Skaneateles Lake Blog

21 July 2019

Luke and his grandson Owen met me at The Boatyard at 0730 hrs. They made the drive from Ithaca to learn the art of fly casting. Luke is 70, retired and doing well and Owen is 13 and headed into ninth grade. Neither of them had ever picked up a fly rod before. But they wanted to learn and I am more than happy to assist.

Fly casting is not learned in day. A day on a boat with a guide that specializes in teaching fly casting, however, is the fastest and best way to learn the fundamental mechanics of the pursuit.

Over the years I have met many fly fishers and have coached them on the proper mechanics of the cast. What surprises me is how many guides will not take the time to teach a fly angler how to cast.

On a river or a stream perhaps learning the proper way to fly cast is less important than getting your “sport” into a fish. There is no need for proper form or handling of a fly rod when a simple roll of the arm can plop a nymph in front of a trout.

When teaching beginners I have to start at the basics. How to hold a rod. What the rod hand does. What the line hand does. What they do together. Line weight. Rod weight. The moving of the lever through a fulcrum where the tip is always high and the wrist never breaks. Some might compare fly casting to a golf swing. I hate that because I have a dislike of golf. For many reasons. Some philosophical and others just a simple matter of environmental ecology.

Anyhow, mechanics are involved in both. The fly cast and the golf swing. So much of it is form. A well engineered fly rod can make a novice an ok caster. This is likely true of a golf club but I would not know.

Luke and Anthony learned the basics today. How to hold the rod. How to set the hook and how to manage the line. If they stick with it they will get frustrated as every beginner does in the evolution of fly casting. But they will develop as good casters with the fundamentals I taught them today on Skaneateles Lake. Well over a dozen bass were brought to net on five weight Sage rods and Rio lines attached to my hand-tied leaders and flies.

Water temp at surface 77.5 degrees! Oh my.

 20 July 2019

Mark met me at the end of his dock just north of Five Mile Point at 0630 hrs. The lake had the slightest of a southwest breeze so I headed north almost to the village. We set up deep and above shallow rock piles to the north of us and I closed the gap slowly. The smallmouth are beginning to move deeper. The young of the year fry, about the size of a small paperclip, are beginning to school and move out over deeper water.

These tiny fish school and migrate out of the shallows becoming a roaming bait ball. If they did not “go pelagic” there would be no fish left in the lake. If the tiny warm water fry of rock bass, perch and smallmouth did not assemble and evacuate the shallow margins they would be preyed upon to depletion. The largest predator they have are their older brothers and sisters. The smallmouth of eight to ten inches hammer them like wolves in a pack pushing these balls of fry farther and farther away from the shallows until they hit the open basin of the lake and the wind and current carry them away from the attacking bass, away from the shallow structure, into the abyss.

Out over the abyss they find zooplankton to eat in the thermocline. Here, in the thermocline, other predators constrained by temperature and oxygen await there arrival. Predators like trout and landlocked salmon, that  are even swifter and faster than the warm water fish of the shallows, maraud the big schools of fry. This is what is starting to happen on the lake. Big fun!

Mark landed over 25 bass with a few decent ones brought to net. Good action and nice company made for an enjoyable morning on the lake! Water temps at 76 at surface.

18 July 2019

I picked up Charlie from Iowa at the high banks below Greenfield Lane at 0700 hrs. The lake was spectacular with low clouds and scattered fog lit up by the early morning sunlight. The wind was light and variable and the surface had little texture.

We motored down to a spot where I have been catching lake trout in 70 to 100 FOW. Several small lakers were found and a few landed but no large marks. Big rainbow trout were taking hexagenia mayflies on the surface over 100 FOW and it was surprising to me. Of course when I was there looking for them three weeks ago during the brown drake hatch, with a fly rod in hand, they were nowhere to be seen!

The water temp at surface was 75 degrees at 0730 hrs and this is the extreme limit for trout to be found in. The lake has stratified and the thermocline is set-up at 25 to 30 feet down from surface and is holding many fish. I saw only one troller — in the mid-lake area around Borodino — dragging spoons through the thermocline.

Most all of the bass have left their spawning beds but I did see a few still hanging in there. They are abandoning the shallows and have moved to deeper depths of 12 to 20 FOW and still can be found concentrated around rock piles and structure feeding on crayfish.

With very little wind and intense sunshine the fishing was difficult. Charlie managed a dozen or more decent smallies brought to net and we had an enjoyable day on the lake.

15 July 2019

After a few days of teaching fly fishing on the nearby trout streams, my lake schedule has picked back up. I met Anthony from Phoenix Arizona in the village at 0700 hrs with gray overcast skies and a 10 mph southwest wind. Ideal smallmouth bass fishing conditions!

We set up on a drift that would take us into casting range of nice rock piles. There were two other bass boats hovering right on top of the rocks. Why put the boat over the fish? It is more effective to ease the boat to within casting distance and then anchor upwind of  shallow structure and fish. The larger bass are more readily caught this way.

Anthony caught and released 35 bass before noon. Water temps at surface 75 degrees.

Late morning the wind slid to the west and died to the faintest of a breeze while the skies cleared and the sun became intense. As early afternoon approached the bass stopped feeding and thunderstorms approached from the northwest so I motored Anthony back to the village just before the cells rolled through town and delivered a drenching.

I waited out the downpour at the Lakehouse Pub with a roast beef sandwich and a Brooklyn Lager. The sun came out and I headed back to the launch. Upon arrival I found the water in the launch as turbid as I have ever seen it and I noticed the NYSDEC had recently taken a brush hog to the bushes along both sides of the access road. Reducing the vegetation along the roadsides.

The lake has an issue with sedimentation being delivered from surface water run-off. The increased sedimentation and subsequent non-point source pollution is having a negative impact on the lake. This is well known. Yet at the NYSDEC Angler Parking Area, the largest public boat access on the lake, we find surface water sheeting into the lake and carrying with it heavy sediments and non-point source pollution during heavy rain events.

Sampling and analyzing inlet creek sediments to distinguish composition is keeping the scientists busy. Another thunderstorm season is in full-swing and nutrient loading, sedimentation, siltation and non-point source pollution are again, by and large, left un-checked.

This issue is the most important environmental concern in the watershed. It is changing the lakes ecosystem and water quality.

Everywhere I go on the lake I see its’ effects on the underwater habitat. Large areas of clean gravel are now covered in heavy silt and ensuing vegetation. It is way past time that something tangible is done. Time to get hands dirty and identify areas —  areas like the NYSDEC Angler Parking Area — that are conduits of sediment, silt and non-point source pollution to the lake. These locations need to be identified and basic erosion control and stormwater techniques and equipment need to be implemented to mitigate the impact.

9 July 2019

Launched at 0630 hrs and picked up Dave and Dave and Mike off the dock of their rental home down at Thornton Grove. I introduced the guys to finesse bass fishing with soft plastics. The learning curve is not too great for those unaccustomed to the technique and once they figured it out they began to catch bass after bass. Big fun! We kept about a dozen between 14 to 18 inches in length and I filleted the fish boneless for them to enjoy with family while on vacation.

The bass are still on spawning beds in some areas of the lake especially to the south where water temps remain a few degrees cooler than the northern part of the lake. Most of the bass have spawned however and have strapped on the food bag with a keen interest in the crayfish!

These plentiful crustaceans are found, as most anglers know, around rock piles and other lake-bottom structure. They also are found in weedbeds at their immature stage. They will be the mainstay diet of all the fish in the shallows of the lake now that big mayflies have hatched and the young of the year fry have not gone pelagic. The crayfish are most active in low light and windy conditions. The best smallmouth fishing coincides.

6 July 2019

The calm and hot and beautiful weather has been in the region for a week now. And it is well deserved! I was beckoned away from the lake down to the Upper Delaware River to guide anglers for wild brown trout with dry flies over the holiday. In the back of my head all I could think about was the hatch going on back up north on the lake!

With the drake hatch and the fine summer weather also comes the jet ski hatch and wakeboard hatch and water skier hatch. So, it is best, in my opinion, to get on the water very early for the best opportunity to catch trout on the surface.

Andy met me at the launch at 0445 hrs and we embarked. The lake was like glass with only the faintest ripple as we searched for bugs and rising trout on the vast surface of the big lake. We found none. The water temperature at surface, after such an extended period of sun and calm was at 73 degrees.  While the drake hatch was over for the most part, there was plenty of insects (including spent drakes) on the surface of the lake. Water is just too warm now for the trout to comfortably feed in the surface scum with any regularity.

The lake has stratified and the trout are now confined to a growing thermocline layer about twenty or so feet down from the surface.

