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May 25, 2012

It’s easy to get hooked on Thirteenth Lake

Daily Star

---- — With Memorial Day almost upon us, I was reminded of a great fishing adventure many years ago on this weekend.

A friend told me about the landlocked salmon in Thirteenth Lake in the eastern Adirondack Mountains, so I decided to take some friends and give it a try.

After setting up our tents in the primitive camping area, there was one more chore to be done. The outhouse was far beyond disgusting, but a bucketful of wood ashes from the nearby fire pits was just what the doctor ordered. Well, that may be stretching it just a little, but it made necessary visits a little more tolerable.

Before long, we slid our small, aluminum boat into the water. We were all excited, hoping to catch a number of these great fish. Moments later, the old outboard hummed and pushed us steadily down the lake.

We hadn’t been trolling even five minutes when I had my first hit. I was working a small silver spoon about 30 feet below the surface. All of a sudden, a silver torpedo jumped up on my line and danced across the water behind the boat. The sleek, little acrobat fought for a short time before being eased into the net. There was just one problem, though: The salmon was only 14 inches long; it needed to be an inch longer to keep.

We fished for a several hours and hooked nearly 20 fish but couldn’t keep even one. They were all just a little too small.

When we pulled back into shore, we were met by the local forest ranger.

“I’ve been watching you guys for quite a while,” he said. “I’ve never seen anyone hook so many fish. What were you using?”

I handed him a silver #3 Leatherstocking lure with a scale-like finish.

“Keep it,” I said. “It’ll catch most any fish.”

I went on to explain that there was a problem, though. At least half of the fish we caught were still lying on the surface of the lake. Once we released them _ as quickly and carefully as possible _ many went belly up.

“Yeah, I noticed that,” the ranger said. “I bet those fish would have tasted real good tonight.”

He looked at his watch.

“I’ll tell you what,” he said. “It’s a quarter-to-five and my wife will have dinner on the table in precisely 15 minutes. She doesn’t like it when I’m late. I’m leaving now but will check on you sometime tomorrow afternoon. OK?”

Was that a hint or what?

We waited for a half-hour before going back out on the lake and netting the landlocks that were still on top. He was right. They were fantastic when grilled over an open fire.

There was yet another problem with no real solution during the trip, however. Memorial Day weekend brought some unwanted guests _ the infamous Adirondack blackfly.

How can a creature so small have a set of teeth like Tyrannosaurus Rex? The only safe place away from those beasts was out on the lake, so we did a lot of fishing.

Well, we survived the nightly feeding frenzy but never caught a legal fish all weekend.

I returned to that same body of water two years later, but it was after Labor Day and the black flies were gone. The only things that bit were the fish. I put several in the boat that were 18 inches or better.

But for some reason I’ve never been back to that beautiful lake tucked into my beloved Adirondacks. Maybe I should try it again next year. I bet there are some bigger ones in there by now, and I’ve still got a few of those lures.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at