Lake Ontario out of Oswego Harbor 3/31 + Skaneateles Lake 4/1


When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.  I have to admit, apart from not guiding I am really enjoying all this down time.  Living in the Fingerlakes region is great.  I don’t live in a big city.  Apart from going out to a restaurant, sporting event or club, most people out here have plenty of “distancing” from others.  My lifestyle focuses on fishing, teaching and mostly solitary activities so this covid stuff hasn’t changed my day to day routine a whole lot.  Normally during a warm March and April I’d be teaching two afternoons a week and if I’m lucky, guiding anywhere from one to four days a week.  That leaves very little fishing time for me, since clients usually pick the nice weather days (and I often switch trips to days that I think will be better fishing.)   So for the first time in around 15 years, I now have plenty of fishing time.  And I am thoroughly enjoying it.  I feel bad for anybody whose boat is still in storage.   Fishing is the best prescription for “social distancing.”   I’d be happy to guide, but our Governor doesn’t consider guiding people as essential business.  It’s understandable – people can do just fine without fishing.  But for some reason selling liquor and wine is essential.  Hmm, I wonder how many people a year in the United States die from alcohol related diseases, car accidents and the like…  But “if it saves one life, it’s worth it.”   Depends on what you want to save the life from I guess, but I digress.   And I did spend some time working at the Alcoholism Council of Tompkins County – and a lot of obituaries of long time drinkers don’t mention alcohol.  But we already know that.  That person that just drops dead at age 62 often has a long history of DWIs and so forth.

Oswego Harbor 3/31:  I arrived out here at around 12 noon.  Four or five small boats were out trolling.  Lake levels are high.  Water temp coming out of the river was 44 degrees.  Wright’s Landing isn’t opened (non-essential business again!) so I didn’t have to fork over the $10.  Bathrooms are locked up.  Due to winds that really kicked up after working near the harbor for an hour, I couldn’t (or I should say “didn’t want to”) make the runs necessary to check out some places I was itching to fish.  So I stayed local.

A few chunky smallmouths were around and I had fun with those.  They were so lethargic in the cold water that they were virtually jumping in what appeared to be slow-motion.  I dropped one fish that definitely wasn’t a bass, but I never saw a glimpse of it.  I might have fouled it for a second.  I think it hit my jig and dropped it just before I set the hook and it was fouled.  But it felt big.  Highlight of the day was catching (or almost catching) my first cisco!   It was completely unexpected.  I cast my jig, felt some weight or a slight hit (I can’t recall) and set into a fish that fought pretty good.  Kind of like a 16″ or 17″ Landlocked Salmon.  I got it near the surface and my first thought was “cool – a small trout.”  But as I was getting ready to swing it onboard (I should’ve used my net) I noticed the silvery white color and the tiny mouth.  A cisco!  They’ve been on my species list (of fish I’d like to catch but never have) for decades.  Unfortunately it got off the hook as I had it halfway out of the water, so no photo.  Ciscoes are sold occasionally at Wegman’s as “smoked chub.”  They are related to trout – both have an adipose fin and are basically in the same family as whitefish, so you know they are good eating.  Hopefully I’ll catch one soon.  Last year I talked to a troller who told me he’d caught two of them one day while trolling spring browns and both were in the 22″ to 24″ range.  Those are solid ciscoes.


Skaneateles Lake 4/1 PM:  I started fishing here today at 12:15 pm.  Docks are still not in. Around a half dozen boat trailers were in the parking lot when I started prepping my boat.  I brought a couple fly-rods and a bunch of spinning gear with me.  My first pass with the flies reminded me of the early 2000s over here.  I had a bunch of hits and some follows from salmon and a rainbow.  Water temps were very cold where I was fishing – around 39 to 41 degrees I think.  So the fish were not super aggressive.  Eventually I nabbed a couple salmon – one on the fly and one on gear.  I also landed a chunky smallmouth bass, a lake trout and a nice perch.

I made a good run and had more good salmon fishing.  I caught another on the fly and two more on gear. The wind kept getting stronger and stronger out of the north so I decided to call it a day after 4 hours.  I was catching fish but given how much time I’ll have to fish over the foreseeable future, I don’t have to stick it out on tough days!  I’ll just go again on the next good day.

Diary Results for Region 7 arrived via email!  One of the high points of my spring as an angler is perusing the Diary Summaries from DEC.   It may sound silly to some people, but I get a lot of enjoyment in reading and re-reading the write-ups and results of the anglers.  I learn something new every time I read them.  It’s great checking the catch rates on the different lakes for different species from year to year and from lake to lake.  People brag about the “good old days” but the diary results don’t lie.  You see tremendous numbers of legal salmon caught on Cayuga Lake in the 1980s then you realize that the legal size was 15″ on salmon or 12″ on brown trout!  No wonder people caught so many legal fish.

It was encouraging to see more cooperators on nearly all of the lakes.  Owasco Lake had some encouraging number of browns and rainbows caught by the few cooperators over there that target them.  I’ve said it many times, but more diary keepers are still needed.  It’s not about how many fish you catch or if you don’t catch any – all of that information is important.  Word is that cooperator numbers were down again this year on Seneca Lake.  Results there should be mailed out in a week or two at the latest.

A few highlights:

Wild lake trout numbers on Cayuga Lake were down quite a bit.

Lamprey wounding was virtually non-existent on Cayuga Lake with regards to fresh wounds.

Skaneateles Lake really rebounded on salmon and rainbows which was nice.

Plenty of Tiger Muskies are being caught on Otisco Lake at an average rate of one fish per 8 hours.  Legal fish (36″) are hard to come by, but the higher size limit is resulting in more 30″+ fish in the mix.

Owasco Lake is producing more browns and rainbows than in the recent past and they are on the upswing.