Wind and rain and overnight temperatures can change things, but it appears we have entered summer fishing mode on the lake. Time to focus on the smallmouth, or chickens of the lake, as I like to call them.

Andy received a long casting lesson from me and landed a few small bass on both dry flies and nymphs. He  enjoyed our time on the water and I enjoyed his company.

Summer is here!!

 

 

1 July 2019

The brown drake hatch is in full swing and the mayflies are thick in the bushes along the lakeshore. andy wanted to give out a shot with his Hardy five weight so we launched around 6pm and waited for the spinners to fall. The gorgeous weather had the lake busy with boat traffic and I knew it would be late before the trout started to feed on the surface.

It was not until nearly 9pm that we saw our first trout rise. There were several targets and the trout were keyed in on the adult mayflies on the surface over 80 FOW…but we failed to connect.

An enjoyable evening and we vowed to give it another shot towards the end off the week.

30 June 2019

Embarked again very early, 0500 hrs, with Todd and his father-in-law Don to try to catch rising rainbows. A modest west breeze was going and the western shore of the lake north and south of the launch was flat with excellent visibility. We noticed one decent rise a hundred yards out from the boat ramp while launching. But that was it.

The slight west breeze had blown all the spinners to the shallow eastern shore of the lake. Upon inspection, we found almost no mayflies on the flat surface along the western shore. We motored to the eastern shore where the lake had mild chop and immediately found bugs and shucks and fish. Visually it was challenging to see the rises. But we could hear them!

After trying to pin down a rising trout for an hour with no success and with the wind growing ever stronger, I decided to abandon the fly fishing and we headed south to jig lake trout. It was a good decision as the wind turned to the north and gained momentum. We found the lake trout and the guys landed nine medium sized fish and lost a few and missed a few.  By the time we departed the wind was 18 mph straight out of the north and rollers were forming. Water temp. at surface was 68 by noon.

28 June 2019

Slipped the Greyghost2 into the lake at 0500 hrs and headed north to pick up a friend in the village for a couple hours of flycasting. We found sipping trout in short order but a south breeze built up and shut things down. With a moderate chop we were unable to see the trout rising.

It appeared that the drake hatch is building with a vast amount of shucks on the water from the prior evenings emergence. Recreational boat traffic in the evening on hot late June afternoons can be a nuisance to an angler trying to fly cast during a hatch. But it is likely even more annoying to the trout that are trying to eat the bugs amidst the buzzing of outboards and jet ski engines and their ensuing wakes. Quite honestly, it puts the fish down and can ruin the fishing.

The best opportunity to connect during this hatch is very early in the morning and again late in the evening. Water temps at surface were 66 degrees.

26 June 2019

Launched late in the afternoon at the NYSDEC Anglers Parking Area, the one that discriminates against anglers without a car top watercraft. Eric the fish farmer was my guest and we headed north into a stiff northwest wind and set up a drift. The lake is still turbid and we offered plugs and plastics to the smallmouth in wind- blown shallows along the eastern shore.

Fresh boneless smallmouth fillets. Delicious!

After relocating eight legal smallmouth and a few big perch from the lake into my live well, we headed over to the calm waters on the west shore to try a little topwater as the sun sank low in the horizon. We landed two more decent bass and called it a night.

I watched a few drakes emerge just south of country club and small warm water fish were keying in on them. Water temp was 65 in 10 to 15 FOW.

8th Of June Until June 23rd

On Skaneateles Lake the mature smallmouth have recently began to move onto their beds and started to defend their nest. The opening weekend of bass season, the 15th and 16th, found strong southwest winds keeping many anglers home and making for difficult fishing conditions for the few who ventured out. The fishing pressure now, on the 24th, is at peak.

The angling and boating pressure is not because of the great fishing. The condition of other nearby lakes and rivers being turbid with high water contributes to the traffic. The NYS Anglers Parking Area on the west side of the lake was full by 0800 hrs on the last two Saturdays.

The surface temp of the lake has been struggling to sustain above 60 degrees and heavy rain has the lake at the highest level ever seen in late June. On some localized hillsides around the lake heavy rains fell and washed debris and soil into the lake creating turbid water. Widespread algal blooms are possible once we see an extended period of calm and warm weather. Or what we call summer around here.

A temp of 60 degrees sustained in shallow water will also bring the brown drake hatch. This hatch of bugs is one many fly casters are patient in waiting for this season. Some drakes spotted close to the village yesterday on the 23rd but fish are just starting to key in on them. Barely.

If the weather lets it happen the big mayflies should emerge in vast numbers soon, bringing most of the fish in the lake to the top for a short time. The fly fishing can be exciting and challenging and draws fly casters from around the region. The best fishing is very early in the morning and again at sunset.

To suffice… The small and medium bass are very active in near-shore waters and will take just about any floating plug twitched above their head. The legal number of bass to harvest is five per angler over 12 inches and a number seven floating perch rapala is tough to beat.

The little bass, 12 to 16 inches in length, are delicious and make great fish tacos! Any angler on the lake that enjoys fresh fish should harvest legal smallmouth bass and enjoy them on the table!

The big lakers are scattered over the 40 to 60 FOW. Feeding heavy on nymphs and sculpin. Their schools are tough to find and the big lakers are quite spread out. They always have my attention however.

Rainbow trout have evacuated the near-shore shallows for the most part. The aggressive pre-spawn rock bass and smallmouth behave like hoody-wearing punks on a street corner. Chasing each other around. The more sophisticated rainbow trout can be found rising to midges early in the morning or nymphing and foraging in the wind lines or surface scum over deep water.

The legal limit is five trout per person per day in combination on Skaneateles Lake. That should be reduced. Killing a limit of trout every day is unsportsmanlike and not ethical in my opinion. So if you are visiting the lake on vacation and have decided to go fishing with a charter boat service that kills trout for cash you may want to reconsider.

Contributing to the decline of the cold-water fishery, the trout, is probably not something you would do if you understood the challenges the fishery faces.

Every trout in the lake is of great value. Supporting the practice of killing trout, often found in Charter Boat Fishing, is a fact to consider. Finding an experienced local licensed guide service that can teach you hands-on angling techniques, one that practices sustainable methods and supports catch-and-release, is a better choice.

An expensive boat ride with the prize at the end of the trip being a picture of you and your friends standing next to several dead and discolored smallish fish hanging from a hook on a board? Save that for Florida. Looking for the real deal on the lake? Call me.

Peace

Mike

7 June 2019

Robert from Schenectady joined me for a day of light tackle fishing. Drifting the same big weedy flat over 35 to 50 FOW turned up nothing except one missed trout. The rising water temps have the lake trout making an exodus from the shallows where they have been gorging themselves hard for the last several weeks.

We found good numbers of medium sized lake trout in 70 FOW and the school seemed to grow as the day went on. The bright sun warmed the surface of the lake to 62 degrees where we were fishing. The lake trout often expel the contents of their stomach next to the boat before being netted. The presence of large hexagenia nymphs is proof that they are spending the low light hours in relatively shallow water.

The lake has come alive with recreational boat traffic and other watercraft. The jet ski is an obnoxious thing that creates noise pollution and hazardous boating conditions. Thats just my opinion. And this is my blog. So.

Robert had a nice day on the water and I enjoyed his company.

6 June 2019

Ian and his father John from Portland, Maine joined me for a day of light tackle fishing. The morning was slightly overcast with a south breeze. We set up on a large grassy flat and drifted for lake trout, or Togue, as they are called in Maine. Several drifts brought several lakers to net early but as the morning drew on the fishing slowed down and the wind died.

We searched for rainbows in a few shallow water haunts on the north end of the lake but found only bass. The water in 12 FOW or less is around 55 degrees on the north end of the lake. The bass are beginning to put on their spawning make-up of bright red eyes and black fringed fins and are getting very aggressive.

The rainbows, for the most part, have vacated the shallow water where the bass numbers are high. The two species do not co-habitate well.

I headed south to look for shallow water that was cooler that would hold salmonids. I found it and Ian and John enjoyed catching many landlocked salmon! A beautiful and enjoyable day on the lake!

4 June 2019

Ron and Laurent met me at the boatyard at 0730 hrs for a day of fly fishing on the lake. It was a stunning spring morning with clear skies and a slight northwest breeze. The guys had not been fly fishing in some time so we spent a little while re-learning the basics off fly casting.

Laurent is from Tahiti. That is the place he has called home for more than 40 years. He also owns a home in the hills nearby Ithaca. Ron is Laurents neighbor in Ithaca and the fishing trip was a birthday gift to Ron from his wife Shelley.

