This is the time of year Saranac Lake area anglers see the ice fishing season taper off… and start thinking about the spring to come. Adirondack iceout! It’s one of the best times to land a trophy trout.
The fish start being more active, and more hungry. April 1 is the season opener for most trout and salmon. Panfish like pumpkinseed and yellow perch are open all year. Here’s some tips on wetting that first open water line:
Consider the forecast
Our mountain weather is known for quick changes, but this is especially true in the spring. Part of this is psychological; the bright sun and warm breezes can tempt us to under-dress, and be caught unprepared when the clouds pile up or the temperature drops. Part of it is just the weather, making up its mind as it transits the seasons. Spring has the unique circumstances of lakes and rivers thawing, and then feeding more moisture into the air.
The silver lining is that the fluctuating barometric pressure, so much a part of such changeable weather, does have interesting effects on the fish, and their feeding habits. This is more prominent in shallow and fresh waters, so abundant in the Adirondacks. High elevations make the barometric effect less, while cold temperatures influence it more.
Both a gorgeously warm and sunny day, and cloudy skies after a long period of rain, will slow the fish down. Then they need to be coaxed out of depths and cover, with slower, highly attractive, lures. Weather that is in the midst of changing excites the fish as they adapt to it. A falling barometer brings the cloudy weather that seems to provoke the fish into behavior that is at its most aggressive and hungry.
The best strategy for humans is to dress in fast-drying layers, so we can easily adjust to the outside temperature, and keep that raincoat or poncho handy. It blocks both water and wind. Avoid cotton-based fabrics like denim this time of year, when quick showers and dropping temperatures can result in a clammy layer which will pull heat away from our body. Backcountry ponds and lakes are favorites at iceout, but be prepared with boots to keep the feet dry and gloves if the wind picks up.
Another good thing about spring is that we don’t have to be up at the crack of dawn to find the fish. They’ll be more active in the afternoon in the warm shallows and bays. Sunny afternoons are a best bet.
Consider the water
On rivers, watch the flows. Spring rains and the winter snow-melt makes the water as changeable as the weather. On lakes and ponds, there could still be skim ice, which is not safe for fishing. Remember that in most places, ice has just left the pond. The water will be cold.
With the ice gone, it’s that much easier to watch the ripples of current flow. Many of our spring-fed lakes have them, too. Most lakes will have increased water activity in the spring, from snow melt and the flow from underground rivers.
As the ice recedes and fish begin to shake off winter, they’ll head to warmer, shallower waters. So investigate the banks of streams, ponds, and lakes, where the sun has warmed the water a bit more than average. Fish the southern exposures but also pay attention to the wind, which will push warmer water toward shore.
Be aware that a personal flotation device is the law in New York State, between November 1 and May 1, and it’s expected to be worn by every boater.
Consider the bait
The slowly warming fish of spring need the excitement of bright colors and quick movements to get their cold blood moving. They will strike more the closer the lure is to their noses. That’s because they instinctively know they can’t move fast enough to reach more distant prey.
There’s plenty of time later on to throw those picturesque dry flies. For now, get those nymphs and midges into the water. The insects, too, are shaking off their winter slumber and haven’t had the chance to begin their life cycles in earnest. For the spin anglers, this is a great opportunity to get the first real food of the year in front of the hungry fish – worms, egg sacs, marshmallows, cheese, they all work.
Small spoons, spinners and jigs will also entice the fish. Look for designs that wiggle erratically, to imitate the behavior of a wounded baitfish, and with patterns and flash which suggest another swimming fish.
Consider the choices
The Saranac Lake area has an amazing array of waters to choose from. Here’s some suggestions, but of course, we urge exploration!
Little Colby Pond and Lake Colby are actually one body of water, with a bay cut off by railroad tracks. Even though it is at the edge of town, the fractal pattern of the different bays makes for plenty of nooks and crannies along the shoreline. These wetlands are great for bass, landlocked salmon, and perch.
Read our blog post about Paddling and Fishing the Colby’s.
Black Pond, with Little Black Pond on the east side, is known for trout. These waters have a wild trout population and also get stocked with hatchery brook trout and rainbow trout. Fishing for brook trout is an important part of the Adirondack fishing heritage. Combining clear, cold, headwaters and the crisp, clean water creates an oxygen-rich environment with excellent feeding. This creates the largest populations of brook trout in the state, and creates large examples of these energetic and aggressive game fish.
Read our blog post about the new trail, Black Pond to Bridge Brook Pond.
Lake Clear is such a fine fishing lake it has a fishing lure named after it! The Lake Clear Wabbler comes in a variety of color patterns for trolling or casts. The current state record for a brook trout caught in New York is 5 pounds, 14 ounces, using a Lake Clear Wabbler.
This 940 acre lake is near New York State's primary Altlantic salmon hatchery. Other fish varieties range from brown and lake trout, pike and perch, or largemouth and smallmouth bass. There is no boat ramp so canoes or guideboats are the conveyance of choice.
Franklin Falls Flow is a 455 acre lake with many islands, backwaters, and drop-offs, and a challenging, irregular, shoreline. This shallow lake is quick to warm up, with a large surface area to soak up the sunshine. This makes for lively bass, pike, and panfish.
Read our blog post about taking a break at Franklin Falls Flow Pond.
Lake Flower is the gateway to a chain of lakes, from Oseetah and Lower Saranac Lake through Middle and Upper Saranac Lake. Fine trout fishing, and the boat launch is at the feet of downtown for easy access.
For more about this boating route, see our post on Middle Saranac Lake to Lake Flower.
Spring is coming!