CONESUS – The new season is driving the lake’s predatory fish wild with passion and pushing them to make the leap at the inlet to spawn.
The aggressive Northern Pike and delicious walleye are both in the full heat of their breeding season right about now. Both species are swimming over obstacles and into shallow water chasing their instinct to breed.
According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), pike are random spawners, broadcasting their eggs and milt over vegetation or bottom debris in shallow marsh areas and in flood plains. Unlike some other fish, pike do not build a nest or care for the eggs or young. The highly adhesive eggs stick to whatever they land on. Eggs hatch after eight to 15 days and the young have to fend for themselves. Within three to four weeks, young pike develop their carnivorous habits and will even begin eating other young pike.
The pike’s habit of spawning on flood plains can, at times, become a serious problem for its survival. Even slight decreases in the water level can result in the stranding and death of young. In certain areas, this factor limits the abundance of the species.
Walleyes migrate into tributary streams or the shallows of lakes and randomly release their eggs over the bottom. They do not build nests or care for their young.
Our contributing photographer Dwight Folts reports that when the water is high the fish more or less swim right over any obstacles, but when the water is low they gather and try to jump. It is easiest to see the fish in the water with polarized sunglasses or a polarized camera lens.
Both pike and walleyes are good fighters and popular game fish. Anglers looking for a rush can keep a daily limit of five pike 22 inches long or longer and a daily limit of three walleye 18 inches or longer from the first Saturday in May to March 15 of the following year.
According to ongoing research by the DEC, Conesus Lake’s walleye population is increasing in response to annual stocking of hatchery fingerlings. The yellow perch population also exhibits signs of improvement.
Staring in 1991, the DEC also began stocking Conesus with tiger muskies, a fast-growing, aggressive, sterile hybrid between northern pike and muskellunge.