The Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council recently released the highlights of the annual Lake Committee meetings hosted by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission in March in Windsor, Ontario.
The 20-page report provides data related to sport fishing issues in Lake Ontario, and among the topics in the report are prey fishes, lake trout rehabilitation, fish population trends, cormorant diets, and sea lamprey control. Key players in producing the 2012 report were Jana Lantry and Steve LaPan of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Brian Lantry of United States Geological Survey.
Todays column looks specifically at the Ministry of Natural Resources 2011 Annual Report of the Lake Ontario Management Unit, and the column consists of excerpts from the report related to Chinook salmon, Atlantic salmon, lake trout, northern pike, muskie, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, yellow perch, and panfish.
The percentage of wild Chinook salmon (as opposed to stocked fish) ranged from 35-40 percent in Lake Ontario index gillnets and angler catches for the 2008, 2009, and 2011 year-classes but was 66 percent for 2010 year-class. In contrast, no wild Chinook salmon were observed in the Credit River. Lamprey marking on Chinook salmon in the Credit River declined to very low levels.
More than 3.5 million Atlantic salmon have been stocked since the Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program began in 2006. Stocked juveniles are growing and surviving well in the streams, and good evidence of smolt production has been documented. Sizeable numbers of returning adults have been observed in streams from 2008 through 2011. Although it is still early in the program, progress toward restoration of Atlantic salmon, to date, has been encouraging.
The abundance of adult lake trout has been increasing but is still low compared to levels seen in early 1900s. The increase is likely due to improved early survival of stocked fish, however, early survival dropped sharply in the last two years. It remains to be seen whether this is just a temporary setback.
Northern pike, while not abundant in the open waters of Lake Ontario, are common in many embayment and near-shore areas. Northern pike are also common in the St. Lawrence River, although their abundance trend shows a gradual, long-term decline.
Muskies are an important native species and top predator in the St. Lawrence River ecosystem. MNR is examining muskie management options, which may include increased minimum size limits to protect large spawning fish and public education. MNR is continuing to work with partners to identify and protect muskellunge spawning and nursery habitats in the St. Lawrence River.
Assessment gillnet and near-shore, trap-net indices indicate that smallmouth bass remain at low-to-moderate abundance levels in the near-shore areas of Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte. The smallmouth bass population in the Thousand Islands region has declined somewhat from recent high levels.
Assessment trap-net information indicates that largemouth bass abundance increased in the Bay of Quinte following increases in water transparency and submerged aquatic vegetation in the late 1990s. Their current level of abundance exceeds that of walleye in Bay of Quinte near-shore areas. Largemouth bass are moderately abundant in other embayment areas of Lake Ontario.
Assessment gillnet abundance indices for juvenile (ages 1-4) and mature walleye indicate that the walleye population has stabilized or increased during the last decade following their steady decline throughout the 1990s. Recruitment indices, based on young-of-the-year catch in bottom trawls, indicated that a strong year-class was produced in 2003, and that above-average year classes were produced in 2007, 2008, and 2011.
The 2009 and 2010 year-classes also appear strong at older ages in gillnet and near-shore trap-net surveys. Based on these recruitment levels, the walleye population should remain stable or increase, at least through the next few years.
Yellow perch is one of the most common species in the near-shore areas. Current perch abundance in Lake Ontario proper is low-to-moderate compared to past levels. Abundance is relatively high in the Bay of Quinte and St. Lawrence River. Yellow perch are currently the most valuable species in the commercial fishery.
Yellow perch commercial harvest has been steady or increasing in all major quota zones except Quota Zone 1-2 in eastern Lake Ontario where harvest levels have declined in recent years.
Panfish populations of pumpkinseed, bluegill, and black crappie increased after re-establishment of submerged aquatic macrophytes in the Bay of Quinte. Panfish are also common in other Lake Ontario embayments and near-shore area. Together, these species now form a major component of the commercial fishery; second only to yellow perch in terms of landed value.
Monday: Lisbon Sportsmens Club Hosts Trap and Skeet Shooting at Pray Rd. Property at 5:30 P.M.
Tuesday: DEC Conducts Annual Wilson Hill Goose Drive.
Saturday: Sporting Clays Shoot at Black Lake F&G Club at 9 A.M.
July 7: Nick Bergman Memorial Bass Tournament at Hoopers Marina (481-7286 or 481-3815).
July 14: Spey Casting Seminarat Pineville Boat Launch on Salmon River (www.speynation.com).
July 27-28: Trapper Safety Course at Massena R&G Club (Pre-register at 389-5096).