2017 Lake Ontario tributary stakeholders meeting with NYDEC

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These are the meeting notes from February 11, 2017 Stakeholders state of Lake Ontario tributary meeting with NYSDEC...




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Stakeholders State Of The Lake Ontario Tributary Meeting with DEC

On February 11, twenty diversified tributary stakeholders consisting of Recreational Anglers, Professional Guides, Lodges, and Tackle, Fly Shop owners met in a focus group discussion with DEC Fishery managers from regions 9,8,7,6, Lake Ontario Section Head Steve LaPan and the Bureau Chief Of Fisheries for New York State, Steve Hurst .

Each Stakeholder was given the floor to present their observations on the state of the
Lake Ontario Tributaries across the watershed over the past three years.

NOTE: There were several Tributary Stakeholder business owners present, and they made it clear, (and in some cases presented in writing) their observations were not only their own, but a collection of observations, thoughts, comments, and discussions they’ve had with thousands of anglers, over the past three tough tributary fishing seasons.

DEC presented their results of the 2016 lake wide tributary creel census survey. What will be noticeable reading through the Stakeholder observations of angling success, and the first hand reports from DEC, that the data appears to corroborate the actual experiences from Stakeholders.


Stakeholders On Angling Success :  

  • Number of Fish (Browns & Steelhead) the last 2 years is way down. Reported on the Salmon River, East and West end of Lake Ontario. On Oak Orchard -  2 years ago you could visable see Thiamine sick Steelhead. Compact run of Steelhead on Oak Orchard even with high water levels. normally ago not like that.  

  • There are way less Brown Trout than in the past years on Oak Orchard, Irondequoit, Bear Creek, and Sandy Creek in Rochester.  

  • The Douglaston Salmon Run (DSR)/Salmon River section fished better than the rest of the River for Steelhead. More Steelhead resident in the lower section of the river. This unusual because up river the fish are vacant. Are they not moving because they are sick?  

  • The numbers of Steelhead in Orwell Brook are way down from previous years.  

  • Very few Steelhead in the lower Salmon River as well as Oswego, Genny, and Oak Orchard  

  • The lower fly zone on the Salmon River success limited/NO Fish. Folks come and fish every day are catching 1 Steelhead for 2 weeks of fishing effort in the upper section of the Salmon River  

  • The King run in September on the Salmon River was terrible. October had a good run of Kings, but was the timing of the run was very condensed. And No steelhead or browns to speak of.   

  • Last fall/this winter fishing by swinging flies or fishing egg patterns while wading was not as effective because of the lack of fish.   Needed to cover lots of water for Fishing by boat much more effective  

  • Lake Ontario Fish runs are later in the season on the Eastern end of Lake Ontario. No early run Steelhead on Eastern End, overall numbers of Steelhead are lower and smaller. Timing of fish are running later at Oak Orchard on the Western end of Lake Ontario also!  

Anglers Success continued:

  • Overall seeing less fish on Oak Orchard, Smaller fish, and steelhead fight is not on par.

  • Steelhead fight not good. Fish are lethargic on east & west end tributaries of Lake Ontario.

  • The salmon river angler caught more domestic steelhead 12”-14”

  • Numbers of fisherman reduced over the past year on all regions mostly likely due to poorer fishing.

  • Fishing effort on the tributaries has been very high until this year. See DEC Trib Creel Census reports.

  • More Atlantic Salmon are being caught on the West end of the lake at Oak Orchard, Sandy Creek & Irondequoit lately

Tributary Ethics and Behavior:

  • There is a lack of keeping & protecting our resources clean. There are fresh fish carcasses lying around. Need to conserve the River Fishing resources  on all Tributaries.

  • Especially during the Salmon runs - Poor Fishing etiquette on stream, anglers are not respecting the 1 rod length distance between anglers. No respect for anglers when they have a fish on giving them the “right of way” to land the fish.

  • Crowd behavior much better over the last few years on the (Salmon River) especially noticeable after the salmon runs.

LAW Enforcement:

  • Need to have fines for law breakers more painful

  • Need more law enforcement on all tribs. DEC Creel Survey folks help with a presence on the river. But need officers assigned and present on specific Tributaries.

  • Find a way to get Judges to enforce tickets! Even if the DEC needs to have their own “special” court.

  • Need More DEC Enforcement on the Salmon River and surrounding tributaries during Nov 1- Nov 15th. This is prime season for poaching of the Steelhead. Poachers know that the DEC officers are in the woods with hunters and that there is no presence on the rivers. Also should someone call the DEC, the chances of an officer arriving at the scene before the offender leaves is remote.

