As the dog days of summer continue to crank up the season's thermostat, the windows of opportunity for trout fishermen are rapidly diminishing. In fact, the windows are nearly shuttered, as a brilliant sun has combined with low water levels, soaring water temperatures and reduced oxygen levels to push all but the hardiest of trout to seek refuge in deep pools or deeper depths. Simply put, the low, warm water has severely stressed the trout population.
As a result, it is now time for trout anglers to seek an alternative. It is time to turn to bass. To many dedicated trout fishermen, bass is a four letter word, a fish species as lowly as a sucker. Purists consider the bass to be an interloper, unworthy of populating the pristine and glistening gentle waters of the Adirondacks.
In the eyes of many trout purists, bass are transplants. They are a species that never belonged in the Adirondacks, and they continue to curse the scurrilous scoundrels that first introduced them to the region's waters.
Andy Mott, visiting from Pennsylvania, hoists a nice smallmouth bass taken on the Saranacs by his son Jefferson.
(Photo — Joe Hackett)
For many years, I was in full agreement with this reasoning. I believed bass were a junk fish, just a step above the lowly yellow perch. The scoundrels who introduced them should have been horsewhipped.
However, as time and warming temperatures have taken their toll on my memories of a traditional Adirondack summer, bass have earned the right to a thorough reassessment. I may be growing soft, but bass have earned a place on my list of summer's selects.
They certainly are a hardy species that can put up with even the most miserable of water conditions. Not only can they exist in warm, murky and mucky waters, they can thrive. And therein is the secret to their charm.
While trout retreat to the depths or cower in the cold runoff of a mountain stream, the bass are chilling in the lakes, ponds and rivers. They are active and on the prowl. They're mean and aggressive, despite the murkiness, the diminished oxygen levels and the low water. And as a result, they are incredibly entertaining. Bass are willing to come out to play, while trout are too gassed to move.
Over the past week, I have fished for bass with children, adults, teens and old-timers. Bass have consistently responded to the attention. They have proven to be battlers, even in the heat of the day.
While they will never match the beauty of a brook trout or the silvery grace of a rainbow, bass have rapidly climbed the ladder of success. They have earned a place in the summer's race. Without them, there would be little or no angling pleasures available on a hot summer's day.
With a fly rod, I've stalked bass on the streams and with a bait caster. I've also chased them on the lakes. Bass have earned the right to be considered a key component of an Adirondack summer, especially since they make me yearn for the next season, soon to come.
Big trout and big cats
The state Department of Environmental Conservation recently announced that Dan Germain, a resident of Forestport in Oneida County, has established a new state record for brook trout earlier this summer while fishing on South Lake in Herkimer County.
Germain landed a 22-inch brook trout weighing 5 pounds, 8 ounces on June 15, while trolling a Lake Clear Wabbler and worm. His catch topped the previous record holder by 3.5 ounces.
The previous record of 5 pounds, 4 ounces was set in 2009 by Tom Yacovella who took the lunker while trolling on Raquette Lake.
In other outdoor news, it has been determined that a cougar recently struck and killed by a car near Milford, Conn. was not a released pet.
The big cat likely came from a wild population in South Dakota, according to a DNA study conducted by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The animal's movements had previously been tracked in Minnesota and Wisconsin in 2009 and 2010, and it likely moved east through New York at some point in its journey. It was the first verified wild cougar in the eastern United States in over 75 years.