Where are all the northern pike this summer?
I haven’t received as many reports of pike catches this summer as usual. Since June 1, I’ve been on the water at least tree times a week at a variety of places and caught about a dozen of these toothy critters, and the majority of them were in the low 20-inches category. The biggest landed were a 25-incher caught by Cherly Contreras, who was fishing with Leonard Coleman, and his 9-year-old son, Gavin — all from New Jersey — Allan Cura of Saratoga Springs and me in the Stillwater area of the upper Hudson River. And this past Monday, I hooked one that I estimated to be a 30-plus-incher in the same area of the river. Those sharp teeth ended the angler-fish battle quickly, but not before I got a look at him.
Most of the people at the bait and tackle shops I’ve spoken with also say that the pike bite has slowed, but should pick up next month when the temperatures start to drop. They also recommend those who want to fish for pike have the best chance with big live bait. Nothing beats the real thing. I recommend putting out a few bobbers with live bait, drifting weed lines and casting a favorite pike spinner bait, Mepps spinner or a big Rapala. I’m going to try my Barbie Doll hair jig this weekend.
I spoke with several guides who shared their thoughts on how and where to fish for pike right now. Saratoga Lake has been very disappointing in terms of big pike this season, and actually, for a few years now. However, the pickerel population seems to have exploded, and there are plenty of them to catch.
I believe that the numerous pike tournaments that were held on this lake had something to do with this current problem. I know putting a limit of pike in a livewell during a tournament resulted in a lot of floating northerns around the release areas, which is why they stopped having these events. Pike are a lot more fragile than most realize. Here are a few thoughts by several guides that target northern pike.
Ron Kolodiej of Fonda recommends the Great Sacandaga Lake, and says big live bait is the way to go. And go deep, because the heavy boating traffic on this popular lake put them down. Concentrate on bays, creek mouths and flooded areas, and the earlier in the day you fish, the better.
Key areas include Mayfield Bay, Beacon Island, Woods Hollow and shady bays around Broadalbin. He also mentioned an area called Stump City in the Northampton area, and a must-fish for pike area is Benedict Bay. This is where, in September 1940, Peter Debuck caught his 46-pound, two-ounce world record North American pike.
Schroon Lake guide Alan DeCesare suggests launching in the village and starting the search in Lockwood Bay, where there’s a good amount of weed cover that makes it ideal cover for northern. Start right in front of the Schroon River. As you work your way south, fish the areas between Keppler’s Point just off Fowler Avenue to Clark’s Island on the eastern shore.
This scattered weed patch area is a good place to use a one-ounce bell sinker with a steel-leadered 3/0 bait hook about a foot up the line from the sinker. Place the hook carefully beneath the dorsal fin of a big shiner so as not to kill it, and fish this right on the bottom. Try to stay in 10 to 15 feet of water as you slowly drift and drag the shiner.
On the far south end of Schroon, you’ll find another very good area of weeds that harbor pike. Use both these methods and start around the mouth of the outlet of the Schroon River. Just remember to go deep. If you want to do a little casting, he suggests attaching a three-eighths-ounce spinner bait with a four-inch white twister tail grub trailer attached to an eight- to 12-inch wire leader.
The only problem I can see when using these methods on these two lakes is having those pesky 18-plus-inch smallmouth bass trying to steal your bait, but I’m sure you can handle it.
As for the bass fishing, I haven’t heard any complaints except for those who still want to know what happened to the big bass on Saratoga Lake. Actually, the bass fishing in Saratoga is excellent in terms of quantity, but finding a three-pounder is tough. I’m sure many remember when it took a five-bass catch of 16 or 17 pounds to win a tournament on this lake, and every weekend, someone would weigh in a 20-pound bag of bass. No more!
I don’t know what is the answer is, but I do know that in terms of quantity, Saratoga Lake is holding its own. Everyone I’ve been talking to says there’s no problem with the quantity, just the quality.
In my weekly fishing visits to the lake, bass have been biting wherever there are weeds, and that’s everywhere. Unfortunately, the majority of them were one- and 11⁄2-pounders. I suggest gently releasing these fish, and hope they’ll be bigger next year.
Each time out, I was able to catch one three-pounder, but nothing bigger.
As for where to catch them, that’s easy. In the north end, in the south end on the east side and on the west side. They are everywhere! Bring the kids, and let them toss a wacky worm and have some fun, and don’t forget the camera to send me photos for Fish Tales.
Youth fish of the week
Last year, Cainan Hutchings of Glenville won a fishing trip with me on Saratoga Lake, where we caught a number of bass. This year, the 9-year-old caught a bass that was exceptional. He was trolling a silver and blue crankbait in Oxbow Lake near Speculator, when a 21-inch, six-pound largemouth bass engulfed it.
Gavin Coleman, who I mentioned earlier, caught and released a four-pound-plus largemouth and another half-dozen hefty two-pound Hudson River bass.
Eleven-year-old Devin Speenburgh of Cohoes was fishing with me on Saratoga Lake when he caught the biggest fish of the day, a rare four-pound largemouth, on a Stik-O-Worm.
Last week, the Saratoga Lake Bass Challenge attracted 18 teams to its three-hour afternoon event. Leading the way was the familiar Saratoga Springs team of Dave Munger and John Jenkins with a five-bass limit totaling 10.74 pounds, which earned them $405. They also had the tournament lunker, a 2.44-pound largemouth worth an additional $170.
Second place and $243 went to the Troy team of Bill Goodermote and James Sausville with 10.08 pounds. Third place and $162 went to Jim Bubb of Clifton Park and Sean Noonan of Saratoga Springs with 9.24 pounds. Next week’s tournament will begin at 4:30 and end at 7:30 p.m.
In the Mohawk Masters Singleman tournament on the Mohawk River, the smallies were biting. Twelve of the 15 anglers who competed weighed in five-bass limits. The heaviest was caught by Gerry Rosenbarker of Amsterdam, 14.02 pounds. Schenectady angler Vince Monini III was second with 12.06, and Jim Cantamessa was third with 11.08.
attendence record set
The Elite Series Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown B.A.S.S. tournament on the St. Lawrence River earlier this month set a new attendance record when 34,100 people for the four days of weigh-ins in the town of Waddington, popul-ation 972.
There was a surprise appearance by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who held a press conference at the tournament site. He announced that the 2014 Elite Series will hold a tournament at one of the Finger Lakes. He also announced the 2014 Governor’s Challenge, which will be held in the Finger Lakes and feature fishing competition among the governor, elected officials of the state and some of the biggest names in professional fishing. I would definitely like to attend this one.
The Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation Inc. will host its 12th annual Fall Fishing Contest Sept. 7 from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Contestants can fish anywhere on the Great Sacandaga Lake.
The top three winners in each of the four species divisions (northern pike, bass, walleye and trout) will cash. First, second and third in each category will receive $275, $125 and $50, respectively. Anyone who catches one of the six trout with an orange tag during this contest will receive $300. The winning catches will be determined by length. All measuring will be between 1 and 4 p.m., and awards will be at the Sport Island Pub on Riverside Boulevard in Sacandaga Park, Northampton.
Entry fee is $25. Pre-registration is required, and includes a 2014 GSLFF membership. All entries must be received by Friday, Sept. 6. To download an application or find out where to register, go to www.-gslff.com. For further information contact Jack Smith at 863-4271 or Randy Gardinier at 848-7248.