The New York state fishing seasons for northern pike, walleye, pickerel and tiger muskellunge open Saturday.
Of these four “toothy” swimming predators, the most popular is the northern pike. However, the walleye is the tastiest of all the freshwater gamefish. When an angler lands a legal walleye (15 inches), chances are good that it is destined for a frying pan or charcoal barbeque.
The pickerel, on the other hand, is considered by most to be a pesky bait-stealing nuisance. But in reality, on light tackle, the pickerel’s fighting abilities can be very enjoyable, especially for young anglers.
And lastly, perhaps the most ferocious feeder and tackle-buster of all, the tiger muskellunge attracts the least angling attention of the four, but not because of its qualities as a sporting fish, but rather our inability to find and catch it. Those that are caught are usually hooked by anglers fishing for one of the other species.
WHERE TO GO
Where will you be Saturday morning? If you’re still undecided, here are a few suggestions, all of which are within an hour of our area. And they offer some of the best “predator” fishing in the state. All these waters, both in quantity and quality, have trophy catches every year.
GREAT SACANDAGA LAKE
In was 68 years ago that Peter Dubuc was trolling his plug over a submerged stump field outside of Benedict Bay in what was then known as the Sacandaga Reservoir, when the 521⁄2-inch, 46 pound, two- ounce northern pike hit. That pike is still the North American record and the lake is still producing trophies. Just a few months ago, when the lake was frozen, seven northern pike in excess of 40 inches — and all over 20 pounds — were reported as being pulled through the ice. And I’m sure that we’ll see more this size or bigger caught there this season.
But northern pike are not the only big fish that this lake has produced. A few months ago, ice anglers pulled up 29- and a 28-inch “eyes,” and throughout the hard water fishing season, there were a number of 24-27-inch class walleyes reported, as well.
With 42 square miles of water and 125 miles of shoreline, anglers have plenty of places to look for these two great freshwater fish. The types of structure fishermen should look for include the old river channel, starting in the Sacandaga River, creek mouths, scattered submerged brush in bays and the areas around Mead and Kenyon Islands. And if you happen to be in the vicinity of North Broadalbin, you might want to try Benedict Bay, just in case one of the offspring of Dubuc’s big pike happen to be living there. Keep your water depths between 10-20 feet right now, and concentrate on the northern end of the lake.
Access to the lake can be gained at several public launches and private marina sites. The four state sites are at Broadalbin, off of County Route 110, three miles northeast of the village; Edinburg, on the Endinburg-Conklinville Road, five miles north of Edinburg; at the Northampton Beach campground; and Northville. The last two are both off Route 30. All have good paved ramps and parking facilities. There are several other private paid launch sites.
This choice should not be a surprise because each year, this 4,208-acre lake produces a number of double-digit-sized northern pike catches and a fair amount of good walleyes throughout the season. Although the lake’s record northern has never been established, I know of two 20-plus pound pike taken from its depths within the past four years. I also know that if you want to get a parking spot in the state public launch site located at the Route 9P bridge Saturday, you’d better be there before daylight. This should tell you something about the quality of pike fishing that Saratoga Lake offers.
The weedy growth throughout the entire lake and down the 61⁄2 miles of shoreline of Fish Creek provides excellent cover for northerns and walleyes. This abundance of cover makes it difficult to pinpoint the one area of Saratoga Lake that’s best for locating these fish.
Manning’s Cove along the western shore of the lake attracts a lot of pike anglers. This bay is full of weeds, which attract large schools of bait fish, and they, in turn, attract the pike and pickerel.
One of my favorite spots on Saratoga Lake for pike is just off the shore in front of the Saratoga Lake Sailing Club in about 10-12 feet of water. This can also be a good area to troll for walleyes.
The 6-10 foot depths around the mouth of the Kayaderosseras Creek is another pike/walleye area on the western side of the lake that should not be overlooked. Fish starting at the creek and work the weedline all the way around to the concrete wall by the Water’s Edge Beach.
