• Keuka Lake Fisheries Update

    DEC’s Region 8 Fisheries staff have been spending a lot of time on Keuka Lake this summer.  Next year they’ll be on Seneca.  In both Region 7 and 8, the DEC generally rotates their lake nettings/surveys of the Finger Lakes on a 3- or 4-year basis, depending on the region.   As more variables appear, surveys are getting more comprehensive over time.  (An example would be DEC setting sturgeon nets on Cayuga Lake or Region 8 looking at perch populations on Keuka Lake.)

    Bass guide Jon Evans has told me that the lake’s smallmouth bass population appears to really be thriving this year with numerous 3lbers around.  A few years ago the bass fishing had become tougher there as the alewife numbers diminished.   Friends and past-clients who target lake trout on the lake have had varying success.  I had reports of quick limits in 90 minutes and other reports of tougher fishing.

    Here’s what I’ve heard from DEC (any mistakes or inaccuracies below are mine):

    Ciscoes:  Cornell and DEC have been working hard trying to determine the success of this program.  Evidence from implanted transmitters (in some of the ciscoes) suggests that many of them are dying when first stocked.  Whether this is because of predation or something else is unclear, but most are not living past 90 days.  A few yearlings have managed to survive past a year.  Ciscoes will still be stocked in the near future.  There has been some talk about raising them to a larger size and then releasing them (e.g., as yearlings) but no determination has been made yet.  One cisco was found in laker nets this summer.  That fish survived over 90 days in the lake.

    Alewives:  Thus far zero alewives have been encountered either in lake trout stomachs or in nets.  Forage netting will be conducted in September.  I would guess that some will turn up then.  My friends catching trout in Keuka Lake have not seen any alewives in trout stomachs either.

    Yellow Perch:  Some anglers have complained about poorer perch fishing on this lake.  DEC is doing some netting for perch this coming week.  Perch are now the main forage species in this lake for lake trout.

    Lake trout:  Numbers of lake trout appear to be 4 to 5 fish per net lower than in prior years, although I don’t think all the numbers have been calculated yet.  This is a bit of a mystery, since numbers were high just a few years ago.  Some cannibalism is likely taking place here amongst the lake trout population.  In Skaneateles Lake forage is scarce and once a lake trout gets big enough to be able to eat larger forage, they can get to be trophy sized.  We may see something like this happen here (those are my thoughts) -numerous small 15″ to 18″ lake trout, a few slightly larger specimens and then every so often somebody catches a 15lber or better.  Another reason lake trout numbers might be down is that they could be feeding a bit out-of-temperature, due to the lack of food in the colder parts of the lake.  Fish may be suspended higher in the water column and avoiding the nets.

    Lake trout are surviving on eating mysis shrimp, occasional sculpins and perch fry.  Mysis numbers are good in Keuka Lake.  The condition (aka “plumpness”) of smaller lake trout is surprisingly good here.  Larger 4 to 5lb specimens appear to be skinny.

    Bass:  Spring electro-fishing data suggests that Keuka Lake is amongst the top 90% of bass fisheries in NYS.  DEC found some big largemouths here as well.

    Walleye:  As many of you know, this species has turned up in this lake (likely as a result of an illegal introduction) at times over the past decade.  No walleyes were found in lake trout nets this summer.  DEC is receiving more and more angler reports of walleyes showing up in Keuka Lake. As a comparison, walleye numbers were relatively low in Skaneateles Lake for decades before finally increasing exponentially.   A large walleye population in this lake would really put a lot of pressure on the forage base here.  What would they eat?  Probably panfish, perch fry, young bass and whatever else they could eat.  Stocked and wild rainbow trout would certainly suffer even more than they already do here.  Stay tuned!

  • Seneca Lake

    One of the questions I get asked most often is, “What’s going on with Seneca Lake?”  Unfortunately, when I had this new website created a couple of years ago, my old articles disappeared during the transfer.  I’d already asked my web designer to do a lot by saving and reposting all my archived reports, so I didn’t feel like having him try to dredge out my old articles.  Maybe I can find some on archive.org.  Anyways, I had quite a few thoughts on Seneca Lake issues, history and management.  I’m not going to rehash much of it here, but with the Region 8 Diary Reports arriving in my mailbox yesterday, I have some thoughts on what we’re looking at in the future on Seneca Lake.

