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CSLAP is a lake water quality monitoring program administered by the New York State Federation of Lakes Association (NYSFOLA) and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Sampling begins in June and is done every two weeks, for eight total sessions through September. Observations are made of weather and lake conditions, water clarity is measured, and samples are taken near surface and at a prescribed depth of 18 meters for lab testing. Water temperatures are recorded and the samples are processed for shipment to the lab. Forms of phosphorous and nitrogen are measured, along with pH, conductance, and chlorophyll (an algae indicator). Four mid-lake sites, spaced from north to south on Seneca Lake, are sampled by Seneca Pure Waters volunteers. Data is analyzed by DEC scientists and a lake report is generally available the following spring.
Seneca Lake is one of the largest Finger Lakes with a surface area of 175.4 km2 and volume of 15,500 million m3. In 2018, major trophic state indicators were intermediate for total phosphorus (0.011 mg/L), chlorophyll-a (5.4 µg/L), and water clarity (Secchi disk depth of 3.7 m). Seneca Lake has low levels of total nitrogen and NOX (0.551 and 0.241 mg/L, respectively). Using current chlorophyll-a as metric of lake quality, Seneca’s water quality has improved since the 1970s, but degraded since the late 1990s and early 2000s. The 2017-2018 data suggests that Seneca Lake is mesotrophic (moderately productive).
2018 DEC Report for CSLAP Article.pdf
What does this mean?
There are many factors affecting the trophic measures and our perceptions of water quality. The invasive zebra and quagga mussels have had a large impact on water clarity as a result of their filter feeding. Nutrients flowing into the lake from many sources create the conditions of increased productivity and are a target of the Nine Element Watershed Management Plan that is under construction. Completion of this plan will allow prioritization of remediation efforts and facilitate funding required.
A broad review of conditions in the DEC report lists other factors of concerns.
Like other NYS lakes, the Finger Lakes continue to face water quality challenges from climate change, agricultural run-off, emerging contaminants, stormwater flows, aging infrastructure, septic impacts, and the effects of cyanobacterial blooms (often called Harmful Algal Blooms, or “HABs”).
A full copy of the 2018 DEC report can be found at the Pure Waters website . Once the 2019 DEC report is released, we will update this topic and make that report available.
For those with lake properties on Seneca Lake, boats tied to pilings and leaps off the end of docks into the chilly waters below are welcome signs of warmer weather. However, the many activities docks are used for and Mother Nature can take their toll. Painting a dock can make it look more pristine and newer, however, it can also have a negative impact on a lake’s water quality.
Paints include heavy metals that can be harmful to aquatic environments. Experts say these metals can work their way up through the food chain, first posing a health risk to aquatic organisms like fish and then people when they consume the fish. Human health issues caused by heavy metals can include immune deficiencies and pregnancy problems.
Luckily, there are some straightforward tips you can follow to minimize the environmental impact of painting your dock:
Choose a lighter color - Lighter colors hold up better with the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, said Ian Smith, the Seneca Lake Watershed Steward, via a recent email.
Use paints lower in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - When it comes to oil-based paints versus water/latex paints, however, things get a bit trickier. Oil-based paints are slow-drying and made up of small pieces of pigment in a drying oil while latex or acrylic paints are made from acrylic resin and water.
Water-based or latex paints can be better for the environment because they can be lower in VOCs than oil-based paints, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). VOCs are the molecules that vaporize as the paint is drying and they can cause a number of health issues from dizziness and headaches to more serious kidney and nervous system damage. The EWG recommends looking for low-VOC paints or “Green Seal-11” certified paints, which means they are lower in VOCs and other toxic ingredients.
However, New York is one of several states—including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland—that has put in place VOC restrictions. Now there are oil-based paints available on hardware store shelves that are much lower in VOCs than in the past.
In addition, Smith said durability can be an advantage of oil-based paints, particularly for painting structures like docks. The superior lifespan of oil-based paints coupled with the extra exposure to sunlight and water that docks take, make oil-based paints/stains superior (if applied right and legal in your state).
