Early October — The End Of My Alaskan Adventure
Sitting in the co-pilot seat of a DeHavilland Beaver, flying through Lake Clark Pass with a tail wind — 114 miles per hour at 2400 feet in elevation, Mark The Pilot and I gazed at the snow-capped mountains and glaciers that surrounded our plane. We munched Doritos and kept one eye on the fuel pressure gauge. We were almost ready to switch tanks.
An hour before, six of us loaded our gear into two Beavers at the lodge on the Kvichak River and left the place that had been our home for months. We said goodbye to people most of us will never see again. Bid goodbye to an outpost in the arctic wilderness of Alaska that was, for some time, the very center of our universe.
Ryan, the bush pilot from Anchorage, was behind us in another Beaver as we flew through Clark Pass. When we emerged his plane soon appeared on our left…Close enough to see the smiling faces inside. We were all happy. Excited. Heading home.
The two old Beavers on the same course flew into blue skies. The Pacific Ocean spread out as far as we could see in front of us. Mark, a veteran Alaskan bush pilot who began flying float planes when he was 18, pointed out the landmarks in the vast expanse. The Kenai Peninsula, Goose Bay, and Anchorage.
Our next destination was Wasilla. A distant suburb of Anchorage. Once there we would land the two Beavers, spend the night in the loft of a hangar, and then start our individual journey to home the next day. A day we keenly anticipated.
The Mountains, rivers, lakes, the trout — The Wilderness of Alaska — stole my heart and grew my spririt everyday of my sojourn. The spectacle of such raw natural beauty is difficult to define with words. Unbridled. Wild and rugged. Some of the most inhospitable yet beautiful terrain as I have ever seen. Complete magnificence.
It is, however, the men I worked with that left the most indelible marks on my conscious. Brothers from different mothers. Each of us alike and as different as any men can be. Sharing the same common denominators: A desire for adventure and challenge.
We worked long and hard days in some of the worst weather found on this earth, moving people and gear through windy skies, up and down rivers, across lakes, under low clouds. In the dark. In the rain and wind. Getting the job done. Safe and sound. Every day. Week after week. Month after month.
In the evenings we laughed, bitched, and told stories. Some of them true. We came to know, to understand (and most important) to respect each other — The key ingredients for a recipe to any teams success.
Helping the guy working next to you everyday was required. We lifted each other up. Sometimes literally. Other times figurative — with a few good words or a couple bad jokes — executed at the precise time. Every day we had each others back. And over the course of a difficult summer, we grew tighter, acccomplishing our job better.
Will I go back to Alaska to work as fly fishing guide? I don’t know. A finer group of gentleman — a better group of pilots and guides — would be very hard to find.
Perhaps I will see you guys again. At Nugashik for a char lunch. In the pouring rain of The Braids. At Pothole. In the jungle of lower Gibraltar. Dodging brown bears on the Brooks or racing in the dark to The Rock.
Wherever you guys go — Britt, Ryan, Chris, Nate, Scott, Mark, Logan, Caleb and John — I wish you the very best.
Before dawn on board a Beaver foat plane, the elbow of some middle-aged businessman from Lake Tahoe pokes my rib cage. I sit smushed against the door. Installing my ear buds, I stare out the fogged window at the black river’s surface below. The engine chugs and water sprays from the propellor.
The pilot, slack jawed with a faraway stare, nods his head short and quick, with rythym, mumbles something imperceptible, then turns and takes a final squinting look behind him at the people setting in the plane, leans forward, throttles up, and the plane moves upstream in the dark.
The wind belts and the rain pelts the side of the plane as it roars forward. Building speed, the pilot rocks the pontoons left and right, throttles up more, and the big girl gets unstuck from the river’s surface and we fly away over the tundra. Once we have climbed to a hundred feet or so in altitude, Mark the Pilot finds our course, relaxes and leans back into his seat.
Pre-sunrise conditions make the horizon tough to discern. Black slowly grows into grey light as the sun creeps into the eastern sky. An ethereal sunrise over frosted land and fog shrouded ponds greets us at our destination. Mark The Pilot lands the plane on a tiny tundra pond surrounded by mountains, thirty miles from the lodge, in the middle of nowhere.
On this particular day we won the “Race of Bush Planes” that occurs most mornings in The Katmai. Gaining prime angling locations requires rising early and moving fast. Guides and pilots scarf down a big breakfast, pack rafts, rods, and lunches into the rear cargo hold and pontoon hatches of the Beavers, anxiously wait for guests to get loaded, then turn the loud, warmed up, bushplanes away from the dock, into the swift river current. Guides then jump onto the floats, climb inside the plane, and we all fly away. Somedays…In the dark.
Flying in the dark is not what the pilots like. But it is what we need to do. Being the first anglers to a stretch of water full of fat rainbow trout is perhaps the most important ingredient of a successful day. “Little Wings” by Stevie Ray Vaughn is what I play once the plane levels out and the engine throttles back and purrs.
My thoughts? They roam. I think about my father Joe. He taught me how to read a trout stream when I was a boy. Now here I am in this wilderness some 40 years later, playing the same games. Find the trout. Catch the trout. Different time. Diffferent place. But the same game. And Joe is gone.
Joe liked brown trout better than rainbow trout. He would not think much of the fishing here in the Bristol Bay Region. Nor would he appreciate the amount of effort and work it takes to get after these trout. Enjoying a long day exploring a trout stream was his favorite activity however.
When I stare out the window of the flying plane, I look for, and sometimes see, Joe’s face in the clouds that surround the mountains. In the cats paws on the surface of windswept lakes. Rowing sports down river, through boulder gardens, twisting off rocks, past brown bears, — staying out of the alders hanging off the banks while trying to avoid us getting a wet ass — I like to think Joe is looking out for me. In the same kind of way he did when I was ten. When he carried me on his back across heavy water.
When trout fishing as a kid with Joe we often had a cooler in the back of the truck stuffed with ice and the ingredients for a solid streamside lunch. Rye bread, Hoffmans mustard, hard salami, summer sausage, a sweet onion, swiss cheese, cold soda, beer, and cookies. Lunch was often shared with Joe’s fishing buddy, Butch.
On those cold May mornings, while we leaned on the tailgate and put on our waders, a decision was made between Butch and Joe. Butch would fish upstream if we went down. Downstream if we went up. But always meeting back at the trucks for sandwhiches and a cold pop at noon.
Trout fishing was easy, simple, and enjoyable back then. I seem to have complicated the game with this business of guiding. Following Joe and Butch up, down, and across rivers was pure fun. No downside. Strong trout, salami sandwhiches with onion and mustard, cold pop, and lot’s of laughs.
On this day in particular, as I stand on the rocky bank of this wilderness river in Alaska, with the rain sideways and stinging my cheeks, I find that the trout fishing, the guiding — while holding the hands of entitled wealth as they complain about their gourmet lunch and the size of the trout not bigger than 25 inches — is challenging and hard. Not-so-much fun.
The End Of August — The End of Summer — 2023
Wind driven rain came in during the short night of August 30th and did not stop until the evening of Septmeber 3rd. Difficult flying and fishing conditions ensued. Flying bush planes with guides and guests to remote locales, seeking productive water, is the goal each day. The flying, landing, and taking-off of bush planes, on little tundra ponds, wind swept lakes, socked-in skies, and 40 to 50 mph winds, is required.
The term “Angry August” is well-known to seasoned guides and pilots employed at remote lodges during the short Alaskan summer season.
August is the half-way point in the journey of four-and-a-half months of hard work. Guiding and flying. The social atmosphere at the lodge between employees, and the expected conforming of appearance and attitude towards guests, can sometimes go askew.
Weather and the fishing are the factors that contribute the most to the enjoyment and satisfaction level of each guest. When the wind and rain continue for days on end…It gets tough.
This sort of weather makes-up most of the weather in the region these days. As September comes it is only expected to worsen.
It is in interior Alaska where the phrase; “Flying by the seat of your pants” was born. Constant low pressure fronts push thick and low clouds over the tundra for hundreds of square miles. Winds blow hard.
Almost every morning, the beavers whine low over the tundra. Flying low, following lake shores, through the passes of mountains, over the hogbacks, up and down rivers, each plane full of fly fisherman, guides, traveling 125 mile per hour, piloted by a rare breed; One full of skill and character.
Salmon continue to spawn and die in the rivers and creeks and tributaries of the region. And the trout and char continue to feed on the feast of eggs and flesh the salmon bring into the interior.
My daily uniform of wool, fleece, gore-tex and chest waders has yet to get old. The fly fishing is incredible. As are the people. The views. The raw nature of the game.
Fine weather or foul…I am enjoying each day. Surrounded by caribou moss, crystal clear water, spawning salmon, and big hungry trout. Solid and simple people — all working together — trying our best to get the job done. Done well. Then get the fuck out of there and back to a warm cabin, dry our shit out, have some laughs, and do it again.
Mid August 2023
The salmon continue to ascend the streams in great numbers. Mostly sockeye, but silver, chum, and pink salmon are also in the mix. In some waters, they have begun to dig their reds and lay their eggs. While in other streams the spawn is nearly done and rotting salmon carcasses litter the shorelines.
Half-eaten remains left by brown bears are scattered throughout the alders and tall grass of the river banks. In some waters they are still pre-spawn, still moving in and up, looking for the gravel where they will finish the final act of their lives.
Which stage of the spawn the salmon are in, on any given day, on any particular stream, will dictate the quality of the trout fishing and the color of the plastic beads we tie on the end of our sports fly leader. Different species dribble different size and color eggs.
As guides, we have to pay close attention to where the salmon are in the rivers. Which species. And in which scene of the act of spawning they are within.
Trout streams, like people, are different in character and personality; The trout that live within them as well. Some streams hold grayling, rainbow, and arctic char. Others, only rainbows and lake trout.
All these species grow big and fat on a gluttonous diet of salmon eggs. Millions and millions of irredescent biotic spheres drifting along, creating a “fast food” lunch line. The protein rich eggs put several pounds on the trout in just a few short weeks — the same effect eating a #5 off the menu at McDonalds — five times a day — would have on us.
The Alaskan guide program would rival the legion of Vegas dancers in volume of nail polish required annually. Summer Rain, Ice Blue Pearl, and other exotic shades are key ingredients to favorite egg pattern colors. When basted careful on a 6mm or 8mm plastic bead, a very close imitation of a real salmon egg can be created.
The cold and clean arctic water flowing over the tundra breathes life to the land upon which it flows. Anglers in plastic pants and jackets, armed with graphite wands, desecend in great numbers on the Alaskan tundra each day to fool the trout for fun.
Early August 2023
Each day, the pilots, guides, and guests fly to a wilderness creek or river. Besides being remote and wild, these watersheds have one important element in common; Salmon returning every summer to spawn in the shallow gravel of their headwaters.
The spawning salmon are the lifeblood of this giant intricate network of freshwater veins that drain into Alaska’s massive Bristol Bay.
Sockeye salmon are abundant and contribute the most to the incredible level of trout fishery. During the summer of 2022, the State Of Alaska reported the highest number of sockeye salmon ever recorded. Other species of salmon also play a big role in the food chain. Silver salmon (Coho), Chum salmon, and King salmon are important species. The density and arrival of the salmon can change from season to season.
No See Um Lodge rests on a bluff of land about 50 feet above sea level and about 65 miles from the ocean. In the morning, we get airborne from the big river flowing in front of the lodge. Seated in De Haviland Beaver bush planes equipped with pontoon-style floats, the pilots land the beavers on lakes and ponds nearby the rivers and creeks we fish. We then hike miles over the tundra with lunches, rafts and fly fishing gear.
The tundra is a rolling landscape of mossy outcroppings, gravel moraines, and soggy, wet lowland. Juniper, blueberry, salmon berry, and dense alder thickets carpet the terrain, It is sometimes a plodding and arduos hike through boot-sucking wetland. And other times an easy trek over hard-packed hogbacks. Sometimed both.
Once at the creek or river we inflate the rafts and our “sports” are placed upon them. One on the bow the other on the stearn. Guides then push the raft into the flow, climb onto a bench seat in the raft’s middle, and oar the show down river. Past bears, through rapids, over the tops of thousands of spawning salmon, we pinball off the rocks and scan the water through polarized lenses for rainbow trout, arctic char, and grayling.
The vistas of mountains are prominent in the distance. Distance itself is difficult to gauge. The view goes on forever. Rolling miles of tundra, stretched out for dozens upon dozens of miles in every direction, makes the largest man feel small.
Gazing upon this arctic world, your thoughts, your struggles, become lost…Swallowed by the infinite and hypnotic magnificence that surrounds you. You become wholly immersed within the nature of the land.
July 31st 2023
Logan and I had been tasked with navigating two flat-bottomed boats outfitted with 40 HP jet drive Yamaha engines, from the lodge, to a location near the inlet of the Copper River at the head of Illiamna Lake. Or Lake Illiamna. Depending on how you see it.
The Yamahas were bolted on the stearn of the heavy sledge-style jon boats a few days before and both were tested to run. Our boat ride would take us some 75 miles from camp, up the Kvichak River, to its headwaters, then across — from west to east — one of the largest lakes in the United States.
The weather was stunning with zero wind and full sunshine. Pure luck. A trip that can be, and has been (according to Logan, a veteran guide) an epic, all day trip, of fortitude, perseverance, failure, shitty weather, and rough water, turned out to be a simple and enjoyable boat ride. That is how it goes. Somedays. And on those days, in interior Alaska, when it goes that way, you smile and enjoy the ride. Every minute of it.
Mountains loomed on the distant horizon. The sky and the lakes surface could not be discerned from one another. The surface of the big, placid lake, made you lost in its vastness. Underway in a small boat, traversing it’s surface, was like being a shooting star in the night sky.
The jet driven boats skate on the surface of the lake like a waterbug, turning on a dime, and riding high and soft. The engines are loud and obnoxious. The two-stroke oil burners sting the nostrils and pollute the air. But they run. They work. And when crossing 60 miles of open lake, run and work, is all they need to do.
The land around us was mostly plateaus of barren tundra. In places there was thick black spruce sub-arctic lowlands. Giant outcroppings and cliffs of limestone (or some other white and chalky geology I cannot identify) marked the shoreline in places. Small stones protruding from the surface from ten miles away, grew into enormous islands as we approached. The horizon was endless. For tens of miles, and seven hours, the raucous engines pushed our aluminum skiffs ahead while we stared at the curvature of the planet earth…Happy to be traveling it’s very edges.
Late July 2023
Following 3,500 miles of air travel originating in Syracuse, New York, I arrived at King Salmon, Alaska on the evening of Monday July 24th. The only modern settlement in some 20 million acres of tundra, King Salmon is, for the short summer season, a hub of salmon fishery workers, fishing guides, pilots, and boat captains.
Killing time, I waited for my floatplane ride to the lodge at the one and only tavern in King Salmon. It was early evening and the bar was busy. A dozen hammered old pick-up trucks were parked haphazard outside the entrance. Inside the gin mill roughnecks devoured burgers and drank. It’s about half-way through the arduous four month fishing season. It showed on the bearded faces of the patrons.
Each day at the lodge begins with a “war room” style meeting of guides and pilots. On a large and busy computer screen is an array of radar images and weather data which the head guide, Caleb, deciphers and interprets while the rest of us pile into the small office and find seats.
Being the new guide, I sit quietly and pay close attention to the conversation about wind, and fog, and rivers. Not-at-all familair with the locations and nuances of piloting aircraft, I have nothing to add. Everyone slugs down coffee as breakfasts are brought in, one at a time, to each of us.
When the guests start popping into the adjacent dining room (on the other side of the office wall) for breakfast, the meeting has an informal adjournment. The guides and pilots go back to their cabins to “gear up” for the day. The decisions of daily itinerary — who is going where and with who — are formulated during the early morning meeting, but not complete. The expectations of the guests need to be entertained. Then final decsions are made.
After breakfast, the girls in the kitchen pack lunches while the guides and pilots load equipment in the three DeHaviland Beavers tied to the dock. We (pilots and guides) then wait for the guests to squeeze into their waders and come down to the dock. Guests are then loaded into the Beavers, the engines fire, and the guides shove the purring bush plane off the dock. After a short taxi to the middle of the wide river, the engines roar, and we all fly into the horizon. Our destination; Some remote creek or river in the millions of acres of pristine bush beyond the horizon.
Leaving Alaska in mid July of 2022, with a back injury that left me incapacitated to do the job I was hired to do, was disappointing. The experience left me unsettled. There was a nagging feeling, something I needed to finish.
So I returned to Alaska this summer. Taking a job with another fly fishing outfitter in the Katmai region At present I am living in a small cabin on the banks of the Kvichak River (pronounced Qwee-chak). Guiding fly anglers is my job until October.
The finest fly fishing found anywhere in the world can be found in the Alaskan bush. My new “backyard” is a rugged and vast landscape where brown bears, float planes, gnarly weather, and the many daily difficulties of living and working in the backcountry, dominate the day to day routine.
This remote lodge is a place of great tradition and character. It is a unique destination steeped in history. Built in 1975, No See Um Lodge is dedicated to providing safe, enjoyable, and successful vacations to fly fishers from around the world. It is a prosperous oasis of luxury in the tundra.
First Two Weeks Of July
Bass. Bass. And more bass. On the morning of the 13th I did fish for lakers. On the first drop of the jig in 85 FOW, while demonstrating to my guest the technique of vertical jigging, I had a solid strike and set the hook on a 19″ laker.
Whenever a fishing trip starts that way…I worry.
We studied the sonar and chased lakers around in the deep for about an hour. It’s like watching paint dry on the wall. My guest from Oklahoma had two strikes but dropped both trout. So we turned our attention to the smallmouth bass. The bass are post-spawn and are aggressive.
The smallies fight well and are plentiful. That makes for good fishing. Good fishing makes for easier guiding. Thinning their population, however, can only be beneficial to the other species in the lake. Soon the smallmouth will migrate to their summer haunts as the fry from this years spawn go pelagic.
They are still relatively shallow and some bass still found gaurding beds in some locations.
The bass must be 12 inches in length to harvest. Each angler is allowed five per day. So next time you are out there…Keep a few. They make excellent fish tacos! Water temps at 75 degrees at surface in most areas of the lake.
Most of May and All of June 2023
On the 19th of May I invited my son Sage and his buddy Colin out on the boat to fly cast. After a few swings and misses, Colin connected with a juvenile hen rainbow and played it to the net with skill. It was a gorgeous Spring day! The boys had just completed their Spring semester of college, a sunny afternoon, drifting, casting, and relaxing was just what they needed.
Stock trout were put in the lake on — or around — the 18th of May. For several days the stockies stay attached to the area of the lake where they were put-in. When the inevitable attacks begin, from the smallmouth, walleye, and lake trout; The schooled juvenile hatchery trout split-up and disperse. Swimming for their lives is something they will need to do often.
