Outdoor Journal: A great outdoors weekend is at hand

Take Friday off and make it a long weekend. In fact, take the rest of today off and get ready for

Take Friday off and make it a long weekend. In fact, take the rest of today off and get ready for Friday’s opening of the New York spring wild turkey season and Saturday’s opening of the pike, pickerel, walleye and tiger musky season.

Wow, what a great outdoors weekend this can be.

It will actually start this

afternoon, with those last-minute, after-work trips to the sporting goods stores for ammunition, calls and other turkey hunting essentials. And I know there will be some quick stops at sportsman club ranges to fire that old scattergun to insure it will be on target when that big old tom struts out in front of you. Last but not least, there will be a quick trip to the hunting grounds to put that tom to bed and assure yourself he will be there in the morning. Remember, no turkey calls today or tonight, just binoc­ulars or perhaps an owl or crow call to get him to respond.

Tonight at home or in your hunting cabin will also be filled with anticipation of Friday morning’s hunt. For me, watching a few turkey hunting videos usually gets my adrenaline going. And I’m sure that sometime tonight, you’ll be serenading the family members and probably also the neighbors while practicing your calls. Nothing like a few unexpected loud yelps from the cellar during an otherwise quiet evening to get their hearts pounding. And chances are pretty good you’ll also get some very verbal response.

And speaking of getting ready, what’s in your turkey vest?

If you need a new vest, consider the Ol’ Tom Time & Motion Strap Camo vest. This vest will carry all your needs with more than 31 pockets, many of which are specially designed for the various calls, bullets, etc. This one will put everything you need right where and when you want it. Suggested retail price is $85 (www.oltomgobbler.com).

Two of the calls that will def­initely be in my vest tonight and on each of my turkey hunts are new Ring Zone and Gobbler

Grenade, both by Hunter Specialties. The Ring Zone is a friction call with a resonating surface that is 200 percent larger than conventional friction calls and produces highly accurate yelps and all the other sed­uctive hen calls needed to bring in that wise old longbeard. Suggested retail price is $24.

The Gobbler Grenade is a push-button call that also produces realistic hen calls and is designed to fit comfortably in your hand or can be attached to your gun barrel to coax the cautious tom into shotgun range that last few yards. Suggested retail price is $18 (www.hunterspec.-


The Ol’ Tom vest has 10 elastic shotgun shell holders, and here are the three turkey loads I would recommend you fill them with — the Winchester Supreme High Velocity, Federal Premium Flitecontrol Mag-Shok and Remington Premier Magnum Copper-Plated Buffered. I shot my Florida Osceola last month with the Winchester 31⁄2-inch high-velocity turkey loads (No. 5 shot). They seem to perform best in my old

10-gauge, single-shot H&R. If you’re happy with the ammo you’re using now, stick with it; if not, try any and all of these premium shotshells.

Now by noon Friday, your first turkey tag will be filled, and you’ll have the rest of the afternoon to prepare for Saturday’s opening of the pike, pickerel, walleye and tiger musky seasons. Depending upon where you go, things may get a bit crowded, so I suggest trying to get there as early as possible Saturday morning to beat the crowd, and be sure of getting bait. On opening weekends, bait goes very quickly.

Here are my two recommend­ations for where to be for pike and walleye Saturday morning.


Based on the past several weeks’ reports from anglers who’ve been fishing Saratoga Lake, the northern pike fishing is going to be as good as it always is. And because this lake is always a popular opening-day destination, there’s a good chance that the state launch site could be filled by 10 a.m., especially if it’s a warm, sunny day. One last recommend­ation about this boat launch, or any boat launch — when you pull in, pull off to the side and out of traffic to prepare your boat. Taking off the boat cover, tying on your mooring and launching ropes, putting in the drain plug and loading your gear should all be done before you pull up to the launch pad. Should you forget, I’m sure someone will sternly remind you.

