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New Steelhead Open Lake Fishing Reg Update

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For those of you who have not read the regulation change concerning steelhead on Lake Ontario open waters lowering it to 2. Here is the part of the new regulations that was published.

In the justification portion of this document it was stated.

“Four of the five proposed regulation amendments result from a series of meetings with a Lake Ontario Fisheries Management Focus Group (Focus Group), convened to determine anglers’ desired fisheries management outcomes and to seek consensus on management actions that will result in maintenance and improvement to high quality sport fisheries. The Focus Group was comprised of 16 angler representatives

I was part of that group and I can tell you that this was not a consensus at least 7 of the contributors including myself apposed this proposal.

Here are the new regs:

2. Reduce the open Lake Ontario/Lower Niagara River creel limit for rainbow trout/steelhead from 3 to 2 fish/day -Rainbow trout/steelhead provide the primary sport fishery in Lake Ontario’s tributaries from November through the following spring. This potential change is designed to increase numbers and sustainability of rainbow trout/steelhead in the tributary fishery by reducing open lake harvest when Chinook fishing success in the lake declines and more anglers specifically target rainbow trout/steelhead.

3. Reduce the creel limit for brown trout in Lake Ontario tributaries from 3 to 1 fish/day -This change is intended to prolong high quality brown fishing opportunities through the winter months, while still allowing anglers the opportunity to harvest a trophy fish. Fishing effort on Lake Ontario tributaries can be intense each year from fall through spring and maintaining high quality brown trout fishing opportunities relies on anglers releasing a high proportion of their catch.

Let me give you a little history of this new steelhead regulation, a number of years ago (unfortunately I can not specify the date). The tributary angler groups wanted to reduce the harvest limit on the tributaries to 1 because they viewed the fish in the tributaries subject to over harvested of a limited resource (only so many fish will enter the trib. and they are easy prey to anglers). The DEC agreed and we as lake anglers did not support it, but did not oppose it, with an agreement between lake anglers and the DEC Management at the time that they would not impose the same regulation on the open lake. All was well in the fishing world, but we knew in our minds it would only be a matter of time and they would come after an open lake reg on steehead.  It started with the minimum size being raised to 21 inches, now they are trying to lower the limit to 2 on the open water, not unexpected.

So now we see in regulation proposal #3 that they are going to lower the brown trout limit on the trib. to 1 for the same reason as they lowered the steelhead to 1 in trib. in the past. How long will it be till they come after the limit on the lake too, as they are now doing with the steelhead. Even though the DEC have again promised not to do so as in the past.

 I have no problem if the tributary anglers want to self-regulate and propose regulations that will limit harvest and size in the tribs. But we as lake anglers in return should be allowed to propose limits and sizes on the Lake.

We as open lake anglers must oppose this regulation and let our voices be heard. We still have till Dec. 14, to let our voices be heard.

Send your comments to:

[email protected]: with this in the subject line:

6 NYCRR Part 10 Section 11-0317-Amendents to Great Lakes sportfishery regulation in 6NYCRR Part 10

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Wrote my letter to DEC a couple weeks ago opposing the reduction in creel limit on open lake steelhead. Bob Songin gives a good talk on ths on his facebook page. I'm 100% in agreement with Bob Songin. This reduction will result in alot of dead steelhead floating in the lake. The seagulls should be real happy!!  To think this reduction in open lake limit will increase the # of tributary fish is absurd!! Don't they know you can't C & R steelhead on the open lake in mid/late  summer !!  There going to die, you might as well throw them in the box until you reach your legal limit. This rule change does not work with the 3 in combination rule. When guys have there 2 steelhead in the box there going to keep fishing hoping the next fish is a salmon. But what if its another steelhead?? Now to obey the rule that steelhead it has to be released and I guarantee 95% of the time it will die.How is this helping the tributary fisherman ?? I hope you'll join me in opposing the steelhead creel limit reduction. Please send your E-mails to DEC address mentioned above.

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Numbers of out of state tourists are higher in the summer months, so count out the economic impact of running the hatchery programs. 

