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Regulation change to steelhead limit on Lake Ontario

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20 minutes ago, Gill-T said:

Distrust comes from experiences.  We were sold on the idea of increasing water levels on Lake Ontario so more fluffy baby ducks and pike could be born in the flooded cottage yards dotting the bays on the South Shore when in reality it was just a way for the shipping industry to make more money.  Hopefully the DEC can show via actual numbers that there is a return on the changes.  Generally speaking, what is good for the fish is typically good for the fishermen.  There is a fine balance between making the put-and-take fishermen and the C&R fishermen happy.  My hope is they study the results of the changes and don't make the regulations permanent until they can prove via numbers that there is a positive effect.  

C&R fishing is not good for the alewife.  We need fish taken out of the system to keep the fish numbers in check.  All these new regulations are going making the alewife survival harder.  First it was dropping the lake trout numbers to 2 from 3.  Now steelhead. 

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I agree with Gambler. Keeping the predator population higher will only lead to continued cuts in chinook stocking.

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Alaskan rules any Chinook taken out of the water is a catch and the angler fills out his report tag immediately. There is enough food for a family and the angler removes his pole and is finished for the day. If the fish is netted in the water it may be released from the net after the hook is released.


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1 hour ago, GAMBLER said:

C&R fishing is not good for the alewife.  We need fish taken out of the system to keep the fish numbers in check.  All these new regulations are going making the alewife survival harder.  First it was dropping the lake trout numbers to 2 from 3.  Now steelhead. 

 

1 hour ago, shawn393 said:

I agree with Gambler. Keeping the predator population higher will only lead to continued cuts in chinook stocking.

 

Why did we go to 1 steelhead in the tribs then? Just asking............. 

 

I don't really think the proposed change will have much impact on fish or fishermen...... charter parties or private.... so meh, I'm OK with the change. 

 

In my opinion, what the DEC and us(lake or trib fishemen) should focus on is properly releasing fish. It's been decades since I've gone out on the lake to punch a ticket of salmon and trout. For me, and many private fishermen I know,  this game is all about sportfishing for fun. I've spent up to 30 minutes with offshore steelhead over the gunnel, trying to revive them, and in the summer surface temps it doesn't work. The methods that should work will take time and pre-planning. I'd love to see some information (DEC or other) and mortality rates on how to release deep water fish in warm surface waters. 

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18 minutes ago, jimski2 said:

Alaskan rules any Chinook taken out of the water is a catch and the angler fills out his report tag immediately. There is enough food for a family and the angler removes his pole and is finished for the day. If the fish is netted in the water it may be released from the net after the hook is released.


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Yeah , that would go over in this lake real big . 

 

The lake trout are a huge success  story . they use to grow faster in LO than any place in the world . The savior of the day many times for me and a lot others including charters . Even when king numbers were we high. 

 

So they put a bunch of Lakers in and there Is pushback because they will eat all the bait . 

 

Now we have to keep all the Steelhead to keep the bait population from exploding . 

 

Trib guys want bigger steelhead . And as a guy that does both , me too ! 

 

DEC put forth a plan to  try and do it . I say let them try .

 

 

 

Edited by HB2

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From the 2018 NYSDEC report to the GLFC: ( my bold)

 

Rainbow Trout Catch and Harvest  Rainbow trout was the third most commonly caught and harvested salmonine in 2018 and represented 7.1% and 5.9% of the total trout and salmon catch and harvest, respectively (Tables 1, A14a; Figure 10).  Estimates of total catch and harvest peaked in 1989, declined to the lowest levels in the early 2000s, then improved from about 2008-2014.  More recently, estimated catch was similar to levels observed in the early 2000s.  Rainbow trout catch in 2018 was an estimated 18,047 (+32.3%) fish, 46.1% lower than the longterm average.  Anglers harvested 8,411 (+39.3%) rainbow trout (46.6% of those caught), 60.3% lower than the long-term average.  Reduced catch of rainbow trout in recent years (i.e., 2015-2016; Figure 10) was partly attributed to reduced population size after a prolonged rainbow trout mortality event related to thiamine deficiency in the Salmon River, NY from fall 2014 and into winter 2015 (Lantry and Eckert 2018).  Another indication of a reduced population was the size of the run at the Ganaraska River.  The rainbow trout run at the Ganaraska Fishway in Ontario has traditionally been used as an index of abundance, which was markedly lower 2014-2016. During spring of 2017 and 2018, however, the rainbow trout run at the Ganaraska River Fishway increased compared to the 2016 run size indicating a higher population level in 2017 and 2018 (OMNRF 2019). Rainbow trout catch in New York waters of Lake Ontario also increased in 2017; however, catch declined again in 2018 to levels lower than observed in 2015-2016. There have been no substantial reports of die-offs since 2014-2015, so reasons for the reduced catch in 2018 are unclear. Stocking of yearling rainbow trout in 2015 was 23% below target which may have impacted population abundance since those fish were age-4 in 2018 and fish from that age class represented 29% of the age structure on average from 20092018 (35% in 2018; Prindle and Bishop 2019).    It is also possible that rainbow trout were targeted less by anglers in 2018 due to record high catch rates for Chinook salmon. Anglers will often target rainbow trout by going further offshore during periods when Chinook salmon are not available. In 2018, Chinook fishing was exceptional in May through September (Figure 7c). 
 
