Keuka Lake out of Keuka Lake State Park 3/5


Before I delve into this report, I just wanted to mention that the bakery with the amazing chocolate croissants is called the Waterville Standard Bakery.  It’s on Main Street in Waterville (a little ways southwest of Utica and not too far from Cazenovia, just off of Route 20) across from the CVS Pharmacy.  They have limited (morning) hours, so if you plan on stopping by you may want to check first.

Keuka Lake:  Guided John here for a full-day trip starting just after 8:30 am.  He primarily fly-fishes and if you check out my homepage, the photo of the guy fly-fishing the Bahamian-looking water of Seneca Lake (that I often use on my homepage slider in the late-winter/early-spring) is John.  That trip was nearly 5 years ago but I love that photo!  I am going to put up some “throwback photos” on my homepage slider soon of some memorable fish.  Why not?

We started the day with southerly winds gusting to 20 mph.  I made a good run to my favorite shallow lake trout area and we set up the fly-gear.  John never used any spinning or casting gear today – he went completely with the fly-gear, using either my fast-action 6 wt. set up with a 200 grain Rio 24′ sink-tip, or for deeper fishing, an 8 wt. fast-action set up with a 300 grain Rio 24′ sink-tip.  The first set-up is great for calmer conditions and working down to around 25′ to 30′ max.  It excels in the 10′ to 25′ range.  The 8-weight setup is great for getting down from 20′ to 40′ or more, depending on how deep you want to fish.  Most of our action came from 15′ to 25′ of water today.  This integrated-head fly-lines are game changers, and Orvis has their depth charge line which would be another good choice.  The RIO lines were (and are) actually designed by a former Cornell fly-fishing class student of mine who majored in Material Engineering over at Cornell – Chris Walker.  He received a lot of mentoring from Kirk Klingensmith at a young age and is a heck of a fly-fisherman.  I’ve had him out with his father before and his mother and father joined me for some lake trout jigging last September out of Myers Park.

It didn’t take long before John was hooked up.  Unfortunately the first laker of the day got off, but it was an encouraging sign.  To make a long story short, John wound up landing 4 nice lakers on the fly and one nice pickerel.  He lost 3 lakers.  A couple of his landed fish were 23″ers and the others were around 18″ to 21″.  He had me fish a little bit of gear in one area and I did managed a decent smallmouth on a bladebait in maybe 15 to 20 feet of water.  We tried some different areas for lake trout today but only did well in our first area fished.

Water levels are about a foot to two feet down on Keuka Lake.  Launching isn’t an issue here, but this place can be a royal pain on a strong south wind.  Water temperature here is hovering around 40 to 41 degrees.

Fish on! Early in the trip.

Typical Keuka Lake lake trout

Another one

Hooked up again! But this time...'s a better fish

What's this? A pickerel!

Another wild Keuka beauty!

One of the lake trout had these 1.5" perch in its stomach

The great thing about the Finger Lake Region is that each lake is different.  Even similarly shaped and sized lakes fish completely differently from each other.  If you’re interested in good numbers of large lake trout – fish running 4 to 10lbs with chances at larger ones, you’d be hard pressed to top Cayuga or Seneca Lakes.  Clearly these fish in Keuka Lake are thin and run significantly smaller than the lake trout in the other Finger Lakes, apart from Skaneateles Lake.  However, the Keuka Lake fish are ALL WILD and are very lean.  They are hungry fish that will chase down flies consistently from January through April.  They can also be caught fairly easily by casting lures typically used for bass.

They are also terrific fish on the table.  I enjoy eating lake trout from Cayuga and Seneca Lakes, but these Keuka fish to me have a very clean, low-fat flavor to them.  I would put them up against just about any species of fish in freshwater.  Baked, they are out of this world.  You just can’t go wrong with these fish on the table.  It’s no wonder that diary keepers on Keuka Lake keep two-thirds of the legal fish they catch.  Part of the reason is certainly the size – it takes more Keuka fish to equal a Cayuga or Seneca fish, but the flavor and texture is also a big part of that equation.  I had guys catch a wild rainbow trout here years ago and I asked them how it compared to eating the lakers – they said, “there was no difference.”  That says it all!

Keuka Lake also has terrific bass fishing and now has a few walleyes.  Pickerel have always been abundant here, as have perch.  The lake also holds a few nice northern pike and even some hybrid pike-pickerel.  This lake isn’t for everyone, but if you’d like to try something a bit different than vertically jigging Cayuga fish, this is a neat choice.  For catching lake trout in a lake on the fly, it sure beats flying up to Alaska!  It’s amazing that we have this opportunity here.  I never would have thought it decades ago, when you “had” to troll, use live sawbellies or “pull-copper” to catch lake trout in the Finger Lakes.