Jump to content

Collapse of a once great Walleye fishery...


bulletbob

Recommended Posts

I know very few guys on this forum fish the southern tier area, but i wanted to get a few thoughts on this topic.. Some  might disagree and say the fishery is fine, but that would greatly surprise me after talking directly with the DEC last fall about the   serious lack of fish in their survey of the river last year... I posted this  a few days ago  on the NJFishing forum, and some guys do fish in the susquehanna in pa. on that forum... Just would like thoughts, or disagreements... bob

 

 

NJFishing.com Old Salt
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 2,079
 
Default collapsed walleye fishery...

I understand this is a NJ forum, but I also know some NJ guys here do fish NY and Pa waters as well for various species... Since moving away from my very beloved salt water fishing in 1991, I adapted by learning how to fish for what was available locally... First and foremost on that list was Walleye, and I had a good fishery for several years in the susquehanna river.. They were there in cool water months mostly.. Oct through ice in, and then for a few weeks in May early June after the closed season for their spawn, which closes in March and opens in May...It was always there for me, and I always caught fish.. Then about 2008-2010, I noticed I caught less of them every year... Went from say 4 to 8 fish on a good November 3 hours late afternoon to evening session, to 1 or 2 fish every 2 sessions.. Then one fish every 5 casting sessions.. Then 2 or 3 an entire season, until now when I caught 1 walleye all last year, and 1 all of this year... No one has answers why these fish just vanished... SMB are still here, as are Cats, Muskies, Carp etc... NY DEC doesn't seem very interested at all.. After me bugging them for years they finally did a survey on the abundance of fish in the river in fall of 2022.. They said "yep" we didn't see many Walleyes in the river.. very few in fact, but hey the few we did see were good sized.. I guess that was supposed to make me feel better.. They won't do anything anywhere, unless its trout or salmon related, and ONLY in tourist zones[Great Lakes/Fingers/Catskills streams].... The Flathead catfish which eat everything have now made it into the NY section of the river, so I'm sure that isn't helping, but these fish have been in a steep decline for 15 years, long before Flatheads were even close to NY.... It has really affected my fishing life not having my main species, especially since the only FW fish I eat besides Perch and Sunnies is Walleye.... I really thought the NYS DEC would have at least a few theories on how a once thriving fishery could totally collapse, but not a peep, and when asked said , "yeah theres just not many in there".. I was hoping they could do better, but I guess not... anyway, maybe some guys here would like to speculate, or have seen something similar in other fresh water fisheries... Breaks my heart, but not much I can do really- other than discuss it..... bob
Link to comment
Share on other sites

45 minutes ago, GAMBLER said:

The internet has not helped many fisheries.  Just like Canadice and Hemlock lakes.  They used to be ghost towns (especially ice season) and now there is tons of traffic on them.  

This is great news for the people who try and make a living serving these communities. Instead of lamenting the exclusive use people may have had to certain bodies of water we should work to ensure that the DEC and fisheries keeps up with the demand of more people fishing these waters 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 minutes ago, chowder said:

This is great news for the people who try and make a living serving these communities. Instead of lamenting the exclusive use people may have had to certain bodies of water we should work to ensure that the DEC and fisheries keeps up with the demand of more people fishing these waters 

How do you keep up the demand of species they do not stock or fragile populations like the St. Lawrence muskies?  Too much pressure, over harvest or mishandling could cause severe damage to fragile populations that could take the DEC years to correct.  The communities around Hemlock and Candaice Lake do not benefit at all from fishing pressure on these lakes.  There is literally nothing around these lakes.  All it has done is put a strain on the fishery and more ice fishermen are leaving garbage on the ice.  The internet has done more bad than good for NY fish populations IMO.  

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 In the case of the susquehanna, i don't think its pressure.. Only around Binghamton in a few spots is there any appreciable fishing pressure, and even then only in a few easily accessed spots.. much of the NY section is actually underfished -there just  aren't that many easily fishable areas.. The  SM bass are still around in great abundance, Cats are everywhere, and huge, , I don't fish for them but I hear pure strain muskies are doing well etc...

