Skaneateles Lake, Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lakes 4/29 – 5/1


I got a chance to guide full day trips on these three lakes over the past three days. The only great fishing was on Skaneateles Lake. Seneca and Cayuga were tough with a capital “T” as Dick Vitale would say.

4/29 Skaneateles Lake: Got out with JD for a full day. We’d been trying to coordinate a date for awhile and things finally came together with our schedules and more importantly, the weather. He’s a terrific fly-caster (most certainly in the top 5 I’ve ever guided.) That made a big difference. The plan was for me to show him laker jigging, some perch tactics and fly-fishing for trout and salmon on the lake. We accomplished those things.

Thankfully, NYS finally re-striped the parking lot. Hopefully that will alleviate the confusion this summer with vehicles parked haphazardly everywhere. Conditions were calm to start and we worked on some laker jigging. I jig this lake less than any of the other FLs I guide, so take it for what it is. We found some fish in a few different areas and depths ranging from around 120′ out to 150′. I think we had some shallower too. No hookups but a few were moving for the jigs.

The wind came up and we set up for trout on the fly. It didn’t take long before JD landed a LL Salmon just over 16″. He had hits and a few other momentary hookups from what were likely some nice rainbows. A 16″ rainbow was landed as well. He even caught another 16″ bow on a perch setup. It was great seeing the seemingly oftentimes (in recent times for this guide) absent 15″ to 17″ bows.

JD was able to get some perch, though we didn’t have much time for it. But we had a great day with beautiful conditions on the lake. We even saw a bass moving up. These fish don’t let the 36 degree water slow them down!

4/30 Seneca Lake out of Watkins Glen: I guided longtime client Rick and his buddy Dave, who was out with me for the first time. Dave was hoping to get a salmon on the fly. He’s more of a stream fly-fisher, but was up for trying the lake fishing. Rick wanted to learn the lake a bit (he’d never fished it) and was also hoping for salmon. We came close, but no cigar. With the calm conditions to start at 9 am, I showed the guys a good laker jigging area. We marked a ton of fish and Dave had a couple grabs but no hookups.

Near the canal, Rick had a very nice salmon around 24″ or so beeline for his stickbait, but no grab. We worked a ton of areas up the lake and back down without seeing a single salmon. Shortly thereafter, strong north winds played some havoc with our fishing. One smallish pike grabbed our salmon offering, but that was it. Very tough day and I kept the guys fishing hard despite some very gusty north winds that made the lake quite choppy.

5/1 Cayuga Lake out of Taughannock: After having such a tough day and seeing the south end of Seneca Lake get whipped up by the winds at the day’s end, I decided to move my trip today with Dan (another long time client) from Seneca to Cayuga Lake. Maybe it was a mistake, but one can never tell.

We had the same weather pattern that we’ve been having all week long. Calm sunny conditions to start and then a north wind around 5 to 8 mph starting around 11 am with higher gusts late in the day.

I had Dan start with the laker jigging, which showed some promise. Again – lots of fish and some aggressive chases (on the fishfinder) but not a single hit! People who think lake trout jigging is always easy really don’t know laker jigging! It can be damn hard.

We worked a bunch of areas for salmon. Off of one point, we had three different salmon show themselves for Dan’s stickbait, but no hits. We tried another half dozen areas without seeing any sign of life. Eventually we wound up at the south end of the lake, where Dan had a few grabs but wasn’t able to hook up. One fish apparently hit twice – which is a salmon trait. A kayak troller we talked to had landed two salmon. The water around the lower part of the lake had about 1′ of visibility. These north winds really concentrate “the murk” even though in some areas the water underneath is quite clear.

We went back to our “good area” and reworked it with no sign of fish. We called it a day without landing or solidly hooking anything – Dan’s arm was bothering him. The first pure skunk of the year. I went out after the trip and fished for 1/2 hour. I had one large fish (a salmonid) of some type chase after my tube jig, but not hit it – or if it did I missed it.

Water temperatures in the main portions of these large lakes are still in the mid-to upper 30s. These are the same temps we dealt with during winter(!) over the past 15 years, with the exception of last year. Many fish still seem dormant or sluggish. This week’s temps forecast to hit the 70s and 80s should quickly reverse this. It’s been a very interesting and challenging year! There are nice salmon in all three of these lakes. Between Seneca and Cayuga Lake, neither lake really seems to have better fishing than the other. Some nice fish are being taken in both lakes, but I don’t think the numbers are great. They are OK.