Fishing on the Great Sacandaga Lake

Sunset at Great Sacandaga Lake
Sacandaga Lake
Taken by Doc Searls

The Great Sacandaga Lake is located off Route 30, about 1 hour from Albany and lies just inside the Adirondack Park. The Great Sacandaga (GSL) is often confused with Sacandaga Lake, which is about 20 miles further north. The Big Lake (GSL) is really a reservoir formed back in 1929-1930 by damming the Sacandaga River.

When it comes to fishing GSL is a sleeper! Vast varieties of structure exist such as old foundations, rock walls, bridge abutments, points and river channels to name a few. If any thing is lacking it’s the weed beds, however they have become more abundant in the last few years.

The GSL is about 29 miles long, and 5 or 6 miles wide at the widest point. It’s an odd shape forming several large points, and numerous bays, and over a dozen islands.

Great Sacandaga Lake

The Lake is under fished, containing a good assortment of fish. Walleye and smallies are the most abundant, with rainbow trout right behind. Perch, Brown trout, Crappie landlocked Salmon, Catfish, Largemouth bass, Rock Bass, Tiger Musky, Pickerel and last but not least Giant Northern Pike, all are found on the GSL.

Some Anglers prefer not to be on a boat, and would rather be wading a stream or fishing from a bank. The Great Sacandaga not only has numerous tributaries, but area streams, rivers and small lakes for either fly-fishing or spin fishing opportunities.

Have you ever wanted to learn how to fly fish? Maybe you would like to learn about the insect hatches and fly tying! Area streams offer great fly hatches and fishing opportunities.

Many of my customers like to mix it up, and lake fish one day and then fish in the stream the next day, this offers a nice change and an insight into both types of fishing.

Great Sacandaga Lake has some fantastic Walleye fishing, whether looking for dinner, a trophy, or maybe even a full stringer of Walleye. Walleye are noted for being good to eat, and at times hard to locate. That’s why a guide is often needed to be successful when pursuing them, especially on the GSL.


While I love fly-fishing for trout in streams, I have always had a special love of Walleye Fishing. I continually study every aspect of walleye fishing and keeping a data base on every one caught, which includes weather, water, lure, and other conditions that help bring this allusive fish to the net. Basically Walleye are “easy to catch, but hard to locate”, that’s why many anglers do good one day and think there’s none left the next. Fishing every day as I do helps in locating them, and is why a guide is very helpful.


To be successful you must further be flexible, and willing to use a variety of methods and techniques. Drifting rigs, trolling, jigging, slip-bobbers, and at times casting can make the difference. Timing is probably the most important part of fishing, even if you have the right bait, using the right method, and the right place, you still must be there when the fish are willing to hit. That’s one of the things you are paying a guide for, his knowledge of not only how but also when and where.

The Great Sacandaga Lake produces stringers like these – and other times you have to work just to catch a few. Yes that’s fishing, but some would like to believe that we could do it all the time. Some believe there’s a favorite color, or a honey hole, or a secret method: truth is when fish have ”lock jaw” its slow fishing at best. When we look at all the things that can affect the fish and our ability to catch them it almost seems impossible. The following items are just a few things that come into play: Seasonal weather is colder or warmer than normal. Daily weather, is there a cold front? Thunder and Lightning! Wind direction. Yesterday’s weather. Boat traffic. Moon phase. Location, yours vs. the fish. Right or wrong bait. Method you are using. Going to fast! How about the fish are not hungry. Hey, that’s a good one, lets talk about that for a minute.

Many anglers do not realize that fish don’t eat the same as we do. Fish gorge, in that they will fill themselves up and may not eat again for several days. So if a big school of walleye gorge and you fished the next day in the same area they are in, you may not catch many because most of them are totally full. If that’s not enough even when they are actively feeding it’s les than 20% of their daily time.

So your probably wondering how do I get a stringer of Walleye? That’s not easy to answer in a few words, but lets try “ be in the right place at the right time, using the right technique”,

A big Misunderstanding about walleye is that they are totally nocturnal. The truth is they are dim light feeders. They certainly can feed at night, and on some very clear lakes do exclusively feed at night. Great Sacandaga Lake is not one of them, and except for a few specific times I catch most of the GSL walleye during the day. The cold-water period early in May, and then in the Fall are two examples when the GSL has improved NIGHT TIME ‘EYES’. There is also period in late July and August that can also have improved fishing at night on the great Sacandaga Lake.

Another aspect of NIGHT TIME ‘EYES” is when seeking out a Trophy, this is not only true of walleye, but other species also. Browns, Rainbows, Bass, and Pike can all be caught after dark. Nighttime is not good for kids and family oriented trips, its often cold or chilly, you don’t have a beautiful view, and there are no beds on the boat. However it can be a worthwhile trip and maybe something you’ve never done and would like to try.

Smallmouth bass

As you can see the Great Sacandaga Lake has a good number of smallies, it has excellent bass structure throughout its length, producing some real nice fish. May, June, early July and then Fall produce the most action. However they can be caught all summer long on deep drops offs using jigs or drop-shot methods.

fishing on GSLSmallies are relatively easy to catch when shallow and their tackle busting ability is great for all ages. I would recommend a June or July trip for kids, the die-hards can come anytime, and the real big ones are normally caught in fall.

Great Sacandaga Lake once produced the world record pike, 46pounds: it’s now the North American Record; However, it still produces some really big pike. While some over 20 pounds are caught each year it’s not a lake that produces pike in good numbers

May is a good time to find those monster pike, anchor in the right spot with a very large (8- 18”) sucker and wait for a cruising pike to take the bait. Casting the shoreline has its moments, and so does trolling large stick baits.

When you catch a pickerel in the lake its usually a good one as the one shown on this page. Every now and then a pickerel is caught, and twice I had customers catch small tiger muskies.

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