While navigating south at about 30 mph, over the glass-like surface around the first week of June, I came upon a big lake trout that was slashing and attacking stockies in the middle of the lake over 200 FOW!
The last trout that came to the fly was on Memorial Day. While on the lake with Jim and Harrison (Jim the Dad and Harrison his 12 year old son) a healthy and bright female rainbow grabbed Harrison’s fly as it drifted behind the boat over a gravel point. The rainbow made a spectaclar leap, and the fly was thrown, leaving Harrison wide-eyed! The water temp was 58 degrees at surface.
On June 14th I had the pleasure to meet Augie. He is new to fly fishing the lake. A young man with an addiction to fly fishing looked me up to learn more. So I took Augie out to explore the lake. Picked him up at hgis dock in Mandana. We headed north in calm and variable winds searching for rising heads. Some brown drake duns were appearing on the north end of the lake.
We found no rising heads. But we enjoyed the lake and each others company. We will get after the trout with the fly rods again I am certain.
The water temp hit 60 degrees at surface, in some areas, around the 16 of June. Calm winds and blue skies set-up one of the best brown drake hatches I have seen in a few seasons. On the early morning of June 19th, Pete from North Carolina joined me to hunt for heads on the cslm, flat surface of the lake.
At 0500 hrs the west side of the lake was strewn with a massive slick of brown drake spinners and duns. There was not a rise to be seen. We searched in a few locations and found no rising trout. We turned our attention to smallmouth bass and caught and released several. The bass began to move on their spawning beds at about the same time the “official” season for them opened.
Several bass trips have been enjoyed and I have lost the details of many so I won’t recount all of them…Hard for me to get excited about smallmouth bass. The lake, as we enter into July, is seeing tremendous angling pressure as expected.
There was one bass trip that I cannot forget. On the morning of the 22nd of June, while bass fishing with a father and daughter, Bob and Samantha, from Staten Island, I had a boating accident. The Greyghost 3 was at anchor in 14 FOW on the east side of the lake while my guests enjoyed good fishing. A pair of jet skis approached my starboard bow. One of them was coming in hot.
The jet ski did not slow down enough as it approached and it’s momentum caused it to slam into the hull of my starboard bow. The operator of the jet ski was an NYSDEC Conservation Officer. I was speechless. As were my guests. The EnCon officer never apologized. Just checked licenses and fish then departed.
Upon arrival at the launch, after the trip, while loading my brand new 45K Lund on the trailer, I noticed a good dent where the ECO’s jet ski impacted the hull. The next day at two minutes after 0800 hrs, I called the ECO responsible for the damage and told him that — in fact — he was the cause of the only boating accident I have ever had in 20 years of licensed guiding. And I told him he damaged my boat.
Without an apology, he advised that he would have his captain reach out to me. A few hours later, I received a call from The Captain. He asked me how I would like to proceed. “What is done is done” I replied. “The dent is not going anywhere. And I have no intention to make a mountain of paperwork for you Captain”.
I did take the time, however, to share my opinion of the unprofessional, aggressive, and unapologetic demeanor of the ECO officer who rammed the hull of my boat with his jet ski.
4 May 2023
It began to rain on the morning of April 30th and it continued to rain until the afternoon of May 3rd. Because of this weather I moved a guest’s dates forward a week, and was left with some time on my hands. On the fourth of May, during the late morning, I noticed the flows in the local creeks and streams beginning to subside, so I headed to the mouth of a large Skaneateles Lake tributary with a notion there would be fish stacked up and feeding.
A small streamer attached to a sink-tip five weight line, and swung through the creek mouth, resulted in several bass, a few perch, and a beautiful landlocked salmon.
6 – 7 May 2023
When Frank from CT met me at the NYSDEC Boat Ramp at 0830 hrs on the 6th of May, the syrface of the lake was as calm as a sidewalk puddle. We delayed our start as I knew the breeze would be slow to build. The lake, without a breze, even the hint of a breeze, can be challenging.
We motored several miles from the launch, and upon arrival at a location I have been fishing for trout — every May for 20 years — we found a few small fish rising to midges. Around 0930 a slight north breeze came up on the lake and the big boys and girls started feeding!
The weather was stunning and the fly fishing was very good through the late morning and into the early afternoon. Frank and I enjoyed each others company and had a few laughs.
Water temps at surface 48 degrees.
9 Thru 11 May 2023
Gary from NJ came to town for a few days to fish with me. The plan was to target tiger musky on Otisco. But the cold air temps in the mid thirties at night started the surface temps of the lake on a decline. We saw a few tigers follow the fly, but they would not strike and seemed lethargic.
In the Spring of the year, as water temperatures ascend, the fish becom more and more active. If, however, a series of cold nights and days begin to drive the water temps back down, it will have a negative impact on the fish; Causing them to become inactive and not feed.
We landed a few bass and one walleye. But after two days of no tigers, we abandoned Otisco, and spent the last day of Gary’s trip fly casting to rainbows on Skaneateles Lake with some success. Surface temps. at 50 degrees by noon.
12 May 2023
Dom from San Francisco is scheduled to graduate from Syracuse University this Spring with a degree in finance. As a present, he was given a trip with me on the Greyghost3. Skies were cloudy with a moderate northwest wind. Dom was interested in catching a smallmouth bass as he never had caught one.
A rocky shoal on the east side of the lake is a good location for early Spring bass. So I went sniffing around there for a bit. Several boats on the lake. Many of them bouncing around from spot to spot, in search of perch, I assume.
Water temps. are climbing again after the cold front set them back earlier in the week. Surface temps. at 49 in the particular location we fished.
I enjoyed Dom’s company very much and we had a nice time bending the rod on several healthy bronzebacks. Dom is headed back to California after graduation. He enjoyed his time in Syracuse very much and spoke highly of the university and his education and experiences while a student.
I told him to call me when he is a millionaire banker and I will take him fishing again!
17 — 19 April 2023
The loons showed up on the lake around the 16th…They do not linger very long. Yesterday, on the 18th of April, I watched three loons flying high and fast, and not looking back. Headed north. The swallows showed up just yesterday. They fly above the surface, with little to eat, as the midge hatch that was building over the weekend, came to an abrupt halt with the recent cold air temps.
Nick and his father Frank from Columbus were in town for a few days to fish with me. Monday the 17th was decent. Some sun and little rain. The rainbow trout cooperated and the guys landed and missed a few.
Water temps. at surface rose a few degrees with the brilliant sunshine that held up over the past weekend. Today, on the 19th of April, the water temps have declined. Typical set-back for this time of year. On Tuesday the 18th, the clouds were low and leaden. Strong gusting winds blew from the west/northwest. We looked for active fish shallow on the north end of the lake. And I found some.
At the launch Tuesday morning I met the NYSDEC fisheries technicians. I was launching my boat. They were launching theirs. The young man I talked to, Greg, was very polite, well-spoken, and I enjoyed our short conservation conversation.
The NYSDEC planned and executed the deployment of nets designed to capture walleye on the lake this week. They choose their netting locations carefully. One of their locations was where I had set out to fish that day…By coincidence.
We did catch a walleye on Tuesday. Several perch and bass as well. An occasional bend in the rod, the lonely, desolate, April landscape of the lake, and having laughs with my guests as we persevered — An early Spring day on Skaneateles Lake.
The busy boat launch of the weekend was gone. I was the only rig there the last three mornings. I enjoyed that. Gnarly weather makes for good fishing on Skaneateles Lake. The shittier the better. But when the air temps are just above freezing, angling from a boat is only fun when the fish are biting.
Surface temps at 44 in some places.
15 April 2023
My friend Jordan and his family were in Skaneateles on a mini-vacation and enjoyed a few hours on the lake with me. We departed the newly named NYSDEC Skaneateles Lake Boat Launch Ramp at 0930 hrs under clear skies, bright sunshine, and no wind.
Jordan is an artist and craftsman who creates fine and functiional fly rods in his shop located in Whitesboro, New York; JP Ross Fly Rods. We had known of each other for many years before we had met. Through fly fishing circles and different writing of both his and mine.
It was not until the Autumn of 2018 that Jordan and I became good friends. The non-profit, citizen science, cold-water conservation organization that Jordan founded, Troutpower, hired my guide service to lead a short expedition in a remote headwater area of the Adirondack wilderness. The Gotch is a small video made of the trip.
It was in the backcountry that we became good friends. We shared the same philosopies in life. We both seek wilderness whenever we can. A couple years ago, Jordan produced a podcast with mysel as his guest. You can listen here if your bored.
Around noon, a slight south breeze built and the trout became active. Jordan and his wife Bobbi both hooked up with rainbows at the same time! Jordan’s trout made powerful runs and peeled line of the fly reel. Bobbi’s trout made a series of spectacular leaps!
Their kids, Parker and Paisley, cheered and danced with excitement as the beautiful trout were brought to net. After a few pics and fist bumps, the trout were released. Both females, one still laden with eggs, the other spawned out. The pics from Jordan’s phone were not in the right format for this blog unfortnately.
After a tour of the lake, I said goodbye to Jordan and his beautiful family, and we talked about planning another trip into the Adirondack backcountry in search of squaretails.
Water temp 44 degrees in some places.
9 April 2023
Chris from FLA is in town working for a few weeks and he called me inquiring about catching a salmon. He had never fished a freshwater lake here in the northeast before. He joined me on board the Greyghost 3 Saturday morning the ninth of April.
When I arrived at the New York State Anglers Parking Area — the one that the Skaneateles Lake Association is trying to control — the parking lot was 75 percent full. Chris arrived and we launched at 0930 hrs. Some anglers were leaving already, having found the perch fishing to be poor. We were not looking for perch however.
The lake was like glass and the skies clear. The water, in places, was still off-color from the heavy rain we received earlier in the week. I learned many years ago, when it comes to fishing for rainbow trout and landlocked salmon on Skaneateles Lake in the early Spring; There is no point in being on the water at the crack of dawn.
Bright sunny days are the best. And as the temperature of the water rises a degree or two, in specific locations, as the intense April sun beats down on the calm surface of the lake — The trout and salmon become active. And they did.
Chris landed five trout and missed a few. Water temps were around 38 to 40 degrees.
When yanking the Lund at the launch another Lund came into the dock. The angler in that boat explained to me how he and his buddy were fishing for smallmouth bass. Throwing crankbaits along the shoreline. They caught a big rainbow and he fished it out of the livewell to show me. A hen of about 25 inches. Still full of eggs.
Fishing for smallmouth in April. Damn. The bass are in a stupor when water temps are below 50 degrees and they may see a crankbait swim by them, and they may want to eat it…But they are unable. The bass are in slow motion.
7 April 2023 Spring is here!
Julie and Clinton from FLA joined me for a day of exploring one of Skaneateles Lake’s largest tributary streams. We were looking for lake-run rainbow trout to play with on five weight fly rods. On Tuesday, the fourth of April, we received a few inches of rain with heavy storms that rolled through during the night. All the creeks and streams were blown out. The lake, on Wednesday morning looked like coffee with creamer.
When Friday the seventh arrived, the creeks had come down and were clearing. Perfect conditions for stalking steelhead. With clear skies and air temps just above freezing, we slid our waders on and headed upstream.
Julie and Clinton have been living out of an RV for the last two years. Traveling the country. In the Spring they would go north and west. In the Autumn they would head south. This Spring they are on their way to Maine, sojourning in the Finger Lakes for eight or ten days waiting for Spring to start in northern Maine. They purchased a few acres of land there and plan to homestead through the warmer months.
What we found as we hiked up the creek was dozens and dozens of redhorse and striped suckers. The recent rains had vrought them onto the creek in huge numbers and they were everywhere. They would eat the sucker spawn estaz fly when it drifted past their nose and we had some fun with them.
No trout to be found however. So we enjoyed the scenery and the good cpmpany.
Big smallmouth keep the smiles coming for my guests in late Autumn conditions! Trout come to mind first when deciding on which fish species to pursue this time of the year, but the big smallies prove more reliable to bend the rod — day in and day out.
The 12th of November looks to be my last open-water trip on the lake and the boat is put away in the barn. While tempted to bring her out again to chase perch, hunting season has taken over my brain and a few hunting trips are on the calendar in the next few weeks.
Have a safe and enjoyable winter season!
Surface temperatures are at 55 degrees on most of the lake. An algal bloom was seen on the north end of the lake from the deck of my boat at noon today (11/9).
I assumed, like many others, that these algal blooms had a temperature range and that early November was too late for them to appear.
Late-Autumn smallmouth fishing can be huge fun! Weather in November, however, can be gnarly. The big south winds of last week that took all the leaves off the trees, had switched to the north early this week and brought in cold air.
Strong, cold, and steady north winds with clear skies, a heavy frost, and a full moon have brought the deer into rut and ducks in the air!
I enjoy the lake in strong wind. The fishing is usually good then. The windy trips, while difficult, are always safe, enjoyable, and successful.
On the 19th of October the south winds grew in intesity and continued to blow through Sunday, the 22nd of October. The water temps at surface hovered around 57 degrees and the fishing was good.
This time of year the smallmouth bass feed heavily. The short days and falling water temps flip a switch for them and they feed well…All day long. A few walleyes were landed, as well as some jumbo perch, and lake trout.
My guests enjoyed excellent fishing in 25 to 35 FOW through the weekend. Sculpin and crayfish imitations worked best. The foliage was incredible and while the wind was strong and steady…The skies were clear.
A few more trips on the calendar for November. Fishing should continue to only get better. The weather…Well, that is always a gamble in late Autumn.
Strong south winds and heavy rain during the second week of October started to turn the lake over. More forecasted strong south winds will finish the job in the days ahead. Water temps on the surface on the 18th found to be around 57 degrees. The rainbow trout have moved shallow and the lake trout seem to be growing their schools with egg-laden females starting to turn up in some locations.
Ed and his brother-in-law Aaron from Texas were in town visiting Ed’s daughter at Syracuse University and they joined me for a couple chilly mornings of angling. The lake trout cooperated and a few small bass were brought to net.
Emily from Ithaca was on-board the Greyghost3 for an afternoon of fly casting instruction. Her timing was good as the weather cooperated and the foliage on the hillsides was at peak Autumn color.
During our casting instruction Emily hooked and landed a fiesty rainbow that fought hard with several spectacular leaps.It was brought to hand for a quick picture and then released…Caught on five weight fast-action high-modulus fly rods, the trout are tremendous fun!
The above pic was sent to me by fellow Alaskan guide Todd Emerson. This 14 pound hen was caught by his guest in late September in The Katmai on a seven weight fly rod. Would’nt it be nice to see one of these in Skaneateles Lake!
Please consider releasing the rainbows you catch this Autumn season. Proper handling of the trout for a picture is important. Even though some anglers release trout back to the lake, often times they are improperly handled and do not recover. It is important to keep them wet and handle them only with wet hands.
The south winds are both good and bad. They turn the lake over and bring cold water to the surface. The trout move to the shallow margins of the lake and become accessible to the light-tackle angler and the fly caster.
But intense south winds, which are common this time of year, make boating a challenge. Enjoyable angling from a boat can be quite challenging on Skaneateles Lake in strong south winds. A couple more trips on the calendar before the boat goes into the barn and the deer hunting begins.
Stay safe and stay tuned.
A strong, northwest, wind-driven rain set in upon the lake Friday morning while Jim and his son Carter joined me on board the Greyghost 3 to do some fishing. The gnarly low-pressure front being pushed down from Canada was welcomed.
The lake trout seemed to enjoy it. Several medium-to-small lakers were brought to net in 100 FOW…In the same locations they have been for months; Staged and waiting for the lake to turn over. Some days they are more aggressive than others and when a leaden sky and low ceiling sock in, they loosen their lips.
The lack of fishing boats reveals to me that many local anglers continue to find the fishing poor and have sought greener pastures elsewhere…For now. The fish continue to hold in late-summer locations with little change in water temperatures at surface. The fishing, while not crazy good, was ok. We worked for the fish we caught.
As the morning progressed, the wind grew and the lake’s surface became a violent chop. The rain intensified into a sideways drenching, and I noticed my guests enjoying the fishing, but not the weather. So we left the mid-lake char and motored to the village docks to warm up with some coffee and cocoa.
Afterwards, we looked for bass in shallower water on the northern end of the lake. We found very few, albeit one nice specimen. The wind and rain continued until lunchtime when the Canadian cold front with high pressure pushed the low slowly off to the south.
An occluded front. Never great for warmwater fish species angling.
The fishing was mediocre and we picked away at small bass and the odd perch and rockies, telling stories and learning some new techniques. An enjoyable day on the water and the kind of weather — to be honest — I would like to see more of.
The other day my phone rang and it was a guy from Stroudsburgh, Pa on the other end. He was an amateur competitive bass angler who enjoyed fishing in his local competition bass club. He was preparing for an upcoming tournament on Skanetateles Lake, and called me, to “pick my brain”.
I did not let him get too far with the conversation before interrupting him and telling him that I thought — that I believe — competitive bass fishing — is abhorrent. Competetive fishing — besides the local rod and gun clubs and memorial benefit tournaments run by local friends and families — in my opinion… Suck.
That opinion was not well received on the other end of the phone.
Men, since the dawn of time, want to compete against each other and prove they can “DOMINATE THE WATER”. And the boys from PA, it seems, simply do not have enough bass lakes. The Finger Lakes of New York State are not “too far” from home for competition PA bass anglers. Cayuga Lake was put on the map with the Bassmasters tournaments.
So Naturally…a tournament season with a circuit of bass fishing has sprouted among PA bass fishing “clubs” in Upstate New York. In particular, in the Finger Lakes. It is “good for the local economy” the dude from Stroudburgh started to explain on the phone before I said goodbye.
The notion of this guy calling me, prying me for intel on how to catch bass on a lake I guide, to give himself an edge on his fellow PA bass anglers… It is proof and point; Competition angling and competition anglers, well, it is a bit much.
Bass tournaments do very little for local economies. What they do is prostitute local bass fisheries (much to the disdain of local anglers and guides) and upset the health and consistency of the fishing and the fishery.
The legion of competition bass anglers that drive their 150k rigs up into Upstate New York, sleep in the back seat of their truck, eat power bars for breakfast, and run up and down the lakes and rivers in their hopped-up bass boats like little boys with a new toy…They do nothing of value for local economies.
What they do is prostitute and pillage our local fisheries in a strange form of gambling. They play a fishing money game. One that is based upon, solely reliant upon, our local watersheds. Why does the NYSDEC, tasked with protecting our local fisheries, tasked with maintaining our local boat launches, allow this behavior week-in and week-out all season long on the lakes and rivers of Upstate New York?