Apply paints and stains properly - He also stressed the way paints and stains are applied to docks might be even more important than the product brands and ingredients and offers the following suggestions:
So, for your next dock-painting project, keep the above in mind so your dock not only looks great but also helps preserve the beautiful and necessary aquatic environment it enhances.
Although spring was a bit cool, summer is just around the corner and that means HABs, Cyanobacteria blooms, aren’t far behind.
We are looking for the following assistance:
Shoreline volunteers to monitor a mutually-agreed shoreline zone at least once a week from August through early October. A two-hour training session will be provided (likely remotely) for all volunteers.
HAB sign placement volunteers to install informational signs at water entry points in Ontario and Yates counties. We really need a few people to make this happen.
Administrative support to run the HAB program behind the scenes where we can use help to conduct a number of activities.
To volunteer for any of these roles, go to the Seneca Lake website volunteer page HERE. Hit the green “Sign Up To Volunteer Here” button then select the role you are volunteering for in the “Citizen Science & Water Testing” drop down field.
As most of you know, the National Lake Trout Derby has been an iconic event on Seneca Lake for the last 55 years. Over the course of that half century, avid trout anglers in the Finger Lake region and beyond, have taken to their boats and docks, with a flashy assortment of spoons, lures, and baits in their tackle boxes, to catch trophy fish and compete for prizes and recognition in the Derby, on “The Lake Trout Capital of the World” - our own Seneca Lake.
Many of us were concerned that the Corona virus situation, across New York and the country, would impact the ability of the Derby committee to hold the event this year. But as of the publication of this newsletter, the good news from the committee is --- “the Trout Derby is STILL ON”.
While there will be some restrictions on the fish weigh-in procedures, and some scale back of the usual social aspects of the Derby celebration (all consistent with the social distancing guidelines established by the Governor), the NYS Department of Health has approved the event to go forward, for the dates of May 23, 24, and 25th.
Prizes this year will be pro-rated based upon the volume of registrations, and Stivers' Marina will host the sole weigh-in station. As Bob Stivers has stated,
"Fish safe with friends and family - the same ones you sit around your living room with. Weigh safe - Bring your fish to the weigh stations one boat at a time, one person to the scales at a time, wear a mask, and stay six feet apart. Wash hands again and again. The Derby is on. Get signed up to keep the prizes at full price."
Registrations, as well as event rules and procedures, are available on-line at the link below, in person at Stivers Marina, or at Roy’s Marina, up until May 23rd. There is also great information available on Facebook under “National Trout Derby on Seneca Lake”.
Good luck to all of our members who will participate --- and stay safe!
Boater Safety Week
Over the next few months more of us will be using boats on the Finger Lakes. Since National Boating Safety Week is this week (May 16-22, 2020) , it is a perfect time to review boating safety guidelines.
Cold Water Hazards - In the earlier portions of the boating season our lake temperatures are dangerously cold. If boaters happen to fall into the cold water, it can be a matter of a brief few minutes before they become incapacitated.
As a safety precaution, those rowing boats, such as kayaks and canoes, should attempt to stay close to the shoreline. Should a boat capsize, that may allow the boater to make it to shore or possibly obtain assistance from someone nearby.
Weather - No matter what type of boating you are doing, check the weather forecast for the day with a keen eye for wind conditions that might change quickly causing high waves and a boat to capsize. If things look dicey, stay ashore. If you are on the lake and the wind starts to rise or if you see a storm is approaching, it’s time to get off the water and save your recreation for another day.
Boat Maintenance - If you are operating a motorboat or sailboat, make sure all equipment is in good working condition. If there is a breakdown you can be stranded for hours on a large lake since other boaters may not be close enough to hear your horn or whistle, or you shouting for help.
Safety Equipment - Never get in any boat without having a life jacket that fits you. Insist that family and friends also wear a life jacket. This goes for good swimmers and on any type of boat.