The thing thats most alarming is the total absence of young fish.. They used to absolutely cover the bottom everywhere in the river any time of year... Then they were gone, and now  walleyes of any size   are just about absent, at least in the areas I have fished for the past 32 years...  In all honesty, I used to hook hundreds every spring and fall, releasing the vast majority,  taking a few  keeper size fish a year to eat... This year, one fish  in dozens of trips. Last year I think I caught one also, might have been the year before... I just don't understand the total lack of understanding by the NYS DEC  as to what has happened in this river, as well as the apparent total lack of concern on their part.... bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with Chowder regarding emerging fisheries, but I think that Brian is referring to more susceptible niche populations of fish where the pressure suddenly explodes. In many cases, the increased traffic is simply due to increased exposure and an "exploitation of convenience" by regional anglers who suddenly become aware of an opportunity. Everybody should be able to enjoy our resources, but I strongly feel that value and respect is proportional to effort, and it doesn't take much to read a hero post. Recent advances in electronics means that there's nowhere for fish to hide anymore. Internet exposure is like painting a target on their backs. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, some monumental flooding... However, that really doesn't explain the fact that its only one species thats missing... Other species are ok... Floods or no floods, there should still be some young fish to be seen each year, and they are totally absent for the most part... Went from catching  dozens of small fish every single time i threw a line into the river, to seeing one or two sub 10 inch fish a year.. something is drastically wrong....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I fish a lot here in central Pa. on the Juniata river which is a trib to the Susquehanna. We have seen the exact same thing here and I feel the water quality is better than it has been for many many years. I talked to a PAFBC guy this spring and he said they were going to do a study and see if they could figure out what was happening to the walleye's. I think one of the biggest problems is that they are so dang good to eat that as soon as they get close to legal size they get harvested. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Carpcatcher.. great seeing someone that has an idea of whats going on.. the guys on this forum are very knowledgeable of course, but not too many of the members here  fish this river from what I gather, and  might not  have much  insight as to how things were at one time, and how they are now...

 

I  have my doubts about over harvest totally destroying the Walleye fishery.. Not saying its not a factor, but in most cases in ANY fresh water  fishery, the first thing thats apparent  when there is over harvest ,is a lot more small fish, and few big ones... I would agree 100% with you if thats what we were seeing... We see NO small fish anymore, where they were once there by the thousands, everywhere on the river... Could be  a combo deal..Overharvest in some areas along with more predation by Cormorants in other areas, the over proliferation of large fish eating catfish[flatheads].. Not sure, but in my mind, the better the fishing for flatheads got in the Susquehanna, the worse the Walleye fishing got.. But hey flatheads will also eat bass, carp, suckers, chubs, sunnies, rock bass, perch, crappies, other catfish, ducks, frogs, or anything else that might get too close, yet there are plenty of those fish around. depending on the section of river... In any case, I really hope NY and Pa get their heads together on this, and work on restoring a once great fishery...... bob

Edited by bulletbob
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The DEC would have to do a lot more than one seining survey. But that will not happen unless the issue gets raised higher in their list of priorities. So if it can be proven to be happening in other tributaries and/or if there is a growing public group voicing concern, maybe they would look more closely at the situation.

 

I wonder if the DEC just doesn't have the resources and funding to address the situation or if there is something else going on, possibly environmentally that is affecting them. The questions to ask might be things like what environmental changes have occurred over that period of time? And, are walleye more sensitive to any of them that other species. Questions about spills from various activities such as drilling, fracking and release of methane bubbling up in tributaries which could all be contributing factors.

 

Another thought is to try and create an AI modelling program that can be used to input all the history of weather, environmental and other conditions as well as all applicable fishery data from all pertinent sources. I think this is one area where AI can be effectively applied. So a question to ask the DEC is ... Are there any plans for them to put AI in their toolbox. I am not a huge fan of AI for everything but I think it would be a very effective tool for fisheries and other environmental management areas.

 

Some input from the various watershed environmental groups and other environmental groups might shed some light.

Edited by muskiedreams
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some years back, I know there was a fungus affecting the smallmouth in the Susquehanna. Further upstream on the Chemung and Tioga, the DEC told me that there were a lot of fish but few of any size. They weren't sure why.

Meanwhile, in the late 80s / early 90s, PA stock millions of walleye fry in the reservoir(s) near the PA border. They did not take. So, PA stopped stocking. 

Some local fishermen began to blame the muskies: "They're eatin' everything!" The reality is, many of these guys, fishing small rivers, would repeatedly limit out; even bragging how they had bagged over a hundred walleye in a season.

Nonetheless, PA told me that after PA stocked stocking fry and fingerlings, fishermen downstream would probably notice this. 

