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  • Writer's pictureBrian Lansing

weekend review pt. 2: loads of pickerel

Opportunities to go fly fishing in #UpstateNewYork are plentiful. While many cold-water fisheries are on hold at this point in August, warm-water opportunities abound. Que the ever-dependable #pickerel. You heard that correctly. Pickerel are a blast to chase with a fly rod because they are ferocious eaters, seemingly always on the feed, fight fairly hard, and are willing to eat a fly. My cousins and I spent Saturday and Sunday morning on the water having a blast #flyfishing and catching loads of these mean, slimy, toothy, eating machines.

Fly fishing for pickerel.
Adirondack lakes are full of fly fishing adventure. This one is fill with pickerel.

I take pickerel for granted sometimes. While I typically find them to be predictable and genuinely fun to catch, that predictability can be irritating on different bodies of water when I’m targeting other species. They are rough on flies, lures, and leaders and though tasty, they are not my preferred choice of freshwater table fare. That distinction goes to perch and walleye. I tend to view pickerel as a nuisance while I’m hunting perch and walleye though I know I shouldn’t view them in this light. The same predictability and dependability that makes them a nuisance can save the day when conditions are slow. On lakes with strong populations, pickerel can provide steady action for new anglers and young anglers, keeping their attention. And for an angler such as myself, who has a hard time putting down a fly rod, pickerel provide the excitement and tug needed to get us through the dog days of August. After all, #thetugisthedrug.

Friday’s adventure with the canoe to find lake trout (see previous post) was an extremely good time, but after weighing other options, we decided to stay put at the lake we were all staying on, giving us more time to fish and more time to catch up with family from out of town. It’s a lake I’ve fished for the entirety of my 30 years on this planet and I’d be lying if I said I don’t look forward to fishing that lake a time or two each year. It’s dependable and this past weekend was no different.

While large fish have always seemed to be few and far between, the lake supports an overwhelming population of hammer handle sized pickerel. This isn’t to say there aren’t any large pickerel, because there are. Lurking in the darkness of the deep weed beds, the large fish hunt efficiently. They leave the smaller fish to fight and expend their energy for food in the sun and higher in the water column.

Large fish wait for a 5” deceiver to skim across the top of their dark, tangled, weedy lair. They stalk it for a ways and then nose up out of the blackness inhaling the fly from behind. As an angler, the line goes tight and you give a hard strip to set the hook. You feel the weight of a fish approaching or eclipsing 30” and the vicious thrash of a head and mouth made for killing. The head shakes one way and then the other. And then, the line goes slack. The bony mouth can be tough to set a hook in, but as the line is pulled back with no fly attached, it’s realized the pickerel inherited your fly as a trophy. That fresh piece of 20lb fluorocarbon leader was no match for a bony mouth full of razors. If it sounds like this series of events happened to me, it’s because it did.

Pickerel shouldn’t be overlooked. Adjust your tackle accordingly and go have fun. Whether you’re fly fishing or throwing spinners with light tackle, pickerel can provide hours of entertainment and fun on an #Adirondack lake, as they did for me last weekend.

Thanks for reading and as always, please feel free to like, comment, share and follow along.


Brian Lansing


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