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rdebadts

stocking/Clipping question

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OK, I think we may have covered this earlier this year, but i just wanted to see what you all thought. Yesterday at the Sodus Proam weigh in there were a suspicious number of unclipped/untagged salmon. A comment I heard several times is that they "must be naturally reproduced". I have been fishing/mating for about 10 years, and I dont ever remember seeing this many unclipped fish. I find it highly unlikely that after 30 years of stocking they would suddenly get a foot hold and have natural reproduction that would amount to this many fish. Matter of fact, I didnt catch any salmon that were clipped this this weekend (and I caught 8 salmon)...

Am I missing something? Do they clip the fingerling pen raised fish? Or are we just looking for some budget cuts? I'd be interested to hear other peoples thoughts.

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Every chinook salmon stocked in the lake since 2008 on both sides of the pond were adipose clipped and starting last year, all received coded wire tags embedded in their snouts to identify where and how they were stocked (direct vs pen reared at a particular port, etc). If you see a king with it's adipose it is most likely a wild fish. Since the power co normalized flows on the Salmon River back in the late 90's, that river has been producing an estimated 5 to 10 million wild king salmon smolts a spring. Many of the North Shore streams also have significant natural reproduction. The question they are trying to answer with the ongoing adipose clipping and wire tagging study is to determine to what extent those wild fish recruit to and contribute to the fishery. The past couple years we have been seeing an average of around 40% juvenile kings with the adipose fin that would theoretically be wild fish.

Tim

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Natural repro of Kings in Lake Ontario was first observed by NYSDEC back in 1998. There have been many studies by respectable academia concerning it. Most suggest that Nat repro is highly variable from year to year and can range anywhere from 7-85% (seven to ninety). This is why the current 5 yr undertaking with the marking trailer is so important. It should give a pretty good glimpse of what is going on out there. Also the Canadians (MNR) have documented it on some of their rivers a few years ago.

However we do have to remember that it will only be a 5 yr "snapshot". If you look at the Annual reports that DEC publishes, they really do not publisize yearly results when they talk about restoration or about preyfish, rather they talk about long term averages. i.e. 10 yr. If you dig into the data, you can see some pretty good swings.

You also have to look at other specie. Couple/3 yrs ago, some wild Atlantics were netted by DEC in the SR & last year was probably the best Atlantic year in our lifetimes. This year isn't nearly as good for them.

Back to Kings, this year, I've only caught 16 Kings so far and nothing over 15 Lbs, but 12 have had their adipose fins fully intact. I interpret this as either the Marking trailer had some horrible QC issues or Nat Repro really jumped this year. But again that is only this year.

Another thing to remember is that research always sprouts more questions. The 1st question that has to be answered is to what degree is Nat Repro happening & where; and then secondly what is the survival rate?

Tom B.

(LongLine)

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Thanks for the responses guys. Alot of really good information there. I love how well informed everyone is on here!

I knew that there was a small degree of natural reproduction with kings, but my experience in the last 2 years flies totally in the face of what I had seen for about a decade before that. I have always beleived that the steelies, browns and lakers do a pretty good job of naturally reproducing, but our rivers are not the cold gravel bottom rivers that salmon crave.

I guess I was taking a bit of a cynical angle on the whole thing.... I can just ee the politicians saying "look at all these unclipped fish, they must be doing fine on their own so I guess we dont have to stock them anymore". With NYS being as broke as they are, I put nothing past them.

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Lakers actually doing a lousey job on the Nat Repro front. Those (Nat & stocked) that survive get huge.

DEC determines stocking policy with input from other agencies. It's based upon predator-prey-ecosystem balance. No one wants to repeat the Huron disaster, however just about everyone recognizes Ontario is a different ecosystem. (NY politicians only determine funding for overall DEC.) Salmanoid fishing brings in a lot of money to the local economies.

Laker restoration is a Fed program - State only helps out with putting them in. DEC has it in their charter about listening to stakeholders. There'd be a riot if King stocking was cut without tremendously solid scientific proof it was required. IMO, that includes long term survival rates.

