Skaneateles Lake Gillnet Survey (2008)
Survey Number: 708113
Survey Dates: July 28 - August 6, 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.
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.