We set up on a drift on the east shore of the southern third of the lake. Two deer swam across the lake as we drifted. The smallmouth are becoming quite active and water temps were around 48 degrees. Several trout attempted to eat their flies and they rolled a few. A couple smallish salmon were brought to net and we enjoyed fresh smoked trout, fresh wild mushroom patte, goat cheese and fresh bread for lunch.

Both Ron and Laurent had a very enjoyable day drifting and casting on the lake.

2 June 2019

On the last morning of their weekend fishing trip we anticipated the lake trout fishing to be even better than yesterday. It was not. The same drifts turned up no fish or strikes. A stiff southwest wind with light rain welcomed us and the lakers had moved on.

I had a hunch where many of them were, so we investigated and were able to locate several large schools of lake trout in 65 to 75 FOW. But they would not cooperate and refused our presentation. We drifted shallow for trout and found none. Only a handful of smallmouth.  And since the guys had a long drive, and the fishing was slow, we were back at the dock by 1100 hrs.

We all agreed it was a fun weekend with plenty of laughs and some nice fish brought to net on light tackle.

Thanks guys!

1 June 2019

Day two of their weekend fishing adventure started out well. The light south west breeze and overcast skies had the lake trout aggressive in the morning. The guys landed five and missed a few more on spinning rods. When the sun began to come out and get high in the sky the lakers stopped cooperating.

 

So we headed for the warm shallow waters to try and find feeding rainbows or salmon and deliver flies to them. And we did! Great fun and a fine day of fishing on the lake! Shallow margin temps at surface have reached 55 degrees in many locations and the trout are active and chasing! Head hunting will begin in the early morning hours of the days ahead quite soon.

31 May 2019

Dan and his father Tim travelled from New Hampshire and Amsterdam, NY to spend the weekend in Skaneateles to fish out of my boat. They arrived around noon and we embarked. The trout were active in 12 to 16 FOW. Dead drift presentation accounts for several missed takes early on. Once the guys got the hang of mending their line and setting the hook, trout began to come to the net. Water temps reaching 53 and the trout are now chasing and leaping!

What a riot!

27 May 2019

The plan for my guests was a half day small stream fly fishing on Memorial Day morning. But the creeks were running too high and too fast for “fun” fly fishing. So instead of placing my guests in a flooded stream and having them dredge nymphs for four hours, telling them stories and then taking their money with a smile…like many a guide might do…I decided to take Tina and Beck out on the lake.

The lake was flat and calm but as beautiful as ever on a spectacular bright and crisp morning. The parade marched through the village as I instructed my guest Beck (the radio personality from 95.1 in Rochester incidentally) and his wife Tina on the mechanics of proper fly casting. The trumpets and drums followed the American flag down main street while we enjoyed the turquoise water around us.

A slight west breeze built up around 11:00 and Beck and Tina caught a few fish. Tina landed a beautiful 16″ rainbow that much to Becks’ chagrin she refused to take a picture of so as not to harm the trout. An enjoyable morning had by all and it was a pleasure making new friends!

26 May 2019

Morning: The morning trip was challenging. As it was a holiday weekend I abstained from allowing my guests to meet me at the NYSDEC ANGLERS PARKING AREA.  Why? Because they would likely get a ticket for parking in one of the designated spots for vehicles without trailers at the NYSDEC ANGLERS PARKING AREA. What a crock!

So to make it easy on my guests I offered to pick them up at the dock of their rental place. Had I not been so busy I would perhaps not have made that decision. Their rental was located six miles south of boat launch at a place called Carleton Cliffs. Running my guests to and from the fishing grounds ate up too much time.

They enjoyed the fishing however. It was slow and they had a hard time setting the hook on the trout. A beautiful morning on the lake none-the-less.

Afternoon: A friend of a friend had reserved the afternoon for his wives’ family to do a little spin casting from the deck of my boat. So I picked the guys up from their lakeside rental at Slate Cove Road. It did not take long for the guys to hook up with some trout. Also included in the action was a pig smallmouth. Earl and his two sons Eric and Kyle had a nice time and caught some impressive fish!

 

23 May 2019

The wind arrived out of the south with some force overnight. I met my guests at the boat launch and we traversed to drift a deep weedy flat for lake trout. The guys struggled a bit with setting the hook but managed to bring three lake trout top-side. The fishing was not fast and furious but each drift provided some action and a hook-up.

Around noon we went looking for warm shallow water that may hold rainbows. We found it. A stiff south south created a lunch-line. We positioned ourselves at the head of the line and began serving the entrees. I like that analogy!

24″ buck on a fly

Great day on the lake and I enjoyed the company of Chris, his father Lee and his friend Mike. Thanks guys!

22 May 2019

Every day is different. And today could not be more different than yesterday as far as lake conditions. Upon arrival at the launch I found the lake to be a sheet of glass from end to end. The kiss of death. The skies were clear and the sun was intense. As still and as calm as I have ever seen it.

When this happens I have no choice to look for lake trout in deep water. In a depth of 50 to 80 FOW lake trout will not spook from the boat. Problem is that this time of year the lake trout found in the deep water tend to be juveniles. The large and adult trout are spread out in the shallow margins feeding while water temps at those depths allow.

My guests Nina and Xavier, from France, were not dismayed. They enjoyed their tour of the lake. I used the electric prop and slowly stalked some weedy rocky points where we watched hundreds of yellow perch spawn. The “aquarium” was lit up and we watched fish, tried to get them to bite, but they just went about their business with one eye on my boat!

Fishing was terrible and spiders were building webs on my upright fishing rods in the rod holders. Thats calm. Dead, flat calm. The worst of conditions for fishing any lake, but on Skaneateles Lake, it is the “kiss of death”.

21 May 2019

I met Fran and Dick at the launch down at the bottom of the lake. What was predicted as an eight to ten mph west wind was aa 15 to 20 mph north wind. The southern third of the lake was a froth and un-fishable. So we ventured north to the NYSDEC launch to get some protection from the wind for a day of fly casting for rainbows.

Fran is in his late 70’s as is his friend Dick. They have been fly fishing for nearly fifty years and have travelled all over the west and New York State in search of trout on a fly. After finding some warm water out of the wind they began casting as I controlled the drift. Within minutes Fran hooked a trout. That was the start.

The sun was shining and the skies were blue as one after another the rainbows fell for our presentation. The guys landed 8 trout and missed/dropped as many more in the middle of the afternoon. Upon dropping the guys off at the launch Fran mentioned that the fly fishing he had on my boat was perhaps the most enjoyable fly fishing he has had in many many years.

I will take that compliment. All fish caught and released.

16 May 2019

Ken and his friend (whose name I forgot) spent the day on the boat with me. The skies were overcast with a four to eight mph west wind. I travelled from the state launch to a large deep weed covered flat. I set up for a drift and then locked into the spot to demonstrate to the guys how to fish the rig they would be using. I pitched  it out in front of the boat and began to describe the method.

Before I could draw the line tight and finish my sentence, a lake trout snapped up the bait! Needless to say they were both convinced of the effectiveness of the presentation. After several drifts Ken landed three lake trout while his friend missed several hits and dropped a fish. Around noon we drove south to cast for rainbow trout.

Fish were sparse and we worked hard for the few we hooked. Water temps remain around 46 to 47 at surface in this location. Water levels quite high but dropping.

15 May 2019

Guided Alan from California on the southern third of the lake. Moderate south winds created an optimal drift and I focused on delivering the fly over short but “active” weed beds in 14 to 18 FOW. Water temps are slow to rise on the southern third of the lake. This is a good thing. The only fish, in temps below 48  that consistently take the dead drift fly are the trout. Soon, when the water temps surpass fifty degrees at surface, the smallmouth will start  to attack. The smallmouth bass (or chickens as I call them) get more aggressive as the water temps rise. Once 55 degree temps are found in the shallow margins of the lake the chickens begin to compete heavily with the rainbow trout for food.

A healthy naive laker fell for the fly as well as a few small rainbows.

9 May 2019

DJ and Sabrina met me at the launch at 0730 hours. I showed up a bit early. Studying the forecast change through the day yesterday had me concerned I would find the lake a froth with wind. When I pulled into the launch the cable rigging of the boatyard crane was singing and the lake was all whitecaps.

My guests, upon arrival at the launch, knew at once that there would be no fly fishing on the lake today. We chatted for a bit while a sustained 30 mph southeast gust blew cold spray over the gravel beach. To re-schedule was the obvious solution and being from Ithaca makes it easy for them.

I tried fishing from shore, drifting a jig under a float on the leeward side of the point. The south wind had created such a froth and eddy break on the north side of the gravel point it appeared obvious that a big trout would be searching for food there, maybe even spawning in the windswept gravel.

