Reports 4/11 – 4/14
I had a fun and busy week on the water. Here’s the breakdown:
4/11: Seneca Lake out of Watkins Glen – I gave Seneca Lake another shot on Monday, fishing for around 5 hours starting midday. I had a good feeling heading out. A couple boats were out perch fishing, but angling pressure overall remains very light over here. It took an hour or so, but I finally connected up with a nice fish while fly-fishing – a solid 16+1/2″ fat brown! The most important fact to note was that the brown was completely clean – it had zero signs of lamprey on it. I was thrilled and was starting to feel optimistic about the future fishing over here.
Clean, fat Seneca Lake brown trout
That was the only hit I had for awhile. In another area, my streamer got pegged again! It was another chunky fish. At first I thought it was a salmon, but after careful scrutiny I’m pretty sure it was also a brown. I asked DEC and was sent a chart (that’s easy to find online) that detailed how to check vomerine teeth. I got the fish at home and looked at it again and had to go with brown. Usually it’s pretty simple to tell, but once in a while you can get a couple fish that look like they could go either way.
Vomerine Teeth Chart (found online)
I’d post the pics, but I know I’d get a bunch of opinions going either way, so I’ll forgo on the shot. But both fish had the zig-zag vomerine teeth, which were pretty well-developed. DEC is pretty sure they had effective lamprey treatments over the past year. Until I catch some more fish over here, or hear from other people, it’s hard to tell how bad or good the salmonids are doing out on the lake.
The fact that we are seeing some browns out there and clean ones, gives me some hope. If we do wind up with another sign of lamprey infestation, I’m sure DEC will be asking themselves where these fish are coming from. Let’s hope that my fish with the two eels on it was an anomaly.
Lampreys next to my fly
I had another hit in a third area also on the fly (I exclusively fly-fished until the end of the day when I took around a dozen casts with a lure) but I wasn’t able to get a good hookset. In the last area I fished I had a follow from a small trout. Overall it was the best day I’d had all season on Seneca Lake. It was good seeing some fish out there even if it wasn’t spectacular. If anyone is looking to get out here for a shot at a salmon or a brown, it appears feasible given the right day. Water temps were in the low 40s. Water level was good.
The Joy of Fly-Fishing - it happens!
4/12 Skaneateles Lake: Like last week, I fished Seneca and then Skaneateles Lake back-to-back. I am wondering what’s going on over here at Skaneateles Lake. Usually in April on days with reasonably nice weather there are 4 to 6 rigs parked in the State lot on a daily basis – guys targeting perch. I pulled in on a nice sunny day and only one other trailer was here.
DEC Operations were augmenting the rip-rap adjacent to the launch. High water and wave action had eroded it a bit last year. Obviously, the perch fishing is not good here. Some nice walleyes have been caught here but I wonder how many young perch and perch fry it takes to grow a 25″ walleye? Probably a lot! This was a lake that was fairly easy to locate perch on. I did an hour or so of scouting here for perch last fall and was not able to find them despite having the lake to myself. It used to take about 20 minutes to locate some here. I have a strong feeling that perch numbers here might really be starting to decline. Seneca lacks perch as well, so now you’ll be seeing much more pressure on Cayuga and Owasco Lakes.
I cast my usual hairjigs in water ranging from 5′ to 25′ deep. I did catch some perch but not many. They were good fish and pre-spawn. I also landed my first smallmouth bass of the season. I did not have a single hit from a trout or salmon. Conditions were excellent for salmonids out here. 20 years ago, I’d have caught or encountered a half dozen rainbows and salmon on a day like this. I did see some freshly stocked trout eating caddisflies, but no mature fish. Smallmouth bass are also going to suffer on this lake. EVERYTHING here eats perch!
It was a beautiful day here and it’s a gorgeous lake, but my spring/winter/fall guiding here for trout/salmon is done. I’ll guide it on occasion for smallmouth bass (and bonus walleyes) but that’s about it. I think the rainbow trout population here is a very small percentage of what it used to be. Unless larger trout and salmon get stocked here, it will be a lost cause – the state will simply be feeding walleyes.
Water temps ran 39 or so up to around 42 if I remember correctly.
