I had a chance to talk to Region 8 Fisheries regarding the recent coldwater lake trout assessment and baitfish assessments on Seneca and Keuka Lake. Here's what I was told:
Lake trout numbers caught via gillnets on Seneca Lake were good and may have actually been higher than what was taken during the last survey in 2013. Monofilament gill nets were used, which fish better than the previously used multi-filament nets, but even taking that into account, numbers appeared to be better. There was a greater number of stocked lakers than usual in the nets. Some of the fish were fairly "beat up" due to lampreys.
Alewife numbers were high in Seneca Lake with 2,300 to 2,400 taken in forage nets. Initial observations suggest 4 year classes of alewives. No gobies or smelt were observed in forage nets or lake trout stomachs.
Regarding management, DEC will likely treat Seneca Lake for lampreys in 2018. The canal may be treated along with the usual Catherine Creek and Keuka Outlet. Due to the large numbers of alewives, DEC will likely increase lake trout stocking here since high numbers of alewives usually contribute to EMS/Thiamine related spawning failure amongst lake trout.
With regards to forage, Keuka Lake did not look good. Fourteen alewives were collected - all young of the year fish from last year's spawn. Some sculpin were also collected. No smelt. DEC said "...not a lot of anything" was there. So DEC will be drafting a plan to try and re-introduce the once native cisco to the lake. Whether this works or not is anybody's guess.
I can't argue with any of these observations or findings. I know for anglers it is hard to believe that laker numbers were good given how poor the fishing has been, but I know a few anglers who report marking plenty of lakers on bottom on Seneca Lake that just won't bite. Cutting Keuka Lake's salmon and brown trout stocking has been talked about for the last few years. Why not take some, if not all of those fish and stock them in Seneca Lake next year? With high bait numbers this would be a great way (if not gesture) to help jumpstart Seneca's coldwater fishery again. These fish grow fast and will contribute to the fishery in a year. Lake trout will take longer to contribute. Just a thought...
As for Keuka Lake, the fishery will find balance eventually. I've heard that the lakers there are looking pretty good - not emaciated like Skaneateles fish. I have also heard that they have never tasted better! So it isn't all doom and gloom on Keuka. Bass fishing is reportedly ok and perch fishing has gotten better and better.
Any errors above regarding the DEC nettings are strictly mine, thought I think I got things straight.