New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the state’s plans for fish stocking in Lake Ontario to ensure the lake remains one of the top fishing destinations in the country. Lake Ontario offers opportunities to catch trophy-sized fish from a wide variety of species, including Chinook and Coho salmon, steelhead, brown trout, lake trout, Atlantic salmon, bass, walleye, and panfish. To ensure these species continue to thrive and to address a further projected population decline of alewife, a crucial prey fish, DEC’s 2020 stocking of Chinook salmon and lake trout into Lake Ontario will be reduced by 20 percent. More than 3.6 million salmon and trout will be stocked in 2020, and DEC remains committed to supporting Lake Ontario’s world-class sport fishery as part of its adaptive management approach to ensure its continued success.
“This past year, salmon and trout fishing in Lake Ontario was outstanding, and DEC remains committed to ensuring that the ecological, recreational, and economic benefits of this sport fishery are sustained through science-based management,” Commissioner Seggos said. “New York’s Lake Ontario fishery represents the best of the best, and we intend to maintain our world-class status. The adjustments announced today represent our commitment to an adaptive management approach for the long-term sustainability of the fishery. I am optimistic that fishing will be exceptional in 2020, and encourage anglers to take advantage of this extraordinary resource.”
Effectively managing for the long-term sustainability of the trophy Chinook salmon fishery requires balancing predator numbers with available alewife as prey.
Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and DEC forecasted declines in the adult alewife population following the relatively severe winters of 2013-14 and 2014-15, that contributed to poor alewife reproductive success. Managers documented strong alewife reproduction in 2016; however, these fish now appear to be under intense predation pressure and scientists have forecasted a further decline in the adult alewife population in 2020, due to the diminishing 2016 alewife year class and relatively poor alewife production in both 2017 and 2018.
DEC reduced the number of Chinook salmon and lake trout stocked in Lake Ontario by 20 percent in 2017. Chinook salmon stocking was reduced by an additional 20 percent in 2019. Based on the newest population assessments, DEC will reduce 2020 Chinook salmon and lake trout stocking by an additional 20 percent from 2019 levels.
The stocking adjustments highlight DEC’s commitment to science-based management to maintain a high-quality Lake Ontario sport fishery. With these stocking reductions, 2020 lake-wide salmon and trout stocking in Lake Ontario will exceed 3.6 million fish, including approximately 1.1 million Chinook salmon, 755,000 rainbow trout/steelhead, 556,000 brown trout, 601,000 lake trout, 325,000 coho salmon, and 200,000 yearling Atlantic salmon. Additionally, many Lake Ontario tributaries also produce “wild” Chinook salmon each year. These wild salmon make a significant contribution to the fishery, comprising on average 50 percent of the adult salmon population. DEC is optimistic that these management decisions will maintain high-quality fishing opportunities, and Lake Ontario will remain a premier sport fishing destination.
Additional information about the status of Lake Ontario alewife and 2020 DEC stocking plans can be found at DEC’s website.