I just received my Region 8 Diary Summaries back in the mail today. It's always exciting for me to see how things played out in terms of catch rates and what we'll be looking at in the future regarding the management of the fisheries. If you fish Keuka and/or Seneca Lake more than a few times a year and are not a diary keeper, shame on you! Check out the DEC website or my homepage for the link and become a cooperator.
If you look at my reports over 2016 fishing Seneca Lake you can see how my perspective changed. The salmon season for me wasn't up to par there, and Cayuga was fishing much better, so I stayed on Cayuga Lake. The weeks leading up to the Memorial Weekend Derby featured some darn good fishing on the north end of Seneca Lake. We caught some BIG lake trout, but not a lot of small ones and no great numbers. The derby was tough. We marked an awful lot of fish but they weren't hitting well.
I concentrated my guiding on Cayuga Lake and even had some folks who were renting places on Seneca make the drive over here. In late June regular client Tony caught a beautiful BIGlaker on Seneca around the Long Point/Lodi area. We marked a lot of fish over there. Things got real tough with Greg a few weeks later - again we marked a lot of fish - so they were there, but he didn't hook much. And then the last guided trip with Rick and his buddy led to one landed fish and a few lost ones but nothing great. In the fall I looked around in some areas and didn't mark much of anything. Some good anglers I know were in a panic, thinking the worse on Seneca.
Time puts everything into perspective. Getting out last week out of Watkins Glen I spent some time on my electronics and similarly to previous years, marked fair numbers of what had to be lake trout down there. Last year (2016) was one of the driest and hottest years on record. I had laker temps down in the Sampson area (on the trip with Rick) in around 130' FOW!!! That's just where you might BEGIN your search. Oftentimes the fish are deeper!!! If I strictly guided Seneca Lake, I would've started to explore the vast deep shelves of the lake, but I would rather fish Cayuga when it's good.
This year will be very telling on Seneca Lake, especially if our temperatures stay seasonal. I don't think there's any great mystery. We just had a "perfect storm" out there last year, along with some variables that started a year or two earlier: 1.) High lamprey numbers 2.) Lower biomass of lake trout (which draws lampreys more to the silver fish - which succumb to lamprey mortality more easily than the lakers) 3.) High volume of baitfish 4.) Poor water clarity (algae blooms) 5.) High water temperatures (making for deeper fish on average.)
This lake is a different story altogether. Diary results show a noticeable uptick of catch rates over there in 2016. The fishing was much better than in 2015. I guided there once and then shore fished there once last year. The guided trip went pretty well. We had some nice fish right through the middle of the day.
My take on what to do here is fairly simple: I recommend leaving the lake alone. Keep up the brown trout, rainbow and salmon stocking even though DEC is probably mainly just feeding lake trout with these young fish. But the absence of alewives may provide more food for young salmonids and the gradually declining laker biomass may also help more rainbows/browns/salmon survive. In 5 years discontinue whichever stocking that is producing the lowest yields. We may see an uptick in salmon survival over here. Keep in mind these trout and salmon are adaptable. Local anglers should keep tabs on the perch and bass fishing to see whether it improves or declines.
Eventually either stocking ciscoes or even alewives could be tried. But I don't expect alewives to do well here. It's a bandaid. The anglers on Keuka Lake have to face reality and lower their expectations somewhat. There will still be good fishing. The fishing was terrific there this past fall anyways.