    The most noteworthy event on the fishing on Seneca in 2021 was that the most abundant species caught by diary keepers was landlocked Atlantic salmon.  This was the first time in the program’s history (which goes back to 1973) that lake trout were not the dominant species caught.  Although this may seem like good news to a lot of salmon aficionados, it really isn’t.  Yes, there was some pretty spectacular salmon fishing on Seneca Lake last winter and spring, but most of those fish were in large groups and they averaged 17″ long.  They were also fairly beat-up by lampreys.  Furthermore, the fishing seems to be much slower this year.  The salmon fishing does help illuminate the potential that Seneca Lake has and has shown in the past of having the makings to be a top-notch salmon fishery – right up there with Cayuga Lake and Lake Champlain.  But when you have 50% of the annual catch being lake trout – and if this is any representation of the salmonid population, there isn’t enough of a lake trout stock in the lake to buffer the impacts of sea lamprey.

     

    I have a copy of Dan Bishop’s report entitled “EVALUATION OF THE EXPERIMENTAL SEA LAMPREY CONTROL PROGRAM IN CAYUGA LAKE, NY.”   It’s a very interesting read.  I don’t know much about the history of this line of research which studies the dynamics of species interaction between lake trout, browns, rainbows, salmon and lampreys, but clearly this might be the definitive thesis on how to manage a fishery with all the aforementioned variables.

    The takeaway from Dan’s findings is that in a fishery that has lampreys, if your proportion of lake trout in angler catches (say by year’s end as an aggregate) is roughly 60% of the overall salmonid mix, and you have sufficient lamprey control, you should have a fishery that produces trophy fish and satisfied anglers.  Trophies were considered lake trout over 25″ long and salmon/browns/rainbows over 20″ long.

    If the fishery has too many lake trout, the lake trout will wind up eating the young stocked (and wild) lakers, rainbows, salmon and browns.  With too few lake trout, the lampreys will attack and kill many of the non-lakers.  Seneca strain lake trout (which are probably the majority strain of what we have throughout the Finger Lakes and Great Lakes, including Lake Champlain) have coexisted with lampreys for at least 160 years and have shown the best ability to survive lamprey attacks when compared to other lake trout strains.  The lakers, being a bigger fish on average out in the wild, tend to draw lampreys to them, which winds up saving the other salmonids.  Brown trout are the most susceptible salmonid to lamprey attacks.  If you have a lot of lampreys, you will not see browns over 2 years old, and sometimes not even many 2 year olds.

    As an aside, you’ll often hear anglers and charter captains in the Great Lakes talking about wanting to cut back lake trout stocking in order to protect the forage base.  If all lake trout were to disappear tomorrow on Lake Ontario, lampreys would annihilate the chinooks, cohos, steelhead, browns and Atlantic salmon in short order.  Yes, some of those fish would survive, but the fishery would basically be in deep trouble.

    I am hoping on Seneca Lake that we have “weathered the storm” so to speak.  Despite heavy stocking, relatively few brown trout appeared to have survived over the past year.  At least some made it.  There was a slight spike in rainbow trout caught as well.  The lakers were at an all-time low.   A friend of mine has done very well on small lake trout while pulling copper over the past year.  I marked a lot of what had to be small lakers last time I was on the lake (last week.)  Stocking numbers went up in 2020 and those fish will start recruiting to the fishery in 2023 (i.e., becoming catchable.)

    Anglers sometimes report lampreys attaching to their transoms!  We had that happen last fall up by Geneva.  Those are adult lampreys that are close to the end of their lives.  They will run up the streams this April/May, spawn and die.  The hope is that once those fish are gone, the number of these parasites out in the lake will be much lower.  Spring rainbows running up Catherine Creek this year mostly had healed wounds.

    We may find this year to be another very tough year on Seneca Lake, but with plenty of lake trout set to mature throughout this year and next, we’ll have a better lamprey buffer.  We’ll also see the alewife numbers start to go down.  Fewer alewives will help yellow perch spawning success.  It will also make the lake trout more aggressive and catchable.

