Keuka Lake out of Keuka Lake State Park 12/14
Got out here on my own just after noon. Water levels on Keuka Lake are pretty low, so I had to wait a little while to use the ramp that I wanted to, due to some guys unloading a working barge. I was in no rush to get out on to the lake with the cold air temps and had a nice chat with one of the guys working the barge, who happened to be a bass fisherman. All that being said, my new Simms insulated bibs and jacket had me roasting out on the water in short order. Their gear is fantastic!
Water temps are still warm for this time of year – I had 44 to 45 degrees. I was the only angler out on the lake today, at least out of the State Park. I never saw another fisherman on the day. My main goal was to check on lake trout, in particular shallow, fly-fishable fish. I fly-fished for over two hours today in a prime area (from last year) and did not encounter a single lake trout. I fished the deeper bluff water with jigs and marked a few fish but they were very negative. (The majority of lake trout here are STILL around spawning areas. The usual places around the State Launch are loaded with fish.)
After fly-fishing about a mile stretch of water, I decided to pull out a spinning rod with a tube jig just to see if lake trout were around, but not interested in my fly-rod offerings. It didn’t take long before I missed a fish, but it didn’t feel like a laker. A few minutes later in around 15′ of water, give or take, I landed a smallmouth bass around 13″ long and chunky for a little guy. A couple casts later, I set into a fish after feeling a hit. It was heavy like a lake trout but didn’t fight with the wiggle and head twists that Keuka’s wild lake trout fight with. I got a look at the fish in the water, and it almost looked like a good pickerel, but nope – it was a walleye! My first Keuka Lake (illegally introduced) walleye. It was a nice, fat fish and 22″ long. A real solid! I figured I’d catch a walleye here eventually but didn’t think it would happen this quickly. I don’t fish the lake a whole lot, and when I do, I’m jigging lake trout or fly-fishing them, otherwise I’m usually guiding lake trout and occasionally some smallmouth bass.
Keuka Lake walleye in the net
22" Walleye selfie - I'm getting better at taking these shots, finally
After catching the walleye, needless to say, I spent more time casting my jig. I didn’t have any more action and worked the deep water off of the bluff for lake trout without luck. The few lakers I marked around the bluff were pretty neutral to negative. I headed back to the ramp and picked up one 17″ laker near the launch and also lost a few in short order. That area of the lake was loaded with lakers and they were hitting better than the bluff fish. These fish are still spawning.
The walleye was a female and had a 4″+ perch in her, along with some unidentifiable minnow. The laker I caught was a male and hadn’t yet spawned. Keuka and Skaneateles Lake lake trout are the latest spawning lakers in the Finger Lakes. Funny thing is that both populations of lake trout are completely wild.
What’s there to say about Keuka Lake walleye that I haven’t said before? We have a very modest forage base here and a lot of predators i.e., a huge wild lake trout population, a large population of both small and largemouth bass, abundant pickerel and occasional northern pike, a few rainbow trout and some large yellow perch. There isn’t much “pie” to go around for these fish – alewives are scarce, ciscoes still haven’t been re-established successfully, smelt are pretty much gone as well, so that leaves perch-fry. The lake basically has what amounts to “peanuts” left sustaining all these predators and now you add in walleyes. What’s done is done – we’ll see how things play out.
There are some parallels here with Skaneateles Lake, but both lakes are also very different. Rainbows on Keuka Lake already seemed doomed due to many issues. Their fate has probably been sealed. Lake trout occupy a different thermal niche, so they aren’t going anywhere. Walleyes will mainly be competing with pickerel, bass and perch. Stay tuned!
My late-fall/winter schedule is wide open. Deep lake trout fishing should be good up north on Cayuga Lake out of Long Point. Lower lake laker fishing is reportedly slow now. Seneca Lake landlocked salmon fishing has been fair to good out of Watkins Glen. It should improve by the week as more fish migrate down the lake. Keuka Lake is loaded with lake trout around spawning areas. Owasco Lake pike fishing has been all over the map from slow to good depending on the day. With water temps still in the lower to mid-40s, Skaneateles Lake should still be providing some good mixed-bag fishing. I hope to check on it shortly!