Over the past few weeks, various size fish kills have been observed around Seneca Lake. The predominant species seems to be the “sawbelly”, though there are reports of many species being involved. The sawbelly is the fresh water version of the alewife which are members of the herring family. Fishermen are generally reporting very large and numerous schools of these bait fish, as observed on their sonar depth/fish finders. The population of these fish would seem to be at a high point. On a large lake like Seneca, it is often hard to know what accounts for these significant fish kills.
SLPWA member, Addison Mason, reported a fish kill to Brad Hammers, the NYS DEC fish biologist responsible for the Finger Lakes. Mr. Hammers response:
Thank you for reporting your observations of dead alewives in Seneca Lake. We have received numerous reports over the last few weeks. We recently collected some fresh specimens and sent them to Cornell for analysis. The initial results were a heavy infestation of a protozoan Chilodonella.
From our State Fish Pathologist: “Chilodonella is a really common protozoan which, like Ich and ichthyobodo, can be deadly (to fish). Mortality events related to it are often associated with contributing causes such as spawning, dramatic temp fluctuations, etc.”
Therefore this protozoan is likely what caused the kill. There is no harm to humans. The duration of a kill of this nature is hard to determine. We are going to try and collect another fresh sample to confirm the initial analysis.
Thank you once again for your report. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.
SLPWA and the NYS DEC rely on observations and reports from Seneca Lake community to help document the extent, frequency and location of fish kill occurrences. If you observe a fish kill or other water quality concern, please document your observations by taking photographs and then visit the SLPWA website and submit a Water Quality Concern report.