    So, what’s fishing well nowadays on Seneca Lake?  Pike action there has been very good to excellent over the past few years.  Lamprey control should help these fish start reaching more memorable sizes – like over 30″.   Smallmouth bass fishing has been good on Seneca Lake too.  Some big fish are around and there are lots of small smallmouths available too.  Largemouth bass are becoming more common, with some very nice specimens being caught lake wide.   Perch remain slow and their numbers are certainly down.  (Given the 30 to 100 boats that have been pounding Cayuga Lake daily over the past month, I wonder how long Cayuga Lake will keep churning out the perch? That’s another issue.)

    Thankfully we still haven’t seen round gobies on Seneca Lake – at least not apart from maybe one or two reported.  Gobies have been a disaster everywhere they’ve shown up.  Smallmouth bass populations are really taking a hit because of these noxious pests.   In Ohio, Lake Erie smallmouth fishing during the spawn has now been made illegal from May 1st to June 30th.  Bass numbers are going down.  Oneida Lake smallmouth fishing has declined precipitously over the past couple years.  Lake Ontario hasn’t produced a massive class of smallmouth bass in over 15 years despite favorable environmental conditions.  Cayuga Lake’s smallmouth bass fishing is awful.  Yes, you can catch trophies on all these water bodies, but the numbers are way down.  Guys used to catch upwards of 40 to 50 smallmouths a day on Cayuga Lake back in the 1990s.  Those days are long gone.  Sooner or later the bass fishing world will wake up and realize that these little pests may be the worst thing to hit bass populations ever.

    This year may wind up being the toughest year on Seneca Lake we’ve seen since 2015.  The large numbers of salmon in the diaries last year obscured how bad the lake trout fishing was.   But that being said, in 2023 we should see a big improvement overall in the lake trout fishing on Seneca.  Hopefully we’ll see it this year, but it will be another year before the increased lake trout stocking numbers start showing up in our catches.

    If you want to help keep DEC abreast in what’s going on and you fish Seneca Lake at least a few times a year, sign up to become a diary cooperator.  You can click onto these links for more information:

    https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/fish_marine_pdf/r8adp.pdf

    https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/73518.html

  • Fisheries Updates

    I hope everyone is having a good Holiday season.  I appreciate the cards and well-wishes.  I’ve been enjoying my time off of the water after a busy season with a lot of challenges – mainly in the form of precipitation but also with the supply chain shortages (e.g., my axle on my older boat.)  Weather permitting, I’ll get back out shortly for some fishing.   From what I’ve seen and heard, fishing in Cayuga and Seneca Lakes has been fairly slow for trout/salmon.  Some fish are being taken from shore at Taughannock and elsewhere.  Water levels are getting back to a winter norm.   With another year in the books, I gave Region 7 fisheries a call and headed down to the offices to drop off my diaries.  I enjoy chatting with the crew down there.

    Every three years one of the major Finger Lakes gets netted for a cold water assessment.  This year was Skaneateles Lake.  With the walleye “infestation” over there, warm water nets were also set.    Eventually I’m sure we’ll see a technical brief written up on the DEC website with the preliminary results of the netting.  Some info will surely be presented in the diary summaries too, typically mailed out in April

    Preliminary results (again – the numbers haven’t been tallied up, so these are just observations) show that the lake trout population may have declined a little bit.  Ciscoes have not bounced back as much as hoped after the last netting.  Anecdotal information from anglers also reports the average size of smallmouth bass on the decline as well.  I certainly noticed less lake trout and smaller smallmouths this year.  We had one or two days with plenty of bass but not many over 13″, whereas in years past we’d see quite a few more 15″ to 16″ fish.  There may have been fewer walleyes in the nets.  But there are still plenty of them out there.

    It appears as though the new walleye regulations over there will start on New Year’s Day.  We’re looking at a 12″ size limit, open season all year round and no number limit.  The regs are up on the DEC website and anglers can comment on them for another month or two.  This new regulation is the right thing to do.  Illegal stockings shouldn’t be rewarded with protection afforded to native or stocked desirable species/gamefish.   Walleyes can live to 20 to 25 years.   Not only will they decimate the trout/salmon populations there, they will also impact the perch and other species.  And I am saying this as someone who enjoys catching and eating walleyes.  No matter where you fall on this issue, I think we can all agree that some woodchuck with a pail of walleyes and a dream shouldn’t be determining lakes’ fish communities.