Competition bass fishing relocates the fish by the hundreds, prostitutes our local lake fisheries, and does nothing of any substance for the local economy. In fact, they leave every lake they fish, and every fish they catch, worse than it was before they arrived, much to the chagrin of local anglers and local guides.
Booyah. Thats my opinion.
Water temps at surface on 10/2 hovering around 65 degrees with some locations nearer to 60 degrees. It will not be long before fish start to school heavily and transition locations.
Winning bag for last Sundays PA anglers tournament on Skaneateles Lake was 5.7 lbs.
The fishing continues. My back is broke a bit and pain and I have yet to become friends… But we work together. Get the job done. My guests onboard are not interested in the handicap of their guide. So it is not a point to belabor.
The lake was busy the last couple of weeks with competitive bass anglers from PA. Many of them, I see, working the shoreline structure. Casting at docks and around points with jerk baits, crankbaits, etc. Most of my fish brought to net have come from deep water in places no one fishes. There is no discerning feature to reveal the location of schooling fish in deep water besides the sonar and intuition.
My intuition on fish location comes from many years of hunting schooling fish in late summer conditions. The water temp. at surface hovers in the low 70’s. But todays wind (9/19) and heavy rain will start a steady decline in water temps. and will transition the location for all the fish in the lake (minus the prolific and plentiful rock bass).
The lake will begin to turn over and the fishing will only get better in the weeks ahead. The volume of mature or adult smallmouth seem to have suffered and declined. My conclusion is fishing pressure has had an impact on the big bronzebacks.
Many lakes and rivers I launch upon and fish have natural hazards, like rocks and shoals, that an angler navigating needs to be concerned about. On Skaneateles Lake, the biggest hazard is inexperienced recreational watercraft operators. Soon the jet skis and wake boats and pontoons will find their way to plastic shrink-wrap sleep for the season.
Stay safe and stay tuned. The best fishing of the year is ahead.
The summer is coming to a close and the boating and fishing pressure is calming down. It has only one way to go in this regard. Down. Labor Day Weekend of 2022, I witnessed the highest volume of boaters and anglers I have ever seen on the lake…Seeming to surpass The Fourth Of July 2021, which I had not thought possible.
I do not troll. It is an effective and enjoyable technique, but not one I employ. I find it boring. Instead, I put the rod in my guest’s hands and teach them a technique where they learn to feel the bite and set the hook. This is arguably much more enjoyable and hands-on.
My guests, are looking for an enjoyable, engaging experience while learning a technique. That is what they take home with them. Not a cooler of dead fish.
The fish on the flats continue to feed heavy on perch fry. Winds make the difference between good fishing and slow fishing. The wind schools the fry, and pushes these balls of bait onto the shallow flats where the smallies and rockies and perch maraud them.
While jigging in 100 FOW, a guest of mine landed a 20″ lake trout that had a hatchery-clipped fin. After calling a biologist friend who is familiar with the stocking program, he told me that sometimes hatchery-reared juvenile lake trout get mixed in with the rainbows and salmon that are dumped into the lake by the tens of thousands each Spring.
It is simply impossible for the fisheries workers to distinguish each trout species in a tank of thousands of juvenile stock trout. So it happens. The lake trout is NOT purposely stocked in Skaneateles Lake as it has a native population.
The lake is very stratified and the trout are confined to the thermocline due to oxygen and temperature constraints. A trolling boat with electronics finds them as easy targets.
Several hundred fish were landed on the Greyghost 3 this past weekend, but not many worthy of pics. Lottsa’ small bass, rockies, and perch. Which make for active and fun fishing my guests enjoyed!
At just over 9,000 acres, Skaneateles Lake is a deep trough, dug into the earth’s surface by immense melting glaciers over eons of time. All the Finger Lakes are natural, glacier-carved lakes, whose footprints on the face of the earth have not changed — much — since the last ice age.
Each of the Finger Lakes has different and distinct habitats. A large lake in the eastern Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York; Skaneateles Lake has a rich cultural history, interesting fishery, and unique character.
Skaneateles Lake is different among its sister lakes in water quality, geography, character, fish, and demographics. The lake had undergone little change in the million-or-so years it has existed, in the last two decades, however, she has undergone a huge transformation.
Once a tremendous coldwater fishery (where native lake trout and stocked rainbow trout thrived at the top of the food chain) it has become a warmwater fishery; Dominated by bass and walleye.
The late Bob Werner once explained to me, in a conversation about algal blooms, how natural lakes can attenuate. By attenuate, I understood him to believe; ‘The lake was ‘getting old and changing’. Bob was a very well-respected scientific authority on Skaneateles Lake, so I listened closely whenever I had the opportunity to hear him talk.
Attenuate sounded like the plausible answer to the algal blooms and other concerning changes in the lake. The theory made easy sense. What we both agreed upon was that the lake was indeed changing. Bob died a year or so after that conversation and Skaneateles Lake lost its greatest ally and leader.
The Skaneateles Lake watershed continues to suffer. Heavy rain events cause failed infrastructure — the damage (and in some cases total failure) of roads, ditches, and culverts. This has become common in some townships and causes sediment loading of the lake each time we endure heavy rain events.
Its 9,000 plus acres of beautiful, stunning water, and magnificent landscapes, are spread in three different counties that include multiple townships.
Within the last 20 years, the change in fisheries, environmental issues, exponential increase of angling pressure and recreational use, have combined to contribute to Skaneateles Lake’s continuing decline.
Some of the factors that have lead to a change in the lakes aquatic environment include;
Non-Point Source Pollution
Extreme Rain Events / Landslides
Harmful Algal Blooms
Skaneateles Lake has a healthy fishery of both warmwater and coldwater species that coexist. Fisheries managers, however, are firm in the advent of one outcome: The walleye and bass will dominate and predate so heavily on immature trout that the future of Skaneateles Lake’s trout stocking program may be discontinued.
The intense fishing pressure on the lake only contributes to the decline of the coldwater fishery. While invasive bass are returned to the lake to fight again by most anglers — the trout in this “put-and-take” stocked fishery are often kept for the table.
The lake’s 9,000 plus acres of beautiful, stunning water, and magnificent landscapes, attracts innumerable recreational boaters, anglers, and visitors every year. The current popularity and recreational use of this lake is unprecedented in modern times. The highly-sought real estate of its shoreline is under incredible development.
Skaneateles Lake is a prop in a complicated game of eminent domain and political influence. The future of Skaneateles Lake’s health finds its fate at the mercy of local business, county politicians, and state agencies. This — an interesting story of its own — that winds its way into a labyrinth of money, politics, and power.
It is my intention to not simply promote the lake and it’s fish for the sole purpose of my small guide service, but to educate each reader of this text to the environmental and recreational challenges facing Skaneateles Lake.
In this blog you will find facts, anecdotes, stories, details, and simple opinionated ramblings concerning the fishery of Skaneateles Lake. As a self-declared steward of this magnificent lake, having spent two decades floating her waters and becoming intimate with her environment…I have learned some stories worth telling.
My Demise In The Katmai
Every story has three parts. The beginning; where you start to paint the picture. The middle; where we see how things are going. And the end; where you tie it all together.
The beginning and the middle of a story can be complicated. But the end is often simple. Either good or bad. The worst end to any story is one that is both abrupt and sad. My last story of summer in The Katmai is about the end. But it begins in the middle.
About eighteen days into my trip, on the 3rd of July, a group of five came in to camp for fishing and photography. Two members of this group, Steve and Carl, are the same guys who were involved in the mauling illustrated in the previous blog.
The other three consisted of a father, daughter, and a brother/uncle. Jim the Dad, Louisa (Lou) Jim’s daughter, and John… Jim’s brother.
Their first afternoon at camp the fishing was slow. With persistence and patience, Jim and Lou landed two nice rainbows simultaneous on flies cast from the deck of my boat. Jim’s rainbow had been rising just within casting distance on the port side, sporadic, for at least an hour, before it ate his fly.
As Jim was battling the big trout, Lou hooked another on the other side of the boat using a smolt pattern. Both of those fish were brought to net for pics. Jim’s measured about 25 inches in length, while Lou’s trout measured a whopping 29.5 inches!
An exciting way to start a trip; Checking off both personal-best rainbows on a fly for Jim and Lou! At the same time!
We all enjoyed The Fourth Of July the next evening in fine American form; Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, beside a campfire — in a national park, with plenty of ice cold Budweisers, and an occasional flare shot off the beach into the midnight sky for celebration.
The morning of the 5th of July was foggy. Jim, John, and Lou boarded my boat at 0730 hrs for a long run east to the end of Grosvenor Lake. The ceiling was super low and at 0800 hrs it was less than 200 feet.
The wind was calm, with heavy dark clouds and light rain. Air temps hovered in the low 50’s. Half-way to our destination the visibility became worse and I decided to change plans.
Heading twenty miles into ‘bare steerageway’ did not seem smart. Even though I have two GPS units tracking my course while underway, continuing under power at 30 mph over 20 miles of lake in low — to no — visibility… is not something I am comfortable with on this lake yet. About half-the-distance shy of my initial destination…I changed course.
As I banked the boat to the south, toward a tributary stream that I had a waypoint on, I glanced at John sitting across from the captains seat. He was pale, head down, and looked cold. So I stopped and dug out a fleece hat, some gloves, and gave him my rain jacket to put on over his own. I asked how he was feeling and he said he was fine and we continued on.
Approaching the shore, I dropped the throttle back, brought the boat off plane, and putt-putted through the narrow, sandy, channel of the mouth of Rock Creek. About 100 yards upstream, I moved toward the bank, tilted the Yamaha up, turned the engine off, then hopped into the creek to tie the boat up to a tree. Fresh moose tracks of a cow and calf stood out in the soft sandbar in front of the boat.
My plan was to cast leeches to the opposite bank of this pristine creek in hopes that rainbows would be lurking. And if not, maybe the weather would change and skies would clear enough to resume the trip to our original destination. Setting each angler up with a rigged fly rod, I put them on the run.
Upstream of the mouth the creek turns into a long and dark run with faster water, big root wads, and a deep, undercut opposite bank. The trout and char travel from the lake, in and out of the creek mouth, at their leisure. After placing Jim at the tail of the run, and Lou at the top, I then lead John to the middle of the run to fish right next to me.
The Dalai Lamma is an articulated leech pattern. It is a ridiculous Alaskan fly that catches big rainbow trout. Within minutes Jim hooked up on a rainbow.
John, however, struggled to roll out his fly, seemed disoriented, and missed a few strikes. Lou was casting, solid and rhythmic, into the dark water at the head of the pool, and then decided to move upstream. At the very top of the run, she crossed a short stretch of fast water to the opposite bank.
After releasing another trout from Jim’s line, I looked up to see John had decided to follow after his niece and was headed upstream. John is 6’5″ and about 225 pounds and covered in gore-tex. While in his early 70’s, he is fit and is a veteran fly fisherman. As I watched John move upstream — to follow behind his 25 year old niece, I remember thinking; ‘This is not a good idea’.
Jim and I picked-up and I shouted upstream to John, just as he was testing the water at the crossing with his wading boot. I asked him to hold-up and wait for my assistance. Once at the crossing Jim entered the creek and traversed it.
The flow was significant, but not too high, and a short distance of only a few yards to the other side. I studied it a moment before going across with John.
When John and I reached the other side we went upstream to where Lou and Jim were casting. After a dozen or more swings of the Dalai, it becomes evident no trout were present. With no reason to continue to ascend the creek, I turned the group around and headed back down to the mouth.
Jim and Lou moved across the downstream crossing like genuine bush-monkeys, striding over the glacial cobbles, slicing their legs through the swift water. John and I then began to cross. Positioning myself on the downstream side of John to give him balance as he shuffles, we picked our way to the opposite bank.
About three-quarters of the way, a few steps from the bank, John lost both of his feet out from under him. His torso crashes into me, almost sweeping me off my feet. His legs wash, miraculously, underneath and in-between mine, without taking me down.
Bracing as hard as I could, I drove my arms under John’s armpits, and lifted him up onto his feet. Holding John up, covered in wet Gore-Tex, while he struggled to find his footing, was difficult. It took all my strength.
Once he was able to stand, I patted him on the back, laughed, and told him he was fine. Lou grabbed the rod from John’s hand and helped me guide him to the bank. Disaster averted.
Lou and Jim set up on the lower run, switching places from earlier, with Lou down low and Jim up top. I walked John back to the boat to re-group. Both John and I decided, it would be best for him to get in the boat and warm-up. John could not “hop” into the boat. So I lifted him by the torso and placed him on top of the gunwale.
We spent the rest of the afternoon throwing leeches in the mouth of another small tributary for rainbows, as well as out in the open lake in front of creek mouths. Several nice lake trout, rainbow trout, and one dolly came to the net.
John’s condition improved with the warming afternoon air temps and he enjoyed good fly fishing from the deck of the boat. Around 1600 hrs I fired-up the Yamaha and turned the wheel towards camp. As I did I felt a dull pain in my lower back.
At breakfast the next day I learned that both John and Jim felt ill and tested positive the evening before for Covid. As discussion around camp between us and our guests ensued, it became clear the group suspected they had covid with them upon arrival at camp.
The next day Steve felt sick and tested positive. With guiding on hiatus, the three infected guests masked-up and were confined to their respective cabins. A low pressure system was socked in and steady rain continued to plague us.
On Sunday morning, the 10th of July, the group of five from Mass. departed Grosvenor Lodge. The rain continued. A new group of six flew in that afternoon. Ready to rock and roll. While fly casting from my boat on the afternoon of their arrival, the guys from Colorado and Texas, landed a dozen or more big trout.
The trout came on a 5/32 tungsten beadhead flash-a-bugger dressed in chartreuse, lime, and white with sharpie par marks and a small wrap of bright red crystal chenille in the throat. A simple fly of my own design. I call it the Tungsten Smoltskie. It proved effective both dead drift and on the swing.
The guys were pumped with the great fishing upon their first day at camp. The rain continued into the evening. After dinner we hunkered down in the lodge, built a good fire in the wood stove, and lifted our glasses; Enjoying new friendships, telling stories, and showing excitement for the week of fishing that lay ahead of us. A stool by the wood stove, and a cold beer, seemed to ease the ever-increasing pain I felt growing in my lower back.
The next morning I woke up congested, coughing, achy, with an even sharper pain in my lower back. Before breakfast I tested positive for Covid. For the next five days I sat in my cabin unable to guide. The rain continued and I passed time reading and writing and tying flies.
On the 17th I changed the oil on a 3600 watt generator. The ‘genny’ has to be lifted out of its shack, and then back into the shack, to be serviced. Something I should not have done solo. In addition, I split a pile of kindling for the boys to start a fire when they returned from a cold and rainy day of fishing. Things — in the interest of my sore back — I maybe should not have done.
On the 18th of July my Covid symptoms were gone. But the pain in my back reached well down into my left leg. The pain was excruciating and I could no longer sleep. Tylenol and Ibuprofen gave little relief.
The next morning, after a sleeplessness night, I could barely get dressed or walk. My left leg was numb and the pain in my back felt like someone was twisting a knife in it. After a short talk with fellow guide Todd and Chef Lee, I decided I had to leave camp. At 1300 hrs on the 19th of July, I packed my shit, crawled into the back seat of a DeHavilland Beaver, and left Grosvenor Lodge for Anchorage.
My first layover from Grosvenor was at Kulik Lodge. Word spread to our sister lodge that I was incapacitated by a back injury. Upon arrival the guides there took great care of me and moved my stuff off the Beaver and onto a Pilatus. Every guide and pilot I met working for Bristol Bay Adventures and Katmai Air was a professional and a gentleman.
Arriving at Katmai Air hangar/headquarters around 1500 hrs, I was carried from the plane to the office. Fellow employees, whom I had never met, went out of their way to help me. They thanked me for my efforts at camp and were sorry for my misfortune.
A morning flight to SYR was booked and a room at the Holiday Inn reserved. In the hotel room that evening I tried to eat but could not. The pain was intense. It was all I could do to make it from the bed to the bathroom. Facing a long plane ride in the am; I decided to take an Uber to the Emergency Room.
A few hours waiting and I met with a doctor. After telling him my story, he gave me three shots in my back. Two were steroids and the other a pain killer.
Relief came almost immediate and for the first time in days — my cheeks came un-clenched. The ugly grimace I had been wearing, fell off my face. I sighed a long moan of relief. The doctor gave me three pill bottles with muscle relaxers and pain killers and called me a Lyft to take me back to the Holiday Inn. That night I slept.
At the ANC airport in the morning, American Airlines met me at the curb with a wheelchair. They pushed me and my belongings through booking, to the terminal, and boarded me on to the plane where I did not wait in line. On the plane I was given an entire row of seats in the back. Two Oxycodone down the hatch, the big Boeing jet rocketed into the atmosphere, and I fell asleep.
An MRI in Syracuse on the 21st of July revealed I had a severe herniated disc in my lower back. The doctor is “cautiously optimistic” that I will heal without the aid of surgery. At present, I am on a litany of prescriptions…Trying to stay comfortable.
With my summer plan shattered, my journey into the Alaskan wilderness cut short, a summers’ worth of good pay off the table, it is time to chop and change. Heal up and move on.
I cannot help but wonder what I should or could have done different to have avoided my condition. Letting John float downstream a little ways into shallow water, where he would have, eventually, found his own footing and extracted himself, that would have been a better idea than to scoop his huge frame up and out of the river? Maybe.
The remote Alaskan bush is no place for the badly injured. It is a world of constant hard work, unexpected variables, inherent risk, and difficult decisions. It is a place where I was confident my judgement and experience would lead me down a safe, successful, and profitable path as an Alaskan guide.
The work of guiding, life in the remote bush, that is a world I fit into like a round peg in a hole. To say goodbye, so premature, has proved to be one of the most disheartening experiences of my life.
Flora and Fauna
When I had accepted the position of guide at Grosvenor Lodge my most important concern was not the fishing, or the people, or the remote location…It was the bears. Being my first time in Alaska, or anywhere with brown bears, the concept of living in a neighborhood with man-eating creatures was new. And exciting.
A lifetime of working, guiding, and traveling in Adirondack black bear country did not prepare me for the prospect of working, guiding, and traveling in Alaskan brown bear country. The black bear has never once come close to causing me any fear or caution. The brown bears, however, are a bit different.
Black bears, it is widely known, are omnivorous and shy. With the exception of some black bears that become acclimated to people — at campgrounds or in suburban environments — wild black bears want nothing to do with humans. There is no reason to harbor a fear of attack from black bears in their natural environment.
Over the years I have guided anglers in the Adirondack backcountry who displayed a fear of bears. One group of anglers from Long Island deployed a trip wire around their tent while we were camped on a trout pond miles from the road. It was, and always is, a surprise to me when someone exhibits a real fear of being attacked by a black bear.