The wind was too strong. So I hopped in the cab of my Silverado and headed down to the south end of the lake with the Lund in tow. I knew the rollers and whitecaps would be less there but the gusting wind would make fly casting to trout extreme and unenjoyable, if not impossible, on the open lake regardless of location. Driving along the southern end of the lake I noticed a familiar beat-up old blue Chevy pick-up truck parked on the shoulder. Charlies’ rig.

The rusty blue Chevy truck used to be my friend Erics’. It did not take me long to find Charlie and his buddy (whose name I forget). Big pumpkinseeds and bullhead had migrated into the shallow turbid water. Charlie and his buddy were there to harvest.

Charlie smiled when I approached and we began to bullshit. Somewhere during the conversation he insulted me with a smile on his face. Thats what Charlie does. We have known each other for twenty years and in the small circle of hard-core Skaneateles anglers around here, everyone knows Charlie, and knows he usually insults you to your face with a smile.

I enjoy seeing Charlie on the water. If there are panfish in a big school on any of the nearby lakes, anytime of the year, Charlie is there catching them…Taking them home and cleaning and eating them. Just another link in the local food chain.

Charlies’ buddy finished their last PBR and they started back to the truck with a bucket of big jumbo pumpkinseeds. Besides the wind that howled above our heads on the tops of the willows, down in the big valley, it was a fine Spring day. So I took a pic of Charlie in his element. And shared it with you.

 

6 May 2019

Guided Sean and Tyler for the day. The lake has been like glass for a week straight and I did not expect it to change. So I knew that the fly fishing was going to be difficult. No wind on a crystal clear lake makes for fun fly casting but poor fly fishing. Sean and Tyler were just happy to be floating and fishing and while they wanted, naturally, to hook some fat rainbows, it was not in the cards today.

We fished hard in some of my best spots and never rolled a trout. Ugh! The lake was super flat most of the day. An occasional northwest breeze would start to build and then fizzle out completely. While it was a stunning day and we talked and enjoyed each others company, we totally blanked on the trout.

It happens. And this long stretch of calm weather makes me want for wind…Something, as a big lake angler, I rarely ever do. A steady, soft wind and blue skies is the best conditions for stillwater fly fishing. Water temps at surface were 42 to 44 degrees where we angled today.

5 May 2019

My good friend George joined me for a couple hours of perch fishing in the am. We launched at 0730 hrs and headed over to the the same school of perch. My friend John was already there with his son. I had told John where to go the night before as he wanted to get a meal of perch and get his boy Connal out on the water.

As we approached John waved us in. He was catching fish, but the lake was again still, with hardly a hint of a northwest breeze. The perch were still there but proved difficult to catch. They have abandoned minnows and are now keying in on emerging midge larvae, scuds and damsel/dragon fly nymphs. The slow rising water temperature and sunlight has the weeds growing and the aquatic insect activity coming alive. The perch are grazing in the weeds face down now. Eating tiny stuff. That can male them difficult to catch. The midges are starting to hatch with momentum and the swallows are feasting. Water temp here was 42.5

The perch fishing here slowed down so George and I went and inspected another shallow spot on the lake to the north. In eight FOW we found a huge school of perch and bullheads. A pair of lakers marauded the perch as we watched. I cast a fly and one laker took it hard. A handsome wild fish that was caught and released to fight again another day. Water temp in this location was 48!

4 May 2019

My friend Eric, the fish farmer, met me at the dock and we went looking for perch. We found them quickly but again the lake was void of any wind. A slight breeze finally came up and the perch let their guard down and began to bite. We launched at noon and were off the lake by 1600 hrs with a nice mess of jumbos.

Another boat with three anglers came by and started to crowd us to get in on the school. We had enough and let them have the spot. Drifting slightly south I picked up two lakers on a fly rod over some shallow weeds and rocks. Both fish were released and then we split. Water temp at surface was 45.

29 April 2019

Guided Max and his buddy, whose name escapes me, from the Syracuse University photo-journalism program. Newhouse School. They are doing some field work on a project about Skaneateles Lake and wanted to see the lake, up close. Upon arrival at the lake I found the two of them with camera gear set-up on the dock at the launch and filming.

The lake was like glass. They boarded, and I took them for a spin in the Lund and showed them around the lake. They wanted some footage of me fly fishing so I obliged. We travelled to the top portion of the southern third of the lake. The lightest of a breeze spread across the surface and a rainbow picked up my dead drift fly over some thick but short weeds.

I strip set and rolled the trout, enough to see his bright silver flanks flash deep in the sunlight. While reaching for my electric prop remote at my waist to anchor, I allowed a bit of slack and the trout shook the hook. That was it. The slight wind died and we sat on the glass smooth surface for a bit. Waiting for the breeze to build, but it never did. So we talked and they filmed and interviewed me. Then we headed back.

25 April 2019

The NYSDEC put their nets out in various locations on the lake this past week to capture and survey walleyes. An offer to help was given, but none was required it appears.  As the skies were blue and the winds were calm, I ventured out on the lake alone wanting to fly cast for rainbows, but upon arrival at the lake I found it a sheet of glass…Not a stitch of wind or a ripple on the surface of the lake.

This is the “kiss of death” for fishing on any lake, but especially on Skaneateles Lake. The crystal clear water without a breeze to texture its’ surface, makes it impossible to sneak up on fish.  Fly casting to rainbows in these conditions is useless. The Greyghost 2 was launched anyways. These conditions are perfect for one thing. To spy on the fish in the giant aquarium.

On a bright, early spring day with the sun high in the sky, I can stand on the bow deck of my Lund and silently glide over the weedy flats with my electric prop, visually surveying the fish. Several locations that I had not been to yet this season, I went to inspect, looking for schooling perch and whatever else. The water temp at surface was 44 degrees. Spent midges and their emergence shucks lay on the surface of the lake at the boat launch quite thick.

At the first location I checked I found the water to be 47 near shallow rocks. Moving out into the weedy flat to the south I located a massive school of perch. Several hundred swam under the boat in 18 to 20 FOW over dense weeds. In this location I also identified four walleye. The clarity of the water makes it easy to identify the walleye as they have bright white tips on their ventral fins and stand out in the mix of perch.

Two other locations I checked I also found huge schools of jumbo perch. I caught enough for a meal, made a few mental notes on depth and location, then fired up the Yamaha and departed for home. In the evening, I cleaned a dozen jumbos and found their stomaches to be “sausage tight” with chironomid (midge) larvae.

 19 April 2019

Guided Dan and his two boys Tyler and James in the morning for steelhead on a small tributary of the lake. Dan and his boys have never caught a big lake-run rainbow (steelhead) and wanted to try their hand at it. With lake-run fish, either in the Spring or the Fall, timing is everything. We arrived at the creek at 0630 hrs to find it in good shape. Not too high and not to low. I showed the boys how to fish these spooky trout and we stalked a half mile of creek.


They each hooked a trout but they were not prepared for what the trout does after it feels the hook! It was their first time and while I try to teach and inform and lecture, when a big trout takes your fly, reactions of all sorts take place! We had a very enjoyable morning and the boys and their Dad learned a lot. But no trout were brought to net!

Water temp in this tributary

was 46 and red horse suckers were running the creek by the hundreds. The few remaining trout that were in the creek were dropping back quickly to the lake.

16 April 2019

Guided Earl and his two boys Troy and Jake for a few hours this afternoon. The kids are on Spring Break this week and Earl wanted to get out on the water with his boys. Light south winds and overcast skies found the big school of jumbos right where I had left them a few days ago. Within a few hours we amassed enough big perch for a healthy meal for Earl and his family. And that is quite a few perch considering the size of his two teenage boys!

 

Water temps at 39 and still no midges hatching. A few swallows flying, but most perched and resting, waiting for the bugs.

11 April 2019

Headed out on the lake for a few hours this afternoon with another friend named Eric. I have three fishing buddies named Eric. So when I tell my wife I am going fishing and she says “With who?”, I say “with Eric”.      That accurately answers the question most of the time.

Instead of heading north from the launch we headed south. Eric had some intel on a school of jumbos on the west shore three miles from the state launch. Eric’s other fishing buddy, named Mike, was there in his boat with his son, catching perch when we arrived. We came in soft and quiet under power of the electric prop. When we had approached to within casting distance I pushed the anchor button and the motor guide spun around in circles strangling itself with its cord as if possessed. I have no idea why but it would not function so I quickly slipped the real anchor to keep us from gliding too close to Mikes’ boat and risk spooking the school of perch.

