There was a large fish die-off, why? Is it normal?
To answer this question best, you have to start off by discussing some essentials of lake ecology. As we all know, from our bio classes back in school, plants (including those submerged in water) create energy through the process of photosynthesis. In this process, they take water and carbon dioxide molecules, and transform them into glucose (energy) and oxygen molecules. In the lake environment, this puts oxygen into the water, which fish use to breathe. In parts of the lake where clarity is reduced (the depths) or when there is thick ice and snow cover (reducing light penetrating the water), this process can’t occur, and plants and other species in the lake begin to die and break down, giving off acids and carbon dioxide, creating an anoxic environment in the bottom of the lake. Another important part of lake ecology, is understanding why the top of the lake freezes in winter, while the lower depths don’t. Water is actually most dense at about 39°F, any lower than this and it begins to become less dense as it progresses towards forming ice. So in the warmer months, when water temperatures hover perhaps around 70°F, the bottom of the lake may be 65°F, while the surface water is 70° As winter approaches and water temperatures drop, we eventually reach a point where the surface waters reach 39°F and the deeper waters are colder but less dense, therefore they flip, with the colder waters moving to the top and freezing, and the deeper waters not freezing as they are still a little above the freezing point. In the Spring, you get the reverse of this, where the top waters unfreeze, begin to increase and approach 39°F, reaching it, and suddenly flipping with the bottom waters which are now below 39°F and less dense. This flip, takes the anoxic water from the bottom of the lake, and flips it up and mixes it with the oxygenated water. Many fish are vulnerable to this flip, and because of that we see large die-offs, which is a completely normal part of lake ecology. Luckily in our lake, more often than not, we see the die-offs involving mainly the Alewife fish, which is an invasive that we want to die-off.
What is currently going on with the fishery of the lake? We need bigger fish in order to control the large population of smaller fish?
This is true and we agree with you, and therefore have been stocking adult sized walleye (a native fish to Canadarago) into the lake in order to improve their population, and further keep the smaller panfish and alewife populations in check. The benefit to this is two-fold. Not only will it reduce the amount of smaller panfish and alewife populations, but it will also increase the size of the panfish (as they will have more food available to the individual panfish) improving the game of fishing all around.
What is being done to control the weed problem?
First off, we agree with everyone who has brought this up that it is a significant concern. The first step towards controlling the weed problem, was ensuring it did not get drastically worse, which involved establishing our Watershed Steward Protection program, which helps ensure that additional invasive species do enter the lake and worsen the weed situation. Now that we have a well-established Watershed Steward Protection Program, we are working to develop an approach to begin remediating the invasive weed growth in the lake (Eurasian Milfoil, Curly Leaf Pondweed, and Starry Stonewort). The proper approaches generally accepted for these three are hand harvesting in teams and benthic matting. Once we have our approach established with the aforementioned organizations, we will be looking into financing these options to begin remediation. It is imperative, that you do not purchase random pesticides or herbicides and dump them into the lake. These are strictly regulated by the NYS DEC and with good reason. While they may get rid of some aquatic foliage, they may also get rid of those fish your children, grandchildren, and other family members like to catch. The lake is one big connected habitat, and must be managed with that in mind. It’s the impact that you don’t think of and can’t control that needs to be avoided.
Why have grass carp not been used to control the weed problem in the lake yet?
The simplest answer is, that per NYSDEC is it illegal in the state of New York to stock grass carp in bodies of water greater than 5 acres in size. In other words you cannot stock grass carp in anything bigger than a large pond. You will note that there are a few carp in the lake already. They were introduced by German settlers 100+ years ago, and therefore technically are an invasive (non-native) species to the lake.
What impact does the Dam have on water levels?
You’ll notice that in times of rapid ice/snow melt, or heavy rain, or sometimes both such as we see often in Spring, that the board on the dam is fully raised to help the water flow out of the lake to the degree that we can. Unfortunately, in times of heavy water volume accumulation, this is simply just not enough to drain the lake adequately to prevent a flood. The two greatest contributors to that issue in such periods, are the fact that the Candarago Lake Watershed pulls into the lake all water that falls or melts within its 67 square mile watershed, and that downstream from the dam the creekbed actually inclines or slopes uphill, creating a stagnation, creating a backup of water and drastically slowing the flow of water. When we see a major rain event coming on the horizon, we will do all we can do (remove the board) to pre-lower the lake levels to give a buffer for the incoming rain, however as shown in a SUNY Oneonta study done in 2011, this is not very effective, lowering the lake only 0.06 feet per every 24 hours notice before the storms arrival. This means that we would need more than 2-weeks advance notice to lower the lake an entire foot (which given the sandbar isn’t even possible in most cases), and given weather predictions is realistically almost impossible entirely.