For 33 consecutive years (1986-2018), most rainbow trout were caught and harvested in the west area (Lantry and Eckert 2011; Table 14a).  In 2018, 40.9%% of all rainbow trout caught and 35.4% of those harvested were from the west area, which is considerably lower than average (62.2% and 64.6% respectively).  The majority of rainbow trout catch (43.2%) and harvest (49.4%) occurred during August (Table A14a). There have been significant downward trends (p<0.001) in the April/May percent contribution to harvest with April/May 2018 ranking 32nd out of 34 years; along with corresponding significant increases in percent contribution to total harvest in the other months, especially June/July (p=0.0235).
 
Fishing Quality For seven consecutive years, from 2008 to 2014, anglers experienced the highest rainbow trout catch per boat trip in the history of the survey (average=0.77 fish per boat trip; Table A14b; Figure 10).   The 2015 and 2016 catch rates (0.38 and 0.43 fish per boat trip), however, declined to the lowest since 2006.  After catch rates temporarily improved in 2017, they dropped again in 2018 to 0.38 fish per boat trip which is 17.5% below the long-term average.  In 2018, charter boats caught 39.3% of all rainbow trout caught by trout and salmon boats.  Charter boats caught 0.61 rainbow trout per boat trip, 45.3% lower than the long-term average (Figure 10b).  Charter boat catch per angler hour (0.02 fish per hour) was also well below (-40.4%) the long-term average.  Anglers fishing onboard noncharter boats caught 0.30 rainbow trout per boat trip and 0.02 fish per angler hour (Table A14b). The 2018 lake-wide harvest rates among charter and non-charter boats followed similar trends as catch rates and were also well below long-term averages (Figure 10b, Table A14b).
 
Rainbow trout monthly and geographical catch rate and harvest rate trends for most years showed monthly rates highest during the summer in the western end of the lake and lowest in the east area (Lantry and Eckert 2011; Table A14b; Figures 10c, 10d, A5).  As compared to the long-term average, the 2018 rainbow trout monthly catch rates were below average in most months (April [-76.4%], May [-57.9%], June [-26.7%], July [-12.2%], September [-25.1%]) except in August when it was near average (+2.4%; Table A14b). Catch rate per boat trip in 2018 was especially low (-46.6%) in the west area. Seasonal catch rates in the west region are typically about 5 times higher than the average of the other three regions in a year but this was not the case in 2018. Lower rainbow trout catch rates in the west region may be partly due to exceptional Chinook fishing throughout the season which led to reduced targeting of rainbow trout during summer in the west.  Catch rates per boat trip in the west/central area were 36.9% above average, near average in the east/central (0.3%) and 59.6% above average in east (Figure 10d). 

 

Biological Data

Biological data analysis presented here includes fish processed during April 15 - September 30 (length: 1985-2018, weight: 1988-2018).  Scale samples were collected from rainbow trout processed for biological data each year 1996-2018; however, they are not yet aged.  Lengths of rainbow trout sampled from the open lake boat fishery were dependent on several factors including age and strain composition, stage of maturity, and fishing regulations (i.e. minimum size limit).  The 2018 open lake season was the 12th year affected by the increased minimum harvestable length of rainbow trout from 15 in to 21 in.  The average percent contribution of fish <21.0 in for the twelve years since the regulation (2007-2018) was 9.9%, and significantly lower than the twelve years prior to the increased minimum size limit (1996-2006) when 19.7% of rainbow trout processed were <21.0 inches (t=4.23; df=15, p-value = 0.0004).  During 2018, 9.6% of harvested rainbow trout were shorter than the legal 21 in minimum harvestable size.  
 
Weight data were collected each year from 19882018 and rainbow trout condition was calculated as predicted weights of standard-length fish (Table A15).  For each standard-length group (18- to 32in lengths, by 2-in size increments), predicted weights were variable but showed increasing trends from 1988 to about 2002-2003 (trends similar to those observed with Chinook and coho salmon), then generally declined to record and near record lows by 2006. Since then condition of rainbow trout has varied at a lower level resulting in significant downward trends among all 30 years.   In 2018, predicted weight (condition) was below average for all inch groups evaluated relative to long-term averages.   Relative to more recent years, condition of smaller fish (18-in, 20-in, and 22- in groups) ranged from +4.9% to 1.3% above previous ten-year averages. Condition of the larger fish (i.e., 24-, 26-, 28-, 30-, 32 in groups) were near or below previous ten-year averages (range: -0.3% to -5.4%). The 28 to 32-inch predicted weights in 2018 were the 3rd lowest in the time series for all groups. Below average temperatures and reduced preyfish population could have contributed to reduced growth and condition of rainbow trout. "

 

So if it is not possible to release rainbows in July and August when most are being caught on the west end, what are you guys doing with the undersized fish?  Aside from the questionable practice of using rigs that you know are going to kill fish that are not "desirable,"  either undersized or over limit fish, are you not putting a heavy hit on future populations of salmon and trout if the junk lines result in so much mortality.  Maybe the solution is a three silvers any size, no release allowed and the rods get retired as soon as the limit is in the box.  no "skipper" food for gulls then.

