Skaneateles Lake 12/25 PM
Gave myself a bit of a Christmas present with an afternoon of fishing on Skaneateles Lake. This was looking like one of the best days of December, with highs forecasted to be in the low-50s, sun, and light winds around 5 to 10 mph. Can’t beat that! As I drove down into Mandana, I could swear I was seeing whitecaps – lots of them! Yes – I was. Ouch! The last thing I wanted to do here was to launch my boat solo at a launch with no docks and concrete abutments just waiting to eat my trolling motor, trim and anything else it could. I had a tough time launching my boat. It was bouncing around a lot and fortunately after I tied it down, I was able to jump onboard and set up my fenders, which I had already had set-up, but my boat had done a 180 due to the “reverberating waves” off of the dock abutments. Fortunately I pretty much was able to launch unscathed, but it could have been bad. Winds were gusting up around 15 to 17 mph by my estimation.
With a competent buddy, the best bet here is just to have someone at the helm and power the boat or float it off of the trailer without messing with the dock abutments, like bass fishermen do, and then do the opposite to get back in, i.e., simply drive the boat up on the trailer.
The lake level here is very good. On the drive over, creeks had very nice flows. By all accounts, tributary fishing on the Finger Lakes and the Great Lakes has been top-notch over the past couple of weeks. Water temp is 43 degrees, which is still fairly warm for this time of year.
I ran south to get out of the wind. After a longer run than I would’ve liked, I was in a fairly sheltered spot. I worked hair jigs to start from around 10′ to 23′ of water. Below 23′, I just can’t fish the light jigs effectively, so this time of year I generally go to a bladebait. Drop-shotting is also an option, but with the blades I can cover water faster and fish a drift better. I had a halfway decent day on smallmouth bass, which I’ve had a client asking me about. The great thing about 43-degree water is that smallmouths still fight well in it. Once you get into the mid-30s, they don’t have much energy. Bass bit well and my first one was an 18.5″ beauty. I landed over a half-dozen more bass in this stretch – mostly around 15″ on the jigs and I had good action on bladebaits, but with smaller fish (around 13″.) This was more a function of the areas I was working, not so much the lure type in my opinion. Bass are out-of-season in Region 7 until June 15th. (Region 8 Finger Lakes – that is, Seneca, Keuka, Canandaigua, Hemlock, Canadice, Honeoye and Conesus Lakes allow for the harvest of bass through March 15th.) I wasn’t planning on keeping any – even if they were in season, but I did want some fish to take home. I was hoping to get into a trout, salmon or walleye. I actually did catch a rock bass, which is a rare catch for me this time of year! It definitely took me by surprise.
On the way back north, I stopped at an area that has produced perch for me in the past on a fairly consistent basis, even though I don’t fish it often. My first cast yielded a nice jack just under 14″. I caught a few more perch and wound up with enough for a meal before heading back. Fortunately, the wind died down a bit and I was able to load my boat back on the trailer without any issues.
18.5" Skaneateles Smallmouth Bass on a Hair-jig
This is what I'd call a BLACK bass!
Winter Day south on Skaneateles Lake
Serious Moonlight! Full Moon ahead!
I’m hoping to check on Cayuga or Seneca Lake tomorrow for pike. Wednesday looks like heavy rain (again!) Thursday is open for trips and the weather looks pretty good. From Friday onwards, temperatures are forecast to gradually get colder going into the New Year. I’m happy guiding any day with highs in the 30s or above. Highs in the 20s are tough on equipment. As long as the winds aren’t bad, I’m happy to get out in the 30s. In the past I’ve fished out on my boat in some pretty extreme conditions and I’m not a fan of it. One day on Seneca, I went perch fishing and despite forecast highs in the low-40s, we started out in the low-20s with our minnow bucket slushing up and 3’+ waves. I’d like to think I’m smarter than that now!
Once the winter weather really sets up, I’ll update all the lakes/species pages on this website and I’ll probably write a few more articles when I get time. Next season is my 20th year of guiding! A lot has changed since I started and that would be a fun article to write.