We want you to observe these cautions yourself and with your friends and family. Take opportunities to spread the word among friends, neighbors, and folks around the lake, so that everyone can enjoy a happy, safe, sunny summer in the Finger Lakes!
Fishermen and women enjoy the natural beauty of the lakes and rivers they haunt, and the peacefulness and solitude of the sport. But what really gets us out there is catching fish. “The tug is the drug” is a T-shirt slogan that captures the reason we’re out there in all kinds of weather. Experienced Seneca Lake anglers have noted that many fish populations have dropped precipitously in recent years. This has been especially true of the warm water species (northern pike, bass, perch and other panfish), but we’ve also seen a reduction in catch rate of the cold water/trout species.
I live on the lake and fish it throughout the year for a number of species. I’m a fairly casual fisherman, though the thoughts contained here are influenced by reports from some more serious fishermen. First a quick summary of changes noted in fishing success will be provided, followed by a discussion of potential factors for the changes seen. Brad Hammers, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), Region 8, Fisheries Biologist, was kind enough to provide input on this article. Where Brad’s view differs from mine, or provides additional information, I’ve included his response in italics.
With no personal experience, I’ve heard many reports from winters’ past of fishing weed bed edges for large catches of big northern pike. When I moved full time to the lake in 2010, I would see and catch some northerns during winter perch fishing. In recent years, that fish has become rare in my area of the lake. (Brad- A 2014-15 fish community survey found a fair number of northern pike throughout the lake, and we have reports of good pike fishing in the last couple of years).
The bass fishing that was once excellent has degraded significantly, though there are some signs of a recent rebounding. (Brad- The ‘14-15 survey found a moderate number of smallmouth bass. Uncertain now, but had planned a bass survey for this spring, along with other fish surveys, to compare Seneca to other NY waters).
Fishing for large perch in large numbers was common in Seneca Lake, recognized as strong as its famous lake trout fishing. The last few years have seen a dramatic decline of perch anglers, who have now largely moved to other lakes to pursue this quarry. Experienced perch anglers are still getting some fish, but it’s a much tougher game to find a school and catch a few fish these days. Very disturbing to me is an apparent lack of small fish . (Brad- The ’14-15 survey found large numbers of perch. Hearing from anglers that perch are there but are more finicky.)
Lake trout fishermen report reduced catches and smaller fish, whether pulling copper, running down riggers, or jigging. The trout derby has seen fewer fish of smaller sizes in recent years. (Brad- Stocking levels were reduced due to increased natural recruitment in the mid 2000’s. Recent surveys indicate decreased natural recruitment. Less stocking, lower recruitment, and increased sea lamprey population likely causes of lower adult lake trout numbers. DEC is now increasing stocking levels.)
Smelt fishing (net dipping) was once a spring-time ritual across the Finger Lakes. Now that fish seems to be gone from these water bodies. (Brad- Smelt likely at an undetectable level.)
There have been many changes to the lake ecosystem that are likely contributing to these observations of our fish populations and fishing success. Discussions with experienced fishermen and inputs from biologists have been distilled down to some observed changes with potential impact to the fishery. One overriding theme is the large impact of invasive species.
It’s curious to me how similar and yet different this lake is from our nearest neighbors, Keuka and Cayuga Lakes. While they suffer from most of the same invasive species, the response in their fisheries seems quite different.
Many thanks to Todd Cook for initiating the thread of emails that prompted this article. The view that invasive species are a major factor in the changes we see in the Seneca Lake fishery seems to be well founded. The lake will change and adapt to these and other impacts, while anglers will continue to search out their quarry. To help assess the lake fishery and biology as it changes, and to support actions to improve it, Seneca Pure Waters intends to pursue a more active partnership with the fisheries area of NYS DEC Region 8.
Read the article HERE.
2020 WENY NEWS, CHRISTINA EPISCOPO - 1/15/2020
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Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association
P.O. Box 247
Geneva, NY 14456