake trout fisheries and forage. And I’ve certainly been amongst this group of people. Keep in mind that we are in the southernmost part of the natural range of lake trout. Agricultural and environmental changes – including warming and invasive species, have given us this sense that lake trout grow fast and cannot thrive in systems without many baitfish.
Nearly every angler I talk to that fishes Keuka Lake seems surprised at how the lake trout seem to still be maintaining their body condition, given how little there is for them to eat in the lake. Take a look at lakes way up north – like in Alaska or in Manitoba. Lake trout grow slowly and live a long time. A quick web search gives the following definition of lake trout: Lake Trout are the only major native sportfish adapted to the deep cold water of oligotrophic (low nutrient) lakes. Most anglers I know that are familiar with this lake often “mark” lake trout along bottom – often in deep water, that just aren’t active. My guess is that these lake trout are slowing down their metabolism in the cold water and just feeding selectively or opportunistically. They are conserving their energy. That is a way that cold blooded creatures can self-regulate.
Bottom line is that Keuka Lake’s environment is the NORM not the exception when talking about lake trout habitat in North America! It just appears to be “in trouble” when compared to the Great Lakes, other Finger Lakes (excepting Skaneateles) and Lake Champlain. These Keuka Lake fish are gorgeous, all wild and taste great! They also fight good for their size. Keuka Lake continues to be a great lake to visit and fish and not every Finger Lake needs to fish the same way or be a “trophy” or “memorable” lake trout fishery.