In the three towns surrounding Otsego Lake, the average family income is $39,970 (Ca rlton, 1994). Large changes have occurred since the 1970 census. Percentages of family incomes in selected categories are compared in Table 2. The percentage of employed population 16 years old and over by occupation is shown in Table 3.
There has been a significant drop in farm-related and service occupations in the area. That change, coupled with a sharp increase in professional, technical and administrative jobs, helps explain higher average income as well as the declining proportion of workers in lower income brackets.
Underpinning occupational and income gains has been a dramatic increase in years of education. Where only 27 percent of the area's population went beyond high school in 1970, in 1989 nearly 50% did (Table 4).
Higher income (including that of seasonal residents not included in the census figures) leads to the purchase of more big-ticket recreational items such as powerboats. This perhaps can be inferred from the fact that in the l970s, the vast major ity of outboard engines used on Otsego Lake was less than 35 hp (Thayer, 1994). Nationwide, average engine power was 29 hp in 1968 (Asplund, 1995). In 1994, most outboards were larger than 40 hp. Inboard-outboards which are typically 140 hp or more numbered well over 200.
A census of boats made on Sunday, August 10, 1975 resulted in a total count of 1,070 boats (Otsego County Conservation Association, 1975). More than 50% were small motorcraft. Boat tallies taken between then and 1980 il lustrated gradually decreasing numbers. In 1980, only 408 boats were counted around and on the lake. Powerboats numbered 254, 70 were rowboats and canoes, and 95 sailboats made up the balance. Throughout the 1980s, numbers increased. Boat censuses taken between 1990-94 recorded an average of more than 1,100 boats with ready access to the lake. On a busy weekend, 150 boats or more could be counted on the lake. Powerboats typically made up 58% of the total, rowboats and canoes 25% while sailboat s constituted 17% (Otsego County Conservation Association, 1994). Methodologies utilized in these censuses are described in Harman and Lindberg (1991).
A proxy for boat usage on the lake is the number fishing boats. Aerial counts of boat anglers between 1961-63 and again in 1975-76 indicated that 19,000 trips were made between May-September of those years. However, in 1990 use had declined to about 12,000 trips (Sanford, 1994). Paralleling these observations are boat rentals from Thayer' s boat livery, formerly the largest on the lake and one whose customers were predominantly fisherman, renting low-horsepower aluminum boats. In the 1970s, 50-75 boats were rented daily (Thayer and Thayer, 1970). By 1988, daily rentals were down to less than 20 (R. J. Thayer, 1989). Part of this decline might be partially attributed to the increase in boat ownership which, other things being equal, would reduce the demand for rentals. However, the strongest inference that can be drawn from declining angler usage (Sanford, 1994) was that the lake fishery had become less diversified and appealed to a smaller public.
In the 1960s and 70s more than 90% of Thayer's customers were fishermen, the majority trolling or still fishing for cisco, whitefish and walleye at dawn and dusk. A large number of "family" fishermen fished for smallmouth and largemouth black bass, pickerel, yellow perch, panfish and bullheads (Thayer and Thayer, 1970). When Thayer's closed in 1988 most of the customers were non-fishermen. Those fishing were, for the most part, after lake trout (Thayer, 1994).
Thayer's closing, parking restrictions near the Cooperstown public launch and the closing of Springfield landing to non-residents has made boating access more inconvenient, probably contributing further to the decline in trips (Sanford, 1994).