 


 

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This is going to take a few paragraphs so hang in there. This response isn’t trying to lean one way or the other. It’s to take you through what has happened in the past because reading these threads I’m not sure everyone has this intel.

1993- I’m the president of the western Lake Ontario charter boat association and I sit on the NYS sport fishing council. DEC calls a meeting made up truly of Charter Boat Capt’s, USGS and DEC. As a result of lake wide bait trawls Bob O’Gorman then the top alewife scientist, Recommends to DEC we are in serious trouble with bait fish populations. Presents his Data and along with DEC’s data they decide to cut salmon stocking from 2.1 million down to 1 million. Drastic cut. You can imagine the demeanor in that room. KEY to this was the ferc license treaty with Niagara Mowhawk on the Salmon River was still five years away (1998). Without base flows in the salmon river there was no measurable wild fish production out of the salmon river to cushion the stocking cuts. So we Charter Capt’s we’re forced to relay heavily on steelhead to get our folks action. I can tell you that a 5% survival to adult stage of stocked smolts is probably more the norm but say it was 10%. That meant we had 100k of a possible 1M salmon stocked for each year class. Not many fish to find in the giant space that is LO.

What happens next Steelhead fishing on the tribs from mid 90’s right to 2000 began to tank alarmingly. Mainly because of the heavy predation from the lake.

In 1998 two things happened. The power company agreed to base flows on the salmon river. And DEC started offering at state of the lake meetings and other stakeholder events questionnaires on what folks would like to see from the program. At that time trib anglers started responding in mass to cut the creel limit on the tribs for Steelhead. This wave of interest grew into a tidal wave of support. By then the trib environment was changing. Anglers were more interested in “opportunity” to fish to fish than harvest three a day.

At the same time base flows got into gear, DEC started to see more and more wild naturally produced kings in the stream proper. They immediately started to seine 12 locations on the river in May and June to see what the wild fish impact was. To date in a good year they can see as many as 10M wild fish on their annual project to 3 to 5m in a down year.

At the same time early 2000’s with many years of low salmon stocking the alewives bounced back and DEC returned to stocking the 2.1 M fish.

The returns of steelhead to the hatchery in the late 90’s to 2003 got lower each year, to where once they may see 20k fish in the raceway, they now saw less then 5k.

2003 through discussions with the same style focus group we have today, they decided to cut the tribs from 3 to 1 fish a day. Within two years of the new reg the numbers of steelhead returning to the hatchery easily doubled. In some years tripled.

All were happy, Great Lake fishing for salmon again with both wild and hatchery fish, and trib fishing was not only on the raise, the effort on angler hours began to double the lake hours. For all sorts of reasons but not because the lake was poor fishing. In the contrary it was solid to spectacular.

Fast forward to 2014. We experience a true polar vortex and not only does it devastate the forage base, adult steelhead are impacted into a massive die off( first time we’ve ever experienced anything like that.)

In a race to not topple over the fishery DEC after looking at trawl data finds a couple large holes in the year class make up for bait that more than any other fish needs Chinook salmon and enacts the stocking reductions. Yet with the stocking reductions salmon numbers are padded by wild fish, salmon fishing goes from great to off the chain. In 2018 the success rate for us catching salmon on the lake went up 237%.
Crazy. Can’t wait till spring to see what 2019 looked like.

Meanwhile 2014,15, and 16 the steelhead fishing during the long 7 to 8 month trib season was gone. We had to wait till the 2015 fish reach at least 3 years old to truly have them back in the tribs in decent fishable numbers.

So rational and you have to understand as formulating a management plan for the full 12 month fishing season, DEC is probably trying to spread the wealth. While salmon can get some recruitment from wild fish to the stocking, we don’t have the habitat to reproduce steelhead naturally simply because a rainbow spends over a year in a river before heading to open water. We have very little successful natural recruitment on the US side of LO. For sure not enough to to bolster the 650k annually stocked steelhead.

Yes we all have our own interests. Personally I’m always interested in both the lake and the tribs to be viable. I fish both and have since the program started 50 years ago.

Can these natural catastrophic issues happen again. You betcha. If you are running your management plan to have to take account of potential risks. You make some stocking, regs changes, etc to mitigate the next big event that could impact the entire fishery either in the open lake or our rivers or both.

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So before anybody comes back and says who cares about 1993. I played this out because Steelhead and Chinook salmon are connected at the hip. We need both and we need both to have a healthy full year fishery, and more importantly I want you to understand how many twists and turns fishery managers have to deal with year to year decade to decade in playing against the ultimate casino house. Mother Nature. And what they have to do... to try to keep us all into fish.


