Don Spayd of Cortland said he's only been boating for six years but he's never seen the ducks appear as though they're walking on water near the dam at Mosquito Creek Reservoir.
The birds are actually prancing around on a sand bar - the kind of obstacle that boaters can run adrift on if they're not careful.
''You can actually see more and more of Main Street in Cortland where the pavement is running right into the water. You better use your depth finder,'' said Spayd, a 63-year-old retired school administrator.
Tribune Chronicle / Virginia Shank
Lower-than-usual water levels at Lake Milton didn’t affect the fishing of Rebecca Dobraz, 13, and her sister Susan, 14.
Spayd and others are well aware of the low water levels at Mosquito lake. And if Mosquito is low, so are nearby lakes.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Pittsburgh is also warning water lovers of low lake levels in the whole region this summer, making underwater hazards more dangerous this boating and swimming season.
The less-than ideal conditions also may contribute to an early end for use of recreation areas and boat launch facilities, according to the corps.
Marilyn Hahn, with the corps in Bazetta, points out that the winter pool level for the lake is 899.23 feet above sea level and at 7 a.m. Saturday, the level was 898.16 feet. She said upcoming meetings with the corps and representatives with Ohio's Department of Natural Resources will focus on whether any more water will be let out later in the summer.
But more importantly the corps, which controls the levels in the lakes and rivers, uses flood control and keeping the waters in the rivers running in the Mahoning River, for example, as top priorities. And right up there is the safe level needed to supply drinking water to the City of Warren. Recreation falls below those priorities considering Pittsburgh needs a minimum of nine feet in the downtown rivers to keep the barges running.
According to a news release from the corps, if current weather patterns and regular operations at the lakes continue, levels will continue to fall, causing the facilities to close earlier in the season.
The low levels also create safety issues for boaters and swimmers. Tree stumps and sand bars will be closer to the surface.
Carol Nichols, who manages the campgrounds at Mosquito Lake State Park, said she knows of no major accidents at the park or on the water, but she hears some complaints.
And Doug Lyons, district manager for ODNR in northeast Ohio said signs have been posted along with buoys at the low water areas. He said the department is also distributing fliers about the dangers of campfires during the dry season.
''We even have Bazetta trustees posting a warning on their digital sign outside the townhall,'' he said, adding that the reservoir at West Branch will see similar postings soon.
Lyons also said he wanted to dispel any rumors that construction of a new breakwall near the state Route 88 boat launch in Mecca and a lowering of the water levels is to blame for the situation.
''It's just the lack of snow this past winter and the lack of rain this spring,'' he said. Because of the poor numbers, the lakes haven't recovered from winter pool levels, which are normally lower to accommodate melting snow and spring rains.
''We're telling people if they are out on the lakes in a boat or swimming, 'be careful, wear your life jacket','' said Dan Jones, corps spokesman for the Pittsburgh District. ''Just be a little extra cautious. We don't want to see any fatalities or accidents.''
According to Jones, Mosquito lake is about two feet below normal summer pool levels, and Berlin and Kirwan lakes are about five feet below normal. Milton and Shenango lakes are below, too, Jones said.
Rex Rager, 31, of Cortland, said he has to make sure the wheels of his Jeep don't get stuck in the mud when he puts in his personal watercraft at the launch off state Route 305.
''This past week the heat has also caused an impact. But they're still catching fish even if it's 300-feet off the shore. Maybe later the fish will all be in one hole out there somewhere,'' said Joe Sofchek, who manages the park marina at Mosquito.
Quinton Kale of North Jackson, a seasonal park ranger at Berlin lake, said boaters unfamiliar with local lakes should be careful, especially during times of lower water levels. Kale, a boat owner, frequents several area lakes.
"Right now, Milton isn't so bad," he remarked. "It seems to be holding its water for now. But Berlin and Mosquito are hurting right now. I'd say if you know they lakes, you're OK. If not, don't risk it. There are some shallow areas that could really do some damage to a boat if you're not familiar with where to go and you don't know the lake. You just have to be careful and use common sense."