On the eastern side of the lake, the stretch beginning on the south side of Snake Hill to Brown’s Beach is very good walleye hunting water. Stay off the weed edge in 10-15 feet of water. Once you reach Brown’s Beach and the south end of the lake, chances for northern are also very good. The weed edge on this end of the lake holds both walleyes and northerns.
This is one of the most overlooked pike and walleye waters, especially in the pool between locks 7 and 8. Within this 11-mile stretch, you can catch pike, walleyes and tiger muskellunge. During the past several years, I’ve received more big pike catch reports from this river than ever before, many of which were over 10 pounds, and almost all caught in weeded areas both east and west of the Rexford Bridge.
The pike and tiger hideouts are often found where there are both weeds and rocks. One place to try is on the south side of the river just west of Freemans Bridge. Fish this rocky shoreline all the way up to the end. The riprap and sunken structure there attracts “teeth.”
As for the tigers, they could be anywhere. They’re usually a surprise and one you won’t soon forget. Last year, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation stocked the Niskayuna area of the Mohawk River with 3,500 91⁄2-inch tiger muskellunge.
The river’s walleye population seems to hold in the deeper
waters near or in the channel and outside the moving waters by the lock dams. Just remember to obey the danger buoys and do not venture inside of them. Try the areas around the numerous bridge abutments, and if you have an electronic depth/fish finder unit, keep it on as you motor in the channel. Watch for sharp rises and schools of bait fish.
There is a small public launch
facility on the east side of the river at Freemans Bridge and a paid launch at the Mohawk Valley
Marine in Alplaus.
Looking for a quieter place to chase northern pike this weekend? There are several little lakes nearby that have big pike reputations. What makes them so attractive is a big boat and motor isn’t necessary to fish them. Any rowboat or canoe with a small outboard or electric motor easily will get to any part of these lakes. In fact, oars and a paddle will also do the job.
The first is Lake Lonely, where I know there’s a 43-inch, 20-plus pound pike swimming around right now. Bill Macejka Jr. of Schenectady caught it in late March through the ice and immediately released it alive. This fish was taken at the north end of the lake, always a good area for northerns. Fish the 8-10 foot depths, and don’t be afraid to get off the weed edges a bit. This lake has plenty of sunken weed beds that hold some toothy surprises.
The only place to launch a boat is at the Lake Lonely Boat Livery on Crescent Avenue across from the Eagles Club. There’s a small launch fee, and they also rent rowboats and electric motors.
Round Lake is just a few miles south on Route 9. This is another sleeper when it comes to big pike. Ed Brophy of Clifton Park pulled up a 20 pounder there in March that measured 42 inches. This lake also is easy to navigate in a small boat with or without a motor. And there is shore fishing all along Route 9.
The primary structure all around the shoreline of this lake is weeds, the perfect place for pike to hide. This is a good lake to run-and-gun. If you are a live bait angler, pick a spot about 25 feet off the weed edge, anchor your boat and bobber-watch for an hour or so. If you don’t have any action, pull up anchor and move on down the weed edge and set up again.
Artificial bait users can start on one side of the lake or the other and cast their way around the whole lake.
One last thought about Round Lake: DEC has been stocking it with tiger muskellunge since 1967, so there could be some real predator trophies there also.
The only launch area on Round Lake is located right on Route 9.
Good luck predator hunting this weekend.
Should you decide to keep a few of those pickerel for dinner, here is a tasty recipe you might want to try. It’s called Pickerel in Almond Butter Sauce.
The ingredients are: two pounds of fresh pickerel fillets or frozen pickerel fillets, milk, 1⁄2 cup seasoned flour, salad oil, 1⁄4 cup unsalted butter, 1⁄3 cup blanched slivered almonds, one tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley and one tablespoon lemon juice.
Cut the fillets into six serving pieces. Dip them in milk, then in seasoned flour (1⁄2 teaspoon mixed salt and pepper to 1⁄2 cup flour). Heat 1⁄4 inch of salad oil in large skillet. Add the fillets.
Saute quickly on both sides until lightly browned; do not overcook. Place fish on a heated platter. Melt butter in a separate pan, add almonds and stir on low heat until lightly toasted. Remove from heat and add parsley and lemon juice. Pour over fillets and garnish with lemon wedges.