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lakebound88

Seneca dead fish

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9 or 10 isn't great but it's not horrible. It could be worse. There's days a couple were considered a good day and days this season ya couldn't keep the fish off. But that's what was weird. Those were rare. No reason to lie to people. I sent plenty of trips to Cayuga guys, couldn't justify taking people out. And a few of our customers held out for lake Ontario in August. Love Seneca but it's time for a change

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Love Seneca too I miss it a lot. Grew up with it. Lake o is just too darn big kill the fish there but not the same. good luck with move. Docks are Ava. At sodus but way too many charters there and that does not include the unlicensed ones. I would welcome you there.

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I have also had the experience of going out and seeing many more dead fish on the bottom then live ones and it is very sad.  This is just in shallow areas where we can see.  Who knows how many dead fish are laying on the bottom out deep where you can't see.  I will say that I have not seen too many over the past couple months.  I live on the west side mid lake area and fish just about every day.  Everyone has their own hypothesis and none of us really know whats going on here.  It could be something that no one has even considered.  That being said I still will throw out some of my own thoughts and observations:

 

As upsetting as the farm/ winery run-offs and sewage discharges are I don't think they are to blame for this issue.  Although unhealthy for the overall water quality of the lake, adding nutrients would likely increase the biological production.  It almost certainly is the culprit for Blue-Green algae blooms and slime that have happened on certain parts of the lake over the past couple summers .  Seneca is not unique in having these particular issues.  Owasco lake for example has become completely green from nutrient loading in the summer and overall fishing there is quite good.   It is still obviously a problem that needs to be addressed on all of these lakes.

 

As for the salt issue,  I know Seneca was recently tested to have higher levels then the other Fingerlakes.  This certainly needs to be tested more and seems like about the easiest thing to test.  At a variety of depths and locations as well.  This is something I need to study a bit more but I tend to think it is not the issue for the fishery decline.  There are other famous fishing lakes that have a very high salinity.  The first one that comes to mind is Devils Lake North Dakota. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devils_Lake_(North_Dakota)

 

The lamprey concern I do think is very legitimate.  I caught around 35 legal sized brown trout off the docks in my area last February-May.  I would say at least 25 of these had one or more lampreys attached and the rest all at least marks.  I also saw quite a few lamprey spawning up the Keuka Outlet this spring.  Like someone else mentioned, there are some really big ones too.  It would be nice if we could get some definitive answers on when they have and will treat the streams.

 

There are two fish species which do seem to be thriving on this lake.  Bullheads and Alewives.  I don't care where I have been on the lake, when I look down I usually see bullheads.  Especially in the spring.  I often see schools of hundreds of them.  Does anyone remember seeing these huge numbers in years past?  In my opinion the most important food source in this lake is the scud/shrimp.  I would think this has to be main food source for the huge bullhead population.  I am not sure about the alewives. We know it is for the perch,sunfish and most juvenile fish species.  I have also discovered that trout seem to depend on these as well.  I was surprised to find out that many of the trout I have cleaned have been full of these tiny shrimp.  Even some of the bigger trout have them in their stomach.  If something like an increase in Bullhead/Alewife populations is causing a decline in these shrimp it could have an effect throughout the food chain.  Could all be a non-issue but just an alternative thought to most of the ideas I have read on here.

 

On a positive note, I still have caught a lot of fish over the past year.  It can certainly be a challenge but at the right spot on the right day there are good fish to be caught.  Last spring was very good for brown trout.  All fish caught were 5 pounds or under however with one freak 17lber.  Seems like there was a 1 year class that did particularly well.  Bass fishing was decent this summer (even some really nice largemouth).  There is no shortage of 5-10 inch smallmouth in this lake right now.  If they survive then the next couple years look very promising.  The perch fishing this fall has been really good for me and they have been of all different sizes.  Found them in a different area and depth range then I ever would have thought.  Lake trout fishing continues to not be what it use to.  There did seem to be more smaller fish available this year then in 2016  so hopefully that is a good sign for upcoming years. 

 

I am on the lake a lot so I am willing to help with whatever I can to figure out and help whatever this issue is here.