As to repro sites, only SR, Credit are widely known. I'm willing to bet that there are a couple other smaller ones that are being kept under wraps.

Tom B.

(LongLine)

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I have been noticing a LOT of slob adults showing up in pics lately with adipose fins intact too...

Its kind of fun checking out pics to see if there is that little snot fin still attached and knowing that fish is more than likely a true Lake O King in every sense of the word.

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Great thread. Unfortunately, I have heard they are admitting at LEAST 15% are being missed by the trailer. Also, I learned that who operates the trailer is critical as well. What no one can answer is to what extent mortality increased in their first year by "lopping off" that adipose fin. I do believe they do not need it, but it would seem to be an easy place for infections to start.

I also am watching this closely. The constant preaching that the baitfish are down when in fact there is much evidence to the contary is very disturbing. The King Salmon is the solution, whether you are running a charter business, trying to enhance the economy, trying to restore native species(driving down alewife numbers drastically improves yellow perch, walleye, and lake trout hatches. Atlantic salmon reproduce better with a varied diet than when only foraging on alewife), or providing a greatly improved and unique angling experience for recreational anglers. How about that, a reason to reside or visit NYS!!!

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Vince

The preyfish assessment is predicated on the assumption that the alewives are randomly distributed throughout the lake. I've proposed to the DEC that perhaps they are not & have been met with "quizzical" looks.

My reasoning is to look at the fishing reports for most of the year of East end vs West end. While it is true that more guys fish west, hence more get caught there but the question is why do more guys fish there? (rhetoriclly - more fish caught???) I believe the Niagara is a big magnet not only for the predators but for the prey as well. Also check out how deep East enders go vs West enders. (and the temp differences) And finally, look at my sonar in the central area. (yes I find pods, but nothing of the size of a couple years ago)

Additionally, DEC said there was a shift in alewife population a few years back, towards deeper water. But in the next few paragraphs of their report they say that the alewife population deeper than (I believe) 450 FOW hasn't changed significantly over the years. This tells me that the zone where alewives live has been compressed, but only on the shore-ward side. This also weighs against the random distribution theory.

An interesting point on Lakers: If there is Nat repro, does anyone realize what kind of "mongrels" they'd be. I mean look at the latest report, as to where they've come from in the last 10 yrs. I mean big ones, short ones, fat ones, skinny ones, deep guys, & everything in between.

Regardless:

How about that, a reason to reside or visit NYS!!!
:yes:

Tom B.

(LongLine)

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I mostly fish on the east side but spend a month in the oak late July/august. In my opinion, I see way MORE bait on the east side. I've seen 50+ pods of bait on many a day out there. How they could ever claim decreased bait would be mistifying to me. When my rod tips are shaking violently, I know there is a lot of bait... I once saw them netting bait out in r400 fow, when I was in 120 marking pod after pod. Do they vary their depths of netting?

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Great thread. Unfortunately, I have heard they are admitting at LEAST 15% are being missed by the trailer. Also, I learned that who operates the trailer is critical as well. !

According to DEC 2010 report, they show that 99% of the fish that came through the trailer are clipped. They make no mention of 15% missed.

See link http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/fish_marine_ ... 0part1.pdf

Some of the big 4 year olds in 2011 are still unclipped since marking began in 2008 so some of those fish could account for some of the unclipped kings out there. Around 5-10% of the kings in the lake are four year olds based on past years reports.

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The 1 percent missed may be the "official" number, but I got that 15plus percent figure from very respected and dedicated DEC members.

As for the 4yr olds not being clipped yet not necessarily "natural", that is true. There is also a few 5yr olds that can possibly exist.

In any event, although interesting, whatever the findings are in this study we need each and every one of these "put,grow,and take" fish, whether Stocked or naturally hatched. There are more and more warm water predators cropping them off every year, and the anglers on both sides of the pond get more and more proficient every year.

We saw incredible schools of bait in the west end once it warmed up in late spring. In late June, the Toronto area was loaded with bait. In early July the bait in the Oswego and Sodus areas was the heaviest observed in years. Just this week in the Olcott/Wilson area, we were snagging bait on our rigs because it was so dense.