Catching pike on Saratoga Lake, and any of the other lakes and rivers, is always best early in the season using live bait. A big bobber and a big eight-inch shiner/sucker, fished in those prime pike areas like Manning’s Cove, Fish Creek, Brown’s Beach and the weedbeds in front of South Shore Marina, all are early and consistent producers. Depths will vary, but a good starting point is in eight to 10 feet of

water with the bait down four to five feet. If you throw artificial lures, I prefer a three-quarters-ounce Rat-L-Trap in silver, gold, or firetiger.


Once again this winter, ice

anglers proved that there are plenty of good walleye and pike roaming around Great Sacandaga Lake.

The northern pike bite should be around the tributaries and bays in depths between 5-15 feet. Set large suckers or shiners beneath a bobber at varied depths to determine where they are. You also might want to set one rod out with a three-quarter-ounce bell sinker about four feet up from a lip-hooked live bait and let it swim around on the bottom. As for artificial lures, try any of the large diving stick baits. Make long casts and retrieve at a medium speed.

Some favorite areas include Woods Hollow Bay, North Broadalbin, Silver Bay, North Hampton and Cranberry Creek.

The walleye bite should be good right now, as the walleyes should be just off in the deeper water from their spawning areas. Hair black or white jigs, or that purple one I’ve heard rumors about, are good choices as are deep-diving crankbaits. However, what the veteran ’eye anglers are recommending most is live bait. Medium-sized shiners fished slowly along the bottom should produce some tasty filets. Fish these baits in the Sacandaga River and any of the inlets at least for the next couple of weeks. The key to fishing both these

species is a slow presentation.

Wondering about the Great Sacandaga Lake trout? Justin Coopey of Mayfield recently hooked up with two beauties. Fishing worms near Mayfield, he caught two rainbows that measured 241⁄2 inches and a 23 inches. They tipped the scales at 51⁄2 and 51⁄4 pounds,



A method I plan to try for northerns this year is one I used fishing last month in Florida for bass.

The guide I was with didn’t use the trad­itional bobber and golden shiner rig. Instead, he used a 4/0 weedless hook which he pierced carefully hrough the upper mouth of a shiner. The key is not to kill the shiner. Then, using no weight at all, he cast the minnow out and peeled off about 30 feet of line, but didn’t click and lock the spool. Rather, he fingered the spool just tight enough so the line didn’t come off the spool. If there’s enough wind to move the boat, all you need to do is drift along or over a weed area. If there is no wind, use an electric trolling motor, oars or a paddle to slowly move the boat. The key is “slowly,” because you want the bait to swim naturally.

You’ll feel the bait moving and quite often, before a bite, you’ll feel the bait really begin to move. When you feel the fish take the bait, allow it to run, applying only enough pressure to the spool to keep control. Give the fish 5-10 seconds with the bait, set the spool lock and set the hook. I have not tried this for pike yet, but I will, and I’m quite sure it will work. One thing I’ll add to this rigging is a wire leader. It will be needed to survive a northern’s sharp teeth and gill plates.


Most anglers look upon the pickerel as a trash fish and definitely not on the top of their list for good eating, but they do provide a lot of fishing enjoyment. Yes, they steal live bait and tear up spinner baits and other lures, but when hooked, they fight as well as any other game fish their size.

During the past 4-5 years, the pickerel population in Saratoga Lake has really increased, and, based on the number of pickerel ice anglers pulled through their holes this winter, the population is alive and well. For those looking for fun, take a six- to eight-inch curly tail worm and hook it weedless through the nose. Do not use any weight. Make a long cast, let it sink about three to five inches under the surface and start a slow, steady retrieve back to the boat. You will definitely catch pickerel.

This technique works best using a medium-action spinning rod and reel filled with 10- to 12-pound test line. The heavier line will give the lure more buoyancy. Most of the colors will work. I like black, red, and especially white. Concentrate on the weed areas and places like Manning’s Cove, both in it and the immediate shoreline weeds on both the north and south sides of it.

Categories: Sports

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