Reports 8/25 – 28: Cayuga, Seneca and Owasco Lakes


Just finished up a run of guided trips.  Lake trout fishing is generally fair to very good in the region.  Day-to-day conditions still play a major role in feeding patterns and periods.  Patience and persistence go a long way in getting some fish onboard.

8/25 AM:  Guided Greg for a long half-day targeting lake trout.  He wanted a couple fish 27″ or better to smoke.  His favorite smokehouse near Salmon River charges by the fish, so the bigger the better.  Unfortunately, Cayuga Lake didn’t get the memo!  Greg started early on with a nice 27″+ fish.  After that he nabbed a 26″ that he wanted released.  Then he nabbed a 25″er that I also put back.  Things went south from there both literally and figuratively.  We ran south on Cayuga Lake to avoid some rain and Greg caught a few more lakers, but all were on the small side.  Decent fishing day, but tough at times.

8/26:  Guided Michael, Zhong and Mark for a full-day trip on Seneca Lake out of Geneva.  Last year the guys fished Cayuga with me in late-April/early-May.  We had fun with the deep bite then.  Michael has a good, fairly long history on Seneca Lake and was looking forward to seeing how the recovery of the lake trout fishery here has been going.  Well, it’s been going great!  We had one fish not long after we started.  After that, some fish were missed.  Within a few hours, they were hitting pretty well and the bite stayed steady until we wound up our full day.  We had a solid double-digit day with a couple fish up to 29″ or perhaps 30″ if I remember correctly.   We had a few fish with recent lamprey wounds, but not many.  I cleaned a few and didn’t see any gobies, but they would typically show up later in the fall and throughout the winter and spring anyways, so that wasn’t too surprising.  The fish were generally in very good condition.  Wild fish numbers have diminished a bit, but there are still some around.  Fun day and we had perfect weather!

Mark getting us started

Holding a nice fish of Zhong's

Zhong hooked up

8/27 Owasco Lake:  Today was part one of my annual two days with Leo and Ada.  Usually we fish Cayuga Lake for lake trout on the weekend and then fish Skaneateles or Owasco Lake during the week for panfish mixed in with occasional smallmouth bass.  This year we switched it up so their friend could join them later this week on Cayuga Lake.  As many of you know, I no longer guide weekends on Skaneateles Lake during the summer. Leo and Ada like to sleep in on their vacation so we started late, at around 8:30 am.  Thus far, it has never seemed to hurt us, but today it may have.  We did a little laker jigging to start after we tried a few deeper areas for pans.  One nice laker around 22″ was landed and released.

We then tried for “soup fish” – basically rock bass over 8″ long.  Skaneateles Lake is full of large rockies, but on Owasco Lake they are in the minority.  We had a lot of rock bass come onboard using Berkley Max-Scent Flat worms.  One perch was also landed along with a small smallmouth bass.  We had maybe a half dozen decent rockies.  Not great for the “soup!”

We went back to laker jigging and the bite was slow.  A few bites were had.  We went back to panfishing and caught a few more small perch and rockies, but only a couple more keepers.  Lakers were very neutral to negative.  At times they chased hard but wouldn’t hit.  Ada finished up the day hooking what seemed to be a very large lake trout, but it got off before she got up to her leader.  “The reel isn’t turning!”  I hear that a lot when large fish are hooked.  When that happens, it’s a big fish and people who don’t fish much need to just let the rod do the work and hold off on the winding for a bit.  Rachel had the same experience with her 34″er a few weeks back.

Leaves already starting to change! What a wild year!

8/28 AM Cayuga Lake out of Myers Park:  Guided Joe along with his buddies Jason and Rich for a half-day trip starting just after 7 am.  We had a very solid start to our day with Jason landing a dink, but he got us underway.  Joe had the hot hand for most of the day today, but the guys wound up with 7 solid fish including a couple 29″ers.  Best colors were black, black and black.  The rain wound up curtailing our bite during the last hour or two of our trip.  A few hits were had, but the fish clearly became much less active.  The guys kept 5 of their fish.  One of them was absolutely full of large, freshly killed alewives!  These fish have been on the feed with low-light conditions and massive schools of bait just about everywhere!

Someday Joe will learn how to hold a trout without ruining his shirt!

Joe again

A better fish and a better hold! Congrats Joe!

8/28 PM Trip:  Just after noon I met Sam and his mom Roxanne and we headed out.  They are renting a place on Seneca Lake and I would’ve gladly met them there, except I had the AM trip booked on Cayuga Lake.  They were happy to drive over.  Our PM trip unfolded just the opposite of our morning trip.  We had some rain in the area, a slow bite to start and then a good bite to finish.  Another 7 fish were landed this afternoon with Roxanne nabbing 4 of them.  A few fish were lost as well.  Sam kept his first laker, a 19″er and then we released all the other fish.  We had a 23″ wild laker along with some nice 29″ers.  The big fish were older fish with rare dorsal clips.  That fin-clip hasn’t been used in years and years.

By the way, the big lake trout management change on Cayuga and Owasco Lakes is that fin-clipping is no longer being done.  Fish haven’t been clipped in three years, due in part to staffing shortages at the Bath Hatchery.  For people unaware, fin-clips done at the hatchery help biologists age fish to some extent, but more importantly, tell which fish are wild and which aren’t. Owasco Lake has virtually zero natural production (maybe 1 or 2% at best) and Cayuga’s has stayed fairly low, at around 5% to maybe 8% at best, so wild fish really aren’t much of a factor on either lake at this point in time.  Fish will be monitored through the coldwater gill-nettings that take place around every 3 or 4 years in Region 7.  Scale samples can be used to age fish.  The condition of the fish can also be monitored by looking at length vs. weights of individuals.  Region 8 is still clipping fish on Canandaigua and Seneca Lakes by the way.   I’d rather see Cayuga fish still fin-clipped but like my client Greg said, the fin-clips are ugly and fish look much better without them. I’m sure those fish use their pectoral and anal/ventral fins for some reason.

Stability in a fishery is great, and we’re lucky to have had it for as long as we have on Cayuga Lake.  That being said, we never know what the future brings.  Region 8 was happy on Seneca Lake in the 1980s with a great laker fishery until the smelt collapsed, mussels colonized the lake and natural production shot up to close to 80%.  Nobody predicted that and in short order the laker population got very large, fish got small, alewives collapsed and it was a whole new ball game.  We can’t anticipate what’s coming in our fisheries with any certainty, no matter how hard we can try.  I’d rather be safe than sorry.  Alewives may have something to do with lake trout reproduction in Lake Champlain skyrocketing.  (It could just be that they have outcompeted the smelt, which eat a lot of lake trout eggs and fry.) Gobies are a fairly new arrival in Cayuga Lake.  So far they’ve probably been a negative with regards to natural production of lake trout, but that could change.  Either way, what’s done is done and time will tell!

Roxanne on!

Roxanne holding one


Sam with a beauty!