Outdoor Journal: Fishing’s fine from the docks of Flagler Beach

This week’s fishing report is a combination of hard- and soft-water angling in fresh and salt waters

This week’s fishing report is a combination of hard- and soft-water angling in fresh and salt waters. The hard-water angling includes good catches from a week or so ago at area lakes, and the soft-water fishing is what I have been doing in the Intercoastal Waterway from my dock in Flagler Beach, Fla.

The reason for this two-type fishing report is that, unfortunately, the unseasonably warm weather New York has been experiencing has made ice fishing unpredictable. Based on the reports, I have received from ice anglers and local bait shops, I am not comfortable encouraging anyone to go out on the ice. However, if you do decide to venture out, I highly recommend you call any of the following bait shops for the most up-to-the-minute ice fishing conditions: Saratoga Bait and Tackle, 584-3952; Lake Lonely Boat Livery, 587-1721; Sacandaga Lake, Dave’s Bait & Tackle, 863-8318; and Ross’ Bait, 842-3819. Also, to access a list of bait shops by town in NYS, go to www.iceshanty.com.


At Saratoga Lake, the water around the state boat launch site was open, and access had to be found elsewhere. As for the bite, the bigger perch were holding in deeper water off the weed lines, and favoring fathead minnows fished beneath tipups. The “tooth” fish — pike and pickerel — were in five to 10 feet of water, and the walleye deeper and still biting better later in the day. All are setting off flags on live suckers.

John Burchell of Saratoga Springs won the Saratoga Bait and Tackle’s contest with the biggest pike (6.78 pounds) and walleye (4.5 pounds). The biggest perch was a 1.28-pounder caught by Tim Lamoy of Schagticoke, and he also won the pickerel category with five fish totaling 11.94 pounds.

The Great Sacandaga Lake also gave up some big pike and walleye catches. Ira Cromling III of Broadalbin, found a nine-pound, six-ounce walleye and a 39-inch, 15-pound, eight-ounce northern pike, and won both categories in the Fish House Rod & Gun Club contest. Other trophy catches here were a 26 1⁄2-inch walleye taken by Lamoy that weighed in at 6.78 pounds which he pulled out of 17 feet of water, and a 16-pound northern by Justin Coopey of Northville that measured just shy of 40 inches. Live bait and tipups were used to catch all these fish.

And speaking of big fish, Eliz­abeth Ferro of Schenectady tried ice fishing for the first time, joining her fiancée, Mark Ciccone, on Great Sacandaga Lake, and she landed a 41-inch northern pike. Ferro was using a tip-up with a medium shiner set eight feet down over 30 feet of water. She was fishing off of South Shore Road, and after the photo, she released the fish.


Over 1,000 miles south of New York, I have been tossing live shrimp under boat docks with a flipping stick in Flagler Beach, Fla. This is our second trip as part-time (two months) snow birds, and only my second time as a saltwater fisherman. I have had some chartered deep-sea trips in the past, but this is different. All the fishing is done from the 50 or so docks along the Intercoastal Waterway, basically in our backyard. I try to fish every morning early, and again in the late afternoon, and I believe I have only missed one day so far this month.

This type of fishing is similar to the freshwater fishing that I do, with the exception of the bait. At home, I use artificial, but here, I use live shrimp. Last year, when I learned the technique from my neighbors, Bob Conicelli of Florida and Ray Bodine of New Jersey, I was catching two or three fish, minimum, each day using shrimp and never leaving land.

I actually caught about a dozen different species. The biggest was a Red Fish that measured about 26 inches, but my favorite was a stingray about the size of a garbage can cover. Some of the other species included Sheephead, blackdrum and flounder. The majority were released, except for those that were the main ingredient for Conicelli’s fish barbecue.

This year, there were several cold days when it actually went down one night to 35 degrees before the temperature rose into the 50s in the afternoon, which I believed made the fishing slow. As Northerners, we found it humorous when the TV weatherman reported this as an “arctic blast.” But despite the cold, I did manage to catch a few fish. Fortunately, now that the temperatures have gone back to normal 70 degrees, the fish bite has been improving. Ray hooked up with a 16-inch flounder, Bob got several nice Reds and my biggest was a 16-inch Red and 17-inch sea trout. They were my biggest fish, but not my biggest catch.

One week ago today, I was out flipping the docks at the crack of dawn. The water was like glass, and I had 50 fresh live shrimp to feed the fish. Hooking the biggest shrimp I could grab behind the head, I flipped it under the dock right next to one of the pylons, and let it drift slowly to the bottom. I don’t think it got more than three feet from the surface when the line shot out, and I set the hook on my first Sheephead of the season.

My saltwater mentors told me that the Sheephead usually hang out around these pylons because they actually eat the barnacles that are attached to them. This one was well over the legal 12-inch limit, but I tossed it back. First-cast catches are always a good start, but while I was rebaiting, I saw another unwelcome fisherman on the southern side of the docks — a sea otter. So much for fishing that side.

I watched him for about 15 minutes as he worked his way out toward the channel and actually catch and eat two fish, then went back to my own fishing on the north side of the docks. This time, I took a big shrimp that had to be at least six inches long and tossed it out about 25 feet from the dock. Once again, I let it sink slowly to the bottom on a slack line. My plan was to work it slowly back to the dock. But it never got that far.

I saw the line twitch and move off, and quickly, I pointed the rod tip down toward the water, took up the slack and set the hook hard. My seven-foot medium-heavy action rod bent in half, and I knew I had a good one. However, I could not stop him; he was taking line, and I had the drag set as tight as I dared.

The docks I fish from are about six feet off the water surface, and I doubted that my 20-pound test line would hold, and even if it did, I had no idea how I would get it out of the water and onto the dock. But I had to at least see this fish.

Unfortunately, I never did see a “fish,” but I did get to see a mature sea otter, all of four feet long, with a number-1 hook in the corner of its mouth. I pointed the rod tip down toward him, grabbed the spool to keep it from spinning, and when he dove down, the line snapped. Def­initely, this was my most mem­orable catch with a fishing rod. Since that morning, I have seen a lone otter swimming around the docks, and wondered if it was the same one.


Those of you who fish the Salmon River and eastern Lake Ontario will be interested in the new 35-page guide recently released by the Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning.

Last year, Lake Ontario and its tributaries had one of their most productive fishing seasons. DEC reported that their preliminary fall creel survey revealed that more than 100,000 salmon were caught from the Salmon River between Labor Day and the end of November. It also led the state in steelhead catches of 39,697 and 3,523 brown trout during this same period. In addition, the Oswego River in the City of Oswego had 4,088 Chinook salmon, 1.227 steelhead and 2,930 brown catches that were reported.

This new guide, which also includes hunting, features photos, editorial and graphic content to help visiting anglers and hunters plan their trips. For a free copy of the guide, email, [email protected], or call 800-248-4FUN. You can also view the guide at visitoswegocounty.com.

Categories: Sports

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