For anglers interested in seeking lake trout, spring is a time to find them on the shoals and in shallow waters. Casting a variety of spoons such as a Daredevil, Phoebe, Al's Goldfish or similar lures will often result in some fine action on the lakes and ponds. This is particularly true for Upper St. Regis Lake, Tupper Lake, Moose Pond, Lake Placid, Hoel Pond and Mirror Lake.
Since Jones Outfitters returned to Main Street in Lake Placid, anglers on Mirror Lake have been able to enjoy the convenience of having a tackle store within paddling range.
For several years, back in the early 1980s, I lived in an apartment overlooking Mirror Lake in the center of the village of Lake Placid. The lake supported a fantastic fishery back then, and it still does, which is rather surprising given it's rather urban location in the middle of town.
The lake holds a healthy population of rainbow trout, as well as lake trout. It also hosts a fine population of both largemouth and smallmouth bass, as well as yellow perch, bluegills and rock bass. Yet it remains lightly fished by both tourists and locals alike. I consider the little lake to be one of the most underutilized fisheries in the area.
Years ago, I learned how and where to fish the lake from Jigs Bigelow, a local angler who frequented the lake. In fact, for a majority of the trout season, Jigs was on the water more often than he was on shore. He was both a friend and a mentor.
Jigs was a true angler. He could almost always be found flyfishing on Mirror Lake from his old battered 10-foot long Sportspal canoe. He would spend his days catching fish after fish for hours and he was generous with his haul. Jigs gave away fish all of the time, providing trout dinners for many local residents.
He was a big man, and he filled the little canoe from gunnel to gunnel and from bow to stern. When he settled into the center of the small craft, the canoe took on the appearance of a bellyboat type or float tube.
He certainly put in his time on the water and he always used a fly pattern of his own concoction. His favored fly resembled a Micky Finn streamer, with a body that was formed by a short piece of a red and white striped plastic cocktail straw.
The cocktail straw streamer fly was sealed at both ends with glue and wrapped with silver tinsel. Because the body of the fly was hollow, it floated just below the surface of the water, which is probably the reason it worked like a charm for rainbow trout.
It is interesting to note that studies now indicate red and white are among the best "strike-inducing" colors. The same color pattern is also used on Daredevil lures, and the famous Adirondack Tutee Bug.
Although Mirror Lake has a fine population of lake trout, they are usually to be found in the deeper waters, except during the spring and fall. In the spring, the lakers move into the shallows to feed. When the suckers move into the outlet of Echo Pond brook to spawn in the early spring, lake trout can usually be found cruising in the bay at the far end of the lake.
The lake trout are rarely to be found in the shallows again, until the fall when they move back to the shoals to spawn. The sight of large spawning lakers swimming in the clear waters around the dock at the village beach is always an autumn thrill.
Rainbow trout often occupy the opposite depths of the lake's waters. While lakers prefer the deeper, colder waters, rainbows can usually be found cruising in the upper stratum of the water column, which often makes them a prime target for ospreys.
It is not uncommon to find vertical lines scars from an Osprey's talons etched into the sides of a Mirror Lake rainbow. In fact, it is rare to catch a large rainbow from the lake that does not have such scars.
It is always entertaining to watch osprey working over Mirror Lake, especially when they tuck into a dive, and drop from the sky and plunge into the water. It is a wild act that appears to be incongruous with the urban setting, yet it reveals how neatly the local human community meshes with our natural communities.
It is easy to understand why there are so many rainbows with talon scars. Osprey are known to have a very poor kill ratio and a limited carrying capacity. They have difficulty carrying fish that weigh more than just a few pounds, which make it very difficult to achieve lift-off.
During flight, the big birds often rearrange their load by placing one foot in front of another to point the fish head forward and reduce wind resistance. The efficiency of the osprey attempts ranges around 30 to 60 percent, depending on the size of the fish and the water clarity.
Osprey, which have often been referred to as fish hawks, have made an amazing comeback since the 1972 ban on the use of DDT in the United States. The big birds are now a common sight across the Adirondacks.
They are hard workers and they construct their nests in the crowns of tall, white pines and hemlocks along the shores of many local lakes. During nest building, a pair of osprey will often make over a hundred trips a day to forage for nesting materials. When complete, an osprey nest can weigh more than 400 pounds.
More urban angling options
For anglers who don't have the time to get back to the brook trout ponds, or lack a boat to fish on Mirror Lake, there are a number of other local waters that deserve mention. There are two small streams flowing through the village of Lake Placid that are an often ignored by most anglers.