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Actually the reduction to steelhead in the tribs was worked on with DEC in 2002 and 2003 and went into effect in Oct 2004. Candidly anglers wanted the entire lake and trib size to be 25 inches back then.

The DEC management initiative has been since the start and remains today that the marquee target fish in the Lake are Chinook salmon, and the marquee fish in the tribs are steelhead. That coho salmon lake trout and brown trout are staple species for the lake fishing and purely icing on the cake in the tribs.

Steelhead that actually spend more time in a river than in the lake in a given year are simply icing on the cake for the lake fishery. We even have non spawning steelhead in our rivers now along with adult spawners. They ascend a river and return to the lake even though they are not going to spawn.

We have been looking for a creel reduction in browns for a long time in the tribs because we have the highest use for brown trout fishing in the US in the short period of time they are in our rivers. You should actually be excited we want to keep more of those fish off stringers because they are coming back to lake anglers over the winter.

I can tell you if we ever asked for a reduction in the lake of a staple lake species we would always be turned down by DEC. Brown trout are meant to be a staple fish for the lake, and for a short time a nice to have in the tribs. Don’t have to believe me. Ask the DEC if they’d reduce brown trout on the lake just for advantage in the tribs you’ll get the same answer.

Again in 1993 salmon stocks were cut in half. Lake anglers including charter boat operators for which I was one harvested many more steelhead due to the spotty salmon fishing especially in the summer months. By 2000 if you caught a steelhead in a trib it was a “happening”.

I actually talked to some folks at the hatchery who said in the early 2000’s they struggled to handle enough steelhead to get the allotment of eggs each spring. Once the 1 steelhead limit went in the fish returned in droves.

BUT that’s not the whole story. By the early 2000’s salmon stocking had returned to full production, and because of the base flow rate treaty at the salmon river with the power company we started to get millions of wild salmon hatching in the river.

Fast forward to today. Let’s all be straight, the news on the forage base isn’t good. We’ve had salmon stocking cuts for the past three years and does anybody truly think it will go back to full production with what we’ve seen. If it doesn’t we are going to start to see tougher salmon fishing on the lake the next couple years. What does that mean? Likely lake anglers will put more pressure on the other staple species in the lake as well as steelhead.

These reg changes are looking to get ahead of that and hopefully keep a viable fishery for everyone.


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The highest angler effort hours are not the summer months. The tributaries angler hour effort has been double the lake effort for many years. That’s not because one is necessarily more popular than the other. The trib season is a full 8 months long. The economic value to these small lake side communities is essential during the fall and winter months when many of these rivers are in full use 7 days a week.


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I've heard a lot of captains make statements to the effect that they do not target steelhead, but now they are complaining about a reduction in how many they can keep.   If the bait pool is smaller, the predator pool will also shrink and with the large numbers of charter/commercial and recreational anglers and a smaller predator pool, something has to give.  An emphasis on the trophy aspect of the fishery that has been espoused by many over the years might get customers who are interested in catching some fish with the chance at a wall hanger, rather than a box full of whatever ran into the junk lines and then could not be released ( Maybe the lake should be three and done regardless of what they are.) Or, stock 4 million kings , and for a limit, 10 fish or 20 lbs, whichever you get first! 

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Does this include Brown trout stocked in Irondequoit creek in the spring? I've seen guys taking bags full the first few days.

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3 hours ago, Lucky13 said:

I've heard a lot of captains make statements to the effect that they do not target steelhead, but now they are complaining about a reduction in how many they can keep.   If the bait pool is smaller, the predator pool will also shrink and with the large numbers of charter/commercial and recreational anglers and a smaller predator pool, something has to give.  An emphasis on the trophy aspect of the fishery that has been espoused by many over the years might get customers who are interested in catching some fish with the chance at a wall hanger, rather than a box full of whatever ran into the junk lines and then could not be released ( Maybe the lake should be three and done regardless of what they are.) Or, stock 4 million kings , and for a limit, 10 fish or 20 lbs, whichever you get first! 

A lot of captains do not target them regularly.  When fishing gets tough for kings, browns and lakers, they are a back up plan. 