Back/earlier issues affecting the Susqy and note the reference to climate change, too:

https://pfbc.pa.gov/images/reports/2013bio/gsSusqR_smb_2010.pdf

https://www.pennlive.com/opinion/2013/06/the_susquehanna_river_-_too_big_to_ail_editorial.html

https://www.usgs.gov/programs/environmental-health-program/science/new-virus-identified-melanistic-skin-lesions

https://www.ydr.com/in-depth/news/2021/02/03/3-iconic-susquehanna-river-aquatic-species-struggle-survive/5853999002/

https://apnews.com/general-news-b58ca60d6e1f41c49cbbb7a1a4172dd9

https://afspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fsh.10491

 

Edited by tmag
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

The walleye population in the Susquehanna has been a topic of concern for a few of us in the Bloomsburg area. Back 10-20 years ago we would catch a limit about every time out. In some of community holes you could catch 100+ walleye on a good day and hardly any over the 15” mark. Then run down to shallower rocky holes to pick up some bigger ones. Around 10-12 years back things started to go south where it was still easy to get a limit because all the fish we got were bigger fish but there was no younger year class of fish. The past 5-6 years I have not got a limit on a trip. Sooo the few things I noticed was major flooding during spawn periods over a few years in a row. Rocky gravel bottom holes that filled in with mud I think is a minor problem. All that said I think we had a run of bad spawning years and the spawning areas are filling in with silt. The good news is this year I have got a few days of limits and I was seeing a lot of small 13-14” fish so they’re is a stock of the younger year class coming up. 
 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 12/28/2023 at 12:28 AM, bulletbob said:

Carpcatcher.. great seeing someone that has an idea of whats going on.. the guys on this forum are very knowledgeable of course, but not too many of the members here  fish this river from what I gather, and  might not  have much  insight as to how things were at one time, and how they are now...

 

I  have my doubts about over harvest totally destroying the Walleye fishery.. Not saying its not a factor, but in most cases in ANY fresh water  fishery, the first thing thats apparent  when there is over harvest ,is a lot more small fish, and few big ones... I would agree 100% with you if thats what we were seeing... We see NO small fish anymore, where they were once there by the thousands, everywhere on the river... Could be  a combo deal..Overharvest in some areas along with more predation by Cormorants in other areas, the over proliferation of large fish eating catfish[flatheads].. Not sure, but in my mind, the better the fishing for flatheads got in the Susquehanna, the worse the Walleye fishing got.. But hey flatheads will also eat bass, carp, suckers, chubs, sunnies, rock bass, perch, crappies, other catfish, ducks, frogs, or anything else that might get too close, yet there are plenty of those fish around. depending on the section of river... In any case, I really hope NY and Pa get their heads together on this, and work on restoring a once great fishery...... bob Candy Crush

Hi Bob! It's great to see your passion for the fishery and your desire to understand the changes that have occurred over time. Forums can be a valuable resource for information, but sometimes finding individuals with specific knowledge and experiences can be a challenge.

Edited by willms
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 12/25/2023 at 1:02 PM, GAMBLER said:

The internet has not helped many fisheries.  Just like Canadice and Hemlock lakes.  They used to be ghost towns (especially ice season) and now there is tons of traffic on them.  

We haven't had enough ice the last few years to create an issue with fishing pressure. And when we do have ice the weekend warriors do come out but they usually gather near a launch or end of the lake. it's the old sheep following the flock.  In the summer the pressure is on the bass there are just a few guys fishing for walleyes. I here you though, I live on Conesus and the fishing isn't what it used to be. Last year the big thing I noticed was there was hardy any weeds. I don't know what the answer is but I don't think its pressure.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)
On 4/3/2024 at 2:21 PM, fredee T said:

We haven't had enough ice the last few years to create an issue with fishing pressure. And when we do have ice the weekend warriors do come out but they usually gather near a launch or end of the lake. it's the old sheep following the flock.  In the summer the pressure is on the bass there are just a few guys fishing for walleyes. I here you though, I live on Conesus and the fishing isn't what it used to be. Last year the big thing I noticed was there was hardy any weeds. I don't know what the answer is but I don't think its pressure.

 Unlike many here I am not into trolling the big lakes with downriggers/wire/lead/dipseys etc..  Never was that interesting to me.. I prefer to fish  with light tackle, casting, jigging, bait fishing, for panfish, Walleyes, Bass at times, and the  occasional Esox,Carp, or catfish although I don't target them.. In the 33 years I have lived in the FL region, I have seen a precipitous decline in all species in Cayuga and Seneca, in some parts of those lakes.. Not trout or salmon, they seem fine for some reason, but  things like Pike, LMB, Crappies, Sunfish, Yellow Perch in some areas,  Rock Bass,even Bullheads  I have seen my catches drop by 90% or more...  Some areas such as the south end of Cayuga near Ithaca, are now devoid of some of these species, where 25 years ago, it was honestly no big deal to catch 100 or more Bass and Panfish standing on the same rock in just a few hours.. Its never discussed here, no one cares as  long as the trout  trolling is intact, but something has happened big time,,, Areas that were absolutely teeming with life have nothing alive except for Mussels and gobies...  I   hope to try a little harder this season to prove myself wrong, but every time I try the story is the same... The fish are gone from the places they were  year after year and decade after decade.... bob

