Seneca Lake out of Sampson State Park 4/2 + 4/3


4/2: I’m still “breaking in” my new Toyota Tundra (it’s a beauty!) and my buddy Mike was looking to get his boat running after its winter dormancy. Given the wind and water conditions, perch fishing seemed like a great call. We’ve wanted to get into some perch fishing for awhile anyways, so off to Sampson we went. I stopped by Sampson earlier in the week and perch fishing was hot. Quite a few limit catches were happening and large numbers of fish were scattered around the area.

We picked up some fatheads and wax worms and headed down around 11 am. There were loads of perch in the marina and all around the shoreline perimeter of the park. Of course, there were loads of boats and people around as well. That’s springtime perch fishing on Seneca Lake in the 2000s. We had some slow but steady fishing and managed to land around 8 or 9 fish in 2 hours or so. Other boats were picking fish up too, but the bite was nothing to get excited about.

It was time to check out some deep water lakers and on my first drop I had a fish grab my jig a few times. Within 20 minutes we landed 2 nice lakers. More fish followed including a real nice one-eyed laker that I released. Usually the lakers missing an eye (mostly due to a hooking injury) are skinny, but not that one! We wound up with 6 fish and I kept 3 for the smoker. I wanted one more laker to keep but didn’t get it. Funny that when the bite’s going well, I think I can pick and choose, but then things have a way of slowing down. Fish were generally in good condition – clean and not emaciated, though on the thin side. No fresh lamprey wounds.

We went back to perching and picked up a few more for a total of a dozen. Funny thing with Seneca perch was I felt like I had kept a half dozen that were “dinks,” but once we cleaned ’em up, the dinks wound up being mostly 11″ fish! That’s how nice the Seneca perch are.

4/3: We pulled in around the same time as yesterday and the same guys were pulling out ahead of us. They said it was very slow today – no fish and they didn’t even see any caught. I had no reason not to believe them. It was kind of strange seeing the same people out, day after day after day trying to pound the perch. Same boat trailers in the lot, same boats on the water – a lot of people knew each other. How many fish do you eat a week? Seneca perch guys are all about the numbers and fillets. It’s like a competition for them. A few guys are obviously selling fish, a practice that current rod ‘n reel regulations were never intended for. But it’s legal for now. But I feel sorry for the casual perch angler that wants a few fillets once in a while on Seneca Lake. He has to compete with “professional perch fishermen” that are on the lakes day-in and day-out. Seneca Lake is not a numbers perch fishery. Yes, people catch large numbers of big fish on occasion (and the pros do frequently) but vast parts of decent habitat are void of fish. You can fish a half dozen great looking areas and never see a single perch. Being allowed to keep 50 perch on Seneca Lake averaging 12″ to 14″ long is like killing 50 bass. I think the regulations on Seneca need to be seriously tightened. Especially given that we have quagga mussels filtering that water 24/7. It ain’t the 1970s/80s out there. These fish are not as common as people think. There were a lot more fish in the lake in the 1980s/90s. No question about it. The fishing can still be spectacular there now, but you didn’t need cameras to find fish and you didn’t see 90% of the boats on a single vast school of fish!

Mike and I decided to scout out some areas on the west shore, so that’s what we did. We tried a handful of perch areas that I see fish in later in the month. Also fished some areas I used to fish 20 years ago for perch. Nada. We saw plenty of bluegills and bullheads. I caught one pike and a funny incident happened. I knew we were pressed for time but I’d asked Mike if he wanted to hit a few lakers for a little while, and he wasn’t up for it. I just wanted one more for my smoker. He said I had my chance yesterday and released them. That’s fine. So we pulled into Dresden Bay in around 25’ of water and Mike tossed out his plastics. Fish on! Maybe we found some perch nobody else was onto. Nope. It was a laker! Ha ha. The lake came through for me anyways and I got my laker. Into the smoker they go tomorrow! Can’t wait!