 

4 hours ago, King Davy said:



Steelhead that actually spend more time in a river than in the lake in a given year are simply icing on the cake for the lake fishery. We even have non spawning steelhead in our rivers now along with adult spawners. They ascend a river and return to the lake even though they are not going to spawn.

 

Steelhead spending more time in the tribs than the lake depends on the trib.  Some steelhead come in mid winter and leave in March / April.  Some of the bigger tribs (Niagara River , Salmon River) they spend more time but small tribs they are in and out.  Having more steelhead in the lake in the summer puts more stress on the bait population.  Yes they eat a wider variety of food but more fish = more predation on alewife. 

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9 minutes ago, GAMBLER said:

A lot of captains do not target them regularly.  When fishing gets tough for kings, browns and lakers, they are a back up plan. 

 

 

A  of captains are saying that this regulation will cause a lot of dead steelhead in the lake.  Whether they are targeted or caught incidenlal to targeting another species is immaterial.  If you are catching steelhead with a technique and you hit your " limit" you should stop using that technique if the fish can't be released.  And as conditions stand, if you catch that fourth steelhead on a junkline, it is a " dead" according to these captains, so the lake should be already littered with dead steelhead.  They are certainly not showing up in great numbers in any tribs I have been on or seen this fall..  And the "alternative fish" urban legend is not borne out in the boat surveys, 20% of harvest is July and August in the west end, and it is my contention that those fish were targeted specifically, not caught because nothing else was biting or available.

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2 hours ago, Lucky13 said:

A  of captains are saying that this regulation will cause a lot of dead steelhead in the lake.  Whether they are targeted or caught incidenlal to targeting another species is immaterial.  If you are catching steelhead with a technique and you hit your " limit" you should stop using that technique if the fish can't be released.  And as conditions stand, if you catch that fourth steelhead on a junkline, it is a " dead" according to these captains, so the lake should be already littered with dead steelhead.  They are certainly not showing up in great numbers in any tribs I have been on or seen this fall..  And the "alternative fish" urban legend is not borne out in the boat surveys, 20% of harvest is July and August in the west end, and it is my contention that those fish were targeted specifically, not caught because nothing else was biting or available.

If you fished the lake, (which it is obvious that you don't) you would know that July and August on most years, the kings move offshore due to upwellings.  The inside waters are not stable and the fish move offshore to seek stable water.  When they move offshore, captains have to move with the fish and go offshore to keep their clients happy.  Steelhead are mostly caught as a by catch and some will not survive.  They are put in the cooler instead of being tossed back to float.  Taking junk lines out of the water to keep from catching more steelhead is absurd.  Kings and steelhead can be caught in the same water.  If you were fishing a trib and caught a steelhead that died and kept it, would you stop fishing that stretch of water for browns? 

Edited by GAMBLER
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Once you get out past 150 ft , the steelhead come into play .that being said , I caught a fair amount in less than 100 ft this year , so they are lake wide .  They hit the same things the Kings hit , or at least they do for me . I don't target them but I do catch them . Being a byproduct catch   really  doesn't matter . I don't target skippers , but I catch them . 

 

Also to say they are a drain on the bait pop and need to be harvested  is a weak argument at best . They are in the creek   1/4 to 1/2 their life span , not eating alwives. Kings and Lakers are the biggest eaters out there  by far . 

 

I don't think there is a good solution to this . The long line methods of today combined with the knowledge and success rate of today's anglers will tax the sportfish population . Lake catch and release survival rates using those methods compared to trib anglers  are not as,high a some might think . When I am fishing  around boats , I see fish floating .  

To compare trib and lake C & R is like comparing apples to oranges . 

 

 

Maybe the best solution is to put more steelhead in . 

 

 

 

 

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41 minutes ago, HB2 said:

 They hit the same things the Kings hit , or at least they do for me . 

 

 

 

 

Gary D rig?  ;)

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Any serious steelhead angler is extremely in favor of a healthy king salmon fishery and a stable forage base and food web. Kings and steelhead are attached at the hip. They swim in the same off shore waters. But the true impact of a solid king salmon fishery is the fall runs.

