What started as a sprinkle of rain on July 27th, it turned to a downpour by July 28th. Several of the western Finger Lakes experienced massive amounts of water, raising their levels, bringing huge amounts of flotsam and making the water quite roiled with sediment. A trip to Conesus the next day found the water very stained/muddy and the bass turned off. Meanwhile, Honeoye was closed to boating for several days because the water was flooding the hamlet. As lake residents, we were fortunate when the water level reached our docks that there was very little wind during the following week. This minimized damage to boats, docks, hoists and shorelines. Canandaigua Lake was issued an advisory for boating, so a trip to the south end at Woodville proved to be a challenge. The normally clear water was turbid and the bass were in a negative mood. Keuka Lake is still recovering from the earlier flooding this year. Water that is usually very clear is slightly colored and there is an algae bloom. When traveling to these lakes, you can put the chance of catching fish in your favor by making some basic adjustments. Look for the cleanest water, use lures or baits that create vibration or noise, and work your bait slower to give fish a chance to locate your presented offering. The next step is to fish slow and then slow down more. When the clarity of the water is reduced, fish have restricted ability to see your bait. Sight feeding only happens when you put the bait within a couple of feet or inches from them.
Honeoye Lake has been a test this year. The bass are biting and they change from aggressive to turned off in the blink of an eye. We have not experienced the big bite that normally has taken place each year. With amount of fishing and guiding that I do on Honeoye it bothers me that I am not seeing more big fish. I have several opinions on why this decline has happened but no hard facts to back them up. I can not stress the importance of catch and release of big fish. These are older bass with the genetics you want passed on to the future.
The weeds have changed dramatically from last year. Winter did a number on the weed beds and some are just stating to grow. Many areas look like a desert and when you find weeds there are plenty of bass in them. The weeds have a coating of dirt on them from the heavy rains and when waves or heavy boat traffic stirs up the water, things get dirty. Bass in Honeoye have a hard time sight feeding under the current conditions. Use baits that make some vibration or noise and your catch rate should increase.
As an example, Saturday evening I rigged three lines with baby brush hogs and all customers started catching bass. As we drifted north from our starting point, the bite slowed so we changed locations. Going to an area that I knew held good fish produced nothing, so we moved to another area that has been quite good, but it was too rough from the east wind. We motored over to the other side of the lake where conditions would allow my clients to feel the bite. NADA, so I told them that we may be fishing below the bass. I picked up a wacky rigged trick worm and on the first cast caught a decent fish. Immediately, I switched all rods to a wacky rigged trick worm and everyone caught bass for the next hour and a half until quitting time. This is just an example of how quick things change and how you have to adapt to those changes. Give baits and presentations time to work, but if you don't catch fish, change color, presentations and last locations. Remember, just because you caught fish here last month, they will not wait for you to come back and catch them again. Some areas have structure that will always hold fish. As fish are taken from the area, more will move in and replenish the location.
Once again as a guide for catching bass, in clear water, go with your green colors and if you are fishing stained or dirty water use darker colors like green pumpkin, black, or junebug. Be safe, wear your life vest, maintain a proper lookout and use a speed reasonable for the conditions.