First cast produced a slob. And a few more casts and a few more fish. Erics’ buddy Mike had to leave so he pulled anchor and said goodbye only to find his cranking battery dead. His electric prop battery was dead before he put the boat in the lake he mentioned so that was of no help. The lake was very calm but there was enough of a  southeast breeze that Mikes’ boat began to drift away.

I had a battery isolated just for my sonar. So I switched the sonar connections over to my cranking battery and we pulled anchor and delivered my extra battery to Mike. He hooked it up and it fired his outboard and he left, assuring us he would put the battery in the back of my truck back at the launch.

We had not drifted too far but in the commotion we had scattered or shifted the school of perch. So we had to search them out again. They were not far and we left at dusk with about fifty between the two of us. Big slob perch. Water was 38 at surface with light and variable wind.

The swallows and loons are back on the lake. The swallows just arrived and may be a few days early as the midges have not begun to hatch and there is little for them to eat. The loons are just on a layover, stopping to re-fuel on fish. They will not stay for more than a week or ten days before they continue their journey north into Canada or other lakes in northern New York where they will nest and spend the summer.

7 April 2019

Enjoyed a few hours on the water with a friend named Eric. A steady 15 mph north wind with gusts over 20 mph kept us on the north end of the lake on the west shore. Immediately, I realized the batteries in the remote control for electric prop were dead and had to take a detour to the village sea wall. My friend Eric stayed with the Lund and I hoofed it through the village to the Byrne Dairy for a set of AA batteries and returned. Problem solved. I bought two packs and stashed one package in the watertight hatch of my boat for the future.

We quickly located a large school of yellow perch and the anchor button was pressed on the electric prop. The motorguide held the boat on that location for about two and a half hours in a steady wind. Eric and I left with about fifty large perch between the two of us. Water temps still around 38,

1 April 2019

The first open-water guided fishing trip of the year! Three inches of fresh snow carpeted the lakeshore and boat launch when arriving at noon. Dave, my guest, was staying at The Sherwood Inn in the village and wanted to get out on the lake for a few hours. There was a strong northwest wind, clear skies and air temps around 33 to 35 degrees.

I picked Dave up in the village and since he did not have any preference to what species he caught I took him to the spot I have been perch fishing. The perch were still there and Dave caught one on his firstcast! He caught more than a enough for a meal so we left them, and since it was the official statewide opener of trout season, I thought we would try our hand at a little rainbow trout angling on the lake with light tackle.

The first location I delivered the fly turned up a medium sized rainbow. Two more takes followed with one fish lost and the other take missed. The water temps were one degree warmer (38.5) in this location than other areas in the lake. A safe, enjoyable and successful trip to kick off the 2019 season on Skaneateles Lake!

30 March 2019

The vast schools of jumbo yellow perch have my attention. So in the next couple of weeks, when schedule and weather permits, I will launch for a few hours to harvest a couple dozen of these tasty fish. Any fish from Skaneateles Lake is very delicious. The cold clean water lends itself to producing firm and tasty fillets. And while this is good for the angler who wants to catch a few fish for a meal on occasion, it makes the catch-and-release of trout and other game fish in the lake uncommon.

This past Friday I returned to find the perch right where I had left them. Schooled thick over scattered rocks and thick weeds in 18 FOW. The perch are aggressive and feeding hard on baby rock bass and sculpin minnows as well as last springs perch fry. Water was 38 degrees at surface.

28 March 2019

Clear skies and calm winds were difficult to ignore this afternoon so I launched for a couple hours of fishing. Besides the fine weather, I needed to blow the cobwebs off the Lund and make certain all systems were go as the open water guiding season is now here.  With no safe ice for three winters in a row, in addition to a very wet and blustery April last season, I assumed the lakes’ yellow perch population would be quite ripe and that this Spring would be a good one for harvesting these delicious fish.

I was not disappointed by the perch fishing. And learned that I had a dead battery in my 24 volt system that powers my electric prop. The perch were schooled in 18 to 21 fow over thick weeds and were aggressive. It took myself and a friend a short time to gather enough for a solid Friday evening fish fry.

What are they eating? Themselves it appears…Among other things. The water temp was 38 at surface, which is up two degrees since Sunday. The clear skies and bright sun helped the water temperature rise and smallmouth were active as well.

Peace

Mike

24 March 2019

The NYSDEC held a State Of The Lake meeting concerning Skaneateles Lake this past Wednesday evening. The topics were water quality and the management of the lakes’ fishery. The presence of walleye in the lake was the hot topic as walleye are not native to Skaneateles Lake. In the summer of 2014 a guest on my boat reeled in a 12 inch walleye while angling over shallow weeds and rocks. It was a surprise. In 2016 another walleye, about 14 inches in length, was hooked and netted in my boat in the same area.  In 2017, the local outdoors writer caught a walleye from shore in the Village of Skaneateles and it made headlines.

In the summer of 2018 the NYSDEC performed their scheduled four-year netting survey of the lake. They caught nearly 100 walleyes in their nets and determined, based upon the size and quantity of the fish and other scientific factors, that walleye have established a breeding population and are likely to only increase in numbers.

According to the biologists, once a population of walleyes is established in a trout lake like Skaneateles Lake, if left unchecked, it is inevitable that the walleye will become the apex predator in the lake. The cold water sports fishery of rainbow trout and landlocked salmon will disappear. The annual stocking program to support the trout fishery will be discontinued. This is what will happen on Skaneateles Lake if the walleye are not managed.

The walleye were introduced illegally by misguided outlaw anglers, transplanted from other nearby lakes over the course of several years. A healthy walleye population in the 9,000 acre lake has established itself. Who did this and why, is now, of no consequence. What is important now is what steps can be taken to reverse the growing walleye population and preserve the trout and salmon fisheries program.

At last Wednesday evenings meeting the crowd of 80 or so anglers spoke up overwhelmingly in support of maintaining the rainbow trout fishery and in support of implementing a management plan to control the walleye population. The NYSDEC biologists held the meeting to gain this type of feedback. The concern of local anglers to preserve and protect Skaneateles Lake as a premier and unique rainbow trout and landlocked salmon fishery is evident. I am hoping this sentiment will gain some momentum and strength and guide the future fisheries management of the lake.

The proactive approach to offering a public forum and taking input into the management of a lakes fishery is a relatively new and effective tool utilized by the state biologists. It allows the biologists to understand if the work and goals they are undertaking are in-line with the local anglers who utilize the resource. Unfortunately, the state biologists often lack the necessary resources and manpower and are buried under tremendous workloads, forcing them to prioritize their energy and efforts. This can sometimes leave issues that are of great concern to a handful of anglers relatively low on the “to-do” list.

If enough anglers and non-anglers alike show support for the Skaneateles Lake trout and salmon fisheries program the state will be forced to pay attention..forced to understand that Skaneateles Lake, its ecosystem and its intact cold water sport fishery, is very important to Central New Yorkers. This will be the most valuable impetus to helping biologists quickly develop and implement a walleye management plan for the lake in an attempt to save the trout.

Skaneateles Lake is an environmental icon in our community. Its trout fishery is one steeped in history…An invaluable cold water fishery too significant and unique to give up on. Its trout fishing heritage, just like its water quality, needs to be preserved and protected so our kids can experience the same high quality trout fishing this magnificent lake has provided for generations.

To help save the Skaneateles Lake Trout & Salmon Fisheries Program please contact the NYSDEC Region 7 state biologist, your local politicians and voice your support.

Thanks,

Mike

The Months Of September And October 2018

 

I am a terrible blogger. Entire months of fishing the lake has escaped my capture here. As I have always said, when it comes to lake fishing September is a repeat of August. Water temperatures are slow to decline and the lake does not experience any significant changes in temperature until mid-October.

The bass fishing was very good for my guests the entire month of September. It became better as October progressed, and now, late October, the smallmouth are ON FIRE!

But I am no longer interested in them. In fact, I wish they would complete their feeding frenzy and lay down for the remainder of the year. Its trout time!

Water temperatures ranged between 58 and 60 on the 19th of this month. This is the first day I was able to catch rainbow trout on a fly in the shallow margins of the lake. By Monday the temperatures were below 60 everywhere and hovered around 57 at surface. The trout fishing in the lake will be very good for the next several weeks. The weather may not be and that is typical for November in Upstate New York. Yet with a few more trips on the calendar, I look forward to the crisp and short Autumn days ahead spent fly casting to rainbows on the vast open lake.

The whining of outboard and jet ski engines is gone. The deep bellow of the tour boat gone as well. The lake has lost its decoration of countless moored boats. Swim platforms and floating docks have been dragged on shore.  And I reunite again, as I do each year, with the lake in its Autumn moods… With colors and skies that I have come to love as I deliver my fly over and over again along its now lonely shores.

