Seneca Lake/Sampson 6/10 + Cayuga out of Dean’s 6/11


6/10 Sampson AM Trip: Did a full-day with Jeff and Jon. I gave these guys a freebie; last fall they booked a weekend with me and my Ford Ranger’s clutch decided not to work, so I had to cancel both trips. We started at 6:30 am. This year I’m starting a lot of my trips earlier than ever before – incl. 5 am for some. It never hurts to go early, with the possible exception of the winter!

We started out looking for lakers and didn’t find much. The flats off Sampson had really warmed up. So we headed out for some pike. In a nutshell, the pike fishing was alright – not great, but certainly not terrible. The guys started out working a jerkbait and swimbait and Jeff dropped a fish. 4 nice pike were landed up to 27″, one 23″ pickerel and two perch around 13″ to 14″. We saw a few dead pike. Jon fly-fished for awhile and managed his goal for the day – a nice pike on the fly! So that was cool. It hit a natural-colored deceiver fished on a Type 6 sinking line. Fish ranged from shallow to mid-depths. We finished out with some laker jigging and Jon lost one just below the boat. Both guys had browns around 15″ to 17″ chase in their jigs near some heavy bait schools. The jigging got us primed for the next day’s trip on Cayuga.

Re: Pike – I still haven’t searched the entire lake for pike on my own, or via guiding. But anyone who’s fished Seneca Lake over the past three years would pretty much have to be blind to not see that this fishery has declined significantly this year. Numbers have gone down every year, but that’s to be expected given that there were two large classes of fish (see my old reports!) I checked out a couple of my best areas several times and have seen very few fish. These areas have produced year-in and year-out for me – even back before the recent pike boom.

Is there still good pike fishing in Seneca Lake? YES.

Is there the potential for a great day on Seneca Lake for pike? YES.

Are there some lunker pike around? YES.

But here’s the deal as I see it. The population got so high over the past three years that it was bound to crash. Every year we’ve seen some fungused up fish, fish with a weird slime on them, dead fish and what appears to be “half-dead fish.” I saw a bunch of dead pike on Wed. Fresh dead pike and old dead pike (aka fuzzy pike 😉 DEC has had reports of fish die-offs. Cornell fisheries has examined some dying pike. They’ve basically said “something’s wrong, but we don’t know what it is.” It’s some sort of bacterial infection or virus. Not VHS thus far though.

One of the pike caught Wednesday was a light green, thick bodied beauty. As nice a looking pike as I’ve ever seen color-wise. (Likely a hybrid pike-pickerel, but I didn’t know about them back then – JG 2024) We also had a thin fish showing signs of some sort of fin-rot or abrasion. Not good. The other two were average looking fish. The pickerel was healthy. I spooked a 32″ to 34″ beauty that was thick bodied and healthy. That was nice to see! It’s a huge lake and it supports a lot of pike.

Since the habitat and baitfish are still around on Seneca, I expect there to be improvements in the pike fishery in the future if they have some successful spawning. We may see smallmouth bass and pickerel bounce back too. For numbers, I still think Seneca provides the best pike fishing in the Finger Lakes. Conesus is good too for size. I’m checking out Cayuga shortly. There’s been decent numbers of 22″ to 27″ fish there – so pike are on the upswing again. We’ll just wait ‘n see what happens. Things will turn around (or else we’ll just fish elsewhere or for a different species – you just can’t lose here in the Finger Lakes!)

6/10 PM: After a time mix-up that was my fault, I picked up Dennis and Becky at the dock at Sampson. They both love to fish and were just married! We decided to start with some pike fishing. Our wind died, making drifting impossible, so I worked us with the trolling motor. Fishing was tough and I went over working jerkbaits with my couple. Weird stuff happens when fishing and Becky made a cast and I grabbed the rod to show her how to work the bait. To make a long story short, with a little help, Becky landed a beautiful 19 1/2″ smallmouth bass! We fished a bit longer with zero luck. We tried lakers for a couple hours without a hit. So we went back to pike. No pike, but Dennis managed to hook a couple huge perch. Both around 14″ and fat. There are still some beautiful perch in shallow. All in all, a tough evening trip – but it happens.

6/11 on Cayuga/Dean’s: I met Jeff and Jon early at Dean’s Cove and we headed out for lakers. Fishing was steady if not slightly slow all day, but we had enough action to keep us transfixed. Let’s just say the fishing was good, but the catching was a little slow. Jon managed his first, second, third, fourth and fifth laker on the jig! Jeff nailed one on his homemade bamboo jigging stick. All in all a good day -we hooked fish right at the get-go, and we also got fish not long before we left. Baitfish are around and some smaller trout and salmon were hitting bait on top. Fun day.