By Bill Hiltz Jr.
Lake Ontario continues to have excellent success with its salmon and trout farming program, aside from a few glitches that were outside the control of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Fisheries Department.
Fisheries Commissioner Steve Hurst and Lake Ontario Unit Leader Chris Legard are working with several support staff for the Lake Ontario abbreviated conferences in Rochester (Monroe County) and Mexico (Oswego). made management efforts. county). They provided updates on salmon and trout stocking, cormorant hawking at stocking sites, sea eel management, and parentage-based tagging of Chinook salmon.
With no meetings in Niagara County this year, here’s a quick update to keep everyone up to date on what’s happening in this popular Great Lakes.
The conference did not include formal presentations, but focused on discussion of Lake Ontario’s fisheries and topics of interest to participants.
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With regard to lake release activity, Legard said all target levels have been achieved with a few exceptions. He said the Salmon River is short of about 20,000 coho salmon and the Niagara River is short of about 18,000 steelhead.
“The stock deficit was compensated by the Niagara River surplus stock of 27,000 Chinook salmon last fall and the Salmon River juvenile steelhead surplus stock of 45,000,” Legard said.
Concurrently with the release efforts, there is growing concern about the expansion of cormorants in the western basin of the lake.
“DEC has permission from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to manage cormorants in New York on a limited basis,” Hurst said. “As part of that permit, we are allowed to overcast birds and take limited lethal doses of cormorants at fish stocks on Lake Ontario.”
He said DEC had a contract with the US Department of Agriculture to haze the cormorants during the release. Crews chased away cormorants to protect the newly released fish for 25 days during 16 release events from April 24 to May 31, he said.
The crew is estimated to have killed about 30,000 birds, including 25,000 cormorants and 5,000 seagulls. Approximately 371 cormorants were exterminated. These activities have helped save more than one million captive fish.
A key component of the state’s lake management process is the Open Lake Vessel Survey, which has been conducted since 1985 from April to September. The survey determines fishing success, when and where anglers are fishing, and the overall quality of the fishery.
In 2022, the catch of fishing vessels increased by about 5% compared to the previous year. Chinook salmon catch rates will increase from 2021 to 2.4 fish per voyage, which is about 18% above his 10-year average. The capture rate is 4th in the 36-year series. Be careful with that. The catch rate may have increased because there were many her year old fish reported to census takers. Only 52% of the king salmon caught was harvested, down from a 10-year average of 60%.
Lake Ontario is known for its species diversity. Last year’s catch was he 4.7 salmon and trout per trip. In comparison, the long-term average he had was 2.9 per trip, and the ten-year average he had was 4.0. Chisel and brown trout fishing increased, while steelhead and lake trout action was slightly below average.
One of the key tracking mechanisms in research is collecting observed numbers of sea eels. Last year was a bad year with a total of 19,304 lampreys observed, about 544% higher than the average.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sea lamprey control treatments conducted through the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission will not be implemented in 2020, and only the Canadian side of the lake will receive treatments in 2021, with four exceptions. rice field. DEC partnered with his USFWS Lake Champlain team to manage his four rivers in New York. The full treatment schedule is expected to resume in 2022, and lamprey numbers are expected to continue to decline.
In an exciting program that shows how far fisheries management has come, since 2018 DEC has been collaborating with Cornell University and the Ontario Department of Natural Resources and Forestry on long-term monitoring to assess the use of genetic parentage-based tagging. evaluated as a tool. Percentage of wild Chinook salmon in Lake Ontario. Cornell University completed a study this year, and he plans to recommend to DEC a set of standard operating procedures for implementing the program. DEC plans to proceed with sample collection and processing in 2023. This effort will help us better understand the proportions of wild and released Chinooks, which will help us make decisions about management efforts.
A YouTube video was recently posted outlining the Tributary Creel Survey for 2022-23. This includes 21 streams and rivers from Niagara to Black. It ran from mid-September to mid-April. It will be held every year from this year.
Scott Prindle, DEC’s aquatic biologist2 coordinating the Creel survey, said there were more than 242,000 angler trips, resulting in more than 1.2 million hours of angler time. Sixty-three percent of his effort was on the Salmon River, and his total angler hours totaled over 766,000 hours. Only two of his other tributaries, Oak Orchard River and Olcott’s Eighteen Mile His Creek, have an angler’s hours over his 50,000.
Chinook salmon was the most caught fish, with more than 130,000. The number of harvested kings is just over 53,000. For the most part, salmon and trout catches have declined overall. One local exception was Sandy Creek in Monroe and Orleans counties. Anglers enjoyed excellent brown trout fishing and some of the best Atlantic salmon fishing on the lake (despite Atlantic salmon being relatively low stocked and caught compared to other salmonids).
On the heels of last year’s Lake Kuril survey, DEC also released the Spring Vessel Survey Report for April 15th to May 31st.
- There was above average Chinook salmon fishing in the western and eastern central parts of the lake. Brown trout fishing was above average on his two eastern sections of the lake. There was a noticeable shortage of large size browns.
- Lower Lake Trout catches were recorded in three of the four lake areas.
- Lamprey numbers have decreased compared to 2022.
A complete overview of Lake Creel for Spring 2023 so far is available now on DEC’s website.
If you’re interested in checking out the 2022 Lake Ontario Annual Report, the 2022-2023 Tributary Creel Census Video, and the Spring 2023 Lake Creel Update, visit dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7969 It is posted in .html.
It is important to understand what is happening on the lake and the management efforts that are being made to maintain this world class fishery. Take the time to learn and appreciate the tremendous effort that goes into keeping New York’s fishing in great shape.