    I doubt this new regulation will have a major impact on the walleye population over there.  But it will help a bit.  It’s kind of like killing a lamprey – each lamprey spends around 2 years out in a lake in a parasitic phase.  Each one can kill up to 30lbs of trout/salmon in its short life.  With Finger Lakes trout/salmon averaging maybe 2 to 3lbs, that’s a lot of fish.  So every lamprey you kill does help a bit.

    One item of note is that Emily (the biologist managing Cayuga Lake) puts the percentage of wild lake trout currently in Cayuga Lake at 4%.  We went from pretty much zero wild production in the latter part of the 1900s, to first seeing some wild fish in 1995.  Wild numbers of lake trout increased to nearly 8 to 10% as smelt numbers went down in the 2000s.  Enter the round goby in 2012 and wild numbers of lake trout are going right back down again.  Gobies can completely wipe out lake trout eggs and fry.  The disadvantages of round goby far outweigh the advantages in my opinion, but that’s neither here nor there – we have them and will be dealing with them for a long time, if not forever.

    Due to staffing shortages, fall fingerling lake trout stocked this year were NOT fin-clipped, so we will be seeing some unclipped hatchery fish showing up in 4 or 5 years.  I don’t think that’s too big of a deal since the wild production is down a lot anyways and is basically at an insignificant level.   Lake trout stocking will likely be cut a little bit in order to help young rainbows, browns and salmon survive.  As long as we have suitable lamprey control (and we usually do on Cayuga Lake), I think this is worth trying.  One reason I think that we aren’t seeing a lot of browns despite nearly a double stocking last year is that a lot of lake trout have been marauding the shallows likely looking for gobies in April/May when the young fish are stocked.  The decline of dressenid mussels in the shallows due to goby predation and the subsequent lack of shallow gobies in the cold water months should keep a lot more lake trout deep from November through early May.  This might help the young trout/salmon.  Cormorant control would also help.

    There is consideration of some salmon fingerling stocking in some other tributaries of Cayuga Lake like Yawger Creek up by Aurora.  Apparently, some were stocked up there in 2012 and the returns were good.  Other good news was a young wild sturgeon spawned this year being found in Fall Creek.  Sturgeon are thriving in Cayuga Lake!

    Not much else to report.  Lake biologists are completing their lake management plans, so hopefully we’ll be able to look at those and comment in the near future.  Region 7 staff will be helping do more lamprey control on Seneca Lake with Region 8 again next year.  Manager Brad Hammers has his hands full over on Seneca Lake.  I think he’s doing all he can, and we should start seeing some positive results in the fishing over there soon.

    Don’t forget to think about become an angler diary cooperator if you fish these lakes on a semi-regular or even occasional basis.  Every bit of info helps with managing these fisheries and you’ll also get a say in future regulation changes as well as many management decisions.

    Let’s hope 2022 is a great year on the water!

  • Lake trout cooking preparation for people who don’t think they like it

    One question I get asked on a weekly basis is “how should I cook my catch?”  One comment I often hear when I ask clients if they plan on keeping fish is that “I don’t care for lake trout, so let’s just catch and release fish today.”

    Let’s start with the second question first.  And let me preface this by saying that I don’t recall having ever eaten Great Lakes lake trout or lakers from the Adirondacks either.  Adirondack fish should taste great.  I would expect Lake Ontario fish circa 2021 to be very good too, but going back to the late 1880s, people liked Finger Lakes lake trout better than those from Lake Ontario.  I have an old article to prove it!  (See the book “Fishing North American Waters 1888”.)  I have eaten them from most of the Finger Lakes as well as from Alaska.  Generally speaking, when properly prepared from the lake to the table, I consider them excellent table fare.  Yes – excellent.   I do like Landlocked Salmon, browns and rainbows better, but not that much better.  I think all these species are somewhat in the same “ballpark.”   They are all oily fish that eat a lot of alewives.