One is Cold Brook, which empties from Lake Placid outlet. In places, it is a slow and meandering mountain stream, while elsewhere it turns into a fast and tumultuous tumbling brook before it merges with the Chubb River at a junction pool located behind the Lake Placid firehouse. This little creek begins it's journey at the dam forming the outlet of Lake Placid, located near the Peninsula Nature Trails, and wanders through a cedar forest before entering town near the Cold Brook Plaza.
The stream's character changes from a pool, drop, pool river into a series of wide, flat pools as it crosses under state Route 86, before it disappears into the woods again below the bridge on Fawn Ridge Drive, behind the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.
From this location the stream follows a course that includes several small pools and numerous sets of small rapids before emerging and going under West Valley Road near the firehouse.
While the upper sections of the brook hold some rainbows, it is really the home of numerous native brook trout. Cold Brook also holds a fine population of wild spawned brown trout which provide splendid angling opportunities on the fly. I often skate an Ausable Wulff dry fly across the small pools or drag a small cone head muddler minnow through the riffles for the best action.
The brook provides a challenging fishery that requires both patience and stealth on the part of the angler, as the numerous pools, overhead canopy and many cedar tree strainers provide excellent cover for fish. At its junction with the Chubb River, anglers will also be presented with a population of smallmouth bass, which are common on the Upper Mill Pond.
The Chubb River, which offers some outstanding brook trout in its upper sections for miles above the Averyville Road bridge near the Northville-Placid trailhead, winds its way through town before growing in size at two major impoundments.
At the Upper Mill Pond along Averyville Road, the trout and bass populations mix to provide an opportunity for angling in any season. The pond is best accessed by canoe or kayak.
Located behind Lisa G's restaurant, there is a short stretch of rapids below the Upper Mill Dam that can often produce some quality brown trout, especially when temperatures soar and fish move upstream from the Lower Mill Pond in search of more highly oxygenated waters.
Unfortunately, one of the best pools on the river that was located at the base of the dam was filled in when the dam was refurbished a few years back. The pool, which receives the outlet of Mirror Lake, has always produced a wide variety of fish, including rainbow, brook, brown and lake trout, as well as yellow perch, sunnies, suckers and both largemouth and smallmouth bass. However, because it is so shallow today, it holds few fish.
However, a few decent pools remain below the Lower Mill Pond Dam and along a short stretch of rapids before the river enters the water treatment plant off of the Powerhouse Road.
Below the Treatment Plant, the Chubb is an ugly river that does not beckon the angler until it joins with the West Branch of the AuSable at "Frustration Pool," behind the big red barn on Riverside Drive.
Databases for anglers
A valuable resource for Adirondack anglers is available online at www.adirondacklakessurvey.org The site provides a complete listing of all waters surveyed by the Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation, particularly remote ponds, and offers such information as inlets and outlets, springs, access trails, pond status, whether public or private and a complete inventory of the fish species present, including forage fish.
Possibly the greatest benefit of the site is the availability of contour maps that chart the depths of many local lakes and ponds. This can be vital information in determining where fish will hold.
Before heading off to check out a remote pond, this site can provide insights as to angling prospects, expected species, type of bait fish and best areas to wet a line.
Another helpful resource for anglers is available from the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council. The booklet, entitled "Adirondack Fishing: An angler's guide to Adirondack lakes, ponds, rivers and streams," is packed with information on numerous waterways stretching across the Park.
The booklet features detailed maps, descriptions of species, access information and angling advice developed with the assistance of Department of Environmental Conservation fisheries personnel. It is one of the most comprehensive angling aids available, and best of all it's free. Copies are usually available at the local visitors bureaus.
The DEC also maintains a comprehensive listing of the top waters for most game fish species, including trout, salmon, bass and pike as well as a comprehensive list of fish stocking efforts. Visit their site at www.dec.ny.gov/press/79264.html.
There is also a series of guidebooks put out by the Sportsman's Connection. I've found the publications available at most local sportshops. They are a tremendous resource.
The "New York Fishing Map Guide" books feature both the western and eastern Adirondacks and cover all of the Adirondack counties. Included are contour maps of the water bodies with recommended areas for target species, as well as detailed maps highlighting access sites, stocking records and helpful descriptions of angling techniques, suggested lures and a summary of NYSDEC gill net surveys conducted that provide an indication of both quality and quantity of species present. If you can't find it locally, contact www.sportsmansconnection.com or at 1-800-777-7461.