Waneta Lake 11/7


Well I was hoping to get out and fish a bit this week, but yesterday’s heavy winds resulted in my taking the day off. I was hoping to hit Skaneateles Lake. My friend Chris was out there and said it was brutal, though some bass were hitting and lakers were biting on the points. My plan today was to fish Waneta. I’ve been talking to my very busy buddy Jarrod about fishing it this season but we haven’t had the chance yet. The weather today made it a good choice. I’d never caught a musky there and wanted to scout out the lake a bit more and hopefully catch a fish or two, before I fish it with Jarrod. Last night I called my buddy Terry to join me there this AM, but after seeing the large expanse of rain in the area, we decided to hold off until around 10 am and touch base. Things had cleared up a bit and despite my nagging cough, we decided to meet around 11:30 am and fish till close to dark.

Over the years, Terry has hooked a few muskies here before and landed at least one, both while bass fishing and musky fishing. He hadn’t been out here in over 10 years. I started patterning the lake for muskies on 10/20/2010 (hard to believe it had been that long ago!) and hadn’t been back since. So much for that effort. It’s tough around here – we have soooo much great fishing. I lived 35 miles away from Waneta/Lamoka and Cayuta Lake for close to 15 years and barely fished them!

I’m not the biggest musky fisherman. I get it. It’s a lot of grinding and some moments of incredible intensity and unforgettable experiences, but I tend to enjoy other types of fishing more. But I’m happy to guide Tigers on Otisco and I did invest in the gear. Anyways, back in 2010 I covered/learned about 50 to 60% of the lake and was looking forward to seeing the rest of it. I called DEC’s Region 8 and had a chance to talk to one of the biologists, who informed me that the lake’s musky population was doing well this year. So I was psyched to go. I’d also read about musky fishing and weather, and oftentimes I’d hear that the “nastier the weather the better the fishing” so I wanted to see for myself.

It felt good fishing with my buddy Terry and he mostly tossed bucktails while I worked plugs, spoons, huge tubes (Red-October baits!) bucktails and swimbaits. I brought 4 musky rods (one that Terry used) plus 2 spinning rods and a flipping stick. The spinning rods were set up to toss lighter baits. My heavy musky rod is so heavy, that casting a normal musky rod feels like going to an ultralight spinning rod afterwards.

We worked around the lake and never saw a fish. Not a bass, pickerel or anything apart from a carp that jumped. Eventually we found a great looking area. The degree to which this area was better than the rest of the lake was very noticeable. Terry had a fish swirl or surface for his bucktail. But no grabs. We could’ve ended the trip right then and I would have been happy just for finding this area.

It started getting darker and we both had to take off our polarized glasses and go to our regular specs. We fished another 1/2 hour and I said “let’s take a couple more casts then get going.” Terry took off his lure and started putting stuff away while I took one or two more casts with my spinning gear and a spoon. Then it happened – my lure got hammered hard! I said “got one!” I’m glad I’d retied my leader (14lb Fireline/20lb Berkely 100% Flouro/30lb. Tyger Wire) last night! The fish surged past the trolling motor and ripped out some line. Terry thought maybe I had a 30″ to 32″ fish. I knew better. It fought better than the decent mid-teens fish I’d hooked a few years ago on the St. Lawrence!

The fish surfaced and both of our jaws dropped, and had I not gone to the bathroom in the morning, my underwear might have needed changing! It was a MONSTER!!! The fish had mellowed out and was hanging near the boat. God how I wished we had a camera on it. I felt for sure it would get off. I don’t carry a monster sized musky net or cradle. I’m a casual musky angler and don’t expect to hook fish in the 30 to 40lb range! But here we were. Do I try grabbing the fish under the gill plate a la Al Lindner? Or do we see how much of it we can get in the net?

Terry did a great job with the net and it took all my strength to get the fish onboard. Thankfully the fish was calm and not hooked deeply at all. My only concern at this point was the safety of the fish. I held it horizontally for 2 quick photos and I got her back in the water ASAP. After a couple minutes she took off. I wish the photos came out better, but even after I saw the mediocre shots we got, I wasn’t going to stress the fish anymore by re-holding it. Next time I’ll get a cradle or giant musky net. How long was the fish? 50″+!!! Length to weight general guidelines suggest 39 to 40lbs. I don’t know for sure, but it was the biggest freshwater fish either of us had ever caught or seen and one that we’ll never forget! Just the length between its eyes was a sight! Am I a musky fanatic now? Not totally, though I do love them, but my next outing will likely be Skaneateles or maybe Canandaigua Lake. But what a fish! And hopefully we can hit Chautauqua Lake later this year for another one!