Heard a few reports from Wisconsin that the bait was so dense recently that the anglers were having trouble pulling fish.

No matter whats happens, I will always recall a quote from a past DEC official--" Alewives are so adaptable and resilient that they will be in Lake Ontario long after we are gone from Earth."

Yes we must take notice to Lake Huron, but historically the Great Lakes have always been different lake to lake.

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A good discussion. The QC I heard from MNR was 99.8% marking rate on re-checked fish...and we borrow the NY trailer.

As for reproduction, as Tim noted, NYDEC has estimated 5-10 million wild chinook fry from Salmon River alone since the power company set minimum flows. But wild salmon fry are smaller, yet more abundant than stocked salmon fry. Stockers average 4-5 grams, wild fry 1-3 grams by mid-late May. Our north shore rivers are blessed with a huge moraine and few dams so most rivers east of Toronto are all wild steelhead fisheries and most have good runs of wild chinooks. A few streams are also stocked. The MNR has no handle on reproduction due to lack of money to fund crews and most summer research starts after the chinook fry have left the rivers.

One of the keys is understanding chinook salmon have fewer reproductive needs than steelhead, browns and coho. Chinook fry hatch in April and leave the river in May-June of the same year (2 months from hatch). The other wild trout/salmon species spend 1-2 years in the stream and must survive two summers and two winters facing far greater perils...like last weeks insane heat wave.

Lake Ontario is a changing system and wild creatures adapt with or without human interference. Our fishery relies heavily on wild Alewife, a non native specie and the lake has been impacted by many non natives that reproduce very will in the wild, like lamprey, goby and zebra muscles. Why would salmon or trout be any different? Still the clipping shows that both stocking and wild salmon are a key part of the fishery.

But managing for predator/prey is vital. Having grown up fishing both Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay (Lake Huron), I have seen the salmon fishery up her start, blossom with hatchery fish, then have an explossion from wild fish with continued heavy stocking, then a massive crash. I have not seen an alewife in the belly of a salmon or trout from Gbay in almost a decade. 20 years ago I had a 26 lb salmon barely make the top 10 daily in the local derby on Gbay. In the past decade the daily top 10 runs 7 to 15 pounds. This past winter and spring have been slightly better, but nothing like Lake Ontario.

And one trip of Port Credit last week in 5 hours of trolling I never marked a single pod of baitfish. Maybe you guys could send some over!

What we do have to be thankful for is big fish and the highest catch rates ever seen for chinook, steelhead and amoung the best for coho and brown.

John

President, CRAA

www.craa.on.ca

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Vince:

You might want to doublecheck with your DEC source. Everyone I've talked to who was actually there when the fish were rechecked (including the pen fish) say the trailer clipping was 98-99% accurate. Maybe you are confusing "clip" with "tag" as only a portion of the kings have been tagged. See the 2010 DEC stocking report. http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/fish_marine_ ... 0part1.pdf

Also any report I've seen on ageing of Chinooks says that Kings are age 1-4 in Lake Ontario. See section 2 of the 2010 DEC report, table A10 and A13 for age breakdowns, or section 9 for fish in the hatchery. or page 41 of the Ontario MNR report, http://www.glfc.org/lakecom/loc/mgmt_un ... 011.01.pdf

So all stocked kings in 2012 will be clipped (most, >95%) are now).

I agree that there are enough alewife to produce big Kings but John's post is right on....that stocked and wild kings may both be important parts of the fishery. Time will tell.

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My father always used to say, "Believe a fraction of what you hear or are told and rely on what you see with your own eyes"....

I don't want to seem like a pesimist, but I got to believe that the DEC is going to error on the side of making natural reproduction rates seem to be as high as possible.

I am not a statistician, but in order to prove a 98 or 99% clip rate of fish in the pen, you would have to handle a lot of fish to make your finding statistically significant... Does that really happen? Doesn't seem like that would be a godd idea...

I think the point that everyone on this site agrees with is that we don't want to see reductions in stocking rates anytime in the near future....

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