• Stocking Diversity Is the Key

    Posted on March 25th, 2014 admin No comments

    It’s amazing how good the trout and salmon fishing continues to be in Lake Ontario, year after year, and I have often pondered on what makes this world class fishery click.

    The answer is many things. The first is foresight by the fishery managers and scientists who recognized the potential of the Lake Ontario as a salmonid fishery, laid out the plan and sold it to license buyers and government bureaucrats. Following that initial step, an international management team involving New York State, the Province of Ontario, Canada, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was crucial to the program. Air and water pollution abatement by the US and Canada, sea lamprey control, the basic productivity of the lake itself, plus sound fishery management and consistent stocking, all contributed to today’s multimillion dollar salmonid fishery.

    An important componentof the fishery and a primary reason for its consistency is the diversity of the stocking program.  Each year six species of trout and salmon, totaling about 3.5 million are stocked by New York State, including 1.7 million kings salmon, close to a half million each of lake trout, brown trout, and steelhead, along with lesser numbers of coho and Atlantic salmon, domestic rainbows.  The Province of Ontario, Canada stocks about half that.  In addition, in recent years millions of wild fingerling king salmon, mostly from the Salmon River, have added to the fishery.  This diversity of stocking is vital to maintenance of Lake Ontario’s high quality fishery, year after year.

    Since fishery biologists first began to manipulate Lake Ontario’s fish populations through management and stocking, these populations have fluctuated up and down.  Around,  2000, the lake trout population was thriving.  That ended abruptly when a variety of hatchery problems reduced stocking drastically for several years. The population crashed, but recently recovered after successful management efforts.  If lake trout were the only species managed in Lake Ontario, the salmonid fishery would have completely collapsed. As it was, fishermen continued to enjoy great fishing in the lake, the slack taken up by healthy pupulations of other species.

    Since I first began fishing Lake Ontario in 1977, salmoid  populations have fluctuated.  Not every stocking is 100 percent successful every year. Size and health of stocked fish varies year to year.  The alewife forage base fluctuates.  For many years a burgeoning population of cormorants took a toll on brown trout and steelhead stockings. That has no changed after the introduction of gobies, a bottom dwelling exotic that now comprises 96% of the cormorants’ diet. The improvement in brown trout and steelhead fishing has been dramatic.

    Fortunately for anglers, with six different species of trout and salmon stocked in Lake Ontario, when one particular population decreases, experience has shown one or more others is usually doing the opposite or holding it’s own. The world class fishing that results is one of the reasons Lake Ontario is considered one of the finest, accessible trout and salmon fisheries in North America.