Steelhead have as sharp a sense of smell as the best bird dogs. If a good run of salmon have ascended a river, once their eggs are dropped and even more the rotting carcasses that we smell when walking into these rivers all that scent brings waves of spawning age and younger rainbows into any flow that provides those scents out to the lake.

I’m averaging 4 days a week on rivers and smaller streams from the west to the east end of the lake. Fishing has been off. And I know the brown trout and steelhead population haven’t been severely impacted in 2018 and 2019 because the lake salmon fishing was sensational for most of the seasons. So many of us didn’t target the other staple species or steelhead.

So why is the trout fishing off? Poor returns of salmon to almost all the rivers I’ve fished. The trout are not attracted up these rivers in flushes of fish. Rather they are trickling in.

My humble opinion is between the high angler success rate on the lake the last two years. Actually since 2017, in conjunction with three years of stocking cuts, less then stellar wild success impact we are entering the hole we are probably going to have over the next couple years. And it’s going to impact the entire 12 month a year seasons both lake and tribs.

Why is the 25 inch steelhead limit important on the tribs? Because we have both spawning and non spawning fish in. Trib anglers know those younger fish while fun to catch are more valuable to everyone if they aren’t harvested at 21-24 inches will return to the lake and those that aren’t caught in the lake will return as spawners the next year and can be very nice 10 to 12 pound fish.. maybe even larger.

Trib anglers like any fisherman would like to catch lots of fish but a large majority would also like to get back to seeing some bigger fish.

From a management perspective I believe DEC is anticipating this hole in salmon fishing, more pressure on other species and hoping to find a viable balancing of effort to success of all anglers either in the lake or in our rivers.




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34 minutes ago, King Davy said:

Any serious steelhead angler is extremely in favor of a healthy king salmon fishery and a stable forage base and food web. Kings and steelhead are attached at the hip. They swim in the same off shore waters. But the true impact of a solid king salmon fishery is the fall runs.

Steelhead have as sharp a sense of smell as the best bird dogs. If a good run of salmon have ascended a river, once their eggs are dropped and even more the rotting carcasses that we smell when walking into these rivers all that scent brings waves of spawning age and younger rainbows into any flow that provides those scents out to the lake.

I’m averaging 4 days a week on rivers and smaller streams from the west to the east end of the lake. Fishing has been off. And I know the brown trout and steelhead population haven’t been severely impacted in 2018 and 2019 because the lake salmon fishing was sensational for most of the seasons. So many of us didn’t target the other staple species or steelhead.

So why is the trout fishing off? Poor returns of salmon to almost all the rivers I’ve fished. The trout are not attracted up these rivers in flushes of fish. Rather they are trickling in.

My humble opinion is between the high angler success rate on the lake the last two years. Actually since 2017, in conjunction with three years of stocking cuts, less then stellar wild success impact we are entering the hole we are probably going to have over the next couple years. And it’s going to impact the entire 12 month a year seasons both lake and tribs.

Why is the 25 inch steelhead limit important on the tribs? Because we have both spawning and non spawning fish in. Trib anglers know those younger fish while fun to catch are more valuable to everyone if they aren’t harvested at 21-24 inches will return to the lake and those that aren’t caught in the lake will return as spawners the next year and can be very nice 10 to 12 pound fish.. maybe even larger.

Trib anglers like any fisherman would like to catch lots of fish but a large majority would also like to get back to seeing some bigger fish.

From a management perspective I believe DEC is anticipating this hole in salmon fishing, more pressure on other species and hoping to find a viable balancing of effort to success of all anglers either in the lake or in our rivers.




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On 10/27/2019 at 4:27 PM, spoonfed-1 said:

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?

 

On 10/27/2019 at 5:18 PM, King Davy said:

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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On 10/27/2019 at 5:46 PM, spoonfed-1 said:

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?

 

 

Interesting.