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Interesting read. Thanks.

I found it interesting indeed that trib anglers asked to cut creel limits and it was widely supported.

And every time the folks that have managed this fishery very successfully since the 70’s suggests a cut on the lake side the other special interest group screams and starts throwing around follow the money conspiracy theories.


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Weave... I can appreciate lake anglers after salmon cuts the last few years being Leary of a creel change in the lake. But if you follow the strategy of a manager and they have to cover all the bases and knowing that the actual creel limit for silvers doesn’t change just one less for a species that gets spread the thinnest for the need to have them in the system for both the lake and tribs, for many of us it makes sense.

Again my focus is on 12 months a year overall management of these two key species. There is pain and at the moment in this reg additional pain for the lake, yet each has to be honest on what the real impact is to them. And yes there are risks to all fish including steelhead to be released dead of summer. And that could be the trib pain if it truly manifests itself.

And NO reg if it’s truly damaging is cast in stone. If it’s a bad move, they’ll change it back.



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And how is the Salmon River and the rest of the south shore tribs fishing this fall King Davy? Could it be mismanagement the fishermen are concerned with?

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Spoonfed-1. Power company ran the river at 750 cfs for the last rafting event of the year on Labor Day weekend. I fished the lower river and had 100’s of salmon come by each day for three solid days.

We never had another significant rain event until a week ago. Meanwhile the hatchery was loaded along with beaver dam brook. I might be wrong but I thought I heard DEC collected 4 million eggs. Fishing was slow if you are comparing seeing 2000 fish run at once after Labor Day.

I was there last week fishing for steelhead and fished down lots of pocket water as fresh in bows like pockets. Every where I went I had salmon streaming but me. Again not a run you over stampede but then again we are near the end of Oct.

This past Wed. I landed three Chinook salmon in a local trib out west. Big bright fish. One was 43 inches. These guys were sitting behind a dime bright silver hen. There were salmon in every pocket I fished looking for bows and browns.

I’ve seen this in the past many times where in a low water year which we’ve had everywhere the fish trickle in. In years like this I had bright kings spawning in front of me at Christmas.

If the majority of the fish are in fact wild I’ve seen them in a whole different schedule than what we usually expect.

Lastly if many of the 237% increase in catch rates last year were in fact heavy on two year olds and A high percent were harvested... they aren’t around anymore to swim in a river. If the salmon harvest was as good as the catching this year... there are a lot of spawners are in freezers I’d guess.


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I have tendonitis in my elbow for the last 6 weeks from all the kings I landed . 

 

No joke . 

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Congratulations. Your river fishing report is much more positive than most I've talked to. Steelhead are just trickling in and many fishermen ended Salmon trips early due to lack of fish. I even heard (2nd hand) the DSR reported that Salmon fishing is over last week.  As far as the late run theory only time will tell. I've heard that one before and when it doesn't happen none of the experts seem to want to talk about it. We had good numbers of fish in our area of the Lake this summer and fall and the Canadian tribs are doing well. Were those North shore fish we had? I'm pretty sure the lake guys haven't caught enough salmon to kill the fishing in the tribs and if they did that would indicate there is not enough fish being stocked in the lake, no?

 

Edited by spoonfed-1

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I know that salmon fishing hasn’t been off the chain for the gangs that flock to the more popular rivers but my experience this fall is I’ve found the least “bitey” fish then in a long time . Labor Day weekend most fish were in warp 8 and ran the length of the river in a day or less. They wouldn’t hold even in the pools.

Now that you find hens with the boys courting them fighting each other for her affection, you swing a streamer by them and you’ll experience the pure primal instinct that we all love. Especially fun with the rod in your hand when that that moment happens.


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Spoonfed-1 My buddy fished the Ganny three weeks ago and you could walk across the fish. I think he said over 20k through the counter. Interesting with all these fish around not another angler around.

I’m in the camp that believes all South shore tribs produce some wild fish. I fish for steelhead until mid May before I get out on the lake. I see king fry in all the rivers I fish of medium size.

So I’m making an assumption that fish in these tribs might be more those fish coming home than fish straying from the Salmon River.

This is the first three year return of the shortened stocking of 20%. So that is a factor, high catch rates not sure what the harvest was but it would seem to be higher than long term average. Crappy water.... high lake backing up in my local big river squelching flows at the mouth for weeks. Third week of Sept. fishing off the Genny.... nobody home at the river mouth tons of big hooks in 100 foot.

Sooo once again Mother Nature bringing the big hook to the plate. Not many get great wood on a big league curve ball.

We’ll never figure this all out. The fish still have the upper hand. That’s what keeps us coming back.


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48 minutes ago, King Davy said:

Spoonfed-1 My buddy fished the Ganny three weeks ago and you could walk across the fish. I think he said over 20k through the counter. Interesting with all these fish around not another angler around.

