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Canandaigua Lake the New lake Trout Capital of New York?

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July 19, 2009

Section: News

Page: 1E, 7E

Canandaigua Lake, contender for 'lake trout capital'

FISHING:Canandaigua Lake remains safe from predatory species such as sea lamprey, which are found in larger waters, so trout live to a ripe old age and are among the biggest catches in the Finger Lakes.

ADAM HEROD [email protected]

CANANDAIGUA - Though this year's Canandaigua Lake Trout Derby has come and gone, trout season is open all year to fishermen. That leaves some wondering:Are there bigger fish in Canandaigua Lake than the 13.36-pound lake trout that made Thomas Slawson, of Genesee, Pa., champion of this year's derby in June? Al Woodhead, chairman of the derby throughout its 28-year existence, believes the largest fish caught out of Canandaigua Lake was a 15.72-pounder caught by June Jensen.

"That's the largest fish we have had in this derby," he said.

This may be true for the derby, but according to the following stories from Herbert Kierst and T. J. Lenz, Jensen's lake trout is a mortal among giants.

According to the state Department of Conservation, lake trout can age up to 20 years, and the state record was a 39-pound specimen caught in Lake Placid, Essex County. The DEC says people revere trout for their beauty, their fighting abilities when caught and their delicious taste. The sporting aspect of catching trout has spawned trout derbies throughout the Finger Lakes, and has raised money for organizations such as Mercy Flight and Camp Good Days & Special Times.

For Kierst and Lenz, Canandaigua Lake is a true trout playground for anglers looking to hook the fish of a lifetime.

On May 23, Herbert Kierst was fishing with his son Jeremy, a state trooper who also finished second in the 2009 Canandaigua Lake Trout Derby, when Kierst's fishing career was changed drastically.

"I caught the fish of my life," he said. "I have been fishing since I was 3 years old, and with all the thousands of hours and thousands of fish I have never, never caught anything such as this." Kierst was fishing on the south end of Canandaigua Lake, at about 11 a.m., when an 18-pound, 10-ounce giant bit the end of his line.

"It took me 20 minutes to bring him in," he said. "Man, did he fight." Upon bringing the fish out of the water, Kierst and his son weighed the laker with two Rapala 50-pound digital hand scales.

Kierst, an avid fisherman and school bus driver for Marcus Whitman Central School District, admitted some people fish their whole lives and never catch anything with such size.

Larger yet was the monster Lenz caught on Memorial Day 2008. The fish, a lake trout, was the biggest fresh water fish Lenz had caught in his lifetime.

"I, too, have been fishing since I was three or four, and know this was a once-in-alifetime fish," he said.

He caught the lake trout around 8 a.m. in front of the pump house on West Lake Road, where a 90-foot hole is commonly fished by trophy seekers.

"I felt bad keeping it at first, because it was such a specimen," he said.

Lenz, with the help of his fishing partner, weighed the fish on a Berkely 50-pound digital hand scale. The outcome, 21 pounds. "Our first thought on the boat was, is it real?" It didn't take much convincing for Lenz to understand his 20-minute fight had rewarded him with one of the biggest lake trout caught in the Finger Lakes.

Canandaigua Lake is not in competition for the largest and best crop of fish, but the size and quality of the trout species rival those of Seneca Lake. Both, after all, are touted as the "Lake Trout Capital of the World." According to Woodhead, sea lamprey, a type of jawless fish, are preventing lake trout in Seneca Lake from aging, in turn, keeping them from reaching trophy-like sizes.

The DEC reports that sea lamprey attach to a host fish and drain its body fluids, often killing the fish. It is believed sea lamprey were brought here from Europe by seafaring vessels launching in the Great Lakes. Lamprey could have been floating in the bilge of these boats, and found their way into new territories through channels connecting Seneca Lake and Ontario Lake.

