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Skaneateles Lake

Skaneateles Lake is the fifth largest of the Finger Lakes. It is located in Onondaga, Cortland and Cayuga counties. Skaneateles means "long lake" in the Iroquois language. Skaneateles Lake is one of the cleaner Finger Lakes. Local communities draw their drinking water straight from the lake.

Physical Features

Elevation: 863 feet
Area: 8,960 acres
Length: 16 miles
Maximum Width: 1.5 miles
Maximum Depth: 300 feet
Thermocline: about 35 feet

Plant Life

Skaneateles has limited weed growth. The south end has some weed growth and to a lesser extent so does the north end.

Public Access Sites

DEC Launch Site - Two miles south of village of Skaneateles on west shore off route 41 A. Concrete ramp, and parking for 30 cars and trailers.

Skaneateles Park- Village of Skaneateles (Shore)

Grout Brook Public Fishing Rights Map and Brochure (PDF) (348 kB)

General Fishing Information

Smallmouth bass fishing is good throughout the lake. The south end is noted for good bullhead, panfish and pickerel fishing. Lake trout fishing is excellent, though fish are smaller than in other Finger Lakes. Many rainbow trout and landlocked salmon are caught by trolling on the surface during spring and fall. There is also excellent fall rainbow trout shore fishing. Marshmallow and worm rigs are popular with local anglers. Ice fishing is good for lake trout and yellow perch. For current fishing information a fishing hotline is available at Central New York Fishing Hotline or by calling (607) 753- 1551.

Fishing Regulations

Special fishing regulations apply.

Fisheries Management

Gamefish present include lake trout, rainbow trout, landlocked salmon, smallmouth bass and chain pickerel. Panfish include bluegill, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, rock bass and bullhead. Main forage fish are yellow perch. Skaneateles Lake is stocked yearly with 20,000 rainbow trout and 9,000 landlocked salmon. Natural reproduction accounts for all of the lake trout in the lake. For fishing regulations refer to the Finger Lakes and Tributary regulations in the fishing guide. An ongoing angler diary cooperator program for gamefish provides DEC fisheries staff with useful data on population trends. Information on the angler diary program and recent reports can be viewed at Angler Diary Cooperator Program. We are always looking for new cooperators, so if you are interested please contact the Region 7 office at (607) 753-3095 ext. 213 or online at

2015 Skaneateles Lake Angler Diary Report (PDF)(293 KB)

Skaneateles Lake Contour Map (PDF) (227 KB)

Fish Survey Report (2008)


During late July and early August 2008, the regional fisheries unit surveyed the coldwater fish community of Skaneateles Lake using standard Finger Lakes gang gill nets and standard netting sites. This was the fifth time the lake was surveyed using this technique. Previous surveys were carried out in 1977, 1980, 1983 and 1989. The main objectives of this survey were to determine the density of lake trout and cisco and to make fish health and toxic substance monitoring collections. A total of 21 nets were set at fairly regular intervals around the entire deep water area of the lake. Each net was set overnight, on bottom and below the thermocline either perpendicular or oblique to shore depending on the steepness of the lake bottom at the net site.

Species Collected

A total of 256 fish were collected including 135 lake trout, 54 yellow perch, 40 white suckers, 10 smallmouth bass, 8 cisco, 4 rainbow trout, 1 brown trout, 2 sculpin, 1 rock bass and 1 pumpkinseed. None of the lake trout collected had a hatchery fin-clip. Since no lake trout have been stocked in Skaneateles Lake for many years, all 135 lake trout collected were considered wild.

Lake Trout and Cisco Numbers

An average of 6.4 lake trout were caught per net in the 2008 survey. The average number of lake trout caught per net in the 1977, 1980, 1983 and 1989 surveys was 3.5, 3.7, 4.4 and 6.8, respectively. Overall, the lake trout catch in the standard gang surveys has been indicative of a stable, wild population of medium density.

The lake trout catch in the 2008 survey was similar to the catch in previous surveys, but the 2008 cisco catch was grossly lower than in any previous survey. It was possible that the vast majority of ciscoes were suspended in the water column at the time of the survey and not vulnerable to gill nets set on the bottom, however, it was more likely that in the 18 years since the last survey, the introduction of invasive species, competitive fish species and associated ecological changes have altered the lake's environment to the extent that ciscoes are surviving only in greatly reduced numbers.