My initial conception about brown bears is not the same. A brown bear does not fear a human the same way as their cousin the black bear. The Alaskan brown bear, if it feels a need, will kill you. Maybe even consume you. If it feels the need. So in coming to The Katmai, home to the largest population of brown bears on the planet earth, was I risking my life?
The first bear I saw was a sow (female bear) with two small cubs walking the shoreline of the lake across the narrows from the lodge. About the size of a beach ball, the cubs followed close behind their mother, nose-to-butt. A day later she and her cubs walked across the gravel beach in front of the kitchen. A week or so after that, a juvenile boar (male bear) walked right down the middle of camp, between the cabins, past the dining room window, and onto the beach while six of us watched enjoying a post-dinner glass of wine.
On July 3rd a group of five anglers came to Grosvenor Lodge. In that group there were two men who had an interesting story to tell about their visit here the previous summer.
The place where this occurred is where the Grosvenor River meets the Savinoski River, about 22 miles from camp by boat. It is a place I have been to only once, a few days ago, when I captained the boat that returned Steve and Carl to the location of the attack. This place, where the Savanoski meets the Grosvenor, is one of the most remote and rugged places I have ever seen in my life. The bears there do not know what humans are. They see you as prey.
On our way back from Carl and Steve’s trip down memory lane, I spotted a bear on the distant shoreline of the lake. We moved in closer with the boat to get a good look. It was a huge boar. Estimate to be around 600 to 700 pounds.
It was huge, dark, and ominous. An obvious chunk of flesh missing from its rear left leg and a multitude of other battle scores adorned its body. It would not look at us as we paralleled its course in the boat about 60 yards away. When the boat motored just slight ahead of its course, it would stop and puts it head down and watch us without watching us.
It had no idea what we were. We confused it, and intimidated it with four people in a 22 foot boat. Something I would bet, this bear had never seen the likes of before. A video of this bear is posted on my Instagram.
The Weather…And Other Factors Out Of Our Control
Upon arrival in the Katmai on June 15th it was hot and sunny with very little wind. The forests to the south of us were on fire in places. The result of a dry Spring and lightning. Thunderstorms are not common in this country.
Smoke filled skies kept planes grounded several times during my first ten days at camp. Daytime temps reached 80 to 85 degrees and shorts and tee shirts was the uniform for guests. Not for guides. Guides wear gore-tex waders and wading boots. Each day, every day, regardless of temps. We are constantly getting in and out of boats and in the water.
Here at Grosvenor, on this narrow and level spit of land between two lakes, the water is just a stone’s throw away to the left or to the right. Around the 6th of July it started raining and it has not stopped since. The water is rising and today I watched minnows swim around in the woodshed. Rising water has inundated the lodge and some of the cabins here in the recent past. This occurrence, I am told, is becoming more and more common. The result of a long trending change in climate and a subsequent increase in water levels.
On the 3rd of July a party of five arrived for a week of fishing. One of the things they brought with them, unbeknownst, was Covid. By the 6th of July three of the five fell sick. One of those — in such bad shape — that he was confined to bed.
The fishing program was interrupted. Guests were quarantined to certain buildings and wore masks. On the evening of July 11th I tested positive for covid. With a new group in on the 10th, I have been confined to my cabin. No guiding, just trying to get past this bug. It has dug in deep into the small part of my lower back which was already sore.
The rain has not stopped. Reading and writing, and tying flies passes time. Going outside, when guests are out on the water, to gas generators, burn trash, bail out boats, feel the cold rain on my face, stretch my back..That passes time.
There is a tern that roosts in a willow next to my cabin each night. It chirps incessant for an hour or so before settling down. When a particular bald eagle fly’s past, over the lake, the tern leaves the willow and pursues it, screaming and wailing, the tern bombards the eagle until the eagle lands on its roost at the top of a birch tree across the narrows
They have a history.
About 30 years ago I spent nine months living in the wilderness of northern Canada. My 21st birthday was celebrated with one other person in a small spruce log cabin 85 miles southeast of Churchill, Manitoba. There were no cell phones. No email.
No communication with the world at all. About 120 days into this expedition my partner and I were visited by the first people we had seen since flying out of Thompson, Manitoba four months prior.
It was a cold, crisp, calm, and clear December morning with an air temperature around -25 degrees. The smoke rose straight up out of the chimney in a line a hundred feet or more into the bluest sky. As I was walking through the sand-like snow with an armful of firewood, a helicopter landed on the frozen river in front of our cabin. Inside the helicopter was a geologist, a pilot, and a small Inuit man that smiled but did not talk.
We invited them inside for coffee and during conversation they explained how they had seen our chimney smoke from miles away and decided to investigate. They were flying around the largest wilderness on the North American continent examining river drainages for the Canadian government. The geologist, the pilot, and the Inuit man, whose role the pilot explained, was to keep them alive if they became stranded.
The pilot gave us a ride in the helicopter to survey the forest, river, and lakes in our sub-arctic backyard. The view was an endless horizon of green and white. Spruce and contours of snow in the river valleys. A cold and silent landscape spread out for hundreds of miles in every direction.
They could not stay long as the days were short, it was getting colder, and big engines sometimes do not want to run in temps well below zero. Their schedule, the geologist said, had them coming back through our neck of the taiga in a few weeks.
He asked if there was anything we would like them to get for us. Vodka, cheese, eggs, and beer were on our list. We gave them one hundred loonies and they flew away. We never saw them again. In the Spring of the following year (1993) a DeHaviland Otter came and picked us up and flew us out of the bush and back to the real world.
This Alaskan wilderness experience is the exact opposite of my Canadian wilderness experience. New people come and go every week. Sometimes twice a week. Myself, other guide Todd from New Mexico, and chef Lee from Idaho, are here to provide visiting anglers a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable vacation. Todd and I run the fly fishing program and Lee keeps everyone well fed with gourmet meals. Bush planes fly in and out with people, food, gas, and cases of beer and wine.
In the short time I have been here I have met anglers from Quebec, Colorado, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Virginia, Ohio, New York, Utah, and Alaska. The interesting people, delicious meals, and evening conversations combine to create a stimulating social atmosphere in this remote and isolated wilderness. Fly fishing is why people come to Grosvenor Lodge so it is easy to find common ground with all the guests.
Being part of the present operations here at Grosvenor Lodge is a unique opportunity that I am enjoying. As a team, Todd, Lee and I seem to click very well. We work hard each day to keep the camp running smooth. The many different personalities and characters we meet keep us entertained. So the long days in the rain. The constant cleaning of cabins, rigging of rods, re-fueling of boats and generators, is just a part of it. The numerous tasks are a small part of life at fish camp. It’s the people that make each day rewarding and interesting.
The American Creek is perhaps the prettiest trout stream in The Katmai. It flows through some 40 miles of remote backcountry and empties into the western end of Lake Covile. Grosvenor Lodge, operating as a concession in the National Park, is allowed to keep a jet boat on the banks of the lower American Creek.
The jet boat is accessed by navigating a motorboat from camp over nine miles of lake, through a shallow delta, and up the river channel. Anglers then board a jet boat stashed on the bank and travel upstream over shallow gravel bars, past log jams, and in between boulders to access some of the most spectacular fly fishing available in the country. Rainbows pushing 30 inches can be found sipping dry flies during mid morning hatches.
In the narrow river confluence between the two lakes in front of our camp, rainbow trout, lake trout, and northern pike still congregate. While the schools of sockeye smolt have decreased, there are enough passing through to keep the trout’s interest. Lakers from 18 to 30 inches are easy to catch on streamers and buggers.
The rainbows are numerous in the narrows. Instead of roaming around like a wolf pack, as the lakers do, the big rainbows lie behind or adjacent to gravel or boulders. They chase the smolt when they come by, but when no smolt are around they will take a dead-drift nymph. They will also take dry flies when conditions allow. The rainbows average 22 to 26 inches with some specimens reaching 30 inches.
Dolly Varden are an interesting member of the char family. Common in the lake and river system here, they are colorful and resemble a brook trout. Like brook trout, Dollies can be easy to catch but difficult to find. They occupy different areas, in both the lake and the creek, than the rainbows and lakers. However, when smolt are migrating, or the sockeye salmon start to spill their eggs on the gravel of the tributaries, the char and trout are together in the lunch line.
The 30th of June was the first day we saw sockeye salmon migrating through the narrows. Their arrival is anticipated and it changes the fishing. The salmon themselves will not feed and can only be caught by “flossing” or “lining” as they swim past. The trout, however, will feed on the salmon spawn. As the salmon find their way into the tributaries to spawn, the trout follow close behind.
Another prized game fish in the lakes here are the northern pike. While not a fan of these big, toothy, slimy, predators…People do enjoy catching them on flies. Pike are predictable and fight hard. Several pike over 40 inches have come to net as well as multiple other smaller pike. One fish was over 5o inches and well over twenty pounds. The whitefish is abundant in the lake and very difficult to catch. Their diet is unlike trout although they are a member of the trout family.
On the 15th of June I boarded a Pilatus PC12 at Katmai Air in Anchorage and flew into the Alaska wilderness. Four anglers from Nebraska were also on board. Our destination was a remote fishing camp. The Pilatus landed on a dirt air strip nearby Kulik Lake. From there we boarded a DeHaviland Beaver for the short flight to our destination, Grosvenor Lodge.
Katmai National Park is larger than Yellowstone and Yosemite combined. It has the highest population of brown bears than any other region in the United States. Perhaps the world. It is a rugged and vast wilderness of lakes and rivers and mountains that seems inexhaustible in scope and size. Grosvenor Lodge is a modest fish camp, one of the first fly-in fish camps in Alaska. It is located in the heart of The Katmai National Park.
Grosvenor Lodge (pronounced Grow-ven-nor) would be my home for the next 120 days. The lodge is comprised of a few modest cabins, a kitchen/dining hall, a small main lodge with a bar and office, and a few outbuildings for tools and firewood. The buildings are log cabins constructed in the early sixties by aviation and outfitting pioneer Ray Peterson. The camp sits on a narrow spit of land that is both the confluence and divide between two large lakes. Mt. Katmai, the volcano, sets prominent and remarkable in the southeastern horizon.
Grosvenor Lake, to the east, is about 18 miles long and three miles at its widest. It is surrounded by rugged snow capped mountains. To the west is Covile Lake about 10 miles in length with islands, steep cliffs, and massive wetlands. Both lakes have tremendous population of lake trout, rainbow trout, whitefish, dolly varden, and arctic char. Covile flows into Grosvenor at a narrows that is, in essence, a small section of river. This river, or confluence, is alive with trout and birds.
The guiding began immediate upon arrival and has not ceased. The pace at camp is busy and the list of things to do, when not on the water, is extensive. Bush planes come and go several times a week with people and supplies. I live in my waders each day and navigate miles upon mile of lake, exploring tributaries, inlets, and outlets in search of trout. The easiest part of the routine is the fishing. The trout are big and hungry. The early part of June finds sockeye smolt retreating from the lakes back to the ocean some 80 miles to the southeast.
As the smelt retreat, the narrows in front of camp bottlenecks their passage and the trout, mergansers, golden eagles, gulls, and bald eagles maraud them. The sounds of birds crying and fish splashing is incessant. Large lake trout and rainbow trout catapult out of the water, attacking the smolt. It is a cacophony of nature that is incredible.
A few hundred yards to the west of camp is a spit of land that extends south into Covile Lake. It is a natural land bridge almost as it comes very close to the southern shore of the lake. It is where the bear and moose cross the lake. In the morning, and again in the evening, if you set and watch long enough you will see these animals cross the lake.
The routine of guiding and keeping things running is getting easier. The landscape is magnificent and the wilderness is inspiring. While home and family are on my mind, the work of guiding fly fishers and keeping the camp operating, keeps me busy enough that sleep comes easy and the weeks, so far, seem to go by swiftly.
10 June 2022
Jim and Marty from SYR were onboard to do some angling. These guys have fished with me for years and I always enjoy their company. The lakers were still scattered and a strong 15 to 20 mph west wind was shoving out a low pressure system and ushering in a high one.
Jim landed a nice 24 inch fish. But that was it. We played cat and mouse with the lakers all morning and the guys hooked six or more fish but lost them each on the way up. We had fun and more than a few laughs.
That concludes my guiding on Skaneateles Lake for the summer season of 2022.
At present (6/14) I am in Chicago’s O Hare Airport, waiting on a connecting flight to Anchorage. By this time tomorrow (1400 hrs) I will be at my new home for the summer. Deep in the middle of Katmai National Park. This wilderness is larger than Yosemite and Yellowstone combined.
The summer will be spent guiding anglers in search of salmon, lake trout, rainbow trout, dolly varden, northern pike, and arctic char from my base camp at the confluence of two large lakes. Each of these lakes is about the size of Skaneateles Lake. Besides myself, the camp chef, and another guide, will be the only summer resident humans in an area the size of the state of Connecticut.
The lakes and rivers teem with fish and the mountainsides are home to moose, brown bear, and wolf. Each week, for three and one half months, new “sports” will fly in and out on bush planes to stay with us and fish and relax in this magnificent backcountry.
This blog will transition into detailing my summer in the Katmai. I cannot think of anything better to do with it. Perhaps it will entertain the few readers I have? Due to the remote nature of my location, however, it will be a technical challenge.
Sometime around the first week of October I will return home. Fishing and guiding Skaneateles Lake will resume well after the wakes of powerboats, the annoying whine of jet skis, and the armadas of pontoon boats, and summer visitors have subsided.
6 June 2022
Ken and his daughter Shannon from NJ were in Skaneateles, New York to fish with me. They rented a local AIRBNB on the outskirts of the village and spent a few days shopping and dining while they were here to fish.
The conditions on the lake were ideal for lake trout fishing. South wind, low clouds, and light rain. The fishing was slow. The lakers were scattered in 45 to 60 FOW on a large flat. Shannon landed her first lake trout. A couple other trout were dropped and some decent perch landed.
With the laker fishing slow I motored to a spot I found many years ago that can hold good numbers of fish this time of year. Upon arrival I found another guide right on top of it. There were two anglers in his boat. One appeared to be sleeping on the bow deck. Surface temps. at 61 degrees.
13 May 2022
Frank from CT joined me for a morning of spin fishing. We launched on the south end of the lake per Frank’s request as he was driving up from his brother-in-law’s house in Elmira. We launched around 0630 hrs and headed north up the lake. There was no wind, low clouds, and a slight drizzle. The first place we stopped we found a massive school of perch spawning on a shoal.
Hundreds of male perch pursued a spawning female as she broadcast her eggs on the weeds and rocks. It was quite a show that we could see clear in 14 FOW. We spied several bass and a nice walleye as well. But, I learned many years ago, that when you can see the fish, they can see you, and getting them to bite is difficult. We needed a breeze to build.
We picked away along the shoal for an hour or so when I noticed a boat coming toward us from the south. As we got closer it became obvious it was a pair of ENCON Officers in a 16 foot flat bottom boat. That’s when I realized, in my haste this morning, that I had left my wallet in the console of my truck.
After an odd display of “good cop vs bad cop” they wrote me a ticket for fishing with out a license. Frank had his license of course. I was polite and respectful. But come on. As a guide of nearly twenty years on the lake, did they really think that I did not own a fishing license?
The point, I was told, was that the license was not in my possession. I offered to go back to my truck and retrieve it. Nope. They were going to write a ticket. The law and order on the surface of Skaneateles Lake would be upheld.
“Have either of you ever left your wallet in the truck” I asked them. “You should have a picture of it on your phone” they responded as they scribbled out my ticket. They were right. The moment became an opportunity to have a conversation with the ENCON Officers. One that I had been thinking about for sometime.
I explained to them, in a respectful and polite way, that they, and I, are on opposite sides of the same coin. On one side of this coin is a licensed, insured, and professional guide that introduces hundreds of “license buying” people to the lakes and rivers of Upstate New York in a safe and enjoyable way.
On the other side of the coin are men in green uniforms upholding the law and writing expensive tickets.
I have the utmost respect for their difficult and demanding occupation.
Surface temps at 60 degrees.
8/9 May 2022
Nick and his Dad Frank were in town, staying at a local AIRBNB just outside the village, to do some fishing for the weekend. Winds were light and variable with partly cloudy skies. Water temps hovering around 45 degrees in the am. We picked away at some bass and perch in 14 to 16 foot of water with little success. By noon the sky was cloudless and the wind petered off to next to nothing. So I gave up on the perch and bass and we geared up for rainbows.
The rainbow trout population is low. Has been for sometime. But knowing where to look for the specimens that remain, having been chasing after them for almost twenty years, helps. We fished hard in these locations through the afternoon. The technique is not a simple one and the guys took a while to understand, missing a few takes in the process. Once they got the hang of it, they were able to bring a few trout to net.
Since a huge high pressure system had settled in, with stunning blue skies accompanied by swirling thermal winds, we kept after the rainbows. These are the ideal Spring conditions and water temperatures were beginning to climb fast. The midges are hatching heavy on the lakes surface and immature trout are beginning to rise. The shorelines have goslings and ducklings. The Oaks have leafed out and Spring is at its most beautiful time.
The waters of Skaneateles Lake and its undeveloped shoreline is a magnificent landscape of vibrant colors on beautiful crystal clear Spring days.
10/11/12/13 May 2022
Gary from Sparta, NJ was up to fly fish for tiger muskies with me for the week. His wife Joyce and he staying at the Mirbeau. The high pressure and cloudless skies continued. Our first morning found a light frost. The water temps in Otisco Lake were being set back. Struggling to get near the mid 50’s. These temps, along with long periods of no wind and glass-like surface conditions, would make the fly casting for tigers even more challenging than it is under ideal conditions.
What are ideal conditions? I like cloudy skies with a light to moderate wind…Seems to be when I do the best on these unpredictable fish. But favorable tiger musky conditions were not in the cards for us all week. The weather and scenery was outstanding however. And Gary and I have been fly fishing together for many years and we enjoy each others company and conversation.
Gary has fly fished all over the world. In Mongolia. the Amazon, throughout the far north of Canada. So his stories are nothing short of interesting to me. We had a few small to medium tigers chase the fly and make half-hearted attempts at eating ii, but the tigers would not commit to the fly. Their un-aggressive nature tells me the water has to warm up a bit more. And it is close. We did land one monster bass. Water temps reached 55 by mid afternoon. Air temps over 80 degrees! Beautiful scenery!
24 April 2022
This trip was scheduled for mid February. But when the date rolled around, there was no safe ice anywhere in the Finger Lakes. So we re-scheduled for an open water date for 4/23/22. When that week rolled around, I again reached out to re-schedule. This time it was to accommodate a task I had taken on.
