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Honeoye Lake Fish Stock Assessment (2003)


Honeoye Lake was surveyed in Spring and Fall 2003 to assess walleye population characteristics in response to a size limit reduction from 18 in to 15 in in 2000. In cooperation with DEC, Finger Lakes Community College also assessed the spring walleye spawning run in Honeoye Inlet. In addition to walleye, fall sampling yielded information on other species of importance in Honeoye Lake such as pumpkinseed sunfish, bluegills, and yellow perch.

A total of 991 and 1,059 adult walleye were collected using trapnets in Honeoye Lake and the Inlet, respectively. An additional 277 walleye were collected during the recapture sample using boat electrofishing gear. The adult walleye population is estimated at approximately 13,000 adults, significantly lower than 33,000 adults estimated in 2000. About 28% of walleye collected were >456 mm (18 in) in 2003 compared to only 10% in 2000. Nearly 62% of all walleye collected in the lake were Age 5. Only 7% were less than age 5, indicating potential poor recruitment in recent years. Growth rates were moderate with age 5 walleye averaging 443 mm. However, variability with ages assigned to walleye scales by several independent readers suggest that ages and related growth statistics may be inaccurate and that other aging techniques such as otoliths should be explored in future surveys. Two hundred thirty six walleye were collected in fall gillnets. Size frequency distributions were similar to spring samples and indicated few walleye less than 375 mm (15 in). PSD of 95 substantiates this finding. Relative condition has generally increased for walleye less than 510 mm (20 in). Examination of walleye stomachs revealed that sunfish continue to make up the majority of the walleye diet.

The number of yellow perch in standardized fall gillnet samples was more than 50% lower than recent surveys, however average size and condition have increased. Bluegill (n=526) and pumpkinseed sunfish (n=255) were more abundant than previous samples. Population characteristics indicate a relatively fast growing, excellent conditioned sunfish population. More than 40% of bluegills and 60% of pumpkinseeds collected were greater than 200 mm (8 in) in length with 0.75 to 1 lb fish not uncommon.

An inspection by divers during one evening gill net set found the ends of all three nets that were attached to the spreader poles were collapsed to various degrees. Only in the middle of the net sets were gillnets fishing vertically from the lead line to the float line. These observations indicate that it is likely that individual nets fished differently and catch rates were probably affected. However, sampling gear and deployment methods have been consistent for at least the last decade and biases in catch would be similar. In the future, gear modifications should be explored to reduce this potential bias.

The objective of reducing the adult walleye population by lowering the size limit has been met and has resulted in a population consisting of larger and better conditioned fish. However, there is some concern about the strength of recent year classes and continued monitoring is warranted to determine if fry stocking remains viable. The yellow perch population continues to be depressed and has not immediately rebounded from the reduction in adult walleyes. However, more time is needed for yellow perch to react positively to the decreased walleye population. Other panfish species, primarily bluegills and pumpkinseed sunfish, continue to provide anglers with excellent alternatives to yellow perch.

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