Canal, which has stayed full an extra month, will be drained starting Monday

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 December 2020 at 10:21 am

Photos by Tom Rivers: In an unusual sight in December, the Erie Canal is full in Orleans County. This photo was taken on Saturday in Albion of the guard gates near the Bowman bridge, between the Gaines Basin and Main Street bridges.

The Erie Canal, which has been kept full in Western New York, will be drained starting on Monday.

The canal normally would have drained the canal about a month ago. But this year in a pilot program the State Canal Corp. kept the canal full and gradually released water to supplement tributaries that are popular for fishing.

The higher water flows in the streams and creeks gave better opportunities to catch brown trout, Chinook salmon and steelhead (rainbow trout) in Lake Ontario tributaries.

This fall the Canal Corporation increased regulated water releases into Orleans and Monroe County’s premium streams—Oak Orchard Creek and Sandy Creek.

In early November and early December, other Lake Ontario tributaries – Eighteenmile, Johnson, Oak Orchard, Sandy and Salmon Creeks – all saw higher flows.

The extra water was intended to entice more brown trout, steelhead, and Atlantic and Pacific salmon populations to run up these streams, improving conditions for the fish and expanding opportunities for local and visiting anglers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news release on Oct. 20.

“This fall, New York is enhancing some of our world-class fisheries and expanding opportunities for anglers into December by creatively using water from the Erie Canal to bolster fishing conditions and to extend the season,” Cuomo said. “As a fisherman, I’m pleased to see our incredible Lake Ontario tributaries will be host to even better experiences for anglers. This innovative use of iconic infrastructure continues our strong tradition of ecotourism while supporting our small businesses.”

The Gaines Basin Road bridge, which opened last week after reconstruction, is shown during snow flurries on Saturday.