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!