I’m in the camp that believes all South shore tribs produce some wild fish. I fish for steelhead until mid May before I get out on the lake. I see king fry in all the rivers I fish of medium size.

So I’m making an assumption that fish in these tribs might be more those fish coming home than fish straying from the Salmon River.

This is the first three year return of the shortened stocking of 20%. So that is a factor, high catch rates not sure what the harvest was but it would seem to be higher than long term average. Crappy water.... high lake backing up in my local big river squelching flows at the mouth for weeks. Third week of Sept. fishing off the Genny.... nobody home at the river mouth tons of big hooks in 100 foot.

Sooo once again Mother Nature bringing the big hook to the plate. Not many get great wood on a big league curve ball.

We’ll never figure this all out. The fish still have the upper hand. That’s what keeps us coming back.



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Well lets hope it's mother nature throwing us a curve ball and not management decisions based on inaccurate data which is the direction I'm leaning towards based on what I am seeing. I am also hopeful the proposed Steelhead limit reduction, which I am not in favor of, is not just an attempt to bandaid a potentially altogether different issue or to pacify an organized special interest group. If I remember correctly the size limit increase was supposed to solve some issues and it doesn't appear that it has. Any talk of reversing that regulation like you mentioned in your post !?

It was good to have this discussion with you and I hope the rest of your season is successful.

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I think the 21 inch size on paper was supposed to add maybe 17 to 20% more fish to stay in the system longer for all anglers to get a shot at. I’m not sure I have that number right. We’d have to ask DEC.

When we lost the majority of the adult steelhead fall 2014 into Spring of 2015. Then your starting over. There is the class behind them but some of them were affected. Essentially we found fish dying that were say five pounds and greater.

I’ve known the DEC guys and some of the USGS folks a long time. I’m from a big data driven career. I believe in the science. Just how I’m wired. Knowing the folks I see no reason they want to make a mistake or make up a problem to end up cutting stocking. Are they willing to error on the safe side ..., yes.

I have some friends still up in Michigan in Huron and LM. When those fisheries crashed it was catastrophic for sportsmen, many businesses etc. So three years of cuts and three years of good fishing and many would say epic in the lake.

I still think the lake fishery for salmon is going to take a hit unless we have great wild repo success. But I fished through most of the 90’s with no wild fish coming to the rescue.

Nobody wants to hear this but I’m fortunate to fish many other places. We are pretty spoiled. The west coast king and steelhead fishery and even more tragic the Alaskan salmon fishery are in serious decline. We have the finest open water fishery in the US for Salmon. Likely the world. We have a destination brown trout fishery west of Sodus to the Niagara. And the most targeted fish over all in the tribs are steelhead and we are recovering from the die off.

We are going to have to grind through a few more years in hoping the food web makes a bounce back. And the target of prominence can’t just be the open lake. The trib season is a full 8 months long bringing millions of dollars especially to smaller communities. Imagine if the boats were all tucked away in Sept. and there wasn’t any tourism in places like Pulaski... Oak Orchard... etc for nearly 8 months. Lots of people in those communities would suffer.

We need both fisheries to be strong. DEC is trying to keep both those balls in the air despite the environmental issues.

I’m in. I trust them.




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Good read.

 

Being both a trib and lake guy I get both sides.

 

My thoughts:

 

1. Avid trib steelhead/trout fisherman generally are catch and release from what I’ve seen.  Having more fish in the trib system to catch would generate and keep more interest than being able to harvest more fish.

2. Stream fish are more likely to be released successfully than lake caught fish. They are also more likely to be caught and enjoyed multiple times once they are in the Tribs.

3. Once water temps reach the high sixties and above the mortality of lake caught fish of all species increases. Having a one steelhead limit lakewide Oct through June and then increasing the limit in July, August, Sept might be a better solution. We were catching Steelies while offshore in August and early Sept this year and remember commenting on how fragile they are. Barely touched or took them out of the water and they still went belly up. Would be a shame to let them go and have them go belly up if folks wanted to eat them. The extent it takes to revive them in these conditions is just not feasible for many. I personally don’t feel comfortable hanging over the side of my boat reviving fish for an extended period. 

4. IMO Natural reproduction is much more of a factor in the lakes salmon population in a given year then stocking. In a good year of natural reproduction you probably could still have excellent lake salmon fishing even with no stocking, minus the 2-3 week Sept staging at tribs with no natural reproduction. Higher lake creel limits of salmon is probably the best solution to try and curve a high predator to prey relation, given that any reduction in stocking could easily be countered by high natural reproduction in a given year. 

5. Brown trout are a 12 month year fishery and a much more accessible,

hardier and well rounded fish then both steelhead and salmon. Many times I have caught more Browns then steelhead Jan-April in our western tribs. They also are not as alewife dependent as salmon and steelhead, available to shore and small boat fisherman year round, have an abundance off prey in the form of gobies, can be caught and released successfully, etc,etc. I had some of my young nephews sending me pictures of browns they were catching of the piers in sept this year and they were totally stoked. Not even a mention that they weren’t catching salmon. 