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1 hour ago, HB2 said:

As a matter of fact....... :-) :-) :-)

Full disclosure I took steelhead more than once last year on my meat rig deep while my high sliders took mature kings meant for steelies!  No complaints but couldn't help myself on the post :)

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4 minutes ago, Fat Trout said:

Full disclosure I took steelhead more than once last year on my meat rig deep while my high sliders took mature kings meant for steelies!  No complaints but couldn't help myself on the post :)

Exactly!  This happens all the time.  Taking junk lines out of our spreads after limiting on steelhead was a bonehead comment and shows lack of knowledge about lake trolling.....

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I have a hard time thinking the tough fishing is because of mismanaging when you look at USGS data. I think there are plenty of trout but two weeks ago we had river temps in the mid 30’s ... WAY earlier then usual. That never lends to hot fishing. I talked to some folks from Brookfield this weekend. On the same Labor Day weekend when I saw hundreds of fish run the Salmon they said they have never had so many salmon at the gates of the dam. Guy I talked to said you could walk across them and not get your feet wet. I would imagine they were a huge slug of wild fish to run way past the hatchery.

I certainly expected soon or later with catch rates at 237% above the highest success rates ever in 2018, what we experienced this year with similar results of spectacular salmon fishing. I would imagine higher harvest rates with all these fish being caught and a 20/20/40% cut over 3 years somethings gonna give.

I had good fishing but I’m not lining or snagging fish. I’m actually fishing for them so while numbers of fish caught isn’t anything unusual, I had plenty of fun. But yes we are going to feel an impact with cuts and high catch and harvest. Maybe folks should have let a few more fish go. One thing for sure they ain’t swimming into a river once in a cooler.




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Dead Salmon and trout unlike other fish do not float to the surface after decaying where you could count the dead fish on the surface or beaches. They become fodder for the "creepy crawlers" that inhabit the bottom mass.. Fishermen will quit traveling to the area when their catches are diminished by catch regulations. Not a lot of fishermen are "catch and release" proponents so with their participation diminished more fish will be around but the economic yield will be diminished.

Edited by jimski2
It is It's about the money lost, not the number of fish around.

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You can’t hide dead decaying fish in a river. They are right there at your feet for months.


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I'm not sure why this dead horse keeps taking a bat to the head.
Congratulations.... You got your regulations... All this did was further the divide between stream and lake angler.. The thing is , NO WHERE in the history of the lake has a group of lake anglers pushed for regulations on the tributaries...
So here it is... The regulations that you guys were promised..
I knew things were fishey when I heard trout unlimited was involved... If I could prove a special interest group was involved in getting regulations passed, you bet it would be all over the news.... I'm still digging on that one...
So here is another side.... The DEC does not care one bit what the common lake guy thinks... Our observations don't matter.. They don't want to hear anything... The state of the lake meetings are garbage.. Pure lip service...
I used to want to be involved with the meetings and focus groups... Now, not So much...
It's a shame that it has come to this, but what's done is done ... You can't put the toothpaste back into the tube...

Hoc confecto im

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For the record and the Charter Boat Captains in the room can confirm at these panel discussions, trib anglers never asked for creel reductions on the lake. We asked for a size limit increase. It got turned down. The rest of the things we asked for were trib related only.


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My stomping ground is both the lake and the tribs. I fish both along with 100’s of others that do as well. Interested in an effective fishery for all.


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11 hours ago, King Davy said:

For the record and the Charter Boat Captains in the room can confirm at these panel discussions, trib anglers never asked for creel reductions on the lake. We asked for a size limit increase. It got turned down. The rest of the things we asked for were trib related only.


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Never asked the room is accurate however the closed door meeting that took place at the hatchery where lake fisherman were banned from entering the room was probably a good place to start.  Oh and the money TU threw at the DEC I am sure helped as well.  I used to throw Steelhead back even if I was fun fishing.  Not anymore they are going to get the bat between the eyes just like the legal sized useless Atlantic...

 

Keep the negative letters going to the public response folks.  The DEC lawyers in Albany don't like negativity at all.  The next thing these trib guys will want is the Brown trout lake limit reduced.... Mark my words..

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