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Seneca Seneca 8/14


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The most critical variable for Lake Trout spawning (occurring from September through December) is the consistency of the lake bottom. They spawn between rock crevices and gravel and broadcast (spread) their eggs rather than building nests like many other species such as rainbow trout (build nests called redds). According to the DEC Lake Trout eggs have been found in water as deep as 200 feet but again the bottom consistency  is the critical thing. Some deep water spawning used to occur in the Peach Orchard area of Seneca Lake (east side south toward Watkins) but it was disrupted years ago by the serious flooding which deposited silt in some of the traditional spawning areas.

One of the things I wonder about is the impact of the Zebra and Quagga mussels on the Lake Trout (and other species as well) spawning as they cluster in the cracks and encrust rocks and their presence could deter adequate reproduction as the eggs hatch there and early development  (aelvins) occurs there as well and the mussels are known to strain out nutrients that small fish feed on (e.g.zooplankton)..

In the past the two Mike's and I were well aware of the Rooster Tail laying among the rocks routine :lol:

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There are of course numerous issues that need to be addressed on all of the lakes.  Limiting agriculture runoff and sewer discharges ect are all very important and it is ridiculous that it continues to be allowed.  The funding for studies is also getting old.  You can study and study but unless you take action it isn't going to help.

 

I really don't think the immediate issue with fishing on Seneca is related to any of that however.  If anything adding more nutrients to the lake would help much of the life on the lake.  Bad for the overall water quality but lakes that have big nutrient loads tend to be good for fishing. 

 

Like I said in an earlier post, the most clear and present issue is the massive alewife/sawbelly population.  A non-native species that is ravaging the lake.  One of the reasons for the the alewife explosion is likely the lamprey explosion.  Lamprey kill the predatory fish.  Fewer predatory fish = more baitfish.  Alewives are baitfish that happen to be big enough to eat fry from other fish.  They also compete for food with fry from other fish.  I have come to learn that the tiny shrimp or scud that young fish rely on for food are going down in numbers.  I still see them in the weeds when I pull up my anchor, but not as many and not as often.  Perch and sunfish especially rely on these for food.  I have even caught brown trout up to 5 pounds that were full of them.  Could it be that the alewives are eating off the scud population in the lake?  I think it is likely.  

 

We are fortunate enough to have many amazing lakes in this region.   Cayuga Lake is just a few miles away and shares most all of the natural characteristics of Seneca.  The thing to do is figure out what is going on that is different between these two lakes.  Cayuga shares all of the invasive species issues with Seneca plus a few.  It has just as much if not more agricultural runoff then Seneca does.   The biggest difference I can see is that they have done a better job of controlling the lamprey population.

 

Solutions: 

 

Lamprey control.  I know they treated a few of the bigger tributaries last year but that needs to continue on a more consistent basis.  It will take time to know how much that one year may have helped.  I am not too optimistic that alone  will be any game changer.

 

Reduce the alewife population:

 

I really like the king salmon idea.  It really should not be looked at as some radical idea that would be too unnatural.   Lake trout are the only native trout or salmon in the lake now.  King salmon only live a few years and would not likely have much natural reproduction.  So they could be stocked in one time shots with no long term impact on the lake.  I don't think any fisherman would complain if they were to hook into a King Salmon on occasion for a few years. Even if there did happen to be more natural reproduction then expected, I don't see anything too wrong with having a bonus fishery on Seneca.  

 

Perhaps stock a different species of fish that would feed on the alewives.   I personally dream of having walleye in the lake but anything that would cut down the numbers of sawbellies without having too much impact on the native fish.  I know the walleye vs trout in the same lake is a debate people have a lot on here.  So I won't get into that. 

 

Dramatically increase the stocking of the current species in the lake.  

 

Perhaps there is a way to start a netting operation that could remove large quantities of the alewives.  It seems like that would be difficult though with the size and depth of the lake.  Also don't want to kill a bunch of fish in the process.  

 

Anyways that is how I see it.  Have been saying the same things for years now.  I fish and care about the lake as much as anyone so I just hope things get better and soon.