 

 

Edited by shaneo19

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When I earlier mentioned the missing link in the foodchain I couldn't remember the name of the specific organism I was referencing but I later remembered and also an article I had run across a while back that I think may shed light on one of the factors possibly relevent to Seneca. The organism is an invertebrate or crustacean called diporeia or freshwater shrimp. It is basically a "building block" and essential link in the fishery food chain. Although this article primarily concerns Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes it is also of concern to the on-going issues with the Finger Lakes but the exact status of things may be in question at the moment as the article was from several years ago and I'm wondering if there has maaybe been a recent adverse downward change in the levels of diporeia or concentrations dispersed diffferently since that time which may be severely impacting the fishery. Note specifically the materiall toward the end referencing the Finger Lakes https://mynorth.com/2008/03/lake-michigans-vanishing-shrimp/

Edited by Sk8man
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So many dead fish in Seneca, crystal clear water, saw numerous dead rain bows in the 20 to 22 inch range. Dead suckers, carp and who knows what else. Snagged a couple of the bows, the exterior of body was healthy. Insane how many dead fish we saw this weekend.
 
Ugh...
 
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When I earlier mentioned the missing link in the foodchain I couldn't remember the name of the specific organism I was referencing but I later remembered and also an article I had run across a while back that I think may shed light on one of the factors possibly relevent to Seneca. The organism is an invertebrate or crustacean called diporeia or freshwater shrimp. It is basically a "building block" and essential link in the fishery food chain. Although this article primarily concerns Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes it is also of concern to the on-going issues with the Finger Lakes but the exact status of things may be in question at the moment as the article was from several years ago and I'm wondering if there has maaybe been a recent adverse downward change in the levels of diporeia or concentrations dispersed diffferently since that time which may be severely impacting the fishery. Note specifically the materiall toward the end referencing the Finger Lakes https://mynorth.com/2008/03/lake-michigans-vanishing-shrimp/

The few fish we pulled to the service to see what killed them had freshwater shrimp loaded inside and out on them.

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It may underscore what the article mentioned but it also may mean that the fish are desperate for food from lack of availability or  for some reason being incapable of locating or feeding on the normal forage base. I think this is happening on Keuka and that the lakers are feeding on the shrimp as well as the small percch and young of other and perhaps their own species.other sources and if so it is just a matter of time before it takes its toll on the diporeia. .I also wonder whether the huge clouds we see during the summer months that folks interpret to be baitfish may in fact be highly compacted or concentrated water fleas and the standard bait may not be as plentiful as some assume them to be.

Edited by Sk8man

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It seems like those who fish these lakes regularly would have a good idea of how plentiful the alewives are if they still use spot lights at night  to bring the alewives up for bait and also if they are out at night in June when they come to the surface in the shallows.

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There were huge numbers of alewives along the shore this spring.  Both day and night.  I have also marked schools on my depth finder and dropped a camera down and they were there.  Many probably don't realize that they are predators in their own right and will eat what they can.  Maybe during certain times of the year they are difficult for trout to feed on and they seek other forage such as the shrimp. 

 

One hypothesis is that the lake trout are too full on them to hit our baits as much.  Can't say I buy that but there does seem to be a correlation between what seems to be a boom in their numbers and the difficulty in catching lake trout.  5+ years ago when we would consistently catch 100+ lake trout during the derby the fish were much thinner.  One year we placed third with a 9.78 pounder.  I remember that fish measuring 32 inches.  Very thin.  I actually set the net down thinking it was a pike when I saw it.  The few that you do catch now seem to be much fatter.

Edited by shaneo19

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It is good to hear a firsthand account of plentiful sawbellies, and with both the diporeia and the sawbellies distribution in the lake may also be a critical factor and perhaps more so at certain times of the year.Distribution changes could also lead to inaccuracies in estimating the bait population. Again this is a complex set of problems going on.....

Edited by Sk8man

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Ok so everyone says fishing is great on Cayuga and Seneca is terrible. No argument there but at the same time I keep hearing that Seneca is gin clear and Cayuga has color to the water. All that color comes from the nutrients and all the issues that were mentioned in the Hobart College video from an earlier post. So if the farms and wineries are so terrible then why is Seneca clear? And if it is so terrible to have turbid and colored water then why is fishing on Cayuga so good?

 

I've been a diary keeper for a long time and if you look at the trends over the years there are a few things that lead to tough fishing - lamprey issues and plentiful bait. Right now we have both in Seneca. I'm not saying we shouldn't be concerned about the farms and the wineries but those things were all there 5 or so years ago when fishing was great in Seneca and not so good in Cayuga. They got the lamprey under control in Cayuga and fishing turned good. I bet if DEC gets the lamprey under control in Seneca the same thing will happen.

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It's clear right now, come warm water season the water is impossible to see through the service mid day. I think I'll post a few photos, although I took in marina, the entire lake looked like this. When I find them I'll post.

