By Ed Runyan
Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers won’t have to allow the water level of Mosquito Lake to drop its normal 18 inches this fall to reach its optimum wintertime level of 899.2 feet above sea level.
The lake level already is at 895.5 feet — nearly 5 feet below the optimum summer level of 900.7 feet — because of the lack of rainfall this spring and summer.
That drop has made a noticeable difference this summer, causing the lake to shrink in size, its shoreline to grow and its average depth of 9 feet to drop to 4 feet.
Jackie King, assistant manager of Mosquito Lake State Park, said the drop has made a significant difference in the appearance of the lake and curtailed its use by boaters and fishermen.
“Large boats would struggle getting to the main channel,” King said.
“The average depth is 9 feet, so you take away 5 feet, and it’s really down,” said Dianne P. Kolodziejski of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, natural- resource manager for the lake.
Officials say the lower lake levels have reduced use of the swimming beach and caused park officials to close the beach at the nearby dog park.
Fishing from the bank has been difficult because fishermen have to walk through mud to get to the water.
“Our concern was the boaters skiing and boating and hitting the submerged hazards that you typically don’t see,” Kolodziejski said. Among the hazards are tree trunks, rocks and sand bars.
On the plus side, the sunny and dry weather brought out a large number of people to the park campground, King said.
Kolodziejski said the drop doesn’t appear to have affected the fish in the lake, but it could affect them if the level remains low into the spring.
“That could affect the spawning,” she said of the release of eggs for reproduction.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources removes walleye eggs from the lake in the spring and takes them to a state hatchery to increase their production, but it will be more difficult to collect those eggs next spring if the water level remains low, Kolodziejski said.
A low lake level next spring would reduce the quality of next spring’s “class” of fish and affect the number of legal-sized fish available in a couple years, Kolodziejski said.
The water level was fine in March of this year, despite an ODNR project done at the state Route 88 Causeway that required the lake level to be reduced by 3 feet.
The level came back up to normal by March, but then the rains ended, Kolodziejski said.
King said park officials first posted precautionary signs warning boaters of low water levels in early July.
The situation only worsened as the summer went on.
Janet Yohman, owner of Lakeside Sport Shop on state Route 305 just south of Cortland, said her bait sales have been only half of normal, a trend that actually started in the winter because it was too warm for the lake to freeze.
“There was no ice fishing. It was bad. We have a lot of ice fishermen,” she said.
Kolodziejski said projections call for low amounts of rainfall this fall.
“The key is we need the snow pack to melt into the lake in the spring to fill the lake back up,” she said.
Despite the appearance of Mosquito Lake, it’s not at the lowest level ever, Kolodziejski said.
The record was set in November 1953, when it dropped to 890.6 feet — 5 feet lower than now.
Mosquito is also not as bad off as Berlin Lake near Sebring, which is 14 feet below optimum, Kolodziejski said.
All of the area lakes controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including West Branch west of Newton Falls and the Shenango Reservoir north of Hermitage, Pa., have had drops, she said.
West Branch is 9.6 feet below optimum, and Shenango is 6.7 feet below optimum.