Over the past couple of decades, Dave Figura has developed an affinity for Lower Saranac Lake.
An avid fisherman and Syracuse Post-Standard outdoors writer, Figura said he visits the lake once or twice a year to do some fishing and to relax at one of the state-run campsites. Sometimes he visits with family, other times with members of hunting and fishing clubs from back home.
This summer, his second visit came in mid-July, taking the trip with his wife and a family friend. The trio camped on an island, fishing and enjoying the good weather.
Dave Figura holds up a smallmouth bass he caught on Lower Saranac Lake.
Mike Lynch/Lake Placid News
On one of those days, I joined him for a fishing trip in his 14-foot motorboat. Figura said that in the days leading up to our trip, he'd had good luck on the lake, showing me a photo of a stringer full of fish that he'd caught earlier in the week for a fish fry. His wife also had landed some good-sized fish.
On this day, the action was a bit slower than he anticipated, but it picked up later in the morning. Figura speculated that the action was slow due to a cold front that had come in over night and made the fish sluggish.
Our targeted fish was smallmouth bass, which are part of the sunfish family that includes bluegill and pumpkinseeds. Both fish are popular with younger anglers because they are easy to catch. Smallmouth and largemouth, which are black bass species of sunfish, are generally sought after by sportsmen because of their aggressive nature. They're especially fun to catch.
Figura, who fishes at several other New York state lakes with his hunting and fishing club, said that the members generally have the best luck on Lower Saranac Lake for their fishing trips. He said the records they keep back it up.
A 2,214-acre lake in Saranac Lake's backyard, Lower Saranac has a mean depth of 28 feet and a maximum of 50. It's also home to numerous islands. Fish that live in the lake include smallmouth and largemouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch and pumpkinseed.
"What's great about this lake is you've got weeds. You've got drops, you've have rocky parts," Figura said.
On our trip, we tried numerous spots. We'd fish for a few minutes. If nothing was biting, we'd hit another spot. Figura had fished all these locations before and figured that if we visited a bunch of them, we'd catch a fish.
"Sooner or later, you cash in," he said.
In addition to trying several spots, it gave us an opportunity to take in the beautiful scenery from different spots, including views of McKenzie and Dewey mountains.
Eventually though, we did catch some fish. Later in the morning, Figura got a tug. He'd hooked into a decent-sized fish, unlike the smaller ones we'd been catching earlier. After a short fight, he pulled it close to the boat, leaned over and netted it.
"Now that's a beautiful fish," he said, holding up a 17-inch smallmouth. He landed it on a tube jig.
"That basically imitates a crawfish crawling on the bottom," Figura said, describing the lure.
In the following hour, we caught several other smallmouth bass, having especially good luck in a spot near Figura's campsite.
The average-sized bass that I landed came on a Keitech worm. I switched to that lure after using some spinners. I'm generally more of a trout fisherman, so I don't have a lot of bass equipment. Figura lent me the fake worm.
The lure is actually one of the favorites of state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, said Figura, noting that the commissioner used it on a trip they took together on a lake in the Finger Lakes region.
"Smell it, it's squid scented," Figura said. "If they're out there, you're going to get them with that."