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Fin Clipped Answers Straight from the DEC

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Hello All:

We have had a few inquiries about king salmon with missing adipose fins, and

how to identify salmon and trout.... Someone in region 8 thought that a

missing adipose meant that it was a pink salmon.

Anyway, we thought that a "canned" response might be useful to you all and

save you some time when receiving inquiries about marked fish. Please see




In 2008, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and the Ontario

Ministry of Natural Resources began clipping the adipose fin of all Chinook

salmon (A.K.A. "King") stocked into Lake Ontario as a way of telling

"hatchery" fish apart from wild fish. Each year, 2.3 million Chinook salmon

are stocked into Lake Ontario and an unknown number of wild fish are

produced in tributaries from "natural" spawning. The purpose of the marking

study is to determine the relative contribution of wild and hatchery Chinook

salmon to the lake fishery. Some marked salmon also have a microscopic wire

tag placed in their snout that contains a unique number linking individual

fish to a particular year, stocking method, and location. This tag can only

be detected with a special handheld wand that senses the tag magnetically.

New York and Ontario fishery biologists will be sampling fish at fishing

ports, cleaning stations, fishing derbies and in tributaries to collect the

tags and other necessary data to determine the relative success of the

various stocking strategies. The marking and tagging of millions of fish

each year was made possible when the NYSDEC purchased a cutting-edge, mass

marking technology called the Autofish system. Developed by Northwest Marine

Technology Inc, the tractor-trailer sized system rapidly and accurately

marks and tags 7,000 fish per hour automatically. Both agencies plan to

continue this study on Chinook salmon for at least the next five years and

there are plans for marking other salmon and trout species with the Autofish

system in the future. Currently only smaller batches of lake trout, rainbow

trout, and brown trout in Lake Ontario are hand-marked with fin clips. For

more information about fin clips on salmon and trout in Lake Ontario, please

contact the NYSDEC Lake Ontario Unit at 315-654-2147.

Several species of trophy-sized salmon and trout are available to anglers in

Lake Ontario and each have unique features that help identify them. The

adipose fin, the fleshy thimble sized one located on the fish's back about

one-third the distance between the tail and the dorsal fin, is a key feature

common to all salmon and trout. Fish biologists believe that removing this

fin does little harm to the fish. Besides the adipose fin, Chinook "king"

salmon can be identified by their silvery color, an anal fin containing

11-15 rays, black gums, and spots on both lobes of the tail. Coho salmon

also have a broad anal fin (similar to Chinook) but the first ray is two

thirds or greater than the length of the base, spots are only on the upper

lobe of the tail, and they have pale grey gums. Rainbow trout (AKA,

"steelhead") have fewer anal rays (9-11), many small spots on the body and

all over the tail and sometimes a reddish band along the midline. Atlantic

salmon (often confused with brown trout) have a forked tail with few spots

on the back and sides, and their upper jaw extends to the edge of the eye,

compared to the brown trout which has an upper jaw extending past the eye.

Brown trout can have a silvery or brown color with red/orange spots (pale

halos around dark spots) on their body and on the upper edge of their

characteristically nearly "square" tail. For more information and pictures,

see the New York State Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide provided to all

anglers when they buy their fishing license.

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I have caught 15 shakers this year and 12 of them were clipped. The other 3, no clips. If you guys want detailed info about fin clips, find the creel study guys. They are more than willing to give you paperwork that shows what each fin clip means. I got the info 4 years ago in I-bay one day. I started asking questions and the guys handed the paperwork. It tells year class and area stocked.

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