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Clear water can be associated with water health but it also can be deceptive in that chemical composition, specific nutrient levels, toxin availability and dispersion, and as importantly bottom composition changes and silt deposition can still be adversely affecting things without it being visibly apparent. The fact that there is very little life visibly present in the shallows e.g. small fish of multiple species and minnows, clusters of crayfish and bugs of various types is highly suggestive of problems other than just lamprey levels although admittedly it isevidently a significant problem in Seneca right now as it was in Cayuga. There used to be bluegills, sunfish, bass, pickerel and pike all over the place in the shallows in years past but now it is basically devoid of life and it points to not only the severity of the problems but the extent of it throughout the shallow areas of the lake visible to the naked eye. The distribution and composition of weed growth also appears to have changed radically. I too have collected diary info and on multiple lakes for about 50 years and the lampreys do in fact greatly affect the fishing but there is a lot more going on than that.....but is is a "stressor" for sure. Keuka is a good example of what I am talking about ....no lampreys present but the lake is in trouble and fishing is severely impacted.

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Glad you said that. I thought I was losing it because every time I fished this year the water in Seneca was as green as I've seen it since the 80's. I think all that algae growth is fueling the bait population.

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The water quality data on Keuka Lake from both Keuka College and DEC indicates that the amount of nutrients in the lake is about as low as it gets. I think that is why the lake is less productive and you may not see as many fish in general. I guess all I'm trying to say is we are just trying to blame one activity or another when it could just be natural population trends. I can find species that are doing well in every lake. Perch fishing on Keuka has been great and pike fishing on Seneca is improving. Five years from now those species could be down and the trout might be bouncing back. When you look at the watersheds for all the Finger Lakes there are things that I hate to see that aren't good for the lake but there are probably just as many or more improvements that I have seen over the last 40 years. Anyway, I'm all for anything that can be done to protect our watersheds but I feel like there is some overreaction right now.

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I guess the key to understanding this situation may be in viewing the whole ecosystem of the lake and its surroundings as an interrelated ecosystem where changes in any one part of it may affect other parts adversely and some basic building blocks being screwed up (whether too numerous or too limited) may upset the whole "apple cart" in terms of the necessary balance required. As was noted in the fifties and early to mid  sixties phosphates in laundry detergents and other products being dumpted into the lakes increased weed growth tremendously as it is a "bio limiting" factor and many other nutirents going into the lake can disrup things as well (e.g.nitrates) and photosysthesis rates can change markedly in response to water clarity and changes in nutrient levels.

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Hes the bottom line I gather from working for the state. As long as the wineries are bringing in tax revenue and no one has died from drink or playing in the water. Then state does not care. Fishing cost the state money. Wineries and orchards bring more money in in 2 months then boating and fishing.

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The shrimp in the dead fish is interesting.  Perhaps the shrimp are a vector for another parasite that is effecting predator fish that consume them?  We seemingly lost two year classes of kings, steelhead and browns during the stress of the bad winters of '12 and '13 in Lake Ontario. The DEC had no answer for the missing fish (I don't buy thiamine deficiency that decides to crop up after decades of alewife ingestion and no previous problems).  Smells like a parasite or virus is at play.

 

I would add that if it is a parasite or virus.....there is nothing that can be done to fix it.  Best guess is if there is some insidious pathology at work, it will have to play itself out over time.  

Edited by Gill-T

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The huge alewife kill this spring was determined to be from protozoan Chilodonella https://senecalake.org/2017/07/fish-kill-reports/.

It seems this can infect other species as well.  It would be strange for it to only infect the alewives and not other fish.  I am not sure the mechanism for which it spreads but if ingestion is one of them then obviously it is going to infect salmonid species in particular. 

 

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HHMM this gets more interesting as time goes on. I really hope it’s not a on going thing. 

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23 hours ago, jason said:

Hes the bottom line I gather from working for the state. As long as the wineries are bringing in tax revenue and no one has died from drink or playing in the water. Then state does not care. Fishing cost the state money. Wineries and orchards bring more money in in 2 months then boating and fishing.

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I believe they do care and so do the counties and towns. But it always helps to hear the voices of everyone else who cares. I believe they realize the importance of the fisheries as a major component of of the tourist industry in the Finger Lakes region. The richness of all the natural and cultural resources in the area provide the makings for multi faceted family vacations, weekend getaways and day trips with something for all family members to enjoy. Also, the money we all pay when we buy sporting licenses and the excise tax for sporting goods we buy is supposed to go toward maintaining the natural resources. Supporting and maintaining local and regional groups that advocate for and support the local resources can go a long way to make sure each region receives it's fare share of those funds as well as the support of sound and practical management decisions.

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