Ain’t no time for the summertime blues

Scott with a nice Lake Ontario Chinook salmon. (Photo courtesy of Steve George)

With Labor Day behind us, the Ring of Fire concluded, and school starting, it’s obvious that summertime has come and gone, again.

Late summer here in the 44 lakes region is associated with low water levels in the streams and lakes, but there are opportunities out there. Most trout fishing in streams is confined to early mornings as water temperatures have warmed to the point that playing fish will stress them to the point of death.

The Great Sacandaga Lake is experiencing record low levels as water is discharged to the Hudson, evaporation rates are higher than normal, and we have had no good soaking rains. My apple trees are losing leaves and dropping fruit due to lack of rain and high heat and humidity. Does this mean there is nothing to fish for? Not here in central New York.

Even though the Great Sacandaga Lake has been losing water at a pace visible to the naked eye, the fishing is still good. Reports of excellent fishing are coming in within the deeper portions of the lake that are associated with structure such as rock piles and drop off’s. Good walleye in the 16 to 20 inch range are being caught in these areas mostly using crawler harnesses. I have been catching large bluegill, perch, small mouth bass, and walleye in anything from 15 feet to 35 feet of water in the southern end. Crank baits, crawler harnesses, and larger stick baits such as Reef Runners and Rapalas are working fine. Jigging using leeches and worms has produced solid fish when they are holding tight to the bottom. Using the wind to get a good drift is necessary to cover water when jigging.

A short drive to Oswego harbor to fish with Capt. Ernie of the Fish Doctor Charters (info@fishdoctorcharters.com) was worth it despite high, and rough seas. 4 to 6 foot waves kept us struggling to stay afoot in the boat and the recent storms had pushed in warm water to depths of 150 feet which scattered the bait and salmon. Capt. Ernie, a retired Fisheries Biologist for the DEC knows his stuff and we had to resort to numerous tactics but we able to boat some nice chinook salmon and steelhead trout. According to the charter captains, the salmon fishing on Lake Ontario is the best it’s been in 30 years. Bigger fish, in the 25 to 30 pound range, are staging off of the tributaries right now in anticipation of their spawning runs. If you cannot get on the lake with a charter, the fishing in the tributaries like the Salmon River is shaping up to be phenomenal. The runs should get really good in mid-September and last through November.

The perfect eating sized Great Sacandaga Lake walleye. (Photo courtesy of Steve George)

I had two trips scheduled on Lake Champlain early this summer with my good friend, and fellow SUNY Plattsburgh grad, Capt. Bryce Collins of Eastern View Outfitters (www.Easternviewoutfitters.com), but the weather kept us off the lake. However, with the weather stabilizing we were finally able to get onto Lake Champlain to experience some amazing light tackle jigging for lake trout. Within minutes of putting lines in the water we were hooked up. During the short evening trip, my good friend Jeff and I boated 13 lake trout, all over 6 pounds and the biggest a solid 14.5 lbs. Jigging these beasts on light tackle was some of the most fun I have had fishing in a long time using Hummingbird electronics to find the fish and stay on them was the key to our success. Dropping various lures to the bottom and varying jigging techniques got the fish excited and would ignite the strike.

I forgot how beautiful Lake Champlain and the northern portion of the Adirondacks are. As a student at SUNY Plattsburgh in the mid-80s the lamprey program was just getting started and lake trout were far and few between, so we never caught lake trout. The fishermen that knew the secrets to catching them, held that secret and never divulged it. However, an aggressive lamprey control program by the NYSDEC and state of Vermont, has controlled this blood sucking, parasitic, invasive species to a level that has benefited the lake trout, landlocked salmon, and other fish species. I can’t imagine lake trout fishing getting any better than it is now.

Despite these hot and humid days, the fishing is fantastic locally, and within a short drive to the bigger lakes. Don’t let the dog days of summer give you the blues and get out there and wet a line.

September also kicks off hunting season with early goose and squirrel season starting. Still hunting for gray squirrels is a great way to perfect your deer hunting skills.

The lake trout of Lake Champlain. (Photo courtesy of Steve George)

Jeff with his huge Lake Champlain lake trout. (Photo courtesy of Steve George)