    There are three main reasons a lot of anglers in the Finger Lakes don’t like lake trout.  Or I should say, there are three main causes of lake trout being spoiled or doomed before they even make it to the table.

    #1.)  Fish are not put on ice immediately after catching them.  I just saw three nice lakers on a stringer at Taughannock this morning.  The water temp on the surface was 70 degrees.  By the end of the day that angler will be able to poke their finger right through the skin and into the flesh of the fish.  It will be spoiled ROTTEN.  You wouldn’t put steak out in 80 degree weather and just let it fester for 8 hours before cooking it.  You wouldn’t hang a deer up in 80 degree weather either!  I’d hope not.  Non-oily fish like walleyes can handle being kept in warm water.  I don’t recommend it.  But a lot of people unfortunately need “spoil-proof” fish.  They just are clueless when it comes to taking care of their catch.

    #2.)  People freeze their catch for too long.  Lake trout is best eaten fresh – as are most fish.  Freeze them for months and they will often turn rancid in the freezer.  I have had this happen.  Oily fish generally do not fare well frozen for long.  And yes, I get guys who claim to have kept lake trout for a year frozen in water or vacuum sealed, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

    3.)  People do not remove the dark meat along the skin of the fish (along the lateral line) before cooking it.   The dark meat has an “insipid flavor.”  It’s not bitter or sour, but it tastes “off.”  It doesn’t taste good and it will ruin your entire experience of eating a nice lake trout.  Cut out ALL of the dark meat before frying the fish.  If you are grilling it with the skin on or smoking it, just don’t eat that stuff.  It will come off easily with a fork.  Think of it as gristle or fat and you’ll be good to go.

    Here is a fool proof way to prepare Finger Lakes lake trout.  If you like fish, there’s a 99% chance you will really enjoy this recipe after following the preparation instructions.  I learned this stuff back in 1997 from Jim Haviland, who used to fish the lake a lot.  He owned “Kidder’s Landing” – a restaurant I worked at for a summer when I first moved down here in 1995.  Guys at his bar hated lake trout but liked the “silver fish,” so Jim would serve them his lake trout and tell them they were brown trout as he watched his patrons gobble down plate after plate of trout.  Only after they finished eating the fish would he tell them that they were eating lakers!   Not everything below is exactly how Jim did it, but it’s close enough and I have to give him the credit here.

    First thing to do is fillet the fish after you bled it out and iced it in your cooler onboard.  I generally fillet fish leaving the rib cage in, so the next thing to do is use a sharp fillet knife and cut along the edge of the ribcage, removing it.

    "Field Dressed Fillet" ready to prepare for table

    Cut out the ribcage

    After this, we are going to skin the fish.  Jim liked to angle his fillet knife parallel to the fillet, instead of angling towards the skin.  This does waste meat, but what it does is removes the vast majority of the lateral line quickly and easily.  If you don’t want to waste meat, go right along the skin but keep in mind you’ll have a lot more trimming to do.

    Jim told me that people would say “you’re wasting a lot of meat!”  Jim would reply – it’s ok, I have a bunch more trout!   I’d rather waste some meat filleting the fish, than waste 95% of the fillet because someone doesn’t like the off taste and tosses the whole fillet out.  So figure out what works best for you.

    Skinning the fish so dark meat is mostly removed

    You could always salvage some of the meat against the skin and use it for fish cakes or something else if you want.

    Notice how you now have a very narrow “column” of dark lateral line/skin meat.  Now just cut it out with a “V” cut and discard it.

    Cut out remainder of lateral line

    Jim was adamant about never soaking the fillet in water.  He recommended just wiping off the blood with paper towel.  If you get fish $hit on the fillet, I would do a quick rinse.  I don’t think that hurts anything.

    Patting down/wiping off the blood

    Now you are ready to cut the fish fillet into manageable sized (easily cooked) pieces.  Dredge the pieces in plain old white flour.  No need for any milk/egg wash – the oil of the fish makes them tacky enough!

    Cut up and ready to dredge!

