Department of Environmental Conservation

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Chautauqua Lake (2012)

In the spring of 2012, DEC Region 9 fisheries staff surveyed the fish populations of Chautauqua Lake. This was the first spring electrofishing survey completed on the lake since 1996. The primary purpose of this survey was to assess the status of the largemouth bass and smallmouth bass populations while monitoring the status of the fishery as a whole.

Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass

Fisheries technician holding largemouth bass collected during survey.
Largemouth bass collected during
Chautauqua Lake survey.

Largemouth bass were the most abundant game fish captured in the spring of 2012. The catch rate of largemouth bass was 27 fish/hour, indicating the population was moderately abundant and had slightly increased since 1996. Growth rates were slow for largemouth bass; however, it is not uncommon for fish species to experience slow growth rates in Chautauqua Lake. The size structure of the largemouth bass population was favorable, indicating the population should continue to provide quality angling opportunities.

A total of 53 smallmouth bass were collected from Chautauqua Lake in 2012, resulting in a catch rate of 6 fish/hour. Although the smallmouth bass population was not very abundant, data indicates it had remained stable since last surveyed. Smallmouth bass growth rates were slow, but considered typical for smallmouth bass in Chautauqua Lake. Although small and slow growing, the smallmouth bass population was well balanced and expected to continue providing quality angling opportunities.

Panfish

Yellow perch were the most abundant fish sampled from Chautauqua Lake in the spring of 2012. The catch rate of yellow perch was 708 fish/hour, indicating the population was highly abundant. Growth rates of yellow perch were slow, but expected for lakes with highly abundant yellow perch populations. Most yellow perch sampled were less than 8 inches. Pumpkinseed sunfish were the second most abundant fish species sampled in the spring of 2012. A total of 588 pumpkinseed were captured for a catch rate of 294 fish/hour. The growth rate for pumpkinseed was considered above average, suggesting the population is doing well in Chautauqua Lake.

Walleye and Muskellunge

Although the primary purpose of the 2012 spring electrofishing survey was to assess largemouth and smallmouth bass populations, walleye and muskellunge were sampled as well. A total of 108 walleye were collected with 55 being of legal length (18 inches or larger). Chautauqua Lake continues to be stocked with 130,000 50-day fingerling walleye and 130,000 pond reared fingerling walleye each year. Walleye are typically surveyed during an electrofishing survey completed in the fall. A total of 29 muskellunge were sampled in the spring of 2012 as well. Each year, Chautauqua Lake is stocked with 13,000 fall fingerling muskellunge. The muskellunge population is primarily monitored using trap nets during the spawning season.

Results

Results of the 2012 spring electrofishing survey indicate Chautauqua Lake has a well balanced fishery. The largemouth bass population has improved since 1996 while the smallmouth bass has remained fairly stable. The yellow perch population has remained highly abundant and is expected to provide adequate forage for predator fish while helping to buffer predation on young walleye and black crappie. Chautauqua Lake's abundant and diverse game fish and panfish populations should provide fishermen with quality angling opportunities in the coming years. Region 9 fisheries staff plan on repeating this survey in the spring of 2014.