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Shaneo I agree completely. It just flat out isn't working with what is happening on seneca currently. If they tried stockings of kings or something along those lines that really would eat some bait and also be targets for the lamprey for a few years and take pressure off the other species I truly think that in a couple life cycles of them we would see a big increase in the lake trout population as well as a decrease in the alewife population and it would allow time for the lampricide to take better action as well. Personally I think Seneca is better this year than years past however if we just leave it alone I don't think we'll ever see it become a great fishery again. Atleast not for a longgg time

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You know, that’s what there doing. Going to stock more lakers in the lake. You see, they cut back stocking dramatically back in 2012. They stopped stocking the Seeforellen browns back in the 90’s. All of this because of the bait getting decimated. Tie that with not being able to put down lamprocide effectively due to flooding the past 5 years and you have the perfect tri fecta! You see we’re missing a few years classes of lake trout. Hence the bait pods are continue to grow. No predation, bait grows. To put the suggestion out there that the lake needs Kings is suggesting there are plenty of lakers but they can’t eat all of the bait??? Kill the lampreys this upcoming spring, increasing stocking levels back to what they were in the 2010 years, protect the 6-8 yr class and that lake will be back on top. No need to add insult to injury.


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:yes: I'm with Frogger - bring things back without further complications and with species we have a history with on the lake so we can accurately assess any changes that take place (e.g. lamprey treatments).  The kings are great fish, loads of fun, addictive for most of us but they belong on Lake O. Once the lamprey situation is stabilized, adequate predator levels are established, let the Atlantics, Brown, and Rainbows be the silver targets and exert controls over the bait levels with the traditional large lakers in the mix, and let Geneva (and Seneca Lake) retain it's title of "Lake Trout Capitol" :smile:

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The treatment was missing for 9 years!!!!

At the time, they didn't need to, then they needed to, and couldn't due to flooding, then they finally did. 9 years of successful spawning. Will treat again next spring.

I have my own opinions on these things, however I have a bigger opinion on what the state may do with the fishery. I am kinda excited....


We will see what the next few years brings. June and July we had 2 or 3 eels on every fish. End of July and all of August I saw maybe 5 total.

All fish we have been catching are healthy from 2lbs to 10lbs.

Rainbows have 90% been clean.
Salmon as well.


Browns, well that's a discussion for another day, side not i believe we lost one of the giants the other day! Right at the dang boat too!


Nick

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I agree Nick the lamprey control is the number one priority. As far as the browns go it is tough to figure out what is going on with them the small and medium sized ones that used to be caught pretty readily seem to be missing.and that is concerning. The larger browns tend to have quite different habits and they are most readily found near bottom near drop=offs especially summer and Fall and often trolling is out much deeper from where they locate (often within about 80 ft of water) and since few people still fish with live bait anymore during these times they may not be encountering them as frequently as in the past. Another question I have had for some time is are the browns going down the Seneca canal to either reside there or re-locate to Cayuga Lake. In recent years some really big ones have been caught in Waterloo so they either transited up the canal from Cayuga or went down it from Seneca. Larger browns are not as dependent on alewives as some of the other species either. They love fatheads and shiners, frogs and insects and have a diverse diet and they can be comfortable in much higher water temps (I used to catch them in 70 plus degrees in a canal in Germany years ago) so residing in the lake itself is not as important to them as say rainbows and landlocks. Again, just thinking out loud but I also know they may be particularly vulnerable to the lampreys too because of their bottom fondness as with the lakers.

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Yes, I wouldn’t mind seeing that strain of brown come back Les. They were sure a sight. We took a beauty in the 93 derby when Dresden was hopping. Most might not remember that fishery from the warm water discharge. Sorry Nick about the one that got away. Those sure are a hard miss no doubt. Brad and his group at Region 8 seem to be on the same page and as Nick im excited for the next few years. Those class of fish he’s catching will be gold soon.


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On 8/29/2020 at 5:02 PM, Frogger said:

 "To put the suggestion out there that the lake needs Kings is suggesting there are plenty of lakers but they can’t eat all of the bait???."




 

I may not I understand what you are saying there.  But what I am suggesting is there are not enough predatory fish (lakers being the main) to keep the sawbelly population in check.   

 

Sawbellies do not mix well with other fish species.   It seems that most people on this board are only concerned with the trout/salmon fishery on the lake.  But there are many of us who like to catch other fish as well.  You can look around the area and see where they have or have not caused damage.  Conesus Lake for example use to be a great perch fishery.  After sawbellies were introduced perch populations declined dramatically.   Keuka Lake had a big die off of sawbellies but the bass and perch fishing has probably gotten better.  Skaneateles Lake has no sawbellies and great perch and bass fishing.  Also great trout fishing.  The trout ( with a few freak exceptions) are just smaller then the would be with sawbellies.  

 

I have a neighbor who is in his late 80s and has fished the Lake his whole life.  Including every National Lake trout derby ever held.  I have heard all sorts of stories about how the lake has changed and how great it use to be.  One interesting thing he said was how great the Rock Bass fishing use to be.  He said they were the best eating fish in the lake and you could go out and catch them anytime.  Now he hasn't seen any in years.  The reason why that is interesting is that the best rock bass fishing lakes in the Finger Lakes are Keuka and Skaneateles.  Probably not a coincidence that those lakes have little or no sawbellies as well.  I know rock bass aren't exactly a sought after sport fish,  but it is an example of one species that likely was severely impacted by sawbellies.