A friend of mine travelled to New Mexico to hunt turkey and mountain lions in the Gila Wilderness just outside Silver City in the far southwest corner of the state. During his hunt he decided he did not want to continue on his expedition with his truck and trailer and decided to fly to the rest of his hunting destinations from New Mexico — Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming — then back to Syracuse.
He asked me if I would fly down there, pick up his rig, and drive it across the country back home. With guiding sporadic at this time of year, like an idiot, I said yes. That was a journey of just over 2k miles that included trailering an 18 foot enclosed trailer with 50k worth of hunting gear, through burning high desert, illegal immigrants, and border patrol inspections, across the states of NM, TX, and then across OK, MS, IL, IN, OH, PA and into New York.
Cullin, Andrew, Nadia (from the Ukraine), and Becca, met me at the launch on Sunday for a fishing trip. Strong south winds in the morning gave way to crystal clear skies and calm winds as a low pressure system was pushed north over the lake. When the lake calmed down the fishing was good.
Many jumbo perch and a small rainbow were brought to net. Everyone had fun and enjoyed a safe trip on a beautiful Spring day! Water temps in some areas reached 45 degrees by late afternoon. Heavy midge hatch beginning in some areas of the lake and the suckers are on the gravel spawning in great numbers on the southern third of the lake.
Great catches of perch and walleye are being reported. Beginning next week I have seven trips in a row. So I will try to keep this blog updated.
15 April 2022
Luke and his granddaughter Kayla joined me on board the Greyghost 3 for the first trip of the season. A stiff south wind and partly cloudy skies found at launch at 0800 hrs. South winds are always a challenge every season of the year on the lake. Just enough and the fishing is good. Too much and it is a challenge.
Traversing long stretches of lake in a 15 to 20 mph south wind is not on the menu when I have guests in my boat. While the Greyghost 3 will go anywhere safely, it is just not a comfortable ride for anyone. So it is best to have locations local to the launch when boating in strong south or north winds.
Some nearby patches of milfoil that I located late last Autumn were the destination. The milfoil grows faster than any of the other aquatic vegetation and by mid-April it is attractive to fish. Luke and Kayla picked away at some jumbo perch and landed one small rainbow and lost another. By noon they were ready to quit. A short trip was all they wanted.
Upon return to the launch we found an SUV with PA plates parked right in the center of the ramp. A family of four was enjoying their lunch. A jet ski sat on a trailer awaiting to be launched. Polite and courteous, I asked them to move their vehicle — after they finished their lunch of course — so I could yank my boat.
I mentioned that the water temp was 38 degrees. They smiled at me and chewed their food.
20 October Through 8 November
On the 30th of October Graham and Sandra from Brooklyn joined me for a cloudy and rainy and cold day of fishing. It was a light east wind and the fishing was very good! The perch have schooled and the trout have moved shallow. On the 31st, Halloween, the morning began with a howling west wind and some light rain. The fishing for Canyon and Lauren from Syracuse proved to be poor. The schools had relocated and the conditions made it difficult to track them down. Water temps at surface was 58 degrees.
Trips are winding down. The end to the strangest open-water fishing seasons on Skaneateles Lake I have ever experienced is near. Torrential rains. Extreme flooding. Complicated parking issues at the NYSDEC FISHING ACCESS SITE. Unprecedented recreational boating traffic. Round Gobies. Local politicians getting on the evening news declaring no-wake zones and five mph boating speed limits because boat wakes contribute to harmful algal blooms.
The sudden disappearance, however, of all aquatic vegetation on the north end of the lake this past spring does stand out to me as the most intriguing occurrence of the year. Since my original blog on this topic, several people have engaged me in conversation and provided me the answers.
” The Quagga muscles ate the weeds”.
“It was too early for the weeds to have grown in the Spring”.
“You should ask the professors at ESF”.
To such comments I reply; “When was the last time you were on Skaneateles Lake in March”.
I have spent over 120 days in the last 24 months on Skaneateles Lake. Guiding. Angling. Boating. Ice fishing. In twenty years of early Spring open-boat fishing (March/April) and ice fishing as well, (January/February), there was always big, healthy, native weed beds in the same locations in the shallow northern basin of the lake. Year after year. After year. All year long. This past spring they were gone.
Where did they go?
Did the culpable City of Syracuse execute a copper sulfate treatment of the north end of the lake in late Autumn of 2020 without a permit? (Do they even need a permit?). Seems incredulous. If this theory was true, and it was found out, I can only imagine the PR nightmare the city and it’s elected officials would endure… In an election year as well.
While the conditions seemed quite ripe on the north end of the lake for a harmful algal bloom (HAB) to occur during the end of September and early October of this year, it did not. Negating HAB’s was the direct goal of the intended copper sulfate treatment the City of Syracuse was planning. Reoccurring HAB’s will likely require the City Of Syracuse to build a multi-million dollar drinking water treatment system.
Why would I stick my neck out and even address topics like this? My modest trade of guiding anglers on the lake puts me in regular contact with the lake environment. An environment I have become quite familiar with over the span of 20 years. In that time I have only seen the lake change for the worse.
Unchecked development. Heavy erosion. Failing infrastructure. Non-point source pollution. Invasive species. A decline in the trout fishery. A rise in the walleye fishery. Harmful algal blooms. Intense recreational use.
In a world where governing officials, state agencies, homeowner associations, and local business’s get to make closed-door decisions that affect the future of Skaneateles Lake, well, I feel obligated to tell you what I see.
In conclusion, with the exception of low rainbow and landlocked salmon population, the fishing was overall very good and all my guests experienced safe, successful, and enjoyable angling on the lake. The 2021 season, my 18th season guiding the lake, comes to a safe close. For all of those who joined me, I am thankful.
See you in the Spring.
Late September Through 20 October
Fishing, overall, has been very good on the lake while the weather has not. But the two do go hand-in-hand. Over the past several weeks I have enjoyed the company of anglers from OH, PA, CT, and MD. Most of the fishing has been for smallmouth, but the lake trout have been found schooled and aggressive as of late. While they are still deep, they are getting excited!
For the most part, up until about the 10/17, the fish have been in summer locations. The short days and strong winds have the schools growing in numbers and the fish are becoming more aggressive as a result. On 10/9 a strong south wind began to blow and continued through the early morning hours of 10/13. A fixed and strong wind creates heavy current and schools the fish. Even the lakers in 90 to 100 FOW are impacted. The wind creates a strong current, or lunch line. And the warmwater fry, and other morsels of food, get swept into the cafeteria.
Water at surface was still above 65 degrees on 10/13. By 10/17 the temps had descended to about 63 degrees. Extreme rain on Saturday 10/16 produced very turbid conditions on most of the lake over the past weekend, causing yet again, another cancellation. But Sunday (10/17) was a nice day and my guests brought to net over 60 bass in just a few hours.
The best fishing of the year on the lake is about to come. It is worth noting that in all the years I have been fishing the lake I cannot remember water temps lingering in the mid 60’s past Columbus Day. But this is the case this season. The rainbows will be moving away from the disappearing thermocline very soon and the hunt for them (what is left of them) will continue.
31 August Through 20 September
The “no wake” speed limit was lifted. Or at least the sign enforcing it at the boat launch is now gone. Several trips have found schooling fish eager and willing to bite. Somedays it is easier than others to find the warm water fish. My friend John went after lakers the other day and had some success. Landing a few in 100 foot of water.
Another friend who lives on the lake, Greg, went after the lakers he found with his sonar in over 175 FOW and landed one. What the lakers find to eat at that depth is a mystery. The cold water temps may be the only reason they are found in such depths.
The smallmouth, perch, and rock bass continue to dominate my fishing trips as they produce great action for my guests. Besides perch fry that is growing fast (now about two inches in length) the schooling warm water fish feed on baby rock bass and baby smallmouth fry as well.
Water temps seem to be making a descension as of the 17th. Temps at surface 69 degrees in some locations.
31 August 2021
I launched 45 minutes early from the NYSDEC FISHING ACCESS SITE to pick up my guests at the pier in the village. Speed maintained at 4.9 mph, I arrived six minutes early. A few recreational boats not paying attention to the “county imposed” speed limit. I just happened to notice. Will the speed restriction stay in place over the holiday weekend? Lake level is subsiding ever-so-slowly.
A large school of mixed-bag fish was located in 28 to 32 FOW on short weeds on a flat. A young family from NYC was onboard The Greyghost 3 enjoying aggressive smallmouth, perch, and rock bass action! I have not caught a walleye in weeks. And while I do not fish for them in specific, they often turn-up sometimes within the mixed bag of fish clinging to the deep side of weedy flats marauding schools of perch fry.
The look on this little girl’s face says it all! Catching fish is pure fun. Wether you are eight or 88. Be it rock bass or king salmon. The enthusiasm and excitement kids experience onboard my boat while catching fish makes me smile from ear to ear. Us middle-aged adults reel the fish in with a work ethic, like its our job. Kids, on the other hand, will explode in laughter and run around the boat squealing with delight when a fish is on the end of their line. I love that!
It is worth noting that I have recognized a couple of un-inspected boats, on several occasions, that appear to be guiding on the lake. Offering guide services for hire with an un-inspected vessel, and without having a valid NYSDEC guides license, is, well, illegal. Just a thought.
27/28 August 2021
It took over seven inches of rain, extreme flooding, landslides, and widespread shoreline damage to get every local politician in and around Onondaga County to take a look at the Skaneateles Lake Watershed. And what did they conclude?
Recreational boaters contribute to harmful algal blooms and threaten the drinking water.
On Friday evening I fished with a friend. We launched at the NYSDEC FISHING ACCESS SITE and ever-so-slowly (4.8 mph) we traversed the middle of the lake to the east side. We marked a ton of fish, and my friend (who wishes anonymity on my blog posts due to political reasons) landed a four pounder.
On Saturday am — because my guests are not allowed to park at the NYSDEC FISHING ACCESS SITE — I launched on the south end of the lake with Bob and two of his buddies from Wilkes Barre, PA. Water was turbid and a stiff south wind howled. We drifted from the launch without aid of the outboard motor. Over forty or so smallmouth came to net in a couple of hours. Big fun!
Then we slowly putt-putted back to the launch at 4.7 mph. Water temp at surface was 75 degrees.
20 /21 August 2021
My son and a couple friends were on-board the Greyghost3 for a few hours of late afternoon fishing. Plenty of small to medium smallmouth came to net. Rich out fished each of us five to one and many bass were found shallow. A few were taken on surface plugs.
The lake is as high as I have ever seen it. The rain began to fall Tuesday evening and continued through Wednesday. By Wednesday night most all the creeks were in flood stage and the rain continued. Then it continued to rain through Thursday morning adding insult to injury.
Severe erosion, landslides, and blown-out creeks and culverts, dumped an incredible volume of debris, sediment, soil, and water into the lake. Large slicks of detritus and debris, mostly dead wood from the hillsides, was floating about the lake on Saturday morning. The water in the lake is very turbid and all the docks are under a foot or more of water. Low lying, or level lakefront areas, saw tremendous flooding.
I was not sure how the fishing was going to be. But it was ok. On Saturday, Peter and his two sons, Shane and Finn, enjoyed good action while we carefully navigated the near shore areas on the southern third of the lake. But the deluge caused two cancellations this past week and perhaps another as Sunday is looking wet again!
Water temps at surface 75 degrees. Stay safe!
August 10 Through August 18
A few more trips in the last couple of weeks. Plenty of smallmouth and perch and rock bass brought to net. The water temps at surface remain at about 74 degrees. An angler onboard from the Philly area the other day was reeling in a small bass when a three-foot-long tiger musky attacked it next to the boat!
Where did that come from! The same place the walleye in the lake came from, a “bucket biologist”. A “bucket biologist” is an angler who thinks it would be cool to transport different species of live fish from one lake to another. You know, for fun.
It is a short-sighted, poor, and illegal practice that is more common than you would think. Recreational anglers (even a few guides) have been found to be the source of invasive and non-native fish populations in lakes throughout the northeast. The smallmouth bass would never have expanded into half of it’s current range here in New York without the help of a five gallon bucket or a boat’s livewell.
The parking at the NYSDEC Fishing Access Site on Skaneateles Lake continues to be an interesting topic during the summer months. The access was paid for by the sale of fishing equipment through the Pitman Robertson Act. This act of congress, created in 1937 is now know as Federal Aid In Wildflife Restoration. Tax revenue from fishing equipment was used to pay for the construction of The NYSDEC Fishing Access Site on Skaneateles Lake.
Thanks to the Skaneateles Lake Association for keeping a close eye on invasive species as well as taking on the troubling task of determining who can park where and when at the NYSDEC Fishing Access Site on Skaneateles Lake. Your volunteer efforts in this arena are appreciated!
The Case Of The Disappearing Water
On the morning of August 11th I received a message from a fellow fly fisherman named Ken. He asked if I had been paying attention to the USGS Gauge on Skaneateles Creek. I had not been. So I drove over to the Stump Road bridge in Skaneateles Falls, about a half-mile from my doorstep, and took a look at the creek.
Holy Cow! There was no water in the creek. Just enough for a small minnow to swim through with its back sticking out! Where was the water? With the temperatures in the 90’s for the last three days, and with more intense heat in the forecast, this was not good! I stood on the bridge, slack-jawed. This was the lowest I have ever seen the creek in 20 years.
I drove around to other bridge pools, both upstream and downstream, and what I found, — besides dozens and dozens of struggling trout — was confusing. A mile upstream from the Stump Rd. bridge, the flow was decent. A mile downstream from the stump road bridge the flow was low, but not critically low. Almost decent. So where was the water going?
My friend Ken called the City of Syracuse and asked them at which rate they were releasing water at their gates in the Village Of Skaneateles. They responded that the release was the summer standard of 12 CFS (cubic feet per second). The USGS gauge, roughly four miles downstream of the City’s gates registered at just under three CFS! Some four million (plus or minus) gallons of lake water was disappearing on it’s way from the village to the USGS gauge on Chatfield Road based upon the rate of discharge and the USGS measurement.
With a call to the USGS office in Ithaca, Ken asked if their gauge on Skaneateles Creek was broken. They jumped in their truck, drove up and gave it a look. It was working, is working, just fine. Another call to the City Of Syracuse, and Ken was told that 12 CFS is the standard “summer” minimum flow from the City. Ken questioned wether they had an accurate measure of their discharge.
Where was the water going? Ken met me at the bridge on Stump Road. Our plan was to hike up the creek and have a look for ourselves. On his way, Ken spied four large trash pumps that a local landscaper uses to draw water out of the creek to water his lawn. At first, we thought that may be the answer. But further investigation determined it was not. And really, physicaly, could not be. Four trash pumps could not move that much water. Did you know you are legally allowed to take 10,000 gallons of creek water a day from a trout stream if you own property on the stream? Crazy!
As we hiked down the creek we came upon a long, man-made, sluiceway of concrete. Here, at the head of the sluiceway was a small waterfall. At the base of the waterfall were large fissures in the limestone. Karst topography. A high percentage of the creeks water was vanishing down the fissures in the limestone at the City’s flow of 12 CFS.
Another call to the City and Ken asked them to increase the flow as there was extreme low water and very warm water temperatures that threatened to kill hundreds of fish, mostly trout. And there is, was, no shortage of water in the lake. So they did. They increased the flow to 15 CFS and disaster was avoided! A day later the rains came.
July 20 Through August 10
A brand new Lund puts lake fishing back at the very top of my list! Several trips in the last couple weeks have allowed me to learn the ways of the Greyghost 3. Always a Yamaha guy, I am now a Mercury guy. The Mercury outboards have a reputation as being sub-par to others. But I feel, in todays world, all of the 2021 four stroke 115 HP outboards are pretty damn awesome!
The steering seems tight but I imagine it will loosen over time and become more fluid. The cockpit is different, and hard getting comfortable within. The 9″ Hummingbird takes up a lot of windshield and the added depth of the hull has me rubbernecking for good visibility. Some adjustments have to be made.
At 5k rpm with four anglers top speed is 35 mph. Plenty good enough! The deep v hull design and wider beam makes rough water soft and sheds heavy waves and chop super nice. After running the old Greyghost 2, hard, for well over a decade, having a new Lund, a modern, bigger, better but almost identical brand new version of my old boat is awesome!
This Greyghost 3 is a serious fishing machine that will take center stage in my modest guide service. With tons of storage, an open floor plan, and a hearty and healthy footprint, she is destined for many, many years of hard use and helping reinvigorate my business and my trade!
The fry are pelagic and the smallmouth have moved to their summer haunts, stacked on flats in 25 to 35 FOW. Mixed bag catches with ample rockies and jumbo perch mixed in, are common. The water is still high and a bit cool and there are still many fish shallow however. Water temps at surface were 74.5 on Sunday the 8th.
I have not fished for lakers much. They require too much “cat and mouse” and finding active lakers tries my patience this time of year. My guests are just interested in having fun. Bending a rod. So smallies and mixed bags of warmwater fish is on the menu! The lakers, when found and caught, by and large, are all smallish. The trollers have been after them somewhat and some nice lakers and salmon have been brought to net from the thermocline.
The DEC netted the lake two weeks ago. Their targeted catch, I am told, was coldwater species. So their nets were set in very deep water. A picture of the Cisco below was sent to me by one of the biologists on the netting crew. This fish is extremely rare in Skaneateles Lake these days. It is only the second Cisco I have ever seen in the lake. When I was a kid my Dad caught one on a spoon casting from shore in October. That was 30 years ago. I remember that fish as much bigger than the one pictured here.
I debated not posting a pic of my new boat on this blog or my website. Over the years I have collected a small following of local anglers (and one guide in particular) that, upon seeing my boat on spot-lock, will glide in just yards away and start fishing. It is irritating. And the new boat may have eluded them for a short while.
In some cases, I think many anglers, especially these days, just don’t know that motoring into close proximity of another fishing boat, yards away, or cutting off another angler’s drift, is poor form. Poor etiquette. The ones who just don t know, well, ignorance can be an excuse. For the others…I usually give them my spot and motor on to another and avoid any confrontation. I always lived, and guided, by the motto…”Find Your Own Fish!”
End Of June Through July 20
The wet and rainy weather of the last several weeks has provided very good fishing and created several cancellations! The water is high, turbid, and cool and that makes for good to excellent angling for warm water species such as smallmouth bass and perch. Bass remain shallow and active with the early morning and evening hours producing the best catches. Water temp at surface 72 degrees.
Smallmouth bass between 12 inches and 16 inches in length are delicious when filleted boneless and served fresh! Keep a limit and try them. Their firm white meat is killer when breaded and fried or as the main ingredient in fish tacos!
Heavy rains in early July caused tremendous erosion and flash flooding in many of the drainages on the lakes southern end. In other places erosion control devices such as silt fences failed during the heavy rain and allowed exposed soils at residential construction sites to be flushed into the lake.