4/13: Cayuga Lake out of Myers Park – A month or so ago I received an email from John, who now lives in Florida but grew up in Connecticut and went to college at Ithaca College in the 1980s. He really got into fly-fishing salmon during those years on Cayuga Lake mostly in the tributaries and around creek mouths. He sent me some cool old photos as well. Since that time John’s maintained his fly-fishing fanaticism. He’s a rare breed of person that’s probably as passionate about angling now as he was in his 20s. He holds a couple IGFA records and has caught countless huge largemouth bass on the fly in Florida as well as trophy snook and tarpon, including plenty of those species from shore. He’s also fished other locations around the world for numerous fresh and saltwater species.
Around 22 or 23 years ago as the lake fly-fishing bug was hitting me, I bought a book entitled “Innovative Saltwater Flies,” written by Bob Ververka. In that book I learned about fly-fishing and fly-tying innovators like Dan Blanton, Joe Blados, Carl Richards, Bill and Kate Howe and others. The inspiration for my “bionic smelt” pattern came from Mike Croft’s “Duster (aka TUMS – Triple Unbraided Mylar Streamer). In that book I noticed two really young promising fly-tiers, Chris Windram and Dave Skok. Chris has an online flytying material shop and I’ve ordered from him before. Dave is someone I’d never met. His name came up when talking to John on the phone – it turned out that Dave would be joining us on our trip! As time has gone by and my guiding has become busier, I’ve done less and less fly-fishing. I’d be lying if I said I was really in touch with what’s going on in the sport now, apart from what I’ve gleaned from browsing catalogs I receive every spring in the mail. Needless to say, I was really looking forward to spending two days on the water with John, one of those days being with Dave and the second day being with John’s (and Dave’s) old friend Bill.
I haven’t been doing trips targeting salmon/browns thus far this year on Cayuga or Seneca Lake given how slow the fishing was for me this past winter. The people (like Mark I.) that have come out know what they are getting into. Many of them also don’t mind falling back on lake trout if we have to. John said “we are doing fly or die.” So we had two 8 hour days scheduled to fly fish Cayuga.
I was surprised to hear that Dave was familiar with this website and actually fishes the tribs here on occasion. We started out just after 9:15 am on Wednesday. Dave’s attitude was “if you don’t catch a fish on this cast, you’ll have to make one thousand more…” That is a winning attitude. Our first area didn’t produce anything. In our second area John had a hit and then the fish came back but didn’t hook up. I saw a silver flash and I’m guessing it was a salmon around 17″ to 19″ long. In our third area John nabbed the first salmon of the day – a smaller one, but probably one stocked a year ago. We could see stockies hitting the surface, possibly gobbling midges. Dave ties amazing flies. He’s also an accomplished professional photographer. Not many people can make a Clouser minnow look artistic but Dave can (as can my friend Eric Mastroberti.) After countless casts he pulled tight on a fish and after a powerful digging fight, I slipped the net under a 27.5″ brown! Awesome! We hit paydirt.
Dave Skok's 27.5" Brown
John picked up another small salmon and then we called it a day. Overall, I’d still have to say that salmonid fishing (apart from lake trout fishing primarily further north) is still slow on Cayuga Lake. It would be good for anywhere else, but in a lake where in the past people would troll and could count on landing double digits of salmon and browns, it’s slow. Most guys I talk to are catching a fish or two if that. Past Angling Zone client/friend Chuck was on the water and had landed an 18″ rainbow trolling if I’m not mistaken. I keep hearing of occasional nice salmon and rainbows being taken, but not in any quantity and certainly not consistently.
4/14 Cayuga Lake out of Myers Park: I was back out today, this time with John and his friend Bill. Bill’s another guy who has fished all over the place in fresh and saltwater targeting many different species of fish. Things started out encouraging with John nabbing a salmon around 16″ on a streamer. John might have had some other grabs but it was hard to tell, since some areas we were fishing were pretty shallow. The weather reared its ugly head about halfway into the trip when a front came through and the winds amped up out of the north along with the rain. We decided to call it a day so the guys could take care of a few business things they needed to get done.
Overall it was a wonderful couple days spent on the water with some real master anglers and I know we all came out of the experience for the better. I have fished the lake for many years and learned a few new tricks as well as a lot of insight into fly tying and salt water fishing for a multitude of species.