The Cayuga Fisher

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Hot Knots

Never tie an improved clinch again.

The uni knot is versatile, easy to tie, and strong. Use it to tie on hooks or join two lines together with the double uni knot. Works great for tying dissimilar lines together or a leader to braid. For tying a braid backing to heavier mono or even a leader to braid the Red Phillips knot is faster and smaller.

Jigging for Lake Trout:  Behavior:  Life History

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Life History:  (A short summary)

Lake Trout eggs are laid on rocky or cobble bottoms in water 10 to 120 feet deep or more.  The wide range of spawning depths is generally due to climate and available habitat- in some marginal lake trout fisheries, deep water is covered with weeds and mud, leaving lake trout to crowd the shoreline in search of wave-swept gravel to spawn upon.  Water temperature plays a role as well- in far Northern lakes lake trout will spawn in shallower water.  In the Finger Lakes, lakers spawn at a variety of depths, depending on lake structure, and at slightly different times of the year.  Spawning grounds on Cayuga Lake are in water around 90 feet, while closer to 30 feet on some of the smaller Finger Lakes.

These eggs are laid from September through November on the lake bed, and filter down through cracks between the rocks out of harms way just like river-run trout.  A clean, mud free bottom is necessary as eggs laid on mud are susceptible to coverage and predation from other fish.  The large gravel or cobble bottom allows safety and water circulation for the spawn. After hatching the following spring, lake trout fry disappear!  Seriously, I don't know what they do... but in the Finger Lakes there is a problem with EMS, or Early Mortality Syndrome (aka the Cayuga Syndrome).  90% or more of lake trout and other salmonid fry die soon after hatching due to a thiamine deficiency caused by the Alewive, Alosa pseudoharengus- the primary food source of lake trout. Some Finger Lakes support high populations of native fish while others primarily rely on stocking by the DEC. Seneca and Keuka lakes have high populations of wild fish while Cayuga's lakers are mostly stocked fish.

The Lake Trout young spend the next several years trying to survive just like any small fish.  Small lake trout feed on benthic zooplankton and crustaceans, with Mysis (or Opposum) shrimp being a large portion of their diet.  Once the lakers reach 3-4 years old they start eating other fish and thereby attract our interest as catchable fish.

In the majority of the Finger Lakes the Alewife, or Sawbelly, is the main forage for all salmonids, including lake trout.  These fish, a relatively recent (within the past 70-100 years) introduction to the ecosystem, form massive schools that nomadically travel the lakes.  It has been estimated that the alewife accounts for 90% of the biomass in Cayuga Lake!  This species only grows to about 7" in the Finger Lakes.  Understand the movements of the alewives, and you will be able to find lake trout at any time of the year.

The alewives themselves follow their own food supply- Mysis shrimp and other small organisms.  The shrimp follow a daily cycle- at night, they rise through the water column (sometimes as much as several hundred feet or more) to feed on the phytoplankton that grows in the sunlit layer of water.  As dawn approaches and day begins, the Mysis descend back into the depths for safety.  The alewives follow this food source, and exhibit the same pattern of behavior.  At night alewives may school at the surface, feeding or spawning, and head for deeper water as the sun rises in the sky.

In turn the lakers follow the Alewives.  While lake trout rarely come to the surface in the Finger Lakes, as the alewive do, at dawn they can be found in relatively shallow water depending on the time of year.  The best time to find lake trout near the surface is in late Spring (as the lake begins to stratify), and again in late Fall or early Winter as the lake turns over.  However, by late fall most alewives have moved offshore into the depths. In winter the alewife is found from 150-250 feet or so, deeper than the summertime, where they inhabit 50-150 feet of water.

Lake trout can grow to great sizes, but rarely reach 20 pounds in the Finger Lakes area.  Even in the Great Lakes, fish over 30 pounds are rare these days, and a 20 pound laker is a nice fish.  With large size comes old age- many trophy lake trout are 20 years old or more, and some behemoths have been an estimated forty years old!  One interesting fact to note is that lake trout size is partially dependent on baitfish size.  The relatively small alewife effectively caps growth and size rates for lakers, as the fish's ratio of energy-expended to food-gained reaches a balance point.  Lake trout in the Finger Lakes historically fed on whitefish and cisco, now exterminated or nearly so in most New York waters.  At the time lakers grew fat and happy with these food sources, growing to 40 pounds and more in Cayuga Lake.

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