During a recent conversation with a friend who is a member of the Skaneateles Lake Association (SLA) we discussed the nutrient and sediment loading that continues to occur on the lake during heavy rain events. The SLA is active and ambitious in protecting the watershed. While Mother Nature and the increasing frequency and intensity of rain events is proving to be a challenge, so to is the task of getting all vested parties involved in the solution.
Mother Nature can sometimes be managed. Her effects can sometimes be mitigated. In the case of the Skaneateles Lake Watershed, this could only be done with a united and wholistic plan where everyone works together towards the common goal of protecting and preserving the lake for future generations.
Many responsible parties play important roles in protecting the lake. The lake is located within three counties and within multiple townships. In addition, The State of New York, The City of Syracuse, and the bustling Village Of Skaneateles all have a keen interest in a clean and healthy lake. This complex characteristic creates a challenge with everyone being on the same page and reading from the same book. Everyone working together appears to be the biggest hurdle in making real progress.
It seems clear to me that without a solid team there cannot be a solid plan. The investigation, infrastructure improvement, and monitoring of every vein of every drainage throughout the lake’s watershed by one entity, one source of leadership, seems like a key component of a future plan.
An entity and a plan developed and derived from the intellect and experience of the so many talented individuals that are the backbone of the Towns, Counties, State, and Federal Agencies that, wether they want to be or not, are the stewards of Skaneateles Lake.
That is my opinion. I hope politics and personalities would not hinder or slow any progress to protecting and preserve this unique environment in our backyard. If we can spend 350 million dollars to dredge inert chemicals from the bottom of Onondaga Lake…We can do what it will take to maintain a healthy Skaneateles Lake.
On a different note, it is with some sadness that I say goodbye to the Greyghost 2. The 2002 Lund fishing boat was super excellent and served my guide service and my guests well for over a decade. She will be finding a new home on Otisco Lake with a father and his two sons who are avid anglers!
I have upgraded the tools of my trade to include a brand new 2021 state-of-the-art Lund Impact! Since 2003 I have provided safe, enjoyable, and successful fishing experiences for my guests on Skaneateles Lake. That tradition continues with the Greyghost 3! A serious fishing machine!
23 June 2021
Bruce and Barry from Saratoga Springs joined me on-board The Greyghost2 for a few hours of smallmouth bass fishing. The smallmouth, for the most part, have completed their spawning cycle but are not in a summer mode yet. The rock bass are spawning hard now.
Water temps at surface were declining. A cold low pressure system had the air temps. at around 54 degrees at 0900hrs. Temps at surface were at 67 degrees. Some small bass were caught and several medium bass. But no big ones.
The gray skies tempted me to drift for lake trout, but that’s not the species the guys were after. The bass seemed to be on the rocks, but in some of the more popular shoal areas on the lake I found the fish to be scattered and few.
Unprecedented angling pressure may or may not be having an impact on the bass. I recommend every angler creel a limit of legal smallmouth. Take them home and eat them. They are taking over the lake and need to be thinned.
Smallmouth bass are the biggest invasive species of freshwater fish we have in Upstate New York’s lakes and rivers. But since they are considered a game fish and people enjoy catching them — and since there is nothing anyone could or wants to do to stop them — they will continue to spread prolific.
In recent years, especially this season, I have been guiding the mighty and vast St. Lawrence River for smallmouth. Also, I have transitioned greatly into guiding fly fishers in the northern Catskills. These two fisheries offer solitude, big uncrowded spaces, and awesome fish.
While Skaneateles Lake is my home water, and is a lake that will always be very important to me, it’s coldwater fishery is failing. It’s popularity, however, for recreational boating and tourism continues to grow. The desolate, beautiful lake that I have guided extensively for the last 18 years, is losing some of the character that I found so appealing over the last two decades.
She is still stunning, but her atmosphere has changed. Guiding on the lake has indeed changed. And my guide service has evolved accordingly. Besides Skaneateles Lake, different, un-crowded waters, and new challenges, also have my attention.
Being the best guide on Skaneateles Lake has not changed! If you want to fish the lake, call me anytime.
7,8,9 June 2021
Gary came up from New Jersey for three days of fly fishing for Tiger Muskies on nearby Otisco Lake. But because the local Yamaha dealer mis-diagnosed my outboard, and told me they replaced parts that they did not, and told me they did service (cleaned injectors) that they did not, well, my boat was out of business for the peak of the fishing/boating season costing me thousands of dollars in lost trips. And there was nothing I could do about it.
After 18 years of guiding the lakes I have never relied upon a marina or marine technician to provide any services or repair for my engines and boats. The one time I did they failed horribly.
Anyhow, I was able to find a reputable Yamaha dealer, Sutters Marina, in Canandaigua and they repaired my Yamaha. They also pointed out that I had paid for services and parts that were never done or replaced. This is such a shame.
A friend of mine who owns a state-of-the-art light tackle fishing boat on the lake allowed me to employ his boat so Gary’s fishing vacation could be salvaged.
The lake was flat-calm and the air temps were in the 80’s each day. The kiss of death. When the breeze did grow, we found active smallmouth. In the morning, on the flat lake, we stalked the very few rising rainbows and landlock’s that we could find with five weight fly rods. No success.
The water temps were climbing to above 70 all over the lake and a search for cooler water to the south proved fruitless. The drake hatch seems to be almost non-existent. But I cannot say that with any certainty as I have spent most of the last two weeks guiding fly fishers on the Upper Delaware to recoup, to salvage what I could after Owasco Marine wrecked the peak of my spring season.
“Don’t get mad…” You know the phrase.
It is all good now however. A brand new boat is on the way and The Greyghost @ is running great again! Trips continue as always. Safe, enjoyable, and successful.
Late April Until 24 May 2021
My blogging is lack-luster. So many trips over the last several weeks and I have forgotten to document the many details of each of them. My apologies to the few people out there that pay attention to this web page.
A summary is in order with some pics of specimens. The water hit 50 degrees about ten days ago. As of yesterday the water temp is almost 60 degrees at surface in many places. The rainbow trout fishing, while not stellar, has improved.
Some of the larger trout brought to net have a pelvic fin missing. The clipped fin is specific as to identify which strain of trout the DEC stocked. The clipped fin allows the DEC to monitor populations to determine which hybrid is more successful.
The complete lack of vegetation, utter disappearance of huge and healthy native weed beds on the bottom of the lakes north end have me wondering…Did the City of Syracuse treat the lake late last Autumn with copper sulfate? The city applied for a permit for the treatment but it is unknown if they acquired the permit. I believe they were supposed to solicit public opinion before applying the chemical to the lake if they were given the green light.
I don’t remember any press release seeking public opinion about the city of Syracuse treating several hundred acres of the lake’s bottom with a chemical to kill the aquatic weeds and all other aquatic life.
Fertile, healthy, and native weed beds full of aquatic life (the base of the aquatic food chain in the shallow northern end of Skaneateles Lake) are gone. Were they destroyed via a chemical treatment applied by The City Of Syracuse in an effort to reduce the risk of harmful algal blooms that threaten the drinking water supply?
Large areas where healthy and native weeds existed are now veritable moonscapes. And I cannot come up with an explanation why. The story of this beautiful lake gets stranger and more complicated with each passing season.
23 April 2021
The air temp was 58 degrees with sunshine and a west wind. An email told me around 1100 hrs that my afternoon guest on the lake thought it too cold to fish. So my afternoon trip was cancelled. I was preoccupied guiding a father and son on a Finger Lake tributary for steelhead when I received the cancellation.
After a successful morning of teaching fly casting and landing two nice rainbows, I headed to the lake with the boat in tow. Trip or no trip…I was going to fish the lake as the conditions were perfect.
I do not often fish alone, so I don’t enjoy fishing alone. A call to my fishing buddy Brian and he met me at the launch. We fished pretty hard for a couple hours, casting flies for rainbows, with no results.
Water temperature at surface was 42 degrees.
17 April 2021
Ryan and his girlfriend met me for a tour of the lake as they were vacationing in the village for a long weekend. They were up from Manhattan and had never been to the region before. The winds were light and the sky was clear with air temps around 55 so it was a fine morning for a boat ride.
The cherry trees, shadbush, and several species of shrubs were in bloom along the lakeshore. The loons seem to have picked up and left, continuing north, as I did not see or hear any. They do not linger very long and I wonder if they find the fishing (like many anglers often do) to be poor.
The swallows have arrived just in time to find the midges hatching by the millions. Swooping and gliding, the swallows snap up the tiny flies over the surface of the lake. Cold rain and snow forecasted for the coming week will not be comfortable for the swallows however, and will be a setback for the slow increase of water temperature. I imagine the swallows will spend much of their time hanging around, inside the boathouses, preparing nests.
My guests from The Big Apple enjoyed their tour. And I was happy to take the opportunity to talk about the lake, it’s history and its challenges. One characteristic that stood out today — besides the flowering trees and clear blue water — is the development and construction of the lakes shoreline. It is everywhere you look.
Some might see this as as progress. A sign that the economy is healthy. It is inevitable. The lake’s inflated real estate is where the wealthy build their dream homes. Construction of homes and the lake’s shoreline is increasing at a high rate. The long term impact on the shoreline habitat, water quality and aquatic ecosystem, well, that remains to be seen. But I cannot help but imagine what the lake’s shore will look like ten years from now.
10 April 2021
My friend Rich and I enjoyed a very nice morning of angling on the lake. A stiff south wind was on when we arrived at launch at 0715. The boat launch was at about 40 percent capacity. It seems the bulk of the perch anglers have moved on to other lakes.
With a little searching we found some perch and started picking away at them. While there were several nice specimens at this location we decided to move. By 1000 hrs the wind subsided and we stalked a shallow shoal to the north. Several more large jumbo perch were sent to the livewell. Around 1100 hrs we picked up and headed even further north.
One of the perch we landed spit up an invasive species known as a Round Goby. This little sculpin-type minnow native to Europe (I think?) has invaded most of the Great Lakes and connecting lakes and canals. It is likely getting established in Skaneateles Lake and adding another concern to the aquatic ecosystem.
I wanted to inspect a location where I had seen a school of fish a couple days earlier. After anchoring up with the spot lock, we delivered our package to a large, mixed bag, school of fish that was happy to take it. Over and over again! Rich and I caught and released several medium smallmouth, a few perch, a pumpkinseed, and a rock bass! Big fun! With enough panfish in the box for a meal for each of us, we departed back to the launch. Water temps at surface upon departure at 1215 hrs was 41 degrees.
8 April 2021
Brian met me at the launch at 0930 hrs for a few hours of fly casting for rainbow trout. A stiff south wind kept us north and we casted our flies around some shallow weeds and rocks catching the occasional perch. The wind began to subside around 1100 hrs and we motored south.
The first time we fly fished the lake together was 2005 and Brian was new to fly fishing. Almost every Spring since he has reserved a Spring day on the lake to fly fish for rainbows. And over the years we have caught some impressive fish together on five weight rods.
On this day we struggled. Using the same techniques in the same locations (locations and techniques that produced many healthy rainbows for over a decade of fly fishing the lake) proved fruitless.
As an angler I cannot base one days fishing results on anything but chance and other factors that may have lead to sub-par results. But this is a pattern that has grown continually worse for the last eight or so years. A major decline in the rainbow trout population is evident.
On this day we worked pretty hard at trying to catch trout. Although drifting and fly casting, surrounded by stunning blue water in beautiful early Spring sunshine cannot be described as work. We did fish hard, and only one bug-eyed and lean 16 inch rainbow was our result.
As old friends, spending a fine afternoon on the lake, we cannot complain. We are sad to see what was an awesome rainbow trout fishery descend into the past. But the mesmerizing blue water, good company, and the hope on each cast that we would snap the rod tight into silver, kept us smiling.
Water temps at surface was 38 to 40 degrees.
27 March 2021
Tom and his six year old boy Jacob were dropped of at the NYSDEC Anglers Parking Area at 0945 hrs. The delayed start was at my suggestion as air temps hovered in the low 30’s and there was a light rain in the early morning.
The rain passed and the air temps climbed to more suitable for Jacob and his Dad by the time they reached the launch. The parking lot was full by 0930 hours. An unprecedented occurrence for the last Saturday in March.
Arriving an hour early, I launched the Greyghost 2 and tied it, up out of the way, of fishing boats coming and going. The launch was bustling. There were a few arguments. Some foul exchanges. None of which included me.
My buddy Earl came down and I helped him launch his boat. Without the docks attached, launching a boat can be challenging done solo.
Todays trip was a gift to Jacob from his Mom and Dad for his sixth birthday! Jacob and his father had never been to the Finger Lakes before and this was their first fresh water fishing trip in Upstate New York.
The lake was crowded. Fishing boats ran north and south, east and west, all morning. Most of the locations that are known to hold perch were occupied by half a dozen or more boats. The light north wind petered off around 1030 hrs and the lake grew flat. The kiss of death.
Before the light breeze fizzled, I brought Jacob and his Dad to a weedy flat in 25 FOW. We drifted and landed several nice perch and a few wild lake trout… No other boats around.
Water temps at surface were 37 degrees.
25 March 2021
After putting ice fishing gear away and cleaning up the boat, Maggie and I trailered the Greyghost 2 over to the boat launch to take her for a spin before the guiding season begins on Saturday.
The boat launch was busy. About 50 percent full. While getting the boat ready to launch on the asphalt I noticed a large bass boat with a 350 hp outboard coming off the lake. It was a pair of anglers I recognized, one of whom I have known for many years. Very good fishermen.
They are meat market anglers however. And they have set their sights on the Skaneateles Lake perch population. Their goal is to take limits of perch (50 per person) off the lake on each trip and sell these fish, by the pound, on the shell, or filleted, under the table.
While the sale of yellow perch is legal, it is, in my opinion, poor taste. Take what you need to feed yourself and/or family. Game hog mentality exists among many who call themselves sportsmen. Also, I cannot help but think, “Why would anglers running a $70,000 dollar bass boat need to sell yellow perch?” They need the money?
No. It’s because they are game hogs. And they can’t help themselves. The state of New York allows them to catch 50 perch per person per day and to sell their catch. So it is much easier, and more lucrative, to sell 60 pounds of perch than it is to clean.
Recreational fishing pressure, on all the lakes, is at the greatest point in modern time. These days, more than ever, anglers need to show respect for the resource. But for some this will never happen.
The Greyghost 2 ran great! But I did find a live well pump that needs replacing.
23 October Through Abrupt End of The Open Water Season 2020
On the 24th and 25th of October I was on schedule to float the SLR with a father and son, Gene and Aaron, from NYC. The plan was going well on day one, and despite strong north winds and some rain, the pike were biting.
After landing several pike we searched for smallmouth on the main river shoals but found the wind too strong. So we spent the rest of the afternoon scouting for ducks inside the protected bays. The next day we would spend the morning shotgunning for ducks instead of fishing.
Throughout the afternoon I noticed the outboard stalling out when the throttle was brought to the neutral position. After finding a good spot in a small wetland between two islands where mallards and wood ducks were trading in and out and access was good for the Lund, I motored back to the launch.
At the end of the day, after navigating many miles of river, as the Greyghost 2 was on trajectory to land port side against the dock, the throttle was brought to neutral and the Yamaha sputtered and died. And it would not start again.
I scrambled to the bow and was able to catch a plank of the dock with my outstretched arm. Plans for a morning hunt were gone as well as the rest of the open water season for angling on the boat. The outboard has been diagnosed and parts have been ordered but wait time is several weeks.
So she is in the barn waiting for parts and for Spring.
Gates at NYSDEC Anglers Parking Area were still open as of the 20th of November. My last day out, on a friends boat, on the 8th of this month, found water temps. 55 degrees at surface and flat calm.
Have a safe winter.
10th Of October Through October 23rd
The water temps dropped below 60 degrees sometime around the 12 or 13th of October. While unloading my Lund into the lake on the morning of the 16th I watched a marshmallow and worm angler land a big rainbow. Yummy!
Sean and Brian, two of Philadelphias’ finest, joined me for a day of smallmouth fishing. Plenty of fish found in summer locations but not super hungry. Several landed and a good day on the lake!
Declining water temps have transitioned fish into different locations on the lake and fish are beginning to school thick. With the exception of the rainbows and landlocks (what’s left of them). Now is prime time for fly casting for trout! Early mornings on clear days has always been the best.
Yellow perch, rock bass and smallmouth are beginning to school thick and have started feeding heavy. This seasons perch fry are about as 2.5 to 3″ long now and schools of fry are thick and constitute a large part of the diet.
Question: Is there another species of mussel, besides the zebra mussel, present on this stick that was snagged off the bottom of the lake the other day?
Bob came up last week from Staten Island to catch some bass and get his fishing fix before winter arrives.
We found beautiful weather and a mixed bag of fish with some heavy schools of perch!
A few hours were spent teaching fly fishing and fly casting to a young family on the flat surface of the lake last week. It is a great pleasure of mine to introduce people to the world of fly fishing!
Young Mike is a natural!
A few more trips on the calendar before the boat gets put away for the season. Focus will be on trout with fly and spin tackle… A poetic recap of the busiest angling season in history on Skaneateles Lake is in order.
Stay safe and stay tuned.
Septemeber Through 10th of October
Several successful trips over the last few weeks. Target species has been smallmouth and panfish. Many beginners — folks new to fishing — find the hungry smallies, rockies and perch big fun! They provide the right amount of action to keep my guests entertained!
Water temps are starting a solid decline and found 62 degrees at surface yesterday (10/9) in the center of the lake. While I have not noticed any major transition in fish locations, the large smallmouth being scattered in depths over twenty feet, I have noticed the fish beginning to feed heavier. As water temps decline into the high 50’s the rainbows (what’s left of them) will move into the shallows.
Question: If you are sitting at the boat launch, in the cab of your running vehicle, watching rods with sunken nightcrawlers attached, through your windshield… Are you fishing?
Super strong south winds came the middle part of this past week and blew for about 36 hours from Wednesday late morning until the very early morning hours on Friday. Whenever strong winds sustain from the north or the south the fish feed hard.
The strong current created by the wind on the big lake creates a “lunch line” and the fish school up thick and feed on the tight balls of struggling fry, dislodged crayfish, snails and other food sources that are drifting in the windswept currents over the shallow flats and shoals.
All summer I fished the same locations and caught zero walleye. In the last three weeks I have caught three small ones. Several friends have also been hooking walleye and sending me pics.
My guess is the declining daylight and cloudy days of late have these low light feeders active! There population is no doubt increasing as well.
My understanding is that the NYSDEC has had success in putting gps receivers on a couple adult fish this past Spring to try to further understand and perhaps manage the walleye in the lake.
I’ve a hunch that casting stickbaits after the sun goes down in the shallows will produce waldos in the weeks ahead!