  • Make Angling laws less complex.   Simplify laws.

  • For Chinooks – people can’t tell the difference between a Chinook vs. an Atlantic salmon, or Coho’s vs. a Steelhead.  Need better Fish Identification education.

  • Need to impose and enforce Tackle Restrictions on the Tributaries Sept/Oct timeframe.



Business impacts:

  • Social Media the last 3-4 years can make or break your business traffic.  The overall impression of fisherman is based on pictures on their phones. Overall impressions “There are no fish”. In the past 21 years of being in business this was the worst Nov/Dec ’16 ever seen. Over the last 40 years, this is the least number of Steelhead ever seen, and when you do see one they don’t have the fight/energy of a steelhead.

  • Guides are seeing fewer consecutive day’s being booked for fishing trips by clients because of the lower number of fish.

  • More cancelations of lodging in 2014-2016, then ever experienced before.


Stakeholders Thoughts On Regulation Changes:

  • Want more catch & release regulations for Steelhead on the Tributaries.

  • Request to lower the steelhead limit on Lake Ontario

  • Closure of  trout fishing on Orwell Brook

  • Need better access on the Oswego River. Access on the water limited.

  • Steelhead Brown Trout and Atlantic Salmon– would like a “No Kill” for Sept/Oct on the Salmon River.

  • Access – we need more public access rights on the Tributaries. Streams are too crowded.

  • Need to enforce/share the 1 Steelhead limit on Lake Ontario & Tributaries. It should be the same for both. Need for more fish limits.

  • Need to increase the size of Steelhead catch limit from 21” to 25”. It’s important to have them return to spawn for 1 cycle in the Tributaries

  • Need to impose a 1 Brown Trout Limit. Salmon River, Oak Orchard, & other Tributaries. There are significantly less Browns than 15 years ago. Need for more fish limits.

  • Salmon River and Other Tributaries needs more “Catch & Release” areas.

  • Need Catch and Release regulations for Atlantic salmon across the board on all Lake Ontario Tributaries.


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#1 a 1 rainbow limit on the lake does crap for many reasons. I wouldn't mind the length limit, but 25", meh.
#2 the problem with the browns are the people that are netting at night, snagging, lifting, ECT. This is a serious problem west of the Genny.
#3 back to the rainbow limit, they are usually mixed in with our catch. Very rarely there are limits of 3 bows/person on board. Most guys are targeting kings and catch bows while doing the king thing, whether it's inshore or offshore. No doubt targeting bows happens, but not like it used to be.

Lake Ontario salmon fishing charters

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Steve LaPan indicated at the meeting at the hatchery that he would have Jana Lantry work up some data on whether any reduction in creel limit would have any significant impact, but I guess that is not completed as there was no mention of that at the SOL.   Rick Hajecki did make a comment the other night on what he saw as a disparity between C+R data from the trib survey and what he observes on west end streams with browns, comments he has also made on this site.  I agree with him, the guy who comes from PA and brings four coats so he can maximize his cooler filling is not likely to respond honestly, or at all, to an interviewer from NYSDEC.   As to the size, at 21" a fish has not come in to spawn, at 25" it is likely that it had one season in and went back to the lake.  It places a premium on Steelhead, gives them the trophy status afforded to Atlantic Salmon.  The argument that smaller and released fish will die does not really hold a lot of water because every fish that goes in the box dies, some of the ones released might make it if handled properly.   I would also indicate that some of the folks at the hatchery meeting made the regulations suggestions, but there was little or no discussion of these other than Steve outlining the process, and I certainly would not say that there is complete consensus among trib anglers on the proposals.  

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Catch and release mortality on the tribs is another issue. You can't tell me that catching the same trout over and over again does not have a negative affect on their health. Some guys are gentle and handle them properly but some drag them through the mud, fight them on too light of line and exhaust them, use a boga grip and hang them vertically from it, should I keep going?

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I have seen a huge number of dead steelhead in Irondeqoit Creek in the last couple weeks. How much is a normal amount of dead fish and when should we be concerned that something natural or unatural is killing these awesome fish?

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I walked a fair piece of the lower creek yesterday and saw no deads.  The creek has been at flood stage lately, but I've never seen a lot of deads associated with that in the past.  Where are these fish collecting? It would be good to report it to NYSDEC.

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Trout usually sink to the bottom when they die. Unless the water is shallow or extremely clear they are difficult to count.

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Wouldn't they also be difficult to see, too, then?  10 lbs of chrome is going to show up on the bottom of most of the holes on IC, now that the flows are down.

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