Although local anglers have traditionally depended on word-of-mouth to get the scoop on prime fishing areas, they will soon be able to learn more about the vitality of aquatic life in Cazenovia Lake through reports released by the New York State Department of Conservation.
On the evenings of May 9 and 10, three DEC representatives ventured along the shore of the lake to evaluate indigenous wildlife. Using a humane process known as “electroshocking” to subdue fish and gather information, one fish and wildlife technician and two biologists tested numerous areas of Cazenovia Lake over the course of seven hours during the two days.
“Our main goal is just a general fisheries survey, the one we [conducted] is called a ‘Centrarchid Survey,’ where bass are the prime targets. The lake has never been surveyed though, so we will also be looking at the other species, sizes, ages, number we catch per hour, etc.” said Aquatic Biologist James Everard. “This survey will be the first step in getting a handle on the lake’s fish community and abundance of predators in the lake. Our next survey would be a ‘Gill Net Survey’ in the summer. We will than use all the data we collect from both to determine if walleye stocking would be worth trying, or not – mainly, would walleye survive.”
Following the testing this summer, Everard said laboratory analysis will take place, and the DEC expects to release a final report on their website this autumn.
During the Centrarchid survey, which is often conducted along area streams, a long metal arm with a carousel of wires attached at the end is lowered into the water, and a small amount of electricity is emitted.
Nearby fish are momentarily stunned and float to the surface, where they are then corralled in a net and temporarily kept for observation in a well onboard the boat.
Everard said they planned to examine walleye, sunfish, bass, pike and perch, as well as oxygen levels and water quality. Perch have been found in Cazenovia Lake for centuries, the Native-American term “Owahgena” is believed to translate to “Lake of the Yellow Perch.”
According to Cazenovia resident and Region 7 Sportsmen Representative to the Conservation Fund Advisory Board, Charlie Pace, the last time Cazenovia Lake was stocked was 1978.
“We’ve had fantastic wildlife fishing here for years. Programs like this are definitely a big thing for the sportsmen. This is what we work for,” Pace said. “The DEC has been working with limited resources, although about $42 million of licensing [fees] have not been released for doing this kind of work. This is why we had a fee increase in 2008 — so we could continue to have these projects, surveys and programs done, to provide what we pay license fees for.”
Pace said that the lake has gone through many changes in the past three decades, but he believes it is currently at a high quality similar to that of 34 years ago, thanks to cooperation at the local, county and state levels.
“The Lake Association, town and village are all doing a lot of work, and we’re all here for the same reason – the health of Cazenovia Lake,” Pace said. “They’ve all put a lot of money into Cazenovia Lake, that’s why is so great to see DEC here, doing its part for the state too … it’s excellent that they finally have the resources and time.”
Pace was sure to give credit to Amy Mann, Dave Porter and Kurt Wheeler from the village, as well as Liz Moran and Bill Zupan from the town, for their tireless efforts toward maintaining the lake’s vitality.
“Through the collaboration of many, including the village and town boards, as well as local sports men and women, citizens, the Cazenovia Lake Association and the Lake Watershed Council, we have developed a good relationship with the NYSDEC to the point where the DEC is interested in evaluating the fish population in the lake,” said Porter, a village trustee and commissioner of parks and recreation. “This signals a new era of cooperation between the DEC and local government, citizens and groups who all have the best interest of Cazenovia Lake at heart. Through continued collaboration and good stewardship, we will reap the future rewards of having a healthy and enjoyable natural resource.”
Freshwater fishing season officially opened May 5. For more information on the DEC and its area projects, visit dec.ny.gov/outdoor/fishing. To learn more about fishing in the village, access villageofcazenovia.com; in the town, access townofcazenovia.org.
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.