    I should mention, you’ll also want to cut out any fatty deposits, like the kind that occurs just below a fin.  Also cut out any calcium/bone that was left on the fillet as you filleted along the backbone.  Do this before you cut up the fish.

    In the flour!

    In terms of your oil, I use vegetable oil but you can use whatever you want.  The oil should be hot enough so that the fish are “surprised” a bit – they sizzle when added to the pan. You don’t want the fish to just sit in the oil with no sizzle!  On the other hand – if the pieces curl up right away, the oil is too hot and your fish will likely get over cooked.

    Fry 'em up!

    Sprinkle in some salt and pepper to taste

    This fish was a 22″ laker.  I cooked it on one side for 2 minutes and then the other side for just over a minute.  That was all and it was done to perfection!  You’ll have to experiment with fish size and cooking time.  For a large fish, just cut the pieces to a smaller size.

    Remove from oil, pat down and enjoy! I like some lemon with my fish....

    How did it turn out?  It was fantastic!  If you don’t like lake trout, or had a bad experience with them, think about trying to prepare it this way.  I think you’ll have a change of heart!

  • Announcement – Zoom Lecture on Round Gobies in the Finger Lakes

    Round Goby Rampage: The Pros and Cons of a New Finger Lakes Invader

    Tuesday, 4/27 at 7pm with Dr. Susan Cushman

    Description:

    The Round Goby, Neogobius melanostomus, an invasive fish species now in some of the Finger Lakes has been known to forage primarily on dreissenid mussels and Lake Trout eggs, but their impact on other lake invertebrates is not well known. This presentation will provide background on their identification, invasion, ecology, and current distribution of the Round Goby in the Finger Lakes. Data will be shared from lake monitoring and citizen surveys, and feeding studies conducted to assess diet preferences and likely impact on native and invasive prey as well as native fishes.

    Event is free but requires registration for link.  Here is the link to sign up:

    https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0pce2hrjsvHtVeovuX_BWQcfcX9eBbtNJw

     

    Biography:
    Susan Cushman received her B.S. with a major in 1998 from William Smith College and her M.S. in 2001 from The Johns Hopkins University. She earned her Ph.D. in Fisheries Science from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Dr. Cushman has taught at Hobart and William Smith Colleges since 2007 where she teaches in the Biology Department and is a Research Scientist at the Finger Lakes Institute. Her areas of research span many areas of ecology including stream ecosystems, fish ecology, invasive species, habitat restoration, and water quality in the Finger Lakes. She is the past president of the New York Chapter of the American Fisheries Society and the vice president of the Northeastern Division of the American Fisheries Society.

  • Region 8 Angler Diary Summaries

    This afternoon I had a chance to read over my NYS DEC angler diary summaries of Seneca, Keuka and Canandaigua Lakes. As most of you know, I have guided Seneca Lake fairly regularly in the past.  As late as in 2012 I did 29% of my trips there, as opposed to 31% at Cayuga – and I spent a lot of time there in the 2000s.   Keuka was a lake I guided back when I lived in Trumansburg, which is closer to it than I am now.  I averaged around 15 to 25 trips there a year back in the 2000s into around 2012, just before I moved to Lansing.  I primarily guided there for lake trout but would do occasional smallmouth bass trips there when the conditions were good for them.  I have done occasional lake trout jigging trips on Canandaigua Lake for regular clients that live out that way, but it is not a lake I have fished a whole lot, however growing up in Rochester, all these lakes were more in my orbit than the ones I guide and fish now.

    The reason I write this is that I do get a lot of questions about these other lakes.  I do have profiles of them elsewhere on this website.

    Canandaigua Lake is probably just behind Cayuga Lake in lake trout abundance and great fishing.  For people targeting lake trout on Canandaigua Lake, it took an average of .9 hours to catch a legal laker.  That might even be better than Cayuga Lake.  Fish averaged 21 inches long.  Top fish caught and weighed by diary cooperators was a 17.69lb monster!  Canandaigua might have a few bigger individual lake trout in it than Cayuga Lake, but overall I think Cayuga Lake is better on average for 4 to 9lb fish.  Without the presence of lampreys, lakers have a better chance of reaching trophy potential, even though Canandaigua doesn’t have the forage base that Seneca or Cayuga Lakes have.  The percentage of wild fish over there is around 14%. All the rainbows there are wild fish, mainly spawned in Naples Creek and its tributaries.  Rainbow trout fishing was also excellent on Canandaigua.