Peace

Mike

26, 27, 28 August 2018

Fishing remains fair to very good for smallmouth bass with light tackle in the shallower margins of the lake. I have not seen much activity form the trolling armada in the last few weeks. Several years in row of killing hundreds of trout via trolling has taken its toll on the population of mature trout roaming the thermocline this year. The low rainbow trout numbers are a result of a combination of factors however.

Rumor has its some anglers have been targeting walleyes on the lake with some success. I believe half of what I read and none of what I hear. Especially from anglers. I don’t mean that as an insult or a remark to the character of fellow anglers. Experience has taught me, however, to take what I hear from anglers at the boat launch with a grain of salt.

Just as the lake is slow to rise in temperature in the Spring, it is likewise slow to cool down in the Fall. September will see more isolated algae blooms on the lake and a slow transition into Autumn conditions.

October is the month I look forward to!

Peace

Mike

19 & 20 August 2018

The Hilltop Diner in Skaneateles is where I meet my guests in the morning these days. Excellent food there…And I have gained a few pounds this summer because of it. The diner being my early morning meeting place is good for the diner I guess…but inconvenient for me and my guests. Especially the ones that are on a diet.

Why would people who bought a New York State fishing license — and hired a New York State licensed fishing guide to take them fishing — not be able to legally park at The New York State Skaneateles Lake Fishing Access Site?

That’s a good question isn’t it?

Every Saturday and Sunday in July and August the New York State Fishing Access Site on Skaneateles Lake is full of jet ski, pontoon boat and pleasure boat trailers. Few of which are fishing!

“Thats not accurate” I was told by the NYSDEC ECO who patrols the area during a recent conversation.

I beg to differ.

Pleasure boaters, without a doubt, make up 75% of the vehicles and trailers parked every weekend all summer long at The New York State Fishing Access Site on Skaneateles Lake.

Period.

But my guests, who have fishing licenses, that are in town to go fishing, CANNOT LEGALLY PARK their car in one of the spots designated for vehicles without a trailer at the NEW YORK STATE FISHING ACCESS SITE!

It’s a crock.

Oh yah. Fishing remains excellent for smallmouth.

Peace

Mike

 

 

14 & 15 August 2018

Surface temperature is starting to decline and I found it to be 74 on the morning of the 14th. The lake was cloudy with algae however. North winds turned to the west and shifted the locations of schooling bass that I had been keeping tabs upon. Once winds set up for a while I was able to find scattered schools of medium sized bass.

My guests enjoyed good fishing both days. The shallow margins of the lake, 25 to 10 FOW are infested with rock bass. They won’t leave the shallows. Its out of their comfort zone and they cling to the rocks. Meanwhile the smallmouth suspend on the edge and venture out over deep water in search of the large schools of perch fry that are wandering over the deeper regions of the few flats and rocky shoals/structure that exist on Skaneateles Lake.

While it can sometimes take a while, and wind is the determining factor, once the schools of bait are found, the smallmouth soon make an appearance!

8 August 2018

The rains came and a stiff south breeze kept things moving and the fishing good today. I got soaked in a downpour with a family of three in the am. Then dried out. Then soaked again with a solo angler in the afternoon. Then dried out again as the fronts moved north and the sun came out.

Interesting day! Fishing was good on leeward side of structure. Bass puking up tiny perch by the dozen.

The water was cloudy with algae almost to Five Mile Point, but I did not see a “bloom”. Surface water temperature was 78.

I snapped the pic above next to the docks in the village

3rd 5th and 6th August 2018

Cloudy overcast skies and steady south wind had the lakes’ smallmouth all fired up this week! The young of the year fry (tiny minnows) have moved out of the shallows and gone pelagic. The smallmouth (all the lakes fish) are keying in on these clouds of small perch and rock bass minnows that are driven by wind over shallow structure.

Small soft plastics fished drop shot with 7’6″ St. Croix Premier Rods has been killing the bass and perch in 18 to 22 FOW over scattered rocks piles and mixed weeds and rocks.

The surface temp was 78 degrees yesterday, the 6th. Syracuse.com is praying that the lake has an toxic blue green algae bloom so they will have something to write about!

It was looking like it might happen lake-wide but heavy rains cooled things down. Some blue-green algae present at the north end near village however. Nobody swimming in the village but kids in the lake all over the place elsewhere on the lake.

The Month Of July 2018

The July of 2018 was indeed the finest I can remember. Day after day of beautiful weather kept Upstate Guide Service busy. I lost track of how many trips I did on Skaneateles Lake. It was the single busiest month my guide service has ever had in fifteen years.

Calm hot weather with clear skies is not a weather condition I dare complain about. Not as a native Central New Yorker. When the sun is shining for days on end you just enjoy it, take a mental snapshot and tuck it away in your mind to bring out in January when you find yourself shoveling snow and de-icing the car.

The fishing on the lake, on any lake, is challenging when the sun is bright and the surface is smooth. Winds that build and sustain for any period of time would make the fish active and my guests would enjoy good fishing.

When the lake was flat I would search for schools of lake trout in deeper water… With limited success. This past season saw the lowest number of native Skaneateles Lake trout brought to net ever on my boat. But I cannot correlate that fact with anything. They just were not where I was looking for them in any real numbers.

The lakes smallmouth bass population continues to do very well. The lake is infested with these hard fighting fish, so I target them as they make for an enjoyable fishing trip for vacationing families!

They make great fish tacos too!

Peace

Mike

 

29 June 2018

Lake was flat calm when we arrived at launch at 0530 hrs. Jigging for lake trout over 80 from was fairly productive with a dozen small fish brought to net. Schools of fish seemed more abundant but size was lacking. By 0930 hrs the bite slowed down and we abandoned the deep water and went in search of smallmouth bass.

Many bass were still on spawn beds while many others had moved off beds and were hungry. Drop shot rigs worked the best.

19 June 2018

Launched at the NYSDEC Anglers parking area. My guests, Tom and his son Sam, followed me there and parked their car in one of the vacant spots reserved for vehicles without a trailer. He had an inflatable raft in the trunk of his car… so he was legit. And it being a Tuesday morning, traffic at the launch was light.

Hunting lakers over 65 to 85 FOW proved fruitless. We hooked a few small ones but found no concentrations or large schools of fish. With the smallmouth moving off their beds and hungry, I quickly transitioned into bass fishing to get my guests into fish.

Many of the bass all dressed up in their spawning make-up with bright red-eyes, dark fins and prominent markings.

16 June 2018

Arrived at the NYSDEC Anglers Boat Launch and Parking Area on the west shore of the lake at 0510 hrs. My buddy was coming to join me and was a bit behind schedule. The Town of Skaneateles Constable was there at that early hour however. While rolling down the hill to the ramp I stopped so he could inspect my boat for traces of invasive aquatic hitchhikers. No hitchhikers present.

There were four other rigs in the parking lot and two boats launching on what was the statewide opening day of bass season. Not too busy. Smallmouth bass may be fished for and caught all year in Skaneateles Lake. So statewide opening day is a nothing.

I launched the Lund, tied it to the outside dock and parked my truck and trailer in the 95% vacant four acre parking lot. My friend arrived and pulled his truck into one of the four empty parking spaces designated for vehicles without a trailer. The constable approached him and told him the spot is for vehicles with car-top watercraft only and that he had to leave. Like leave leave. As in exit the whole parking lot with vehicle and go find another place to access the lake.

The Grey Ghost 2

Down the lake to the south a few miles is the Town Of Mandana boat launch. A location my friend and I are quite familiar with. Upon arrival we found a newly constructed (paint still wet) kiosk that required a deposit of ten dollars to park for a vehicle and twenty for a vehicle with a trailer attached.

Also noticed that Skaneateles Marina has added another 50 or more floating boat slips to their dockage and mooring area on the lake.

I wonder what they cost?

Oh yah…We fished. Water temps at surface were  60 ish’. Some small lakers around. Most of the big smallies were  spawning and blind fishing them was tricky in th clouds and chop. Off the lake by 0930 hrs.

Peace

Mike

09 June 2018

Launched fairly early with a friend to again search the deeper structure for lake trout in transition. The fish were more abundant and a bit more aggressive. We landed three and let a couple go. Missed a few hits and dropped some trout in three hours. The sonar shows numbers improving. Water temp at surface was 55 degrees. Several trout or salmon were rising on the calm surface of the lake out over deep water. Tremendous amount of plant and insect debris in the film of the lake. As water temperatures continue to climb the aquatic insect activity will as well.