6. Went to the salmon river fish hatchery 3rd week of August this year and the raceways were packed. 

 

Questions:

1. Has there ever been any studies of how many steelhead return to the tribs more then once (two salt fish).

2. Why did the thaimine deficiency suddenly become an issue in 2014 after all these years of steelhead eating mostly alewife. 

3. Do most charter clients want to keep a ton of fish? I’m not a charter but take newbies out regularly and rarely do they want to keep a lot fish. Maybe a real large one for pictures or a small one to eat, but seldom more than 2 fish. Wondering if things like going from a 4 or 5 fish limit to a 2 or 3 fish limit really has all that much of an impact on returning clients. I would think catching larger fish or catching a large quantity of fish would trump being able to keep a lot of fish as far as clients returning is concerned. 

 

 

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9 hours ago, Lucky13 said:

From the 2018 NYSDEC report to the GLFC: ( my bold)

 

Rainbow Trout Catch and Harvest  Rainbow trout was the third most commonly caught and harvested salmonine in 2018 and represented 7.1% and 5.9% of the total trout and salmon catch and harvest, respectively (Tables 1, A14a; Figure 10).  Estimates of total catch and harvest peaked in 1989, declined to the lowest levels in the early 2000s, then improved from about 2008-2014.  More recently, estimated catch was similar to levels observed in the early 2000s.  Rainbow trout catch in 2018 was an estimated 18,047 (+32.3%) fish, 46.1% lower than the longterm average.  Anglers harvested 8,411 (+39.3%) rainbow trout (46.6% of those caught), 60.3% lower than the long-term average.  Reduced catch of rainbow trout in recent years (i.e., 2015-2016; Figure 10) was partly attributed to reduced population size after a prolonged rainbow trout mortality event related to thiamine deficiency in the Salmon River, NY from fall 2014 and into winter 2015 (Lantry and Eckert 2018).  Another indication of a reduced population was the size of the run at the Ganaraska River.  The rainbow trout run at the Ganaraska Fishway in Ontario has traditionally been used as an index of abundance, which was markedly lower 2014-2016. During spring of 2017 and 2018, however, the rainbow trout run at the Ganaraska River Fishway increased compared to the 2016 run size indicating a higher population level in 2017 and 2018 (OMNRF 2019). Rainbow trout catch in New York waters of Lake Ontario also increased in 2017; however, catch declined again in 2018 to levels lower than observed in 2015-2016. There have been no substantial reports of die-offs since 2014-2015, so reasons for the reduced catch in 2018 are unclear. Stocking of yearling rainbow trout in 2015 was 23% below target which may have impacted population abundance since those fish were age-4 in 2018 and fish from that age class represented 29% of the age structure on average from 20092018 (35% in 2018; Prindle and Bishop 2019).    It is also possible that rainbow trout were targeted less by anglers in 2018 due to record high catch rates for Chinook salmon. Anglers will often target rainbow trout by going further offshore during periods when Chinook salmon are not available. In 2018, Chinook fishing was exceptional in May through September (Figure 7c). 
 
For 33 consecutive years (1986-2018), most rainbow trout were caught and harvested in the west area (Lantry and Eckert 2011; Table 14a).  In 2018, 40.9%% of all rainbow trout caught and 35.4% of those harvested were from the west area, which is considerably lower than average (62.2% and 64.6% respectively).  The majority of rainbow trout catch (43.2%) and harvest (49.4%) occurred during August (Table A14a). There have been significant downward trends (p<0.001) in the April/May percent contribution to harvest with April/May 2018 ranking 32nd out of 34 years; along with corresponding significant increases in percent contribution to total harvest in the other months, especially June/July (p=0.0235).
 
Fishing Quality For seven consecutive years, from 2008 to 2014, anglers experienced the highest rainbow trout catch per boat trip in the history of the survey (average=0.77 fish per boat trip; Table A14b; Figure 10).   The 2015 and 2016 catch rates (0.38 and 0.43 fish per boat trip), however, declined to the lowest since 2006.  After catch rates temporarily improved in 2017, they dropped again in 2018 to 0.38 fish per boat trip which is 17.5% below the long-term average.  In 2018, charter boats caught 39.3% of all rainbow trout caught by trout and salmon boats.  Charter boats caught 0.61 rainbow trout per boat trip, 45.3% lower than the long-term average (Figure 10b).  Charter boat catch per angler hour (0.02 fish per hour) was also well below (-40.4%) the long-term average.  Anglers fishing onboard noncharter boats caught 0.30 rainbow trout per boat trip and 0.02 fish per angler hour (Table A14b). The 2018 lake-wide harvest rates among charter and non-charter boats followed similar trends as catch rates and were also well below long-term averages (Figure 10b, Table A14b).
 
