Perch Lake[edit | edit source]
Frozen winter on Perch Lake
Perch Lake, one of the largest bodies of water in Jefferson County and now a state game management area, sits on the northern edge of the town of Pamelia. Perch Lake is the only water in the United States that is open to ice fishing only.
Near Perch Lake several burrows, considered by some to be sepulchral mounds, have been found. Previous accounts by archaeologists and locals say there were hundreds around Perch Lake and the surrounding areas.
Around 1950 DEC bought the Harwood and Ella McSweeney property, of which have since become the 2,310-acre Perch River Wildlife Management Area. A warranty deed guaranteed the McSweeney's 45 years of fishing rights on the lake.
In 1995, when those rights expired, the DEC opened the 540-acre lake for ice fishing only. Fishing is limited to the winter only, between December 1 through March 1, for environmental purposes - to avoid possible conflicts with nesting waterfowl, refuge for migrating waterfowl, and protect other wildlife. This also allowed biologists to study the impact of ice fishing on wildlife.
The lake is about 10 or so miles north of Watertown, and can sometimes be seen from Interstate Route 81, especially during winter months. Otherwise the lake is entirely hidden from the public and off limits except during ice fishing season and during certain times specified by the DEC (see below). The 545 acre lake is shallow, with a maximum depth of about 12 feet. The bottom is bowl-like with deep silt between it and the wetlands, with sand elsewhere. Fish found there - northern pike, largemouth bass, brown bullhead, black crappie, pumpkinseed, bluegill, yellow perch, and golden shiners. Northern pike and yellow perch are the most popular caught.
Access to the entire Perch River Wildlife Management Area, including the lake (but not for fishing,) is allowed for 9 days in August each year.
John La Farge, former Napoleonic soldier, built a mansion mansion (some accounts say that it was wooden, but some say gray stone with wide verandas) at the head of Perch Lake, north of a stream on the eastern side of Perch Lake (and near some of the paleoindian mounds, of which there are many in the Perch Lake area), in an attempt to copy Le Ray's grand mansion and gain higher social station in the area. But La Farge was spurned by the higher society of the region, probably because of his regard as a commoner from France.
His disputes with the catfish people caused them to shoot at his new house continually, and he finally left it to ruin. La Farge then built another even more elaborate mansion (of stone) in 1833 (see Lafarge Mansion), close to what is now LaFargeville and on what is now Route 180. For more info see John La Farge and Lafarge Mansion.