Wild Lake Trout

While I am keeping tabs on the lakers with the spinning tackle…The rainbows and salmon are ripe for the fly caster right now!

27 May 2018

Early morning outing with my son and a couple friends to look for lake trout. Water temperatures were around 50 at surface in 80 FOW. Immature lake trout were found in some numbers on and around structure in 55 to 85 FOW.. We hooked a few but had many others refuse our jigs and show little interest. No big trout were seen (marked). It appears to me that the shallow water temperatures are still quite hospitable to the lakers and they are still roaming the weeds and rocks in the twenty to thirty foot (and shallower) zones of the lake.

25 May 2018

Spectacular weather remains in the Finger Lakes through the holiday weekend. Ron from Boise joined me on the lake for a couple of hours of drifting and fly casting. In addition to a nice fat rainbow he caught several smallmouth. Water temperatures have exceeded fifty degrees and the fish are feeding! The lake should fish excellent over the next eight to ten days. The bass will compete with the trout and in some areas they will force trout out of the shallow water. But insect activity is rising to peak and the cruising rainbows are beginning to key in on what is floating on the surface. Which makes for exciting fly fishing!

I have not seen an exodus of the lake trout from the shallow water yet. But as shallow water temperatures continue to climb into the high 50’s, the lakes’ char will retreat to the depths. And I will be hovering above them with 3/4 ounce jigs ready!

22/23/24 May 2018

Nick, Ron and Jack made the journey to Skaneateles from Fredericksburg, Virginia. Day one of their three day fishing trip was a wash out with strong south winds. (The first real weather we have had in days). The guys opted not to fish in the rain and wind. The following a day was clear and the winds were gone. Surface water temperature was at 44 degrees at the surface on Tuesday but began a steady climb through the next two days to reach 47 by mid afternoon on Thursday.

Lack of wind was an issue in the morning. So I took the boat to some areas of the lake where I thought lake trout would be schooled. But there were few around and the ones that were around were small. We landed a few with none over 20″ in length. That is the average size caught. My guests had never seen a lake trout before and enjoyed the lake trout fishing, although it was slow.

Around noon each day the breeze built up enough to get a drift going. Several rainbow trout from 18 to to 24 inches were landed on flies. The smallmouth are waking up and becoming active. Several large jumbo yellow perch were caught as well.

20 May 2018

Just when things were beginning to heat up on the lake…Mother Nature decided to cool us down. A low pressure system came in early Saturday morning and brought strong winds and low air temperatures. The areas of the lake where water temps were beginning to climb into the high 40’s and low 50’s mid week were set back. Water temps at 42 degrees…again!

The rain was heavy and the wind did blow, but Pj and his son Jack, from Connecticut, were well prepared. We hunkered down and fished but the trout proved difficult through the morning. After lunch the skies began to clear and the showers subsided. A light northwest breeze set-up and we were able to drift and connect with several fat and healthy rainbow trout.

When it comes to fishing big open lakes, or anywhere, as long as conditions are safe you take what you get and make the best of it. You persevere.

I will be guiding both fly fishing and spin fishing on the lake the next five days.

 

 

17 May 2018

Ryan had just completed his sophomore year of mechanical engineering at SUNY Binghamton. His dad Bob came up from Staten Island to pick Ryan up and they detoured to Skaneateles Lake to do some fly fishing and relaxing. I met them at the launch and found the lake to be flat. Not a stitch of wind and not a ripple on the surface of the lake. In the spring of the year the stunning high pressure systems that warm the clear cold water are accompanied by a complete lack of wind. Double-edged sword for the lake fisherman. A breeze is necessary to effectively catch fish in the shallow margins of a lake with tremendous water clarity.

While we floated about the lake, waiting for the wind to build and fix, we spied on the fish in the shallow water. We watched trout swim by, viewed thousands of perch and hundreds of suckers and many smallmouth bass.

The morning fishing was slow.

Around 10:00 am we felt a breeze! The surface of the lake gained some texture and the boat began to drift and the rainbows let their guard down and smashed our flys! Water temperature was 47 ish.

Big fun and a beautiful day!

15 May  2018

A relative humidity of 100 percent created a heavy fog that shrouded the lake Tuesday morning. With limited visibility, I crossed the lake to a seasonal cottage where I picked up Rob from San Pedro. By 0700 hrs a breeze formed enough to lift the fog and the lakes’ shoreline became visible. The southerly breeze created an excellent drift and the trout were found in a few locations. Water temperatures were around 45 to 47 in areas we drifted.

Suckers rolled on the surface on the gravel points as they spawned in the lake and trout rose to hatching midges. Each of the female trout we landed were with eggs and showed tail wear from the digging of redds. I believe many of the trout find suitable gravel and oxygen in the lake to spawn and do not migrate up the tributaries.

The water temperatures are climbing slowly and the lake is coming alive in conjunction. Smallmouth bass are beginning to become aggressive.

The lake was as beautiful as ever and the fishing was very good.

12 May 2018

I picked up a couple guests in the village for a couple hours of fly casting. The high pressure system, clear skies and slight breezes we enjoyed earlier in the week were gone. A stagnant low pressure system was parked on the lake and the surface was like glass. The low gray cloud cover made visibility poor for seeing structure and weeds, the primary targets for early spring trout in lakes.

No trout were caught our seen. There was one other boat on the lake. I anticipated the fly fishing for rainbow trout to be poor in these conditions. And it was. With some exceptions, I can arrive at the launch and look at the lake and have a pretty good idea of what the fishing will be like. I cannot rely upon forecasted weather to dictate though. The forecast may give a clue as to what to expect, but I have to go and physically look at the lake to really know. Upon arrival at the launch Saturday morning, I knew, with a glance…It was going to be tough. Take the good days with the bad, and it is always enjoyable!

 

8 May 2018

Joined a friend for a few hours of fly casting on the north end of the lake. The awesome weather beckoned and neither of us could resist a mid-week opportunity to fish for rainbows. When water temperatures in the lake are hovering around the low 40’s, the trout tend to hold “bankers hours”.  So we arrived at the launch at 1100 hrs to find the lake flat. The forecast called for a slight wind to build however as the morning progressed into early afternoon.

Without even a ripple or slight hint of a breeze, fly casting was pointless.So we floated around the aquarium and spied on hundreds of suckers and perch and smallmouth bass that laid on the bottom structure, clearly visible in depths of over 25 feet in the crystal clear water.  A breeze is essential to break the surface of the lake and camouflage the boat and anglers to allow getting into casting range of trout without spooking them.

Finally, the breeze built into a soft west wind and we delivered the fly to likely locations with some success!

 

Stunning weather. Gorgeous lake. Beautiful trout. Catch and release.

Peace

Mike

20 April 2018

I finally launched the Greyghost 2 on Skaneateles Lake for the first time out this year. While I had a couple trips on the calendar with some local fly fishermen, the weather and cold temperatures required the dates be postponed. Experience has taught me that besides the yellow perch and lake trout, the rainbows are difficult when the temperature of the lake hovers in the mid to low thirties. The perch bite has been hit or miss as well I gathered from friends. So while I was eager to fish the open lake, I have been enjoying steelheading on local creeks, waiting for some nice weather to show up and get the water temperature in the lake rising.

And then it did! The weekend was calm, crystal clear and filled with sunshine. The intense rays of April sun warmed the temperature of the lake a few degrees in just a couple of days and the rainbows were active. It did not take my friend John and I long to find them and seduce them to take a fly!

23 October 2017

State fisheries biologists undertook a gill netting survey of the lake this past August. They found lake trout numbers to be about the same as usual. They caught no rainbow trout in their nets, but the nets are not designed to catch the rainbow trout I am told. So that is not a reflection of the vanished rainbow population. The angler diaries they collect indicates the vanishing of the rainbow population, coinciding with what many of the hardcore Skaneateles anglers already figured out. The state stocks a combined 20,000 rainbow trout and landlocked salmon in the lake every spring. Angler catch rates on rainbows are at an all time low.

Where did the trout go? Into the stomaches of smallmouth bass is a theory of the state biologist. In a report on Skanetaeles Lake published by the state biologist this past spring, Skaneateles Lake is touted as an up and coming smallmouth fishery.

To ice the cake…A healthy and fast-growing walleye population was found in this summers’ netting survey. The biologist believe that walleye will likely become an apex predator alongside the lake trout in Skaneateles Lake and that the future of Skaneateles Lake as a viable rainbow trout and landlocked salmon fishery is uncertain at best.

Wow.

