7/28/2013
Gobies in Cayuga/Seneca Lakes

So now we have a growing population of gobies in Cayuga Lake and likely Seneca Lake as well.   What are the implications for the fishery and the fishing?  Truth is that none of us will know until for quite some time.   We still don't really know all the implications of the gobies in the Great Lakes. 

Here are some potential negative impacts on both the fishing and the fishery and my thoughts afterwards:

1.)  It's possible that gobies will elevate contaminent levels in the fish that prey on them, since it's presumed that certain contaminents are buried in sediment along the bottom of the lakes.   

I don't see this as a major issue in Seneca or Cayuga Lakes, since they are in relatively good shape chemical-wise.  But I'm no expert.

2.)  Fish like lake trout may switch over to eating gobies instead of alewives.   With abundant gobies in the lake, the fishing might get a lot harder, since trout will only have to move a few feet to feast on the gobies.

Time will tell.   I would assume the majority of lakers will still chase alewives, since the lakers have been conditioned to do so for a long time and the alewives also offer a great food base.   I would assume the juvenile lakers will consume more gobies than the large fish.   Dark jigs may start working better!  

3.)  Gobies may feast on the eggs of fish like smallmouth bass, reducing the population of these game fish.

This certainly could happen.  Overall numbers of smallmouth bass in the goby infested Great Lakes are down, though fish are bigger than ever and grow much faster than they used to.  Smallmouth bass numbers haven't been great in Cayuga and Seneca.  So the gobies could push their numbers even lower.  

4.)  Lake trout fishing from shore at Taughannock could wind up being a nightmare!   Those gobies are going to annihilate egg sacks. 

Potential Positives:

1.)  Growth rates on lake trout may start heading up quickly.  With loads of gobies on the points and in deep water, lakers may be able to feast on them non-stop.   20lb+ lake trout may be a reality on Cayuga Lake in the next 10 years.  

2.)  Gobies will take energy that's been pulled out of the food chain (mussels) and re-direct them into the food chain.   All the nutrients stored in Quagga mussels have, for the most part been removed from the "fish food chain."    Gobies may restore energy back into the fishery.

3.)  Perch, trout, drum, carp, catfish, sturgeon, bass and even rockbass may start feasting on the gobies.   Growth rates of all these fish should increase.

4.) Cormorants may find enough gobies around to eat.  This will hopefully divert them from eating freshly stocked salmon/trout.

5.)  A diet in gobies may reduce thiaminase in the predators that consume them.  We may see more wild lake trout in the future.

Management Implications:

Stocking of lake trout may have to be increased as a means of keeping goby numbers in check.  

As you can see, I'm trying to keep a positive view of this.   I would rather we didn't have gobies in Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, but at the same time, since they are here, we may see some positive impacts come out of it.   I will keep checking stomachs of fish we catch and keep.   Overall I can see Cayuga's perch really benefiting.  If our perch get on the gobies - with the massive perch population in this lake, we could wind up with a fantastic perch fishery here.   The great thing about this region is that most lakes are isolated.  Just as we don't have lampreys in any lakes apart from Seneca and Cayuga, the gobies should stay put.