Silver Lake, Wyoming County, NY
By NathanKrusko “Fishman”
Team Panfish Persuaders
Silver Lake is located with in the towns of Perry and Silver Lake, New York. The public launch is on West Lake Road (County Route 3) operated by the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation. This is a fairly large launch facility with restrooms and plenty of parking.
Silver Lake is a glacial lake similar to other lakes in western New York with gin clear waters. The lake is 836-acres, with the vast majority of it being 25 to 35 feet deep. The north and south ends do provide much in the way of vegetation growth with the largest weed bed being located at the south end. To better understand the contours of the lake, there is a map published by the New York DEC that is available on line.
This lake has long been a regional hot bed of activity for the locals and many individuals that travel there from near and far. Silver Lake has been home to many organized fishing events over the last five years. The first professional tournament being, the Ice Team Trap Attack in 2005. This event led the way for many more, to include the NAIFC (North American Ice Fishing Championship), IFPA (now known as North East Ice Tour, NEIT) and the local club events hosted by the Avon Anglers. There is great reason why these groups fish this lake and why many people fish it. It is the first lake in the region to freeze up and it has outstanding fishing.
This lake has a healthy population of all species, with good sizes of all fish present. These fish include perch, crappie, bluegill, sunfish, and northern pike. The beauty of a fishery such as Silver Lake is that it lends itself well to people of all fishing styles. If you are into jigging and actively chasing fish, you will have relatively great success. On the converse, if you are into gathering with friends and fishing with tip ups, you will be in for a treat with some of the lakes larger toothy fish and even a few larger more aggressive panfish. Some of the panfish can be quite aggressive and if you are to use smaller minnows it is likely there will be at least a few good panfish caught.
This lake has some good characteristics in its shoreline and the structure that it provides. Along both the east and west shores there are many drop offs and inside turns that provide excellent structure for those seeking deeper water. On the northern end is both the inlet and the outlet. In both of these areas are large amounts of structure with channels, shallow flats and near by deep water. The southern end consists of a mostly shallow milfoil beds that meet mud bottom into the basin. With all of this structure packed into a small lake one would assume it would be hard to choose a spot to fish but thankfully most places provide consistent activity.
This is one of the legends of the deep. The perch in this lake are extremely plentiful and gather around the deeper waters of the basin at roughly 25 to 30 feet. These fish tend to move quite a bit within the main lake basin and during this move you can find them in as little as 15 feet of water in great numbers. Silver Lake has a long reputation of producing perch topping over a pound, but to get them, there will be plenty caught that are much less than that. But the fun will be had in the numbers caught for sure. These perch can be caught on a variety of jigs from small jigging spoons, teardrops and horizontal jigs dressed with soft plastics. For a first time out on this lake, it would be good to peruse the fish off from an inside corner of a bay and fishing out from the shallows (15 feet) into the basin until you find the fish. Being the fact that these fish will move it is best that you stay mobile and only fish a hole for about five minutes before moving on. This technique is something that is a good practice on most lakes that contain perch but is especially effective on this one.
Within New York state there are many waters that have great fishing for these two but in Silver Lake this fishing can be shocking at times. This is one lake that if you have not tried sight fishing, then you will be best starting the adventure here. To fish these slabs it is good to roam the shallows much like their predators, the pike. The lake has beds of milfoil in both the north and south ends extending up and down both shores. This milfoil is the main structure for the panfish and much of it stays fishable all winter. Catching these fish can be done in as little as 3 feet of water out to 12 feet. To locate them begin drilling holes in varied depths, looking for pockets within the milfoil beds, keeping in mind that the best success will come form keeping your noise to a minimum. Once you find one of these pockets, begin fishing your presentation at the top of the weeds (which a time will be just feet below the ice). Within a few minutes if there is no response to your presentation, lower it down gradually until you reach the bottom. With many hours of camera work I have found in this lake, and many others these fish will rest within the dense weeds and roam the weed tops as well. By lowering your presentation to the bottom you will be exposing it to these fish that otherwise would of not seen it at the top of the weeds. While fishing you will notice that the fish will inexplicably shut off or disperse. This will be for good reason. There is another predator that roams these shallows other than fishermen, this is the northern pike. The excitement of this, is that there will come a time you will be looking one of these toothy beauties in the eye just inches below the ice. So with this, if you are really adventurous keep a rod rigged and at the ready for just such an encounter.
Legends of the night. The crappie in this lake are quite diverse. Anglers catch then in the middle of the day in the deep while fishing perch and even shallow while fishing northern pike, walleye or bluegill. During the day these fish are very nomadic and to catch them you too have to be a roamer, working the weed edges and out into the basin. With much searching you can encounter them during the day but the most consistent success will come from fishing the weed beds in the evenings. To do this, fish in water that is 7 to 15 feet deep and try to find an active area just before sunset. To jig them, use jigs that have a quality glow finish that will stay glowing of a reasonable amount of time. Secondarily use a light to illuminate the water column. For the modern angler that is accustomed to using an underwater camera, this is can be accomplished by using the light on the camera head. If you do not have an underwater camera, you can use a light and shine it down the hole or purchase a light designed just for fishing crappies. The reason for doing this is twofold. One, it lights your fishing area, attracting attention to you bait. Two, this light attracts zoo plankton and bait fish. With observation of an underwater camera this will become quickly apparent. If you attract the food the fish will come! With all of this activity, an otherwise calm night at home will turn into a hot night on the ice. So instead of staying home and watching a movie get out and try this for an evening of fun.
So much about these fish can be learned by sight fishing for panfish. These fish are slow roamers, stealthy maneuvering just under the ice in search of their next meal. A common practice for most, is using tip ups and placing the bait just off bottom. That may work, but there is always a time to try something different. In fishing this lake you will observe the northern pike are actually not just off bottom, but rather just below the ice and on occasions mere inches below. This knowledge helps in the placement of your baits. To best fish these beasts, target the shallow weed beds in 3 to 8 feet deep. Place your baits just under the ice to a foot below the ice keeping in mind the deeper that you place your bait the less fish may see it. The reason for this is fish look out and up but not down. If your bait was on bottom the only fish that will end up seeing it would be those resting on bottom or the occasional one that will be attracted to the movement. The fact of there being so many fish in this lake will make your next pike outing one to remember. Enjoy the time sight fishing in your shelter while you wait for the flags to start flying. This time spent will reveal at least a pike or two lurking below your panfish hole.
This lake will likely be the home of many first experiences for families just starting out or even the seasoned angler looking to try something new. The opportunities of sight fishing panfish, observing a lone pike drifting past your hole, catching a ten pound pike on a tip up set inches below the ice or night fishing for crappies. All of these make this lake a must see destination for anglers traveling the north east.
Good Luck And Tight Lines