Lake George landlock salmon, lakers & bass

By Manny Luftglass

What: Lake George in northeastern New York, south of Lake Champlain. The lake is 32 miles long, offers 78 miles of shoreline and has depths to 200 feet.

Species: Lake trout, landlocked salmon, smallmouth, largemouth, pike, panfish.

Launches: On the north end, launch in Cooks Bay; on the south end, launch in the town of Lake George.

Techniques: Downrigger troll near the bottom for lakers, closer to surface for salmon.

Fall conditions: Bring lots of clothing because it gets cold up here early. Wear thermal underwear with layers. Bring dry, waterproof boots with thick socks.

Information: Fish 307.com/Peace Pipe Outfitters (518-668-9203); Justy-Joe (518-798-0336).

LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. — Fall is a great time to get after lake trout and landlocked salmon on New York’s Lake George.

The lake ranges down to 200 feet in several areas and at this depth, lake trout is king.

If you want to fish shallower, try just below the surface or off inlet mouths for landlocked salmon.

The natural bait on Lake George is comprised of two separate and distinct fish: smelt and ciscoes. The cisco is really a lake whitefish.

Without doubt, there are also countless golden shiners in Lake George, if only because so many anglers drop their leftover shiners overboard at the end of the day.

Smelt come into the lake after their spawning run and, at times, the lake really is filled with them.

But it is illegal to use or even have any live smelt in your possession on Lake George.

In addition to smelt being illegal on the lake, the same deal applies to alewife herring. So for live bait, you want suckers (when it is cold) or golden shiners (good year-round).

And, of course, if you are a smallmouth bass angler, nothing can beat a lively crawfish (the lake has a huge natural population of these critters).

The lake is spring-fed, with no industry other than tourism around it, and as a result, is very clear.

Upwards of 50 or more little streams feed it, with the major and best known ones being West Brook (west side), English Brook (east side), Indian Brook (North/West Bay side at Bolton Landing,) and Hague Brook, at the town of Hague, 18 miles north of Bolton Landing.

Because the lake has such clear water, you must use the lightest and least visible line available, especially when fishing near top for salmon.

The landlocked salmon population of the lake is quite large, and you’re allowed to fish for and keep them 365 days a year.

A keeper must be at least 18 inches long and you are allowed two a day.

Lake trout are also open year-round, with a 23-inch minimum size limit. Daily limit is two.

If you want bass, the lake has an enormous population of smallmouth and largemouth.

There are more smallies than largemouth, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a bunch of buckets ’cause there are! Both species are open until Nov. 30.

A five-bass total is legal, with a minimum length of 12 inches.

As for panfish, yellow perch and crappie are also open all year. Perch limit is 50 fish; crappie have a 25-fish bag.

At times, the lake contains more perch fishermen than all other seekers combined.

This generally occurs shortly after ice-up, with the sheltered bays and coves getting a huge turnout.

Pike are open from May’s first Saturday until the following March 15 when it’s time for them to spawn.

Fall fishing

At this time of year, many of the more mature Atlantic salmon will stage in front of the streams in a make-believe spawning run.

They do not spawn, because all of these fish are state-stocked, not naturally born, but somehow or another their little brains get them thinking about spawning, and lots will be looking into the streams, scratching their heads worrying why they are there.

At such times, you will be performing an act of mercy by casting little spoons across the streams.

Some of the salmon will forget why they are there and instead attack your lure.

This can be feast or famine, depending on how many, if any, salmon are at the spot.

Generally speaking, most of the salmon are caught in open water, but they also do roam way inshore as the waters cool down.

Here is where a year-round guide will be of significant help because he will know where they have been hitting in the past week or two.

Fishing for landlocks generally involves trolling very near to the top, regardless of water depth.

A dodger with tandem streamer flies is probably the most productive method.

A gray ghost is a very popular style, but live bait is equally productive, if you know how to rig the fish correctly to avoid spinning.

Medium-sized shiners are most productive now, pulled only a few feet below the surface.

Once again, because of water clarity, you want the clearest and lightest color of line you can find.

Six-pound test should be your max.

If the wind is light, drifting with live bait, again on skinny line, will produce some fine results on the salmon.

Lake trout will generally be found way down in the water column from October all the way through November, but not at bottom as generally found in some lakes.

Seek them on your fishfinder before setting up for downrigger trolling.

If you can’t locate them, try blind trolling partway down at the 90- to 110-foot depth level.

If there is little or no wind, you may do well drifting if you know how to find and stay at an average depth of 100 feet.

Remember that you will be in much deeper water, suspended, but not at bottom.

Christmas tree rigs are commonly trolled off downriggers at this time of the year for lakers, with either stickbaits or flutter spoons doing the majority of business.

Some anglers have mastered the use of pulling live shiners or suckers instead of lures.

Keeping these baits from spinning is key, and where you insert the hook makes a world of difference.

One good way is to put the hook in the baitfish’s mouth and then stick it out at an eyehole.

This could give you a good chance of the bait staying alive and kicking if you don’t troll quickly.

Your best catches of smallmouth will come in deeper water than usual, say 40 to 50 feet deep, with the fish ranging closer to bottom than up high as the water cools.

Use crawfish in rocky spots, but lures that simulate them will do it too. Largemouth will also hit the same bait or lures.

Scuze me, gone fishin’

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