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Chinook Salmon Stocking Targets Increased for 2023

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Chinook Salmon Stocking Targets Increased for 2023

Fish being stocked into a small net pen cageDEC and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF) have agreed to a 10% increase in Chinook salmon stocking in Lake Ontario this year. We have been adaptively managing the number of salmon and trout stocked in Lake Ontario, since 2016, based on the alewife biomass and Chinook salmon growth and condition. In 2022, the age-2 and older alewife biomass increased and is predicted to remain at similar levels in 2023 and 2024 (see below for a full report prepared by USGS). The average weight of an age-3 Chinook salmon increased to 20.7 pounds in 2022 and remained above the lower threshold of 18.4 pounds.

As a result, DEC will stock 985,180 Chinook salmon in 2023 – an increase of approximately 90,000 over 2022. The additional fish are being spread evenly across the stocking sites listed in the Lake Ontario salmon and trout stocking strategy, except the Salmon River stocking numbers will remain the same as in 2022 (serving and the water for hatchery broodstock, it already receives higher numbers than the other stocking locations).

2023 Chinook salmon stocking targets (Location, Number stocked)

  • Niagara River - 89,930
  • Eighteenmile Creek (Olcott) - 126,330
  • Oak Orchard Creek - 126,330
  • Genesee River - 126,330
  • Oswego River - 126,330
  • Salmon River - 300,000
  • Sackets Harbor (Black River) - 89,930

Adaptively managing the number of salmon and trout stocked in Lake Ontario ensures we maintain a predator prey balance and continue to provide world-class fishing opportunities for years to come.

Lake Ontario April prey fish survey results and Alewife assessment, 2022 (PDF)

Lake Ontario Salmon and Trout Stocking Strategy- 2022-2026 (PDF)

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I think this is very complex stuff. If the overall alewive population (I'm not talking about a single year class) decrease continues on Ontario, as it has been on Huron and Michigan then it seems worthwhile considering increasing steelhead and coho as opposed to chinook stocking since it seems likely that more smaller predator fish would provide a more finely tuned and flexible tool to manage the fishery. As a charter captain I am keenly aware of the demand and desire of catching a big chinook on the other hand a good supply of catchable steelhead and coho would supply a lot of demand too. Utimately, I just hope we are:  #1. - aware as anglers and captains that the overall lake fishery is goddamm complicated and involves a lot of constantly changing dynamics. And # 2.- that we are stocking the right species for the right reasons and not bending a complicated balance to meet some individualized preference.

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Lake Michigan is in a resurgence stage in alewife recruitment. Something like five year classes of alewife now exist. No the lake is not dying nor is it looking even remotely like lake Huron. I believe the lake has also produced two fish over 40 lbs the last two summers. We are on a pretty good the upswing in alewife biomass.


If anything New York and Ontario should get way more serious in getting a handle on how much natural reproduction is occurring in the watershed. Lady O is definitely not in the need of an icrease in king stocking. Actually a sharp decrease in stocking, like what took place on Lake Michigan, would go a long long way in taking pressure off the alewife stock. It hurts not seeing leaderboards covered in 30 plus pound kings. This is what really needs to happen. Seeing way to many big head skinny kings the last few years. Having days of 30 to forty bites a day is not reality. It is signs of very hungry and stressed fish. They need more food. The lake needs less predators.



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