Region 7 Diary Highlights/Lowlights
It was sure nice to get our Region 7 Diary Summaries in mid-March! Over the past 4 or 5 years, they’ve shown up in mid-April. In the old days, biologists would get summaries and books out to cooperators in early March, before the season got underway.
Here’s some of the pertinent info:
Cayuga Lake: Cold water cooperator numbers are pretty good at 42 anglers. That’s not bad. Lows since the mid-1990s were 25 anglers in 2016 and highs have been up to 101. I encourage a lot of my clients to participate. The drawback of that, is that a lot of them are lake trout jiggers and that can skew catch numbers towards lake trout. If you target non-lakers – i.e., rainbows, browns and salmon, you should consider signing up so the results show some balance.
Lake Trout were 96% of the salmonid catch. That is NOT GOOD! When laker numbers are that high proportionally (assuming that this percentage is indicative of the proportions of various salmonids out there), they are at a level that impacts the survival of the other salmonids. Lakers are notoriously cannibalistic. They will eat a lot of freshly stocked salmon and browns as well as rainbows down-migrating from Cayuga Inlet. We will likely see lake trout stocking reductions in the near future. DEC aims for 65% lakers and 35% other salmonids in the creel.
Salmon numbers were poor as were brown trout numbers. Rainbow numbers weren’t bad. People need to harvest more lake trout out of Cayuga Lake. We’re seeing some encouraging numbers of young browns thus far this year. Hopefully we’ll start seeing more young salmon too!
Warm water cooperator numbers were low with 10 anglers. The most the program has seen has seen in the past was 14. If you fish Cayuga Lake for bass, pike or pickerel, consider keeping a book for DEC.
No pike were reported in 2022 by cooperators. I’ve noticed perch fishermen picking up more bonus northern pike on Cayuga Lake’s north end. The south end pike numbers seem to be way down. That’s a shame, but at least people can’t blame them for the poor recruitment of young salmonids.
Smallmouth numbers were pathetic! Only 3 were caught. Targeted catch rates were .006 fish/hour. That’s awful. DEC did spring electro-fishing for “centrarchids” (bass/bluegill family species) on Cayuga Lake in 2022. They caught 338 fish over three nights including 54 largemouths and ONLY 2 SMALLMOUTHS. Next time you hear somewhat touting how great gobies are for smallmouth bass, keep this in mind! In every other major Finger Lake that doesn’t have a goby population, the smallmouths are thriving. So conditions have clearly been good to excellent for smallmouth bass spawning success and “recruitment” (to the fishery.) I think smallmouths in Cayuga Lake are going to play a very minor component in the future. I hope I’m wrong. DEC will be doing more surveying this year. Sometimes fish like smallmouths are tough to capture, but this corroborates what I’ve seen and heard regarding Cayuga Lake’s smallmouths. I have a friend that got into a large school of smallmouths last spring – but that was just one group. Anecdotally, a lot were on beds including some young fish, so hopefully this is an aberration. However DEC noticed a “lack of small fish, there were very few one-year-old fish.” Blame gobies! This lake used to be loaded with young smallmouth bass.
Owasco Lake: Only 7 cold water cooperators participated last year. That number needs to go up! You can use your Cayuga book on Owasco Lake. Lake trout were 90% of the salmonid catch. Rainbows are trending upwards and averaging 20.9 inches long. Only 4 browns were reported. They are on the rebound in this lake. Relatively few people seem to be fishing this lake. When I guided here last year, at most I’d see 3 or 4 other trout fishermen out. It’s a great lake to fish for trout – especially in the summer and fall. With Cayuga Lake being so good, I understand the light pressure here, but it’s a great lake to fish for a change of pace.
Warm water fishing here was very good. Only 4 cooperators participated in 2022. It took an average of 1.4 hours to catch a legal gamefish. Smallmouth numbers/fishing was excellent! I would agree with that – we had a great guided trip here for smallmouths last year. We had nice bass on virtually every major area we fished. Walleye numbers finally appear to be declining here. That will help the browns and rainbows big-time.
Skaneateles Lake: Sixteen cooperators sent in books in 2022. Lake trout averaging 17.7″ long dominated the catch. They were 91% of the salmonid lake catch. Rainbows were 7% of the catch averaging 18.6″. We saw the lowest rainbow trout catch rates since 1976. You can thank the idiots that dumped walleyes in the lake for that! Only 7 salmon were taken, averaging 20.8″ long.
Warm water: Eleven cooperators participated in the program. Smallmouth fishing was excellent here as usual, although the sizes run small. Eight walleyes were landed and two of those were released (for some reason.)
Otisco Lake: Only 11 cooperators participated in 2022. Fishing was generally excellent. Walleye ran to 24″ long. May was the best month for catching them and most were caught by shore fishermen. DEC did some netting here and had a TREMENDOUS 22.4 walleyes per net! (White perch still dominate the nettings in terms of abundance.) Five walleyes per net would suggest a high abundance, so this lake appears to be loaded with walleyes at this point. Tiger Musky fishing was best in July, which kind of surprised me a bit. The targeted catch rate of Tigers on this lake was 1 every 7.2 hours. They averaged 31.1″ long. Bass fishing was excellent here, but most of those were caught in May during the “pre-season” when they are pre-spawn or spawning. I would like to see the numbers from the regular “harvest” season.
There’s a lot more to unpack in these reports. DEC usually posts them online within a few months. I just pointed out a few items of interest.