Rainbow trout monthly and geographical catch rate and harvest rate trends for most years showed monthly rates highest during the summer in the western end of the lake and lowest in the east area (Lantry and Eckert 2011; Table A14b; Figures 10c, 10d, A5).  As compared to the long-term average, the 2018 rainbow trout monthly catch rates were below average in most months (April [-76.4%], May [-57.9%], June [-26.7%], July [-12.2%], September [-25.1%]) except in August when it was near average (+2.4%; Table A14b). Catch rate per boat trip in 2018 was especially low (-46.6%) in the west area. Seasonal catch rates in the west region are typically about 5 times higher than the average of the other three regions in a year but this was not the case in 2018. Lower rainbow trout catch rates in the west region may be partly due to exceptional Chinook fishing throughout the season which led to reduced targeting of rainbow trout during summer in the west.  Catch rates per boat trip in the west/central area were 36.9% above average, near average in the east/central (0.3%) and 59.6% above average in east (Figure 10d). 

 

Biological Data

Biological data analysis presented here includes fish processed during April 15 - September 30 (length: 1985-2018, weight: 1988-2018).  Scale samples were collected from rainbow trout processed for biological data each year 1996-2018; however, they are not yet aged.  Lengths of rainbow trout sampled from the open lake boat fishery were dependent on several factors including age and strain composition, stage of maturity, and fishing regulations (i.e. minimum size limit).  The 2018 open lake season was the 12th year affected by the increased minimum harvestable length of rainbow trout from 15 in to 21 in.  The average percent contribution of fish <21.0 in for the twelve years since the regulation (2007-2018) was 9.9%, and significantly lower than the twelve years prior to the increased minimum size limit (1996-2006) when 19.7% of rainbow trout processed were <21.0 inches (t=4.23; df=15, p-value = 0.0004).  During 2018, 9.6% of harvested rainbow trout were shorter than the legal 21 in minimum harvestable size.  
 
Weight data were collected each year from 19882018 and rainbow trout condition was calculated as predicted weights of standard-length fish (Table A15).  For each standard-length group (18- to 32in lengths, by 2-in size increments), predicted weights were variable but showed increasing trends from 1988 to about 2002-2003 (trends similar to those observed with Chinook and coho salmon), then generally declined to record and near record lows by 2006. Since then condition of rainbow trout has varied at a lower level resulting in significant downward trends among all 30 years.   In 2018, predicted weight (condition) was below average for all inch groups evaluated relative to long-term averages.   Relative to more recent years, condition of smaller fish (18-in, 20-in, and 22- in groups) ranged from +4.9% to 1.3% above previous ten-year averages. Condition of the larger fish (i.e., 24-, 26-, 28-, 30-, 32 in groups) were near or below previous ten-year averages (range: -0.3% to -5.4%). The 28 to 32-inch predicted weights in 2018 were the 3rd lowest in the time series for all groups. Below average temperatures and reduced preyfish population could have contributed to reduced growth and condition of rainbow trout. "

 

So if it is not possible to release rainbows in July and August when most are being caught on the west end, what are you guys doing with the undersized fish?  Aside from the questionable practice of using rigs that you know are going to kill fish that are not "desirable,"  either undersized or over limit fish, are you not putting a heavy hit on future populations of salmon and trout if the junk lines result in so much mortality.  Maybe the solution is a three silvers any size, no release allowed and the rods get retired as soon as the limit is in the box.  no "skipper" food for gulls then.

 


 

According to your google search, the steelhead numbers are rebounding since the die off.  Let it continue to rebound and not make the change in regs.  The reduced number of steelhead caught in 2018 is a simple one if you spent any time on the lake.  HUGE numbers of salmon inside of 150' FOW all season is one reason.  The other is charters were boxing out on kings early and back to the dock.  No one was wandering offshore due to a slow king bite to find kings offshore and catching steelhead.  The summer of 2018, we had to fish deeper than 150' four trips the entire season on my boat.  Kings were loaded inside and stayed there even after upwellings.  If you do not spend time in steelhead waters, you will catch drastically less steelhead.  As for the junk lines, they are set out to target mature kings.  The legal bycatch (less desirable as you put it but are better table fare), that are caught and die go in the cooler and are counted towards our limit.  As for steelhead under 21", they go back dead or alive on my boat.  The law is the law.  I don't like to do it but we are forced to.  I don't know of anyone that has reached a full limit on a charter with 3 silvers each, 2 lakers each and 1 atlantic each.    So if we are going to be forced to stop fishing once our limit is reached on the lake, are you trib guys going to stop fishing once you catch your first steelhead?  I think not.  The data posted in your post above shows the larger fish in poor condition compared to the ten year average.  It explains why.  With the current state of the fishery, 20lb steelhead are unicorns and will continue to be unless the bait rebounds.  Having more steelhead in the lake so there are more in the tribs is only going to stress the population more and have a negative affect on size (more fish in the system = more alewife consumed and less availability for food).  Mature steelhead cant hit 20lbs eating bugs.  We caught a 37" steelhead during the Sandy Creek shootout in 2016 and it only weighed 13lb. 6oz.  A 13lb fish on a 18+ lb frame.  The fish was in poor condition.  When the Fish and Wildlife guys examined the fish at weigh in, their comment was "this fish spent too much time eating bugs". 

