Keuka Lake out of Branchport 2/20


It’s been pretty darn windy in the Finger Lakes region as of late, so I haven’t taken my boat out since my last trip.  Today looked like the best day of the week and I really wanted to get over to Keuka Lake.  With the collapse of the alewife population here, I figured that the shallow lake trout bite might be pretty hot.  When Seneca Lake’s alewife population collapsed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, we had some spectacular fishing nearshore in the winter and early spring.  Cayuga Lake was hot in the mid-2010s when the round goby population peaked.

I arrived at around 11 am just as one boater was putting his gear away and getting ready to head home.  The calm sunny day had just given into a strong westerly coupled with overcast conditions.  The angler I spoke to had a great AM of deep jigging, landing 14 nice fish and he left them biting.  Just as I was getting ready to launch my boat, I noticed my friend Jeff – aka the Baconator, who happened to be shorecasting.  He along with one of his daughters were kind enough to help me launch.  The water temperature was at 39 degrees and the lake level low, but launchable at both Branchport (the State Park) and over at Penn Yan.

Numbers of fish were decent around Branchport.  I landed a decent looking 19″ lake trout in short order.  They didn’t seem too active – it was reminiscent of slow ice-fishing.  I worked some shallows and picked up another somewhat emaciated, but longer (22″) fish on a blade bait.  I’m still breaking in my new Mercury motor, so I decided to head over to the Bluff.  I picked up a solid perch (13″er) down there on a blade but couldn’t get any more to go.  I didn’t spend any serious time trying to locate them.  I landed three more 19″ to 20″ lakers at the Bluff.  Over the past week, I’d been spending some time trying to think of areas that would be productive for trout roaming shallow and had one place in particular in mind.  I headed over there and in short order I landed a decent (21″ or so) chain pickerel then nothing else.  I kept working the stretch and eventually had a terrific flurry on some shallow lake trout.  I was getting hit almost every cast a la Cayuga Lake a few years ago.  I had fish hookup, get off and then hit again.  Many followed my green pumkin tube jig right to my boat!  I had one fish looking for the tube and I pitched to it as if I were bass fishing and he slammed it.  It was a great time!  Then things slowed right down and I managed one more fish.  I wound up landing a dozen lakers on the day, plus one perch and the pickerel.  As a guide, that’s what I do – scout out areas and try various techniques, so when I guide clients, I have a clue regarding what’s going on.  Each day is a different story, but at least scouting gives me a good idea of what to expect and how conditions are.

Gorgeous Wild Lake Trout

Another - I think this was 24"

I kept my limit of 5 lake trout and they will go to good use – I will bake some and also make some chowder.  The scenery was also nice for a winter day on the lake.

Running back to the launch - the new Mercury getting broken in

The view of the Branchport Hills


The discoloration on these trout is from the ice in my cooler.  All of these trout – running 21″ to 24″ or so, yielded (with the perch) about 5.5lbs of meat.  As a single guy, I like the size of these Keuka fish.  If I was going to smoke a batch of lake trout, I’d fish Cayuga or Seneca Lake to procure my fish.  On Cayuga Lake, one good sized lake trout can yield that much meat.

People really need to harvest these Keuka Lake fish.  They don’t have much to eat out there.  I found three young perch and one unidentifiable larger fish in all of these trout combined.  One of the trout I wound up keeping was fairly emaciated.  The pressure on the Keuka Lake forage base is immense with all of the lake trout, bass and panfish.  Over the last few years a few walleyes have showed up here, just like on Skaneateles Lake.