    Keuka Lake also has a terrific catch rate – 1.3 hours to catch a legal lake trout in 2020.  Other salmonids are rare there and strictly bonus fish.  All lake trout there are wild and especially tasty.

    Seneca Lake was slow again for trout in general.  It took an average of 5 hours to catch a legal salmonid over there.  Kept lakers averaged 22.5 inches.   44% of the lake trout caught were wild fish.  Salmon numbers ticked up a little bit over there in 2020.  They will tick up a lot this year.  No diary cooperators caught any rainbows or brown trout on Seneca Lake last year.

    Cooperator numbers were down on all three of these lakes last year.  Covid could probably be blamed for a bit of the decline in trips and anglers, especially when boat launches were temporarily closed.  Keuka Lake will be losing one of its main cooperators in 2021 with Keuka BigFoot Charters retiring.  I don’t believe a single Seneca Lake Charter Captain keeps a book anymore, which to me is bewildering.  So every year DEC has less data to work with.  At least they are seeing a large enough lake trout sample size on Seneca to be able to ascertain the percentage of wild fish.  Hopefully some of you will sign up this year.   We should see the Region 7(Cayuga/Owasco/Otisco/Skaneateles) summaries within the next week or two.

  • A few odds and ends…

    First off, I want to thank whoever sent me the #JIG mug!  I appreciate it.  There was no note or return address, so I have no idea who sent it to me.

    I have been updating the website when I have time.  When the new site was built some of the “species” didn’t transfer over.  My web designer also used some stock Finger Lake photos as a template for me.  I had completely forgotten about those, so I have been replacing them with photos of the various lakes.  I’ve also been digging through my photo archives (and I have a TON of them) and adding some more shots to go along with the “species” pages.

    Angling Zone friend Ralph told me about a great product that no boater/motorist should be without.  It’s the NOCO Boost Plus Jump Starter.  I bought the GB 40.  They are available through Tackle Warehouse, Bass Pro Shops and elsewhere.  This little gadget fits into a winter coat pocket and can jump start a dead car, truck or boat battery with ease.  As a matter of fact, with one charge you can start over a dozen (up to 18) vehicles!  Check out the YouTube videos on this thing.  No more having to ask for a jump when you have a dead battery or having to call AAA.   I can’t count how many times I’ve seen guys stuck at a boat launch with a dead battery and no way to start it.  I saw that happen back in November on Otisco Lake.

    I recently bought one and actually had to use it a week ago when my truck battery died.  It’s the real deal.  Three years ago they sold for around $70 to $90 – now they are up to $140 but they are still well worth it.

    Gift Certificates are available.  It’s a bit late now to send one out before the holiday but I have them for any occasion!

  • Region 8 Seneca and Keuka Lake Updates

    I had a chance to talk with DEC Region 8 personnel.  DEC has been working on updating the Fisheries Management Plans for the Region 8 lakes.  The last time plans were formulated was back in 1980/1981, when Tom Chiotti wrote them up.  I have copies of the old plans for Cayuga, Owasco, Skaneateles, Otisco and Canandaigua Lakes, and I’ve read the old Seneca Lake plan.   They are a real treasury of information with past stocking history, regulations, angler effort, limnological info and numerous other items of note.

    Once plans are completed, which should be in a couple months, they will be subject to public review.  Brad Hammers mentioned in the latest diary summary that increasing landlocked salmon stocking on Seneca Lake is being considered.  Brown trout stocking was virtually doubled in 2020 due to the zebra mussel infestation found at the Rome Hatchery.  Browns will be discontinued in Seneca Lake in 2021.  If for some reason we see tremendous returns of browns over the next couple years, maybe that policy will be reconsidered, but overall the brown stocking has not produced a fishery of note on Seneca Lake.   You just don’t see the effort like you do on Cayuga Lake with guys flatlining them in the winter/spring – it just doesn’t happen.  Brown trout do not fare well with high lamprey populations.  Salmon do better, so hopefully we’ll see a stocking increase no later than 2022.

