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LOOKING AT THE MIRROR: Help needed to fund Mirror Lake fish survey

August 30, 2019

The Mirror Lake Watershed Association is seeking help with funding a fish survey in Mirror Lake and has started a campaign at Adirondack Gives to raise $5,000 to pay for the survey (

The purpose of the survey is to gauge the health and species of the current fish community and to develop a baseline for future surveys. The impetus for the survey is due to the potential impacts that have arisen because of increased road salt in the lake.

Mirror Lake has been researched for the past several years to assess water quality and salt impacts. Recent water quality data indicate high levels of salt (sodium chloride) are accumulating in the lake, particularly at depth. This can lead to the lake not completely turning over (mixing) in the spring, which was documented in 2017, 2018, and 2019. The lake is primarily known as a rainbow trout fishery, with this non-native fish stocked annually by the state Department of Environmental Conservation; however, large lake trout also can be found in the deeper cold water during the summer months. Historically, the DEC conducted three fish surveys in Mirror Lake: in 1954 to assess the overall community, in 1974 to collect lake trout eggs, and in 2003 to assess the overall fish community.

The 1954 survey documented several coldwater species, including brook trout, rainbow trout, lake trout and whitefish. By 2003, of the coldwater fish species, only lake trout were collected, although rainbow trout were indicated as likely present but were difficult to capture in the nets. Additional species collected in 2003 included smallmouth bass, pumpkinseed and rock bass. DEC Region 5 Fisheries Manager Lance Durfey has indicated that Mirror Lake is not scheduled for a fish community survey in the near future.

It is important to understand how the changes in water quality may affect the aquatic biota, particularly the fish community. A lack of turnover does not allow a replenishment of oxygen in the deep waters prior to summer stratification, which can lead to loss of oxygen in the bottom waters, where trout prefer to live. Lake trout are dependent on this deep-water habitat.

Assessing the fish community is important to document current conditions and determine potential effects from these water quality changes. The MLWA would like to hire Mark Cornwell, professor at SUNY Cobleskill, to conduct a boat electrofishing survey of the lake in October. He would bring a couple of students and a fisheries technician to assist.

Dr. Margaret Murphy with Integrated Aquatic Sciences and a board member of the MLWA obtained the fish-sampling permit from the DEC and will participate in the survey and prepare the report.

The entire survey can be completed in one night - starting at dusk and likely ending in the early morning the following day. The electrofishing boat is equipped to temporarily stun the fish in the shallow water so that they can be weighed and assessed. Captured fish are then returned to the lake after they fully recover.

This survey would allow us to better understand the current status of the fish community. We would provide the results of this survey later this fall in this column and provide the full report on our website when completed.

The Mirror Lake Watershed Association is always looking for volunteers to help with various activities. All are welcome to attend our meetings held at 5 p.m. the second Monday of each month in the David Ackerman Room at the Mirror Lake Beach House.



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