As it stands right now, boats can’t travel the outlet due to the sand bar blocking the entrance. Years ago, you could ride to the dam and back. Who could we contact to have the entrance opened to boaters i.e. pleasure or fishing?
The sand bar at the entrance to Oaks Creek has been created by sand and silt deposits from the entire lake, but most directly from Herkimer Creek, just to the West of Oaks Creek. Removing the sand bar has a number of complications. First, until the erosion issues along the lake and Herkimer Creek are addressed, a new sand bar would be creatd within a few years. Second, Even if the sand bar was removed boat travel down the creek would be impossible because the entire creek is now unnavigable by motor boat due to very shallow water, beaver dams, dense plant growth, etc. The sand bar is not actually just a shallow strip of sand at the front of the creek, it extends down into the creek for almost 1/8 of a mile. Take a kayak down the creek, and you will see that from the stand of the sand bar, the water remains only inches to a foot deep all the way past the creek entrance, past the duck blinds, and in to the first bend. Removing all of that would be very complicated because they are DEC wetlands, and we would need a place to deposit hundreds of years of material. Also, downstream from the dam, the creekbed actually slopes uphill, which makes the water flow very slowly, letting sand/silt settle even more quickly at the outlet.
A lot of lakes in the state appear to be active with Harmful Algal Blooms these past few years. Has the lake been tested?
We monitor the water quality throughout the Summer months in conjunction with both SUNY Oneonta Biological Field Station, as well as NYSDEC (through our CSLAP program). In our lake, just like most, the ingredients for a bloom are always present, but remain benign and dormant until conditions are just right. On top of that, usually blooms dissipate almost as quickly as they appear. It’s not something where we just test the lake once for a determination. It’s a frequent effort in coordination with our volunteers, NYSDEC, SUNY Oneonta, etc.
Is it safe to go in the water when Harmful Algal Blooms are occurring?
The best answer to this question is that each and every individual lake user must be aware of their surroundings and the apparent condition of the lake. If the water near you looks abnormal, it is best to err on the side of caution, keeping yourself, your kids, and your pets out of the water, and refraining from using it as a water source at that time. If you are outside the confines of the bloom, it is typically relatively safe. That being said, you must judge that for yourself. If something seems amiss, contact CLIA and we will look into it as soon as possible and send a sample to the appropriate labs. If you accidentally find yourself swimming in the bloom, the best thing to do is exit the water, and immediately take a shower/rinse off. If you pets, such as a dog, swim through a bloom, it is imperative that you remove them from the bloom and thoroughly rinse and wash them. Humans are lucky, due to our smooth skin, rinsing can quickly remove remnants of algae from our body, seeing no side effects. With pet fur, the cyanobacteria in the bloom does not rinse as easily, and, if not cleaned properly, can leach into the pets bodies over the course of a few days, causing damage to vital organs (such as the liver), and in some cases death. This being said, when there is not a bloom going on, the water of the lake is safe to swim and fish in. Conditions have to be just right (warm weather, little or no wind, and adequately warm water temperature) over a period of time for a bloom to occur.
What is the ruling on speed/distance from shore?
NYS Law states that boats should be at a “no wake speed” any time they are within 100 feet of shore, so a little further than home plate to first base in baseball, to put that in perspective. Click here for the NYS Boaters Guide
Does CLIA post the ice-thickness anywhere?
No, we do not. Unfortunately, with how much the ice fluctuates, it is not something that would be safe to constantly post about. It is dependent on each individual user to observe the conditions and determine whether or not it appears safe. Some organizations will post about the “safeness” of current ice cover. We are of the opinion, that such posts are unwise to make, as that is a very high-risk call to make, because if you are wrong, it could mean someone’s life.
For insurance purposes, how can I tell if my property is in a flood zone?
The town has flood zone maps, and they will be able to pinpoint your property on them.
How much impact do the boards on the dam have on lake level? Sometimes the water level appears to get really low, and then I look and the extra retention boards are not down.
The boards actually are only effective at maintaining adequate water level to a certain degree. There is actually only a couple inch difference between the top of the sandbar at the outlet (the beginning of Oaks Creek), and the bottom of the dam. The dam is relatively good at maintaining the normal water level of the lake, which is 18 inches below flood stage under normal weather conditions, but if there is a drought, and water really isn’t exceeding even the sandbar by much, the dam realistically can’t do anything to create more volume in the lake. If you want to see where the water level is in relation to normal, you can also go to our Real Time Weather Page data to see exactly where it is. Keep in mind, 18 inches below flood stage is our normal status.