One of the most frequently asked questions I hear is “What’s going on with Seneca Lake? Why is the fishing so tough over there?” I’ve gone over this plenty of times before in my articles and on reports. I’ve had a chance to talk to Region 8 fisheries personnel and I think the fishery is headed in the right direction.
Crews from Region 8 have finished up their Coldwater Netting on Seneca Lake. Numbers of lakers netted (abundance of fish – or lack thereof) was similar or perhaps slightly lower than what was seen in 2017. Overall sizes and condition of lake trout was better than then. Lamprey scarring was low, however more live lampreys did come up in the nets attached to fish than in the prior netting.
Natural production is down to late 1970s/early 1980s numbers. Approximately 10% to 30% of the lakers netted in Seneca Lake were of wild origin. In the late 1980s/early 1990s wild production was up around 65% to 75%. Lower wild production is likely a result of high alewife numbers and issues with EMS (thiamine deficiency.) You can Google that if you don’t know what it is. Good numbers of 7 to 9lb lake trout showed up. There weren’t many over 10lbs.
Fish have been well-fed. Smaller lake trout have been primarily feeding on sculpin. Larger fish are eating alewives. DEC will do forage netting in September. There were no gobies found in any lakers as far as I know.
This fall DEC will search for lampreys in the canals and I believe they will do a treatment. The next treatments of tributaries is scheduled for spring 2021.
Lake trout stocking has been increased to 2012 numbers. Additional browns were stocked in the lake this spring due to the zebra mussel infestation at the Rome Hatchery. The future management plan of Seneca Lake is not likely to include brown trout. Each Finger Lake is being managed as a different lake (which they obviously are) and will be stocked with the fish that thrive the best there. Although Seneca Lake has churned out some beautiful brown trout over the past 30+ years, the browns do very poorly there when lamprey numbers are up. Lampreys are much tougher to control on Seneca Lake than Cayuga Lake, due to the spawning in the canals/deltas and the fact that Cayuga has a low head dam and fish ladder on its one main spawning stream which easily enables lampreys to be removed via hand.
The good news is that Landlocked Salmon stocking numbers are slated to go up. If enough fish are available the stocking numbers will be doubled or at least increased by 40% or more. These fish have thrived in Seneca Lake even when lamprey numbers have been high. The lack of gobies keeps the salmon up near the surface making for great casting, fly-casting and trolling from the late fall into the following spring.
DEC still has to crunch all the data on their summer field work, so we’ll have a clearer picture of what’s going on by the time the next diary summaries are published and I’m sure a technical brief or two will show up online sooner or later.