As one of the most fished lakes in New York — and a recreational hub for Chautauquans — Chautauqua Lake has seen its fair share of use. But when blue and green sludge-like goop coated the lake’s surface at the tail-end of each season for the past few years, officials prohibited Chautauquans from swimming and setting sail.
Every other weekend, at an hour when most Chautauquans are eating breakfast or attending worship services, two boats set out onto Chautauqua Lake.
In the northern basin, Jane Conroe steers her motorboat away from shore. In the southern basin, Jeff Moore winds down the winch for his small rowboat and sets a course for the center of the lake.
Moore has with him a box of equipment — bottles, a thermometer, a clipboard and pencil. When he gets to a point in the lake marked by a nearby outcropping, he puts down the anchor and pulls in the oars. He takes from the crate a Secchi disc, a circular device cut into quarters of alternating black and white. He drops it on a cord into the lake, marking the depth at which he can no longer see its outline.