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9 hours ago, King Davy said:



Can these natural catastrophic issues happen again. You betcha. If you are running your management plan to have to take account of potential risks. You make some stocking, regs changes, etc to mitigate the next big event that could impact the entire fishery either in the open lake or our rivers or both.

I find this comment interesting.  If the DEC had a management plan to take account for potential risks, why do we have all of our eggs in one basket with all the Steelhead, kings and coho being raised at one hatchery?  The steelhead, king and coho fishery is one disease or power outage at the hatchery away from disaster.  This has happened at the federal hatchery with the Lake trout more than once now.  This is an issue every angler involved in this fishery should be concerned with.  One year without stocking of those three species and all of us will be in trouble. 

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Yeah Gambler it’s been a risk for 50 years. Guys can forget about Caledonia for Salmon they legally can’t knowingly introduce potential viruses into a state hatchery. It’s Why they can’t ever raise rainbows there because of whirling disease.

Comes down to having an extra $200 million laying around. I’m all for a nice new hatchery. Every one we have is ancient.

Yeah steelhead aren’t fussy when it comes to forage. They’ll eat any bait fish and they love bugs. Used to catch them on a dry fly (bumble bee) in 600 foot of water. Maybe that fish ate bugs cause he couldn’t find any alewives.


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14 minutes ago, King Davy said:

Yeah Gambler it’s been a risk for 50 years. Guys can forget about Caledonia for Salmon they legally can’t knowingly introduce potential viruses into a state hatchery. It’s Why they can’t ever raise rainbows there because of whirling disease.

Comes down to having an extra $200 million laying around. I’m all for a nice new hatchery. Every one we have is ancient.

Yeah steelhead aren’t fussy when it comes to forage. They’ll eat any bait fish and they love bugs. Used to catch them on a dry fly (bumble bee) in 600 foot of water. Maybe that fish ate bugs cause he couldn’t find any alewives.


Sent from my iPhone using Lake Ontario United


I don’t think it is a money issue. There was a sight proposal with funding in place for a hatchery in Niagara county and it was rejected. 

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It would be great to have a modem facility in the western basin.


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8 hours ago, GAMBLER said:

According to your google search, the steelhead numbers are rebounding since the die off.  Let it continue to rebound and not make the change in regs.  The reduced number of steelhead caught in 2018 is a simple one if you spent any time on the lake.  HUGE numbers of salmon inside of 150' FOW all season is one reason.  The other is charters were boxing out on kings early and back to the dock.  No one was wandering offshore due to a slow king bite to find kings offshore and catching steelhead.  The summer of 2018, we had to fish deeper than 150' four trips the entire season on my boat.  Kings were loaded inside and stayed there even after upwellings.  If you do not spend time in steelhead waters, you will catch drastically less steelhead.  As for the junk lines, they are set out to target mature kings.  The legal bycatch (less desirable as you put it but are better table fare), that are caught and die go in the cooler and are counted towards our limit.  As for steelhead under 21", they go back dead or alive on my boat.  The law is the law.  I don't like to do it but we are forced to.  I don't know of anyone that has reached a full limit on a charter with 3 silvers each, 2 lakers each and 1 atlantic each.    So if we are going to be forced to stop fishing once our limit is reached on the lake, are you trib guys going to stop fishing once you catch your first steelhead?  I think not.  The data posted in your post above shows the larger fish in poor condition compared to the ten year average.  It explains why.  With the current state of the fishery, 20lb steelhead are unicorns and will continue to be unless the bait rebounds.  Having more steelhead in the lake so there are more in the tribs is only going to stress the population more and have a negative affect on size (more fish in the system = more alewife consumed and less availability for food).  Mature steelhead cant hit 20lbs eating bugs.  We caught a 37" steelhead during the Sandy Creek shootout in 2016 and it only weighed 13lb. 6oz.  A 13lb fish on a 18+ lb frame.  The fish was in poor condition.  When the Fish and Wildlife guys examined the fish at weigh in, their comment was "this fish spent too much time eating bugs". 

I don't need google to find the NYSDEC reports for Lake Ontario.  I thought I would highlight that section of the boat report, because so few on this site appear to really read anything.

 

Smaller numbers of harvested steel due to better king fishing was highlighted in the report, maybe you didn't read that? 

 

It is boat anglers who have indicated that steel do not release well in the heated surface waters in summer, tributary anglers are fishing vastly different thermal conditions, except maybe if they find that summer run Atlantic that you will apparently burn gas for the full 6 hours going after.

 

It was Yankee Troller that suggested that no captain will keep " culling" if they can get three and head for shore.  And none of you guys want the Lake Trout, or so I keep reading.

 

" Unless the Bait rebounds."  Well, at least one angler out there supports and believes the science even when it is not reporting the story you want to hear.  Maybe you can talk to Captain Perlioni about that.

 

And glad to hear that you scrupulously follow the regulations, but according to the bait data,  nearly 10% of the creeled fish were undersized.

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