Fish & Fishing on our Lakes

I have written you in the past regarding muskies & fishing on Waneta & Lamoka Lake. I noticed that you have the "catch & release except for Muskies" on the site and thought that I should pass some valuable information on to you regarding this viewpoint.

You see, there are basically 3 different types of freshwater lakes: eutrophic, mesotrophic and oligatrophic. What's the difference? As follows:

Eutrophic tend to be shallow lakes with little or no oxygen below the thermocline during warm weather. They tend to ultra fertile and the life cycle tends to fast & short for large fish such as muskies. Waneta & Lamoka are eutrophic lakes and the conditions are not very good for muskies.

Mesotrophic are the best for these large predator fish and I'd imagine that many of the lakes in Michigan and Minnesota are mesotrophic. They are fairly fertile and offer plenty of oxygen below the thermocline.

Oligotrophic lakes tend to be deep, cold, not very fertile lakes. Sound familiar? Seneca Lake is such a lake. The growth rate & lifespan of fish tend to be slow & long. Consequently, these lakes can really produce some trophies. However, because the lakes are not very fertile & the fish develop slowly, it doesn't take much fishing pressure to do great damage here. I have heard fishing stories from people in the Corning area about boating some 30 Northern Pike in a day on Seneca Lake back 25-35 years ago or so. I bet you'd be hard pressed to do that now. Another one of the great problems with pike fisheries is the fact that the fish are so aggressive. It's not uncommon for fisherman to catch the same pike twice in the same day. This rarely, if ever, happens with Muskies.

Sadly, I have heard similar stories, recently I might add, regarding panfish on Waneta & Lamoka. I have heard claims from people that they will take 20, 30 or more fish over the course of a day or weekend amongst a few fisherman. This from both ice fishing in cold weather or plugging for panfish during warmer weather! When I was a boy, the water was practically black around the docks with pan fish on Waneta Lake. Fish would bite at unbaited hooks. You'd be hardpressed to find that kind of action now. I'm quite sure that between a couple of muskies, they even come close to downing 30 or more fish over the course of a couple of months let alone days.

Actually, Muskies do considerably less damage than the fisherman on these lakes. There was an excellent article that came out in the magazine "Fishing Facts" back in the late eighties early nineties regarding the effects a fisherman can have on a fish habitat. Basically, it just talked about how, yes, indeed, a single fisherman catching his limit on a regular basis can have a profound effect on a fishing population because those adult fish will not produce the tens of thousands of offspring that would otherwise be put back into the fish population. Now imagine how I feel when I hear stories about people taking 2-3 times their limits of trout off of lakes like Keuka & Cayuga.

Let's talk about the carp infestation. Have you ever looked across these lakes say in the end of May? The water on Waneta Lake boils with carp mating activity. I have also heard that carp can be disruptive to the spawning beds of panfish. If the muskies are such an infestation, why are the carp breeding so well? I'll tell you why. Because the fisherman don't boat 20 or 30 of them over a weekend.

Here's some info on carp & crappies:
"Crappies like open water but they also like structure, such as submerged stumps and logs, rocks and rocky ledges, deep pools in rivers, and emergent aquatic vegetation if it is not too dense. Crappies have been known to do well in lakes with large carp populations. By opening up dense plant growth, carp create the open water crappies prefer. Crappies are also more tolerant of the turbid conditions carp create by roiling, or stirring up, water. Because of this association, some anglers blame crappies for changes in fish population which are actually more attributable to carp and the environmental factors which favor carp. "

"Crappie spawning activity peaks in May and June when water temperatures are between 61 and 68 degrees, though spawning may continue into July. Like other sunfish, crappies are nest builders but they are perhaps the least particular in their nest-building habits. Crappies search out nest spots in deeper water than any other sunfish between 1.5 to 6 feet deep or deeper. This is another reason crappies can coexist with carp. Crappies are not disturbed by carp as much as other sunfish that build their nests closer to shore. Crappies usually nest in colonies that may include as many as 35 nests, 3 inches to 6 feet apart. Males construct disc-shaped nests near emergent vegetation using their caudal fins like brooms to sweep away silt and debris. Unlike bluegilis and pumpkinseeds that are meticulous in their nest construction, crappies spend little time building their nests, which when finished, may be just barely discernible from the surrounding area. "
There's an excellent book on Pike & Muskie fishing which details some of this material. It's called "Northern Pike and Muskie".
There was also a study completed in 2002 by SUNY Brockport and I quote:

"No accounts of viable natural muskellunge reproduction in Lamoka or Waneta have been recorded, requiring the periodic addition of fingerlings to augment the population."

"Large predator fish, such as muskellunge, pickerel, and bass are unable to effectively hunt (feed) in dense EWM beds. Larger bluegills, pumpkinseeds, and perch are severely hunted as they are forced to leave the dense EWM. Hence, few or no large bluegills, pumpkinseeds or perch sampled in the study."
I really appreciate these lakes but, unfortunately, I've always felt that few of those that frequent them understand their responsibilities in keeping the lakes or healthy or even cared, for that matter. Too many take them for granted

  • One should always wet one's hands before handling fish. The "fish slime" is actually a protective layer on a fish's skin that helps to protect them from the highly bacterial environments that they live in. If too much "slime" comes off during the handling of a fish, it can leave them susceptible to infection and parasites.
  • Never hold a fish by its gills. It's the equivalent of somebody sticking their fingers in your lungs.
  • Never hold a fish vertically. This puts a tremendous strain on their internal organs. Consider how much less the effect of gravity has on people upon entering the water. Now consider the reverse when pulling a fish out of the water. This stress is especially compounded for fish that are long and narrow such as pickerel, pike & muskies.

"Fishery Study"

Carp & Crappie

The Lakes association