July 28, 2013

Camping trip equals relief in the Adirondacks

By Dan Ladd, Adirondack Hunting & Fishing Report

---- — I can’t think of any place I’d rather be at 8 a.m. on a July morning than on an Adirondack lake. 

Toss in a few fishing rods, a thermos of coffee and seemingly endless calling of loons and you have the makings of summertime heaven.

That’s where my wife, Adrienne, and I found ourselves last weekend. Owners of a small camping trailer, we’re monthly visitors to DEC campgrounds in the Adirondacks. Although we camped for an entire week earlier this summer, we usually just take long weekends. And we needed this one, bad.

Fed up with the endless summer heat, we didn’t mind the heavy rain that began just after we finished setting up our campsite on Nick’s Lake near Old Forge. We knew relief from the heat was coming with it.

Saturday morning found us at nearby Limekiln Lake campground launching our kayaks to participate in the annual Adirondack loon census. Adrienne was to scout the bay around the campground while I headed for the middle of the lake and then down into a bay in the southwest corner where there were a few islands. We’d been told by two good sources that there were a pair of adult loons with two chicks on the lake and we wanted a peak at them for the census.

Upon launching we could already see a group of loons right in the middle of the lake. I paddled out to them and eventually counted six adults. While observing them I heard another loon calling down by the islands. I immediately headed in that direction hoping to find the loon family.

As I entered the small bay I quickly spotted an adult loon diving, then I noticed a second adult. I kept my distance and scoured the area for the chicks. When one of the adults headed intently for the corner of the bay I figured she was heading toward her young. Sure enough, she led me right to them. This pair of loon chicks looked too big to be riding on their mother’s back so they anxiously awaited her return. I shot my photos and moved on counting a total of 10 loons on Limekiln Lake for the census.

Another highlight of the weekend was a leg-stretching but short hike up Bald (Rondaxe) Mountain where there is a fire tower and plenty of overviews with vistas of the Fulton Chain of lakes. I chose Sunday morning for the one-mile hike and there were more than 50 cars in the parking lot when I got there. Everyone, along with their dogs, had the same idea as me. Still, I was able to hang out by myself in the top of the fire tower and snap some photos in the refreshing breeze.

Back at Nick’s Lake I couldn’t spend enough time in my kayak. I had it fully rigged for a weekend of bass fishing and was not let down. I fished two afternoons and well into an evening under the light of a full moon. After much success during the afternoon outings I was confident the evening trip would be a slam-dunk. I got a few, both largemouth and smallmouth, but the afternoon bite was better.

On the final morning of our trip, I set out early for some calm water fishing. Tossing both top-water and soft plastics I again expected to nail the bass, but after a few quick catches it slowed down as the sun got higher in the sky. I gave up on the top-water plug and switched to a silver minnow imitation Rapala, one of the oldest lures in my tackle box. I tossed it out and let it drift behind my kayak.

After tossing a few wacky-rigged worms into a deep hole and catching nothing, I decided it was time to head back to camp and pack up. A few dips of the paddle and the Rapala-rigged rod jerked. As soon as I grabbed it a fish came out of the water behind me. I was sure I had a good smallmouth bass on and began to work him back to the boat. When I got it there I noticed spots on the fish. This was not a bass.

In May, the DEC stocked more than 1,400 brown trout roughly 8 inches long in this lake. This is down a few hundred from years prior. But, you don’t hear of many browns being caught here by campers. On a previous trip during the fall I targeted them but caught only bass. Now, here I was wishing I had my trout net as I brought this beautiful 18-inch brown trout to the boat.

Now that’s the way to cap off a perfect Adirondack camping weekend. 

Dan Ladd is the author of “Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks,” outdoors editor for the Glens Falls Chronicle, columnist for Outdoors Magazine and contributor to New York Outdoor News. Contact him at