By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor
Three times this summer at eight different sites, researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are laying out fyke nets — fish traps — in a fisheries survey for the Jefferson Project, RPI’s high-tech partnership with the Fund for Lake George and IBM.
The Chronicle went along last week when post-doctoral researchers Matt Schuler and Jon Borrelli, and UAlbany undergrad Tristan Sokach-Minnick checked the nets in Bolton just north of Huddle Bay and at the mouth of Northwest Bay Brook.
The 104 fish caught near Huddle Bay and the 58 caught at Northwest Bay Brook were each weighed and measured to determine relative health, and then released.
Almost all the fish caught near Huddle Bay were pumpkinseeds, with some smallmouth bass and one tiny largemouth bass.
In Northwest Bay, there were largemouth bass, pumpkinseeds (sunfish), rock bass, perch and a yellow bullhead.
(In the two-plus hours, wildlife sightings also included a bald eagle, a pair of black-headed Bonaparte gulls, a huge snapping turtle and a pair of loons with a chick!)
“The goal of these surveys is to understand the distribution and abundance of fish in the lake, understand if the populations of fish are healthy, and understand what the fish are eating relative to what is abundant in the lake,” Mr. Schuler said.
He said, “Long, skinny fish of a particular species are often considered less healthy than fish that have higher weights/girths at the same length….If the fish are not in good condition, that might indicate that something is negatively affecting their ability to get food. We can then assess if this is happening in one part of the lake, or in many parts of the lake, which can help us identify the problem.”
The data will be joined with information collected on algae, zooplankton and macro-invertebrates.
“We are studying the food web because we want to understand who is eating whom in the lake, and understand changes in abundance or distribution of species that might be important,” Mr. Schuler said.
“Additionally, studying the food web allows us to understand if any human-induced changes to the lake will cause a particular species to change their distribution or abundance. The interactions among species are difficult to understand, but we can use computer simulations developed by Jon or researchers at IBM to estimate what might happen with future climate or pollution events….
“All of this survey work will inform future experiments and models that can help inform us about potential consequences of climate change, pollution, or invasive species that occur in the lake.”
Mr. Schuler said, “Lake George is a beautiful, healthy lake, but without information regarding the abundance and distribution of the fish and their food resources, it will be difficult to estimate potential effects of threats to the lake. These data are also a baseline, which could help us understand how a future undesirable change affects the lake.”
Researchers seeking details on salmon & lake trout catches
“We need to know more about lake trout and landlocked salmon,” says Jefferson Project researcher Matt Schuler.
“I want to ask charter boat captains on the lake to weigh and measure each fish caught on their boat, when and where they caught it, and send that information to us at email@example.com,” he said. Other fishermen are also welcome to send in information on their catches, he said.
The fyke net fish surveys under way now don’t catch lake trout or landlocked salmon because those fish are in much deeper water, Mr. Schuler said. He’s hoping charter boat captains will help with some front-line data to help biologists monitor those populations.
— Gordon Woodworth
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