Lakers starting to get aggressive!
15th Through the 20th September 2020
A stunning high pressure system has been parked on Upstate New York for several days and forecast is it will remain for the next few days!
While the water temps at surface have started a healthy decline, 65 degrees as of the 19th, the fish are still in summer mode. Schools of both rock bass, smallmouth and perch are sometimes difficult to locate but hungry when found.
Most of my effort is spent trying to mark fish in 30 to 45 FOW over weedy flats. The diet of the schooled fish is mixed with crayfish and fry. Lake trout have not changed their pattern at all and large schools of immature lakers are prevalent.
The best fishing is daybreak until noon. The fish slow down their feeding as the afternoon draws on.
Skaneateles Lake lost its greatest ally recently with the passing of Bob Werner. For over two decades Bob studied the lake and lead the effort to protect and manage the health of the lake and its ecosystem.
Besides being a respected and well regarded limnologist and scientist in the community, Bob was a genuinely nice man. The several conversations I had with him over the years were wonderful and his insight and understanding of the lake was second to none. His presence, intellect and leadership will be missed in the community and on the lake.
September So Far
Several trips completed and several more on the menu as the calendar moves into mid September. The water temps at surface are in the low 70’s and cooler nights will hasten the decline. Perch have begun to school and smallmouth and rock bass have strapped on the food bag with a taste for crayfish and panfish fry. The last few trips (Sept. 10,11 and 13) produced great catches of smallmouth and panfish. Cloudy days and light winds are welcome!
Most Of July and August 2020
Again I have let weeks on end of fishing trips go un-documented on my blog! It has been the busiest summer season I haver ever had on Skaneateles Lake and when I try to recount the number of trips and people I have had on-board The Greyghost 2 since my last blog on 7/11… Well it gets confusing. So I will try to summarize. As things begin to slow down I will make it more of a point to keep my blog updated.
The Summer fishing fell into the dog days around the middle of July. Week after week of hot and dry weather had conditioned many of the large fish to be most active at low light with some exceptions.
The water temps peaked at 79 degrees at surface around the 10th of August and surface temps, while still fluctuating, have begun to drop a couple degrees just within the last week. The thermocline is very deep this year and the rainbows and salmon are stressed. The perch fry from this past springs’ spawn (about the size of a tiny paperclip) are on the menu! They are in large schools and pelagic.
I have not noticed too many trollers this season. Perhaps this method of fishing is waning in popularity? Or the serious trout trollers are west on Cayuga or north on Ontario tapping into those wicked hot fisheries right now. Yesterday I watched a 20′ glass trolling boat with planer boards employed pass me in 100 FOW at about 15 MPH. Not sure if that is an effective technique right now.
The early morning hours are the best! Days when we get a little weather and clouds are particularly good. But overall the fishing is mediocre in late August and while everyday can be different, I don’t expect it to be “hot” again for several more weeks.
I stopped fishing for the lake trout about three weeks ago as it is high mortality on the trout and they can be unreliable, or tough to find. While drifting in 35 to 40 FOW earlier this week a guest hooked a huge fish that made several powerful runs and then snapped the line.
And when I got home I took the brand new spool of BPS brand eight pound fluorocarbon and threw it in the garbage where it belonged.
Fishing equipment is getting tough to find and I was getting low on the Seaguar fluoro I always use…So I denied my gut instinct and bought a spool of BPS brand. I have since found some more Seaguar, so having a large fish break a line is not a possibility anymore. As a full-time guide I cannot have lines or knots break. Period. People may find another way to lose a big fish, and they often do, but it cannot be a result of my terminal tackle.
Anyhow we were fishing for scattered smallmouth on the deep part of a weedy/rocky flat when we hooked that fish. Shortly after we landed two small lakers in the same area. So I assume it was a big laker we lost. The lakers we caught (on accident while bass fishing) had to be kept as they could not be revived.
The stress of the fight and the warm water killed them. Thats one of the reasons why I don’t fish for them these days. Bass are plentiful, fight good, taste great when filleted boneless… And need to be thinned out. So they are the target species of my guide service in the late summer.
11 July 2020
Mark from Rochester had reached out to me to provide an introduction to fly fishing for his family. So I decided the lake would be the place for Mark and his kids to get a lesson. Years ago, when I first began guiding, I frequented the local (now defunct) Orvis fly shop in Skaneateles. The owner had told me that the lake is no place to teach others how to fly cast. I disagreed and have since taught dozens and dozens of anglers how to properly fly cast on the lake over the years.
The lake is an ideal place to learn how to fly cast for two reasons. First, with the right conditions — light and variable winds — the surface of the lake provides the required element of surface tension that helps beginners understand how the fly rod works. Second, on the open lake there exists no bushes or trees or other distractions that can make beginners struggle.
Across the country anglers who hire guides to fly fish can spend the entire day on the water, catching fish, and never learn or understand the proper mechanics of fly casting. This is quite common on drift boats in the east and the west. This is not true however on stillwaters or oceans or big rivers.
Waters’ surface tension on the fly line is an overlooked and important aspect of the fly cast. It is the element that puts the energy in todays fast action rods and allows anglers to eliminate false casting. False casting is a bad habit.
Basics are taught easy from the deck of my boat. Basics like how to hold a fly rod. There is only ONE way! Not two ways. Or three ways. The swell of the cork is in the meat of your palm and the thumb is directly on top of the cork. Period.
The wrist never breaks and the fly travels in a horizontal plane through the air lead by the tip of the rod. Fly casting is two separate motions. The forward cast. And the backward cast. Wherever the tip goes during the fly cast is where the fly is going to go. If you try to learn how to cast on your own without instruction you will break your wrist and drive the rod tip down on your back cast. If this becomes habit, you will forever struggle and be forever pulling flies off the back of your hat. Accuracy and distance only come from proper casting mechanics. And proper casting mechanics are only developed through practice.
There is a tremendous amount of mini-topics within the big topic of fly casting. On my boat I teach fly casting. Fly casting that uses the shoulder as the engine and the forearm as an extension of the rod.
Mark and kids enjoyed the demonstration and the boat ride. The smallmouth have begun to key in on the fry and at two locations they were breaking the calm surface of the lake while attacking the big schools of tiny perch and rock bass. Mark actually caught a few fish on his first day ever holding a fly rod! A bonus!
Water temps at surface were 75 degrees on the southern third of the lake.
5 July 2020
On the 1st of July I departed to the northwest Adirondacks to guide two young men into the backcountry in search of brook trout with fly rods. With week after week of almost un-interrupted sunshine I did not expect the fishing for trout in the ponds to be any good. And I warned the guys, but they wanted to go anyhow and see how it is done.
The trip was with two canoes and I brought my son along to pilot one canoe while I paddled the second canoe and the anglers sat in the bow with fly rods ready. The fishing was poor but the scenery was stunning as always. The trip was quite strenuous with two portages.
The guided trip was parlayed into a family camping trip. After saying goodbye to my two young fly fishing guests from Cranberry, New Jersey, my son Sage and I strapped the canoes on the truck, and with the Lund in tow, met up with my wife Maggie and daughter Riley for a two day camping trip on the Saranacs.
It was a fun-filled and relaxing two days of beautiful weather and a much needed escape from home for my wife and two children.
What does this have to do with Skaneateles Lake? Nothing.
Upon arrival back home I was un-loading gear when I received an email from American Express Concierge Service. A client of theirs was staying at a local spa in Skaneateles and they requested an afternoon boat tour for a family of three on the lake for the following day, July 5th
The lake was the busiest I have ever seen it. Watercraft of every sort was everywhere and the lakes surface rolled back and forth like a bathtub at bath time. At least a hundred boats were moored at sandy beach and a county sheriff patrol boat kept a close eye on things. My guests, Gale, Sergi, and daughter Mila (and their Pomeranian whose name I forget) enjoyed a refreshing swim in the lake!
Water temp at surface 76 at sandy beach.
30 June 2020
The lake was fairly calm with a slight northwest breeze at 0615 hrs when I launched. My guests were Paul and his two sons Jack and Owen. Their family camp is on the west shore about a half mile north of Carpenters Point. They had reached out to me to schedule a trip to learn more about bass fishing on the lake.
We drifted a couple rocky, weedy flats north of their camp and brought several smallmouth to net. The overcast skies and slight chop had the bass active. Perhaps 25 to 30 bass between 10 and 16 inches were caught and released while the guys learned finesse bass fishing techniques. Hexagenia nymph shucks were thick on the surface.
The wind grew in intensity as the morning went on and by 1100 hrs it was sustained at 12 too 15 mph out of the northwest. So we called it a day and I dropped the guys off at their dock and departed for the launch.
Water temps at surface around 70 degrees.
28 June 2020
Departed the state launch at 0600 hrs and waited at the village docks for my guest. There were Hexagenia climbing and molting on the aluminum uprights of the dock and a slight crowd had already began to form at the waterfront in anticipation of the Skaneateles Class of 02020 Commencement.
My guest was Asa Rose Shenandoah. Her wish was to fly fish and she had reserved my boat as the place to learn. Shortly after 0630 hrs we launched. With thunderstorms forecasted, I watched the radar and decided to stay close to the village.
Asa knew this was to be a lesson. An introduction to fly casting. While there were fish rising around the boat to emerging hex’s and some duns, I stayed tuned into teaching the mechanics of the fly cast. Having never picked up a fly rod before, but eager to learn, Asa quickly grasped the mechanics of the cast.
Professional guiding leads me to meeting so many people and enjoying their company. And besides the angler looking to just catch a fish, every now and then, I meet someone who makes an impression. Not with their reputation or success or skill. But with their character and strength.
Asa Rose Shenandoah is just one of those people. A person of determination and instinct who has persevered. A person who will not just find her way through life. But will work hard to make her way… Perhaps change the world she lives in for the better. Thats my impression.
25 June 2020
Sean met me at the NYSDEC launch 0530 hrs and we motored south to pick up my friend Brian from his dock just south of Harold Brook. The conditions were perfect. Super light west wind and great visibility.
Knowing the hatch was at its end I motored south several miles and set up the spot lock on a favored gravel point. We searched the surface for rises and bugs. Very few mayflies on the surface. A small fish rose and Brian delivered his comparadun with accuracy. A 10 inch rainbow gobbled it up immediate.
That was the only trout we saw in four hours of fly casting. Ugh. Water temps at surface were 72 at boat launch and 67 on the southern third of the lake.
The brown drake hatch is complete. The hatch was a strong one this year but the overall conditions of wind and a couple brief deluges made the dry fly fishing sub-par…For me anyways. This long spell of hot weather and clear skies accompanied with tremendous recreational boat traffic, seems to have had an impact on the lakes’ fishing.
Both Brian and Sean are excellent fly casters! Sean has a custom wrapped Sage X five weight which he fished with a sink tip and small bead-head streamer. No trout but several small bass and a perch fell for his presentation.
Brian was casting one of my old Sage RPL+ two piece six weight rods with a size 12 brown drake comparadun of my own variety with a bead-head tan hares ear flashback nymph also of my own design, fished on a dropper about two and one half feet below the dry. Typically a deadly combination when fish are working the surface of the lake.
Hexagenia limbata should be making an appearance any day now. So I will be out in the early morning dawn again soon…Trying to redeem myself. Also a few father and son bass trips on the calendar in the days ahead.
24 June 2020
Back at it again this morning. The wind was starting to turn west, departing from its pattern of moderately strong from the south seemingly every day for the last two weeks. So I launched with Peter at 0500 hrs from the state launch and we motored down and picked up Jim (Oke) from his dock. Round two for both these guys. Round four for me.
The hatch has moved down the lake considerably and is past peak. The conditions were ideal with great visibility. NO rises. Anywhere. We searched miles of lake, over deep water, in scum lines and slicks, hunting for rising heads. None were found. I am getting frustrated and beginning to wonder what is going on.
“Why don’t you fish the hatch in the evening?” you are thinking. Well, it has been my experience that the best, un-hampered and un-interrupted fly fishing during the mayfly hatch is the first three hours of the morning.
The mayfly hatch always coincides with the “jet ski” hatch. And this year, these days, find the beautiful waters of Skaneateles Lake with more recreational boaters and anglers than any other summer in history. Thats right…In history.
Long before the mid-June sun climbs over the treetops on the eastern shore, when the wind is light, I have, for over 15 years, climbed out of bed at 0400 hrs and launched the boat to hunt rising trout and salmon with the fly rod.
This is the first year I have not been able to find them. Yet.
22 June 2020
I launched from the NYSDEC Anglers Parking Area at 0500 hrs and motored south to pick up Jim and Jim (Oke) from Oke’s dock south of Thornton Grove. The wind was around 5 to 7 mph from the south and there was mayfly nymph husks everywhere on the surface of the lake, as well as several duns clinging to the end of Oke’s dock.
We travelled all over the lake and at one location Oke hooked what I believe was a big rainbow on a nymph and indicator rig. But it came loose in short order. His hook-set rolled the fish and a big flash of silver caught my eye. Then it was gone.
So we searched and searched some more and came up empty. We surveyed acres and acres of the lakes surface as the wind slowed down and could not spot a single rising trout or salmon. Hmmph. Besides one small bass we blanked.
There were four different contractors launching pontoon/construction barges and unloading building materials on the small gravel beach adjacent to the launch at the NEW YORK STATE ANGLERS PARKING AREA on Skaneateles Lake when I yanked my Lund at 0900 hrs. I have no issue with that at all. Everyone has a job to do. But they clearly are not angling. Incidentally, my buddy John launched on Fathers Day and said the launch was full at 0620 hrs. Wow.
20 June 2020
The early part of the week I spent fishing the Delaware River and spent two nights in Deposit, New York at The Troutfitter Inn And Fly Shop. It was beautiful weather with lots and lots of trout seen from the canoe, but very few bugs and consequently very few rising trout. Upon return to Skaneateles Lake I found millions of bugs and very few trout.
The 20th of June is the opening day of bass fishing season but I have no interest in fishing for them. Bass are on-hold for me. But it appears, based upon the massive number of boats traversing the lake, that I am the only one. We launched from the SCC as my guest, Peter, is a member. The wind was about 8 to 12 mph out of the south. And while the boats and SCC docks were covered in brown drakes, we could not see any rising trout. The hatch was on and healthy on the north end of the lake.
A school of nice smallies made big flashy porposing rises to both duns and emergers on the north side of the docks so we nymphed a bit and I landed one small rainbow. But nymphing was not what we came for. The wind kept up and we departed. Water temps in front of SCC at 70 degrees.
14 June 2020
Jim amd Jim met me at the boatyard at o700 hrs and we headed north in search of bass. The lake trout bite, while still good, was slowing down for me and the clear skies and light northwest wind made for good smallmouth conditions. It is now completely ok and legit to fish for bass, catch-and-release, outside of their open season.
Thats a good deal because I often have guests who just want to bend a rod and have no preference as to what species they catch. And smallmouth will bend a rod as they did for Jim and Jim for several hours. The guys enjoyed the lake and I was privy to some interesting stories as told by these two veteran tinknockers and natives of Syracuse.
Plenty of bass brought to net with none over 16 inches in length. Water was 64 at surface and most all fish were caught in 10 to 14 FOW. An enjoyable day with good company.
7 June 2020
I met Steve, his son Steve Jr, and his grandson Vincent at the New York State Anglers Parking Area at 0700hrs to go angling. Steve parked in the only available parking space left for a vehicle without a trailer.
In the back of his pick-up I placed an inflated inner tube that waited there patiently for us as we fished the lake. The tube is a cartop watercraft right? So all legit. No tickets upon return. Several vehicles without trailers double parked however.
The enforcement of the parking rules at The New York State Department Of Environmental Conversation Anglers Parking Area on Skaneateles Lake is entirely arbitrary.
Out on the lake we found a good northwest breeze and a few lakers. The boys caught their first trout! When the wind died we motored north to some weedy rocks in 12 FOW and bent the rod on nice smallmouth that have departed their beds and are hungry!
The rock bass are all fired up and we could not keep them off the jigs. The boys had fun catching a few dozen and Steve took several home to eat. Water temps at 58 to 60 degrees.
5 June 2020
My guest Mike recently bought a home on the west side of the lake. While he was familiar with the lake, he is interested in my techniques and knowledge of the fishery. We spent a few hours fly casting in the am and trout were rising well at our first location.
With a little practice Mike was able to deliver the fly and a solid rainbow took it! But the hook-set was not solid and the trout quickly shook the fly. Then the wind died completely and the surface of the lake turned to glass. The kiss of death.
So we tooled around the lake in the Lund and I showed Mike some locations and techniques. An enjoyable morning with good company. We spied some poor residential management of waterfront property and had some good discussion about the health and the future of this beautiful lake. Water temps at surface 55 to 57.
2 June 2020
Soft southwest breeze and overcast skies met me at the NYSDEC Anglers Parking Area this morning. I launched and picked up Greg and Chip from Gregs’ dock. With the conditions being good and it being that time of year, I went searching for lake trout. We found them in 45 to 55 FOW. Water temp. at surface was 55.
In 12 or 14 driftys the guys landed over a dozen lakers around 18 to 21 inches in length. Good fighters on light tackle! The lake trout are native and while not giant, they are a very handsome and energetic fish that I enjoy angling for.
A little bit of rain and the wind turned south as the afternoon went on. An enjoyable and successful day. I am headed down tho the famed Delaware River for a couple days of fly fishing and then back on the lake on Friday morning. Stay tuned.
31 May 2020
Mike from Onondaga met me at the boatyard at 0730 hrs. The wind was north at about 5 mph. As the morning drew on it gained strength. The first time Mike fished the lake was in the fifties! he fished many many times over the years but has since sold his boat.
We approached a gravel shoal and saw several salmon rising to insects in the film of a windswept current. A few casts and we landed a 20′ landlocked. But that was it , so we drifted for smallmouth and Mike bent the road on several.
The wind grew in intensity until I was forced to cross back over the belly of the lake and seek refuge behind a point on the west shore. We fished a couple more hours and caught several jumbo perch which Mike was excited to take home and filet for dinner. By the time we got back to the launch the lake was a froth with whitecaps and it was a challenge to get the boat neatly on the trailer.
30 May 2020
Gorgeous weather today. The sun was brilliant and a light northwest breeze kept texture on the lakes surface. The lakes’ surface temperature has stabilized above 50 degrees and is 55 in most places. Trout are beginning to rise and many of the mature bass have moved into spawning mode.
Mike and Kelley from Liverpool met me at the boatyard for a day of fly casting for rainbows. It did not take either of them long to learn how to handle the 18 foot leaders and indicator rigs. With stunning scenery we stalked trout with some success.
With a sandwich in one hand and fly rod in the other, Mike hooked a big hen at lunchtime over deep water near a big drop-off. A wicked battle ensued but she was subdued by the five weight and brought to net. Easy four pounds of silver and rose!