Taxidermist Phil Hershey, of Custom Taxidermy in Canandaigua, has been a taxidermist for 35 years and has his own theory about the great quality of Canandaigua lake trout. "It appears to me, through my work," he said, "the growth rate in Canandaigua lake trout is slower, rendering them larger fins and a healthier appearance than that of even the Great Lakes fishing crop." Taxidermist Ric Cleveland, of Flint Creek Taxidermy Studio in Rushville, agrees. He has been a full-time taxidermist for 10 years.

"I work on animals including those from the Adirondacks and other Finger Lakes, and the fish that come out of Canandaigua Lake are very healthy and have such great color," he said.

It is evident these fish are not the only large lake trout present in Canandaigua Lake. Many stories abound, including Mark Thompson's 22-pound lake trout caught in 1991, and Ann Mott's 20-pound lake trout caught in 2006.

Woodhead said he has not witnessed fish larger than that caught out of Canandaigua.

But that doesn't mean it's not possible.

"They're in there," he said.

A derby participant gathers trout caught in Naples Creek in a catch-net before weighing and measuring them. JACK HALEY/ MESSENGER POST FILE PHOTO A rainbow trout is proudly displayed to admiring spectators at the annual Naples Trout Derby on April 1. JACK HALEY/ MESSENGER POST FILE PHOTO Canandaigua resident T. J. Lenz holds his 21-pound lake trout caught on May 26, 2008. The fish stands as one of the biggest caught in Canandaigua Lake, along with a 22-pound lake trout caught by Mark Thompson and a 20-pound lake trout caught by Ann Mott. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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Interesting article.

For the record however, the state record lake trout was caught in lake Erie by Jesse Wykstra on 8/9/03- it weighed 41lbs. 8 oz (source: NYSDEC website).

Various members of the Finger Lakes Trollers Assn. used to take a side trip each year to Erie around the third week of June to hunt trophy lakers- almost every one on the trip would take at least one laker between 20 and 26 lbs.

Skaneatles doesn't produce many large lake trout, they don't have the feed to grow quickly, however some are caught each year the range into the mid 20's.

Seneca's claim to "lake trout capital of the world" I think is based on both size and numbers. Six hundred and sixty five fish were weighed in during this year's NLTD (mostly lakers).

I heard second hand that the recent DEC netting on Canandaigua revealed that the baitfish population has collapsed. The word has it that the fish 95 fish checked contained no bait.One fish had two five inch lakers in its stomach and another only contained a lemon peel.

Makes me wonder if I'm using the right bait.

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I find that interesting because the last trip on CA 3 weeks ago, all three lakers had 3-8 sawbellies in their stomachs. During the june derby, same thing. We had times during the derby where you could see the sawbellies jumping out of the water and clouds swimming by the boat. just curious if any size of the fish was revealed and how many bows and browns were keep.

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I was there when they brought the fish in on 4 of the 7 days. They had some very good nets, and some poor nets. All of the nets were set on the bottom, targeting lake trout, with the exception of one. That net was set high and near shore to try to net sawbellies. They were successful in that endeavor and came in with a net full. I would estimate that they netted over 400 lake trout....one of the mornings I was there they had almost 70 fish, and almost all of them had empty stomachs. All that tells me is that in one part of the lake on one day the fish hadnt fed yet. As a matter of fact, I talked with the DEC biologist on site about why the fishing has been slow this year and his response was "It appears that there is so much food that the fish are gorging themselves and dont need to chase lures or eat as often". As far as bows and browns go, they werent targeting them and as far as I know didnt get any. They did have several nice fish in the 8-10 pound range over the course of the week. All of the fish appeared very healthy and the biologist told me that many of the fish appeared to have larger than average girth compared to the length. What does it all mean? I dont know, but it appears that we have a very healthy fishery from what I saw.

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I really don't feel like there is a bait problem on this lake. I've had multiple fish this year with bait in their stomachs. One was an 8 lb. brown with 14, yes 14, sawbellies in it. I've also been finding some smelt as well.

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