Saratoga Lake, a well-known Eastern New York fishery, is a destination for anglers who pursue bass, walleye, pike and a number of other game fish. The 3,762-acre natural lake is located in the historic town of Saratoga Springs, and has been a vacation spot for over a hundred years. In spite of its long-standing popularity, the fishing shows no signs of diminishing.
Most of Saratoga Lake is ringed with cottages and private residences, so the best way to fish it is by boat. A free launch is operated by the NYS Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation off Route 9P. The lake bottom offers a variety of structure and cover, including shallow weed beds and deep rocky slopes. Boat docks around the lake are also productive, especially for bass and panfish.
Bass fishing draws many anglers, and the chances of catching both largemouth and smallmouth bass are pretty good. Largemouths typically prefer weedy areas, and can often be found in 8 to 12 feet of water – shallower at dawn and dusk. Try tossing big topwaters during low light conditions or flipping worms and jigs in and around weeds when the sun is out. Tossing soft plastics around docks can be deadly as well, especially in spring and summer. The lake has produced largemouths in the 10-lb. class, and may do so again at any time.
If you prefer the athletic runs and acrobatic leaps of smallmouth bass to the tough bulldoggish fight of a largemouth, try dropping tube jigs, curlytail grubs and soft stickbaits around rocky slopes. The water at Saratoga Lake has become increasingly clear since zebra mussels were introduced in the early ’90s, so keep your retrieves subtle and use subdued, natural colors. Of course, this is more of a guideline than a firm rule; on some days smallmouths can become highly aggressive, and will strike the loudest and most obnoxious lures you can throw.
Northern pike live throughout Saratoga Lake as well, and these toothy critters typically run 8 to 14 pounds. Your best bet for pike is to fish jerkbaits, spoons, spinnerbaits and live minnows around weed edges. A weed bed with quick access to both deep and shallow water is a good place to start for pike. If you choose a live offering, a 7- or 8-inch minnow a few feet under a bobber is the bait of choice.
Walleye may well be the most sought-after fish in Saratoga Lake. At times, you can easily catch your limit in an hour or two; at other times, walleye seem to up and vanish altogether. For good numbers of big walleye, spring and fall are your best bets. Springtime finds these fish roaming around the deeper edges of weed beds, where they will strike live minnows, white curlytail grubs and crankbaits. In fall, walleye key in on shallow rocky cover. You can catch them through the ice in winter as well: try a live sucker on a tip-up.
Perch, bluegill and crappie offer a substantial pan-fishery on Saratoga Lake. Perch – arguably the best tasting fish in fresh water – can reach 3 pounds and better, and they strike small jigs and 2-inch minnows around weed beds and areas with a mix of weedy and rocky cover. Crappies have a small but devoted following among local anglers, who catch them from ice-out to just before summer on live minnows in 6 to 12 feet of water over emerging weeds. Bluegill inhabit weedy cover year-round, and are easy to catch on bits of nightcrawler under a bobber. The best fishing for big ‘gills is late May and early June, when they spawn in huge shallow colonies and bite just about anything that comes near their nests.