They estimate with some degree of certainty, based upon the age of netted walleyes, that these fish were aggressively and illegally stocked five years ago. They are reproducing in the lake and show very good growth rate.

It was inevitable. Just a matter of time I guess. Skaneateles Lake is now on its way to being a walleye lake and I cannot help but feel like the walleye stocking was someones misguided mission. A mission that has changed the fate of what was once one of the greatest rainbow trout lake’s in New York State.

Time to sell some fly rods and buy some planer boards.

Peace

Mike

Wild Skaneateles Rainbow Trout
Stock Trout Eating Machine Captured

19 October 2017

Pat and his brother-in-law Bob joined me for a morning of lake trout jigging. Pat recently bought a home on the lake and had yet to catch a lake trout. I warned him the lakers had been somewhat difficult as high water temps and stratified lake conditions are remaining into mid October. We found fish in two locations and they were more aggressive than I have seen them in the last few weeks. They were found in 75 FOW. Pat had a couple fish grab his jig but did not connect. Much to Pat’s chagrin, Bob set the hook into three lakers and landed each (with a couple misses as well).

A stiff south wind revealed to me that my electric bow prop was falling apart. It made it through the morning, and we were able to hold on fish and have a good time. After dropping off my guests, a closer inspection of the prop reveals it is falling apart. So that unit is out for troubleshooting and perhaps repair, but I doubt it is salvageable. It is time to replace the unit I think. Five years of hard use is acceptable for any of todays equipment.

14 October 2017

Weather was stunning but water temperatures reman higher than normal for this time of year. I usually find surface temps in high 50’s by the middle of October, but this years mild temperatures in September and October have kept temps high. The lake trout still in 80 to 100 FOW and bass aggressive. Traditional summer pattern is starting to break with the lakes’ smallmouth. The shorter days make for more active crayfish and the fish have turned their attention to the plentiful crustaceans. While fighting, smallies’ will expel the contents of their stomach. And while perch fry has been the main ingredient in September, the fish seemed to have recently turned their attention to crayfish. Landed over twenty fish, with one nice one brought to net. Most fish average 12 to 14″.

Big Autumn Skaneateles Smallmouth

10 October 2017

Day started out overcast with a nice south breeze and my guests enjoyed good fishing for smallmouth and lake trout. Same locations fished but fished seemed more aggressive with overcast skies and light drizzle. The lake is infested with rock bass this year and I have to believe their strong number have an major impact on the food chan and other warm-water species of the lake. Few large smallmouth this year have come to net on my boat. Many 12 to 16 inch sallies that must compete heavily for food with the numerous rock bass. The smallmouth seem to be more mobile however. A school found in one location one day will have to be searched out again the next, while the rock bass stick tight to their reliable haunts.

Lakers still building in numbers adjacent to shallower structure n 80 to 100 FOW. More aggressive today than the other day. Guests landed 7 and dropped as many. Three important ingredients are key to a day of catching fish. Find the fish. Know what they will put in their mouth, and deliver a solid hook-set. If any one of these key ingredients is missing, well, the fish don’t come to the net. When guests are fishing in my boat, the fishing rod is in their hands. I take the opportunity to show the proper way to set a hook in the mouth of a fish that has taken the presentation. But this important key to landing fish can often be a challenging skill for novice anglers to learn.

7/8 October 2017

Water temperatures remain in high to mid 60’s over Columbus Day weekend. Sunday’s weather brought strong south winds that are welcome. Bass and panfish still active in 16 to 22 FOW and my guests were enjoying the hard-fighting smallmouth. Searching for Lake Trout I found small schools of small fish in 80 to 100 FOW. They are confined to the deeper regions of the lake but are starting to gather near deep structure. 

My guests were interested in learning to fly cast so we a couple hours each day working on developing the mechanics of the fly cast. A day spent in a boat in calm conditions with an experienced fly caster is an excellent way to learn how to fly cast.

30 September 2017

A long stretch of beautiful weather was interrupted briefly this past weekend by strong north winds. Saturday morning was wet and cold as a Canadian high pressure system forced a front to the south. The wind created some good current and the cloud cover had the fish active. Surface temps still in the high 60’s. A good chop, whitecaps, and big rollers in the southern portion of the lake, restricted my guests and boat to the northwest portion of the lake. Some smallmouth were found but fish seemed to be in transition as current and bait were beginning to concentrate in the sudden change of conditions.

The lake is still very stratified. With the exception of Saturday’s weather and wind, it has been extremely calm last several days, creating scattered schools of fish. The mixed bag of warm-water species could be found anywhere combined rocky and weedy bottom was found in 32 to 40 feet of water.

 

18 September 2017

Having fished the lake two out of the last three last days, I found lakers stacked in 100 FOW. Mostly small fish, 18 to 20 inches in length. The few large marks I found were up high. Laker fishing was slow but slight south wind kept the boat moving today and smallmouth were active. 

The shallow margins of the lake are infested with rock bass that are on the feed constant. The crayfish and fry from this past spring’s hatch are active and plentiful, all the caught-and-released fish landed on my boat in last two weeks appear to be feeding hard and are fat and stout.

The cold water fish, the trout, seem lethargic. This high pressure system parked on us for days may be why. Wind dispersed the alga bloom this morning but lake is still turbid and warm. In a week or two strong south winds will begin to turn the lake over. And then the real fishing begins.

Talked to a gentleman who helped the DEC with their survey netting program a few weeks ago. Very few rainbows or salmon were counted in netting results. Seems like the lake could use some good news.

15 September 2017

On occasion I stop into the local bait shop during the winter months. The only time I fish with live minnows is under the ice. During small talk with the owner he mentioned that a guy came in to the shop claiming to have caught a walleye in Skaneateles Lake. Since I believe little of what the bait shop owner says…I was skeptical.

That was in February of 2014. But then in August of 2015, I was hovering over a school of fish near a  weedy rock pile in 32 feet of water when a guest reeled in a 10 inch walleye. A small  but nice looking walleye that was vibrant and healthy. Just this past Tuesday I was fishing Skaneateles Lake with vacationers from Germany. While drifting over scattered rocks and sparse weeds, in 32 feet of water, one of my guests reeled in a 13 inch walleye.

Healthy Skaneateles Lake Walleye

The presence of walleye in Skaneateles Lake is interesting, but not surprising. To the east a short distance is Otisco Lake with an established walleye population. And to the west a short distance is Owasco Lake. Owasco Lake has a remnant walleye population still hanging on as the result of a failed private effort to stock walleye several years ago.

While these lakes are not connected in any way, their proximity to each other would accommodate the illegal transfer of fish from one lake to another by anglers. That is what has taken place. The NYSDEC knows the situation, but understanding the effect an established walleye population will have on the food chain in Skaneateles Lake remains to be seen.

5 September 2017

Sunrise On Skinny

The summer of 2017 marks the 15th season I have been guiding anglers on Skaneateles Lake.      I have met many people and have come to develop a respect for this spectacular lake.

Over the years I have seen the lake change, watched trout populations rise and fall and grimaced as the lake grew into a local fishing and boating mecca. I have always practiced catch-and-release light tackle and fly fishing on my boat, even been vocal about the value of catch-and-release on the lakes’ trout. But the simple fact is, Skaneateles Lake is managed as a put-and-take fishery. New York State puts tens of thousands of stock trout in the lake and anglers take them out.

Effective trolling techniques practiced by weekend anglers who creel a few trout for a meal on occasion have no impact on a trout population. The charter boat captain, however, soliciting vacationing tourists for cash to catch their limit of trout, day in and day out, has an impact.

Meat fishing, trolling, is fine. The sheer size and volume of Lake Ontario for instance, the greatest put-and-take trout fishery in New York State, can handle daily creeling of limits of fish with no noticeable impact. Year after Year. The professional captains working Lake Ontario take their game serious. They bag trophy fish in a challenging environment that can sustain such harvest season after season.

Smaller lakes like Skaneateles Lake are different. When the lake stratifies in summer the trout are constrained to specific depth due to water temperatures and oxygen levels. During this window of time (only a couple months of the year) summer trout populations are located with advanced sonar and GPS systems. Once found, dragging treble hooked plugs and spoons through the susceptible fish over and over again can quickly turn a limit of trout.

I think greasing limits of trout for vacationers in exchange for cash is unsportsmanlike. While trout are stocked it does not make them less valuable or infinite in number. They are a resource that could use more respect and less exploitation…Wherever they exist

If a cooler of dead trout means a successful fishing trip, perhaps you should re-think why you are fishing.

Remember the words of the late Lee Wullf;

“Trout (stocked or wild) are far too valuable to be caught only once”.

Skaneateles Lake Catch and Release