80,600 lake trout stocked off Oak Orchard
POINT BREEZE – A decade from now, many of them will hopefully be two feet long, trophy fish that will draw angling tourists and their money to Orleans County.
For now, the 80,600 lake trout that were stocked off the Oak Orchard Harbor are about seven inches long. This morning they were hauled on a barge 2.1 miles from the harbor and released into Lake Ontario.
The fish were taken out where the lake is 150 feet deep. That is their preferred environment, and also avoids many of the predators, bigger fish and birds, that stalk the waters close to shore.
“If we stocked them off shore they’d have to run a 2-mile gauntlet to get through,” said Alan Mack, the Caledonia Fish Hatchery manager. “If we stocked them by the shore the chance of them getting eaten are pretty good.”
The lake trout that were released today were raised at the Allegheny National Fish Hatchery in Warren, Pa. The fish each had a fin clipped to show it was a hatchery-raised fish. A tiny tag in its snout will help the state Department of Environmental Conservation track it for survivability. The tag will note the fish was released near the Oak Orchard on May 22, 2013. It will also indicate one of three strains of lake trout: Lake Cayuga, Lake Chautauqua and Lake Champlain.
“It will help us know which ones survive more and have the highest catch-ability,” Mack said on the barge this morning.
The DEC has already stocked steelhead in Orleans County this spring, as well as a batch of pen-reared Chinook salmon. Next week more Chinook and brown trout will be stocked with cohoes put in the lake in the fall.
Fishing has a $12 million annual economic impact in Orleans County, according to county officials, with about $1 billion each year in the state, Mack said.