Kelley rolled a large trout an hour or so later while drifting over a weedy shoal in 12 to 14 FOW. And beside a few small chickens (smallies) that was it. The rainbows in the southern third of the lake are scarce but the ones I have caught are fine specimens!
26 May 2020
The forecast called for 5 to 7 mph wind from the south. That never materialized. The wind was light and variable and mostly non-existent all day. The guys struggled in these conditions but were able to pick away at smallmouth all day. Several fish brought to net.
The last several days of bright sun has brought the temperature of the lake climbing. Mondays strong south wind seemed to bring up much cold water from deep and mixed with the warm surface water the lake is homogenizing in temperature. I found 62 degree surface temps in some places and 52 degree temps in others. Most of the cold water was found in the far southern third of the lake and the warmest water found to the north.
With water temps quickly climbing into the low 60’s the bass have started to move onto their spawning beds in many parts of the lake.
Trout were rising and the surface of the lake was stagnant. Like glass, covered in organic debris, pollen and insects. It was so calm thin wisps of spider web drifted by the boat and attached to the rods upright in the rod holder. This is not the type of weather anyone around here would ever complain about. Except maybe the guide on the lake!
25 May 2020
After a hiatus from the lake of a couple weeks I launched on the southern third of the lake in a stiff south wind. Air temps in the low 50’s and water temps at surface in the high 40’s. There was a good chop and I navigated the Greyghost2 across the belly of the lake with my two guests, Bob and his son Ryan from Binghamton.
The forecast was for the winds to subside in the afternoon. And they did. Beautiful blue skies and bright sun brought the water temperature up a few degrees and by mid afternoon the temp at surface was 52. Mid-to-late May always marks the peak of the fishing on the lake. As water temperatures climb above fifty the fish become very active!
My guests had no problem landing over 50 smallmouth and over a dozen large perch while fishing soft plastics in 12 to 16 FOW. All the smallmouth looked quite well fed and spit-up a variety of food sources from sculpins and perch to crayfish and hellgrammites. A couple lake trout and landlocked salmon were seen chasing our jigs with two lake trout landed.
A beautiful day and much needed fishing trip for both Bob and Ryan who have been, like the rest of us, cooped up for the last several weeks.
6 May 2020
Back on the lake at 0800 hrs launching on the south end. Wind forecasted to be west was mostly north and fairly light in the morning. I was in search of rainbow trout on a fly. Water temps were on a slight upward trend during the week with the warm weather we experienced.
Working a large gravel point the indicator plunged and I set the hook. A blast of chrome flashed and I was into a trout! She shook violently for a moment then exploded into a series of strong runs.
After the third run she let up and rolled on her side next to the boat. So I reached for the net with one hand and she exploded again popping the fly! Damn! A gorgeous 20+ inch hen bright silver and full of power! I rushed to land her and in that cold water the trout have much energy.
The wind grew to a sustained 10 to 15 with 20 mph gusts and I struggled to fly cast as the boat drifted. Two more takes on the fly where silver flashed but both missed. Several perch and smallmouth were caught over short weeds.
A strong gust hit the the boat hard and a glance at the sky suggested I motor back to the launch. But a quick stop at a spot that is usually good produced a nice landlocked salmon. After loading the boat and strapping down to the trailer, the weather became violent with powerful winds, hail, sleet and torrential rain. Water temps at 44 in some places.
5 May 2020
I launched at the NYSDEC Anglers Parking Area at 0730 hrs. Eric met me at launch. Conditions were perfect for perch fishing. A light northeast breeze with a low pressure system stalled out. We arrived at our destination, some thick healthy weeds in 28 FOW on the east side of the lake.
First cast brought a jumbo. Then another. Then another. Just as we thought we would do well, the light breeze died and the lake turned into a sheet of glass. The kiss of death. The fishing slowed to a crawl and then a complete stand still.
We were off the lake by noon with a small amount of perch. Their size was impressive however with two perch pushing 14.5 inches in length. At first glance we thought them to be big males, but upon cleaning them it was revealed the largest were spawned out females. Water temp at surface around 43F.
25 April 2020
Launched on the Southwestern shore in the southern third of the lake. No fishing trip, just getting the family out of the house for some much needed fresh ir and sunshine. We fished only a bit. I hooked and landed one rainbow about 19 inches in length.
Guiding is a non-essential business. So I have cancelled and tried to re-schedule my trips with limited success. My family and I enjoyed a nice afternoon of beautiful weather on the lake. Water temps at surface 42F.
20 April 2020
The State Of New York announced the boat launches were now open. I launched at 0630 hrs at the NYSDEC Anglers Parking Area and the lot was 3/4 full with anglers. Eric was to meet me at the launch at 0830 hrs and I wanted to check out a couple locations before he arrived.
At my second stop I landed a jumbo perch on my first cast. Then another. Then another. I heard a boat approaching and turned around to see a red and white crestliner closing in on me. As the boat got closer I assumed it was someone I knew.
At about 35 yds distant the guy cuts his motor and drops his anchor. On the 9,000 acre lake this gentleman decided to fish fifty feet from my boat! I turned red in the face. And could not resist but to inform the gentleman that the lake was in fact quite big and there was no need to be in my pocket. He ignored me and started fishing. His sinker plunking just yards from the hull of my boat!
At 0830 hrs I left and picked up Eric at the launch. There were two guys with a boat half in the lake but still on the trailer trying to get their engine started. It was an expensive glass bay style center console boat with the words Lucky Strike airbrushed on the port side of the hull.
Eric and I returned to the place I had found the perch and we landed eight or ten more fish. Then the armada rolled in. One by one, anglers cruising around, unable to locate schools of perch, anchored up all around us. I counted five boats within a stones throw of my Lund when we left.
The wind all but died with the faintest northwest breeze and bright sun. We searched around and found some perch in 8 FOW. They would not bite so we left. Upon arrival at the launch I noticed a heavy gas sheen on the lakes’ surface within the slip. Not cool. Water Temps at Surface were 40F.
18 April 2020
Around the 10th of April the state announced the closure of public boat launches. But the gates on the NYSDEC Anglers Parking Area on Skaneateles Lake were wide open. A couple times I brought my labrador puppy over to the launch to work with her in the water and there were one or two rigs in the parking lot.
So I launched with my Lund with my wife and kids on-board. We needed a break from the cabin. I brought a couple rods but we did not fish much, we just drifted and talked and relaxed…Enjoying the fresh air and sunshine!
5 April 2020
Eric met me at the launch at 0830 and we went in search of perch. The lake was like a sheet of glass. Not the slightest breeze. We found perch but could not get them to bite. The water in Skaneateles Lake in early spring is crystal clear. Without a breeze to texture the surface, and keep things moving, the fishing becomes quite difficult.
Why? Because the fish see the boat. And when they can see the boat they swim away and won’t bite. We searched around for a couple hours and spent a half hour trying to snag a dead fish we could see lying on the bottom in 25 FOW.
The shape of the fish and its color had us believing it to be a round whitefish. Round whitefish are indigenous to the lake and co-existed with the lake trout since the last ice age. But they are very rare. I have only ever seen one in 20 years fishing the lake. It was dead and floating on the surface of the lake.
We were unsuccessful at sticking the dead fish with a jig and exhuming it from the lake bottom. The wind never picked up so we were off the lake by noon.
30 March 2020
No fishing for me this week. The three trips on the calendar were cancelled. I did run over to the New York State Anglers Parking Area with my labrador retriever puppy to let her go for a swim. It was raining and had been for most of the early morning hours. Taking the scenic route from my cabin in Sennett, I drove through the village to have a look at the lake. Upon coming down the hill to the lake I immediately noticed a plume of turbid water coming in from the west side of the lake.
A huge cloud of brown turbid water in stark contrast with the lakes blue color. Tough not to notice! So I went and checked it out. Surface water was sheeting over an exposed construction site and was being accompanied by turbid run-off from a small tributary that was under construction. Closer inspection found not all the heavy turbidity and sediment loading was coming from the construction but much of it from an unknown source on the other side of the road.
Further down on West Lake Road I found another huge plume of turbid water emptying into the lake just west of the Skaneateles Country Club. Upon further inspection, the source of the turbid water was again coming from a small tributary entering from the west side of West Lake road, traveling through private property retention ponds and then a channelized stretch traverses the golf course of the Country Club before flowing over a beaver dam and into the lake.
The summer of 2020 will mark the third summer since harmful algal blooms have threatened to have huge environmental and economic impacts on Skaneateles Lake.
The beaver dam in the pic above is located on the lakeshore just outside the Village Of Skaneateles adjacent to the Country Club. There is a colony of beavers living about 1,000 yards from the intake of the City Of Syracuse Drinking Water Supply. Giardia, or beaver fever, is perhaps not a threat as the concentration of beaver feces is not significant enough (yet) and is highly diluted.
Thats my guess. I am not a scientist.
26 March 2020
I launched on the extreme south end of the lake this afternoon due to the sustained 15 mph south winds. Besides the strong wind, I enjoy fishing the southern third of the lake and was set on fishing there today anyways. The canal from the launch that leads into the lake is a magnificent wetland landscape that was noisy with mating geese, mallards and redwing blackbirds. Water temp. in the canal was 49 degrees. This access is not as convenient as the NYSDEC Anglers Parking Area Launch on the northwest end of the lake but it is a quieter and all-around more enjoyable place to be.
There were plenty of boats on the lake and I drifted into line with a small armada of local perch fishermen over short weeds in 18 FOW. A number of perch were caught but all 6 to 8 inch fish. So I moved on looking around along the east shore in the weedbeds picking away at medium and small perch.
The gusts grew even stronger as the afternoon went on and then the wind turned west and died. So I ran the boat north a few miles to a place I have been wanting to investigate and the fish were there. I put a couple dozen large perch in the livewell and headed back to the launch at dusk.
19 March 2020
Mild air temps and low clouds tempted me out on the lake. The morning hours I spent searching for schooled perch. They were located in thick weeds in 21 FOW. Fishing buddy JD had to depart, so I brought him back to the dock. Upon returning I could not pinpoint the school of fish, so I moved around searching with the electric prop. for a couple hours.
My friend Eric showed up at the launch at 1400 hrs and I picked him up. The state launch was a zoo with people fishing from shore and a full lot of boat trailers. Eric and I checked out several locations on the lake looking for perch. We caught two salmon as a byproduct and left the lake with plenty of perch to eat.
The lake has a very healthy year class of landlocked Atlantic salmon and the spring of 2020 will provide great opportunities for excellent fly fishing! The landlocks are not difficult to catch but sometimes difficult to find.
With Covid-19 keeping so many people from their jobs and school, the lake is receiving an unprecedented number of anglers. And for good reason. The open lake is a place where it is safe, providing enjoyable recreation, easy social distancing and fresh fish as a source of healthy food.
Avid anglers are coming from all round the region to harvest the yellow perch in the lake for food. Yet some of the anglers are harvesting them for sale. The state allows a 50 perch limit per person and does not restrict the sale of panfish.
Skaneateles Lake has, more than ever before, become a prime target for the modern day market fishermen, or game hog…Another appropriate term for these individuals.
Anglers harvesting fish for the table should enjoy the bounty of the lakes. They should take what they need to make a meal for their friends and family. Game hogs, catching limits day in and day out, show poor ethics, set a bad example and give anglers and sportsmen a bad name.
Thats my opinion.
15 March 2020
Eric met me at the cabin at noon and we departed to the state launch. There was not a cloud in the sky. A stiff north wind and air temps just below freezing gave us numb fingers as we searched the weeds for schooling jumbos. And suddenly…We found them!
The cold tapped us out and we were not killing them, so we put about a dozen big perch in the livewell and headed back to the launch. On the way we stopped to check out a shallow water location. Eric landed an 18″ landlocked salmon on his first cast at this location. The wind grew stronger so we split. Water temps. at surface were 38 ish.
12 March 2020
The first open water trip of the year on the lake was a modest success. There is always a glitch on the first trip of the season. Last year it was the dead batteries in my remote control for the electric prop. This year it was forgetting to unstrap the boat from the trailer before backing it into the lake. Just a short inconvenience however and JD and I were soon fishing.
A mild south west breeze pushed us along as we drifted over thick weeds in 20 FOW. It took us a couple hours but we managed to locate a pretty thick school of fish. It was a mixed bag of perch, lake trout and smallmouth. Water temps at surface was 39 degrees with cloudy skies and air temps in the low forties.
Middle of Septemeber thru October
Again, I must admit, I am a poor blogger…Weeks of fishing get summarized by a few pics and an abbreviated narrative. As mentioned in previous posts, the lake in September and the first two weeks or so of October, is still in summer mode. Not a lot changes with the fish patterns and the fishing until the temperature at surface drops below 60 degrees.
It takes Skaneateles Lake a long time to warm up and likewise a long time to cool down. The fish were lethargic and deep until the 18 of October. Water temps finally fell below 60 at surface, helped and accompanied by strong south winds and heavy rains. The trout are shallow again and all the fish in the lake are feeding hard!
On Monday the 21 of October two guests of mine caught and released over 100 smallmouth bass in one day. Breaking the previous record on my boat, The Greyghost2.
Water temps now are 57 degrees at surface.
Some pics of highlights of the last few weeks fishing on the lake. One of which was to enjoy the company of my good friend Eric Stanczyk (Onondaga County Aquaculturist) and Dave Lemon (Head of NYSDEC Region 7 Fisheries) on board The Greyghost2!
13 September 2019
I launched at the boatyard at o630 hrs and made my way to Wickwire Point to pick up my guest Todd from Philly. The wind was about 15 mph out of the south and the lake was rough. Upon arrival on the north side of the point I noticed a large school of small to medium smallmouth feeding on fry and breaking the surface of the slack water on the leeward side of the point. We fished for bass for an hour or so and landed several small and a few medium smallmouth. The wind began to grow and we drifted north along the eastern shore, picking away at bass on the bottom.
The wind grew in intensity until it reached a sustained twenty mph with 30 mph gusts. This brought our north drift to an end and we carefully motored back south to seek some shelter from the howling wind. On a small grassy flat near a gravel point Todd set the hook on a decent fish that turned out to be a nice walleye! Water temps at surface were 69 degrees.
9 September 2019
Marisa and Brian from Boston, on vacation in the Finger Lakes, joined me for a day of fishing. Heavy fog and brisk air (low of 49) gave way to mixed skies. The morning we spent looking for lakers as they had never seen one before. Some small scattered schools were found in 90 to 100 FOW but were not aggressive. They missed a few strikes and landed one small trout.
So with a laker off the list we went exploring the lake with the Lund looking for bass. Over thirty bass were brought to net with none over 16 inches in length. Most fish were found in 25 to 35 FOW. Water temp. at surface was 69 degrees.
While anchored over a weedy rocky flat in 32 FOW a bonus walleye was brought to net.
The Autumn skies and cool nights have me excited for the days ahead! The lake is getting quieter with traffic and the water temps are dropping. Soon the fish will be in transition. Becoming perhaps easier to catch but sometimes difficult to locate.
8 September 2019
Tony and his wife Norma joined me for a day of perch fishing. They were looking for a relaxing anniversary fishing trip as well as a mess of fish to eat. Several schools of perch were found and we weeded through them to catch a one man limit of 10 to 14 inchers’…The makings of a nice fish fry!
7 September 2019
Saturday was breezy and overcast and threatening to rain all day but it never did. I had a father and young son onboard for a short time in the early afternoon and they caught several small to medium bass. A good introduction to bass fishing for young Russel! Too bad his Dad grabbed his sisters life jacket on the way out the door instead of his.
After dropping Russel and Peter off, I picked up my friend Eric the Fish Farmer at the state launch as there was still plenty of hours in the afternoon to do some recon fishing. With several fishing trips upcoming I use the time I have on the lake without guests to keep tabs on fish and locations. I enjoy this recon fishing more with a friend than solo. I have several friends who will, at the drop of a hat, meet me at the launch for a couple hours of fishing.
Later in the day the front passed and the sun began to shine. While investigating the upwind side of a rocky weedy shoal in 25 FOW, Eric landed this pig! One of the largest brought to net this summer! Temps at surface cooling down to 70 degrees in most areas.
2 September 2019
Heavy rains fell the evening before Labor Day and continued into the next morning. Spencer was visiting from Arlington and wanted to do some small stream fly fishing. But the creeks were again blown out and turbid with more rain forecasted for the morning. Winds looked fair and turning west so I had Spencer meet me at the diner and he drove with me to the New York State Anglers Parking Area to launch my Lund…The Greyghost2. Fishing, in the rain, is almost always good on Skaneateles Lake.
With the option of fly fishing for trout negated we enjoyed bending the rod on smallmouth. We landed well over thirty bass between 10 and 18 inches in length. Strong fighters. Water at surface was 70 degrees and most fish were caught in 30 to 50 FOW.
The Month Of August 2019
With several light tackle trips of all sorts this month, a family trip to the Crystal Coast of Carolina, a few mornings teaching fly casters on local streams mixed with a big handful of trips in the Adirondacks, and boom, August is over! And I neglected my blog. Again. Not much new to report on the lake since the thermocline set-up and summer patterns set in several weeks ago. The dog days are ongoing.
Here we are in September. Which is, as far as the fishing and weather is concerned, a repeat of August. Cooler evenings and shorter days will slowly start to turn the temps of the lake on a downward trend, but as of this writing (8/30) the temps at surface were 72 to 75 degrees on the lake. Just this past week I see the bass starting to key in on crayfish. While I have spent some morning hours pursuing lake trout with my guests I have found most fish to be small and I prefer not to stress these char by cranking them up from 100 FOW. Smallmouth are reliable, strong fighting, plentiful and my guests enjoy their sport. So I keep tabs on them all summer. Where are most of the big bass now? In places that are difficult to locate.
Reports I hear from the trollers at the boat launch is they are doing well on the trout confined to thermocline. I would not know. I don’t troll. I find it boring. One angler boasted he had caught and killed over 200 trout and salmon this summer. That’s 200 less trout and salmon that me or my guests will ever get a chance to catch. I imagine he exaggerated a bit as fishermen often do. I can only hope.
The number of anglers in the lake is at the highest level I have ever seen. The nearby lakes are in poor condition due to increased algae blooms and widespread millfoil infestations. I believe this is a large part of the reason for the increased fishing pressure on the lake. The lake is still cloudy with algae, but nowhere near as much as neighboring lakes Owasco and Otisco. A widespread, or even localized harmful algae bloom (HAB), has not been seen. I hope it stays that way. It is believed these HAB’s are caused by both manmade and natural causes. Like heavy rain events, natural erosion and poor construction of infrastructure along the lakes’ shores.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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″.
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.
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
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”.