Talk to any angler with years of familiarity with a body of water and you'll likely hear stories about how the fishery and fishing has changed over the years. Some things improve, some decline - but one thing is for sure, the fisheries are changing all the time. In the 10 plus years I've been guiding professionally, I've noticed quite a few changes both for the better and for the worse. I'm going to detail some of those below. If you aren't a diary keeper for the Finger Lakes, you should look into it. The diary reports are good ways to keep tabs on things.
Cayuga Lake: On the positive side, the largemouth bass fishing is just top notch now. Largemouths are better distributed than they ever were. Negatively, the smallmouth bass fishing is probably as poor as its ever been. We'll see how that changes.
Salmon fishing has been all over the map here over the past ten years. This past winter we had a couple days of superb salmon action at the Power Plant. But it was one school of fish and a super cold winter. That salmon fishing was as good as any I've ever experienced, ever! (I didn't post that due to my friends finding them and reporting it to me - gotta keep a few secrets, sorry! ;-)
Owasco Lake: Again, over here the largemouth bass fishery is improving markedly. My friend George who fishes and kayaks around the spawning areas claims he's seen 8 to 9lb largemouths here! Brown and rainbow trout fishing is on the upswing but still a long ways from where it was prior to when I began fishing the lake. Smelt rebounded strongly here when the alewives crashed around 8 or 9 years ago.
Seneca Lake: The perch fishery here keeps diminishing. As I write this, there have been two big schools of fish that virtually all the perch fishermen are working. That's not a good sign. When anglers spend an entire day going around with a camera in crystal clear water and still aren't seeing much of anything, there's a reason for that. Don't be fooled by people catching hundreds of perch when all the fishermen on a lake with over 43,000 acres of water and 37 miles of length are working two schools of fish. What happens when those two schools are fished down to close to nothing?
On the positive side, the brown trout fishing has been terrific on Seneca in terms of the quality of the fish. Numbers are also decent. Rainbow trout fishing is also very good. We're also seeing another pike comeback.
Skaneateles Lake: Numbers of rainbow trout are down here considerably, but the size of the fish is way up. A 29" rainbow was caught here last year by a diary keeper. I'm not catching many of the previously abundant 12" to 15" bows. Same thing is happening with the smallmouth bass. There are plenty of 14" to 17" bass here. And we're seeing some 20+" fish here. This is one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries in the state.
Keuka Lake: Over the past 10 years I've noticed the salmon fishing dwindle down to next to nothing. Lake trout action is still great with some bigger fish available. It remains to be seen if the salmon, rainbows and browns are able to bounce back here. The heavy harvest of lake trout through the ice may help this cause.
As I've said in the past, I have no room for whiners regarding the area fishing. Fisheries are dynamic. Seneca Lake was fantastic for rainbow trout, smallmouths, yellow perch and smelt in the early 1980s. Boy, those were the "Good Old Days." But during those good old days the lamprey numbers were high, it took an average of 4 to 6 hours to catch ONE lake trout and there were no salmon in the lake and few browns. So if you were a perch and bass guy, those truly were much better days; if you like lakers, browns and salmon - THESE are the good old days. That scenario is true with many lakes.
In Lake Ontario the salmon and trout fishing was fantastic in the 1980s. But the trout and salmon were inedible: they tasted horrible and were full of dioxin, mirex, PCBs, mercury and other chemicals. The lake stunk like rotten algae and the fish had some of that taste. Now the lake is clearer and cleaner. You can eat the fish. You don't have dying alewives and gizzard shad all over the place.