 

Yet another issue with alewives as the main food source is thiamine deficiency.  It is well known that fish that consume high levels of alewives don't reproduce as well.  This is something anyone can look up.

 

The other thing to point out is that sawbellies hurt the taste of fish.   I will eat lake trout out of Seneca but the few I have caught and ate out of Keuka and Skaneateles were absolutely delicious.  Some of the best fish I have ever eaten.  I would be more then happy to trade bigger sized fish for better tasting fish.  Or possibly lose a trout species or two in order to have better fishing overall.  

 

 

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Nicely written.  I am a converted panfish guy that used to spend his time chasing salmon in lake O. One thing I would like to add is that the perch population in Keuka  has not increased when the alewife population crashed,  just the opposite. With nothing else to eat, the lakers have hit the perch hard. It seems like you require a finite balancing act between the alewife, trout and panfish.  Skaneateles is a great  lake that has done quite well without alewives.  Fish are a little smaller there but good eating.  

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No problem Shane. Hard to try and get someone’s view on here some times. All I was suggesting was let’s get the lake back to the numbers of lakers it should have in it before we flip the ecosystem around by putting Kings in it. We have basically taken all of what eats the bait out of the lake with reduced stocking levels and lamprey predation on the lakers. Hope that clears it up a little. I’ll stay out of the other part of the subject for pesticides, mussels, etc.


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I'm all for anything to lower the sawbelly population.  Increased lake trout stocking would definitely help.  I just think the King Salmon idea is interesting because it could take care of the problem quicker and shouldn't have a long term impact on the ecosystem since they have short lives.  Maybe there is something I am missing about it.  Who knows for sure what would happen .  No problems with anyone else's opinion.  That's what these forums/discussions are about.  And its not like I have any say in any of this.  I have been meaning to contact the DEC in some form though to let them know my thoughts and observations since I am on the lake a lot.  

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Rock Bass and many other species depend seasonally on small insects and the young of crayfish which historically clung to strands of the type of grass growing in the lakes within the shallows and they could sometimes be seen nibbling on rocks for food now these rocks are covered with mussels.. Since the onset of the mussels and their extensive water straining and the encrustation of the rocks, gravel, and structure present in the shallows which previously offered good hiding, spawning, and feeding opportunities for the young of various species and these small fish are actually the second link to go in that environment.. The first link  is the phytoplankton and zooplankton populations that have been mercilessly strained out. The weed growth used to pretty much stop in Seneca out at about 18-20 ft or so  but now because of the increased water clarity excessive photosynthesis is occurring and there are weeds out in the 30 ft range, but they are very different types and configurations of weeds than previously existed. In the past, you could sometimes see bottom down to 25 or 30 ft max at most times of the year, and not much more than that even during the winter. During a fairly recent trout derby I was looking at gravel very clearly in 55 ft. of water.

 

The Smallmouth Bass, Perch, various panfish along with the Pike and Pickerel that used inhabit the north end of the lake in the shallows are basically gone in any numbers. Very few minnows of various species that used to blacken the water in the shallows are gone. The crustaceans such as the small crabs and even the freshwater clams are rarely seen, and if so not in extensive areas where they once were. The weed patterns have changed radically. Where huge weed beds used to exist it now is mainly small distributed clusters of a different type of weed and there are zebra mussels all over them when they are retrieved. The canal in the state park seldom has any sign of life and it used to be alive with various species of fish that could be caught from shore; and again seldom are minnows and crustaceans seen there..

 

I know it sounds like "gloom and doom" but it is the current reality; and although old age may suck in some ways it does offer one a different perspective because you can compare even the distant past with the present rather than 5 or 10 years ago when things were on their way to their current state.

 

Vital links in the food chain have been drastically altered; primarily by the invasives and it has adversely impacted many species - some of which may be more vulnerable than others at different stages along the way.

 

The bottom line is that the lake is not functioning as it has in the past and these changes are ongoing and it is unclear to me at this point where all this may lead in the extended future. My hope is that Mother Nature will take over and guide things along a more productive path and the State will energize its efforts to revitalize stocking, treatment of the lampreys and a restoration of balance to the ecosystem. This condition is not limited to Seneca either; other Finger Lakes without lampreys (e.g. Keuka and Canandaigua) are in trouble as well but are in different stages and probably primarily for the same reason - missing links in the food chain related to the invasives which gradually takes out those species above it.

 

i know this is long winded but I guess that says something about the importance I attach to the issues too.

 

 

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