Fishing report: Keuka less productive
KEUKA LAKE--Captain Dick Roller already knew most of what he heard at the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Keuka Lake State of the Lake 2017 fishery report Monday, June 12 at Keuka College.
That's because the captain runs a charter fishing boat in Hammondsport called 'Big Foot Charters' and he has fished Keuka Lake for 65 years. The captain lives the results every time he takes his boat out for a charter trip.
Roller said, "We usually go out for four hours of fishing with our charter customers. We leave at 5:30 a.m. and get back at the dock at 9:30 a.m. Four or five years ago, we use to catch 25-30 lake trout in Keuka every trip during those four hours. Today, we only catch half that much."
That's the message Brad Hammers, DEC fishing biologist, shared with the people attending the Keuka Lake presentation at Keuka College. The information was based on the data collection efforts from the past three years and have included annual fishing diaries by local fishermen, hydroacoustics, electrofishing results from Cold Brook for rainbow trout, gillnetting, angler surveys and periodical biomonitoring.
Hammers' fishing presentation stated:
• Keuka Lake is the third largest by area of the Finger Lakes and the 16th largest in the state.
• The fish in Keuka include lake trout, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, brown trout, landlocked salmon and rainbow trout, panfish (bullheads, bluegills, etc) along with chain pickerel and northern pike.
• Keuka Lake will not be able to support the biomass of fish that it once did, the lake productivity is declining.
After the meeting, Hammers was asked to explain why the lake is declining. Hammers said, 'Certainly the zebra mussels and the quagga mussels had a negative impact on the lake. Keuka was one of the first lakes to have that significant problem and the results have not helped the fish." On a positive note, Hammers said the lake is actually getting somewhat cleaner with less phosphorus and other nutrient run-off. But the cleaner lake water is still not supplying the bait fish or forage food for larger fish to feed on. The forage species include alewives, sculpin and freshwater shrimp.
To address the forage issues Hammers said Keuka Lake should stock alewives, reintroduce native forage fish like cisco (lake herring) and lake whitefish. Hammers said Keuka should also reduce or eliminate (temporarily/permanently) Atlantic salmon and/or brown trout stocking.
Hammers also said other management actions officials may consider would be:
• Continue monitoring fish populations.
• Stock the Finger Lakes strain of rainbow trout yearlings.
• Eliminate brown trout and/or Atlantic salmon stocking.
• Develop forage fish assessment plan.
• Stock Cisco fish.
Captain Roller said, "You know I'm 70 years old. I hope the DEC and others take the actions to improve the fishing on Keuka Lake, but I'm afraid I probably won't see the positive results in my days. But I hope things will be better for my grandkids and other people fishing in the future."