Edited by bulletbob
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I think the state record bass was just caught in Cayuga again.  There are lots of bass in Cayuga.  I know guys that travel some distance to crush large panfish up on the north end in the weeds.   If you’re fishing off a rock on the shore in Ithaca , then I could absolutely see why u catch less fish than 20 years ago.  Water is clearer and the fish are deeper.  Cayuga is def not devoid of life, its fishing better than I can ever remember.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, Jomat said:

I think the state record bass was just caught in Cayuga again.  There are lots of bass in Cayuga.  I know guys that travel some distance to crush large panfish up on the north end in the weeds.   If you’re fishing off a rock on the shore in Ithaca , then I could absolutely see why u catch less fish than 20 years ago.  Water is clearer and the fish are deeper.  Cayuga is def not devoid of life, its fishing better than I can ever remember.

 Yes the Gobies are less of a problem in weedy/muddy areas, I agree.. however, the majority of Cayuga Lake is rocky bottom..  Go anywhere on the lake that has rock/pebble/broken bottom and try  fishing  anywhere near bottom, and you'll see what I mean..  I typically don;t fish the north end of the lake, and I  hear the  gobies aren't as bad there, but as far as the area from  Long Point south to Ithaca the  bottom is covered with them, and they have deeply impacted the numbers of other species...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just think as fisherman it’s easy to complain about how “it’s not like it used to be”…the reality is though it’s kinda our job to adapt to keep putting fish on the bank.  The environment isn’t going to quit changing regardless if you think global warming is a hoax.  And the fishing in NY is absolutely incredible right now….and I think on a whole getting better.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  •  Getting better?... where?... This post was originally about an entire species that has vanished  from an immense watershed... It morphed into a general discussion about how great NY state fishing is.. I can't speak for every water in the state, but can for waters I have fished  for 33 years now.. You are mentioning a pocket of life in a small section of a 40 mile long lake as fishing better than ever,,, I'l accept that... However, as stated, the fish populations are way down in most other areas of the lake compared to the pre mussel/goby invasion.  The south and mid sections of Cayuga had   tons of fishermen fishing for bass, pike, panfish as well as trout... They are gone mostly because there just aren't that many fish left to catch.. Yes, trout/salmon trolling is fine, and will be as long as the  fish have plenty to eat.. They will  be fine  with alewives and gobies being plentiful.. No problem with stocked salmonids.. However, if you REALLY think the warm water fisheries in   Cayuga are  "better than ever" lake wide, we must be discussing 2 different lakes... The Gobies have severely impacted bass and all other  nest raimembers of the sunfish family, as well as yellow perch, and probably and other fish that spawns  in rocky, pebbly,broken areas. Try watching a video.. they are relentless nest raiders that no fish can  keep out  for very long....
Edited by bulletbob
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not trying to argue with you but here’s some bass tourney results…..

https://www.wired2fish.com/news/avena-wins-bass-pro-tour-on-cayuga-lake

 

These guys are filling bags with 5lb plus average fish.  Those are St Lawrence and Lake Erie numbers which are World Class smallmouth fisheries.  If you think that gobies are bad for bass fishing I really don’t know what to tell you.

 

I can’t speak to sunfish but gobies have turned our bass and walleye fisheries in NY into destinations.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While it may be true that environments will continue to change, when the changes are brought about through human activities which includes invasive species the problem is that the changes happen so quickly that the environment can't respond fast enough.

 

With zebra & quagga mussels, they cleared the water. This led to a much deeper weed line. This favored some warm water species. Interestingly, walleyes, which tend to lay their eggs along rocky shoals, have apparently benefited from zebra mussels in that some of the eggs get down in between the mussels. Go figure. Similarly, more weeds & clearer water was advantageous for pike which whose eggs have a natural adhesive that cling to the weeds.

 

The mussels out-competed smelt which have disappeared. But the smelt were introduced anyway albeit delicious and a great prey source for the trout fishery. I believe that alewife were introduced as well.

 

Rainbow trout, brown trout, and salmon are all introduced species. 

 

Personally, I think alligator gar, Argentine golden dorado, goliath tiger fish, wels catfish, and payara would all be fabulous introductions  ;-)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...