Every five years researchers from Cornell University conduct full open water and ice fishing season creel surveys on Oneida Lake – the largest inland lake entirely within New York’s borders and one of the top fisheries in the state. From May-October angling boat counts and roving angler interviews were conducted to estimate total effort and catch for the 2022 open water season.
Angling effort totaled 220,000 boat-hours, which was slightly higher than the average observed since 2010 (204,000 boat-hours). Most (70%) angling trips included walleye as a target species and 16% included largemouth and/or smallmouth bass. Fewer than 12% of angling trips targeted yellow perch until October when 70% of all trips included yellow perch as a target species.
Walleye: This year the creel limit for walleye on Oneida Lake increased from 3 to 5 fish per day. Catch rates for anglers targeting walleye averaged 0.54 fish/angler-hour- well above rates observed from surveys conducted in 2013 and 2018. Estimates of walleye harvest are based on estimates of angler effort combined with estimates of angler harvest rates from all trips. The total walleye harvest was 107,000 – the highest observed since 2010 (harvest did not exceed 60,000 walleye during any year over that time span). These trends suggest that recent strong year classes have likely contributed to increased angling success. Ninety-three percent of all legal size walleye (≥15 inches) caught were harvested.
Black bass: Catch rates for anglers targeting black bass averaged 0.62 bass/angler-hour, increasing from 0.70 to 0.92 from May through July and decreasing thereafter. Anglers reported 4 smallmouth bass for every largemouth bass caught in 2022. Anglers targeting smallmouth bass averaged 0.52 fish/angler-hour which was higher than smallmouth catch rates in 2013 (0.37 smallmouth bass/angler-hour) but slightly lower than in 2018 (0.55 smallmouth bass/angler-hour). As with most modern day bass fisheries, less than 1% of all legal size black bass caught were kept.
Yellow perch: Angler catch rates for Oneida Lake yellow perch are typically highest in the fall and 2022 was no exception. Catch rates for anglers targeting yellow perch averaged 0.68 fish/angler-hour for the first 3 months of the season, increased to around 1.00 fish/angler-hour in August and September, and increased further to 1.38 in October. Harvest rates mirrored catch rates as few yellow perch caught were released.
Complete results of both the open water and winter surveys will be available this spring in DEC’s Oneida Lake Annual Report.