    Lamprey numbers are still higher than desired on Seneca Lake.  Catherine Creek and Keuka Outlet (at Dresden) are both being slated for treatment in 2021.  Of course that doesn’t do anything to lower the numbers of lamprey currently out swimming around in Seneca Lake but hopefully it will keep their future numbers down.

    Lake trout netted this summer looked very plump.  Numbers (abundance) was about the same or slightly lower than the last netting 3 or 4 years ago.  The main reason they are hard for anglers to catch is that they are very well fed.  Alewife netting was done in September and their abundance is very high in Seneca Lake.  They netted “a ton” of them and there were plenty of good year classes present.  Lamprey wounding was down considerably on Seneca Lake’s lake trout.  I have some good contacts that fish the lake and I hear differing stories – some guys were catching lakers that were pretty beat up, and other guys were impressed by how clean they were.  Both can be true!

    Keuka Lake was stocked with 200,000 ciscoes this past fall.  They seem to be doing alright in Keuka.  I actually had a client tell me that he caught one on a worm this past summer, which was neat.  If anyone out there catches a cisco or finds one in a lake trout, please contact Region 8.  They want to know about it.  Overall numbers of lake trout on Keuka seems to have trended down a little bit since the heavy harvest through the ice back around 2015/2016, but Brad says the population appears to be increasing again.

    Those of you that fish these lakes more than a couple times a year for trout should think about keeping a DEC Diary.  I’ve been trumpeting this for many years now and I’m still disappointed in how few anglers bother with it.  It’s very little effort and with these lakes continually changing, DEC needs as much information as they can get in order to formulate good stocking/management policy.  Even if you don’t catch many or any fish for that matter, that information is important.  Angler effort and catches or lack thereof is an important component of determining stocking numbers.  So I hope to see an increase in cooperators when I receive my diary summaries next spring. I know some of you have signed up and kept a book this year and I appreciate it!

  • Seneca Lake Update

    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.

  • Maryland Pike Cakes?

    As somebody who likes to target pike and pickerel as well as eat them on occasion, one of the questions that arises is what to do with those extra scraps and meaty wedges that have those annoying “Y” bones in them.  I don’t like to waste good meat but at the same time I want my dining experience to be pleasurable.  Chomping on a plethora of bones doesn’t sound like fun to me, not to mention that they can get caught in your throat.  Those aren’t my kind of thrills!

    There are boatloads of pickerel in Cayuga Lake as well as Oneida Lake.  They are superb eating.  Boneless toothies are right up there with walleyes, as my client Bill mentioned to me a few days ago – and I wholeheartedly agree.   Over the years we have played around with a lot of fish cake recipes.  I’ve tried ones from “In-Fishermen” magazine as well as others online.  They are all good.  I had a bunch of frozen scraps and it dawned on me that substituting pike or pickerel (or walleye, trout, crappie, rock bass et al) might be worth a shot in a crab cake recipe.  After all, who doesn’t like crab cakes?  Non-seafood eaters are the only people I know that don’t love crab cakes.

    I tried a recipe last week and without a doubt, they are the best fish cakes I’ve ever had bar none.  This recipe came from www.sallybakingaddiction.com    

    You can check out the link online.

    You would take a pound of so of fish scraps – I would run them through a grinder or food processor.  Mix with one egg, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1/4 cup mayo, 2 tsp dried or fresh parsley, 2 tsp Dijon mustard, 2/3 rds cup cracker crumbs (I used good oyster crackers and ground them coarsely) 1 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning (gotta have the Old Bay!)  and 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce.

    Blend together.  I heated up a couple large skillets and used some bacon grease.  I like to use a large ice-cream scoop to portion out the fish cakes.  I place the scoops in the pan then use a spatula to flatten them out.  I cooked them around 4 minutes per side using medium heat.   They came out FANTASTICALLY!   The cracker crumbs – especially if left very coarse give the cakes a nice airier texture than you would get by using potato buds, mashed potatoes or bread crumbs.  Great breakfast food or good for lunch/dinner.  Give them a try and see what you think.