DEC delivers 100,000-plus salmon to Oak Orchard
Photos by Tom Rivers
CARLTON – Department of Environmental Conservation officials were at the Oak Orchard River today to deliver Steelhead and Chinook Salmon from the Altmar Hatchery. The fish will spend the next month in pens by Ernst’s Lake Breeze Marina.
The fish are about 2 inches long and will double in size before they are released from the pens. The month in the Oak Orchard will allow the fish to imprint on the river, increasing the chances they will return to spawn when they are mature.
Andy Domachowske, a fish culturist for the DEC, empties the truck of the Chinook Salmon.
The DEC released 106,560 Chinook in five pens at the Oak Orchard River, plus another 4,960 Chinook by the two bridges at Captain’s Cove. Another 9,920 steelhead were delivered for two pens in the Oak.
Leigha Townsend, left, and James Boccacci guide the fish into the pens. Leah’s parents, Tracy and Chas Townsend, are charter boat captains. Boccacci is a volunteer.
Keeping the fish in the pens and releasing bigger fish in about a month increases their chances of survival. They are less likely to be eaten by bigger fish in the lake and river.
Bob Songin, a charter boat captain pictured in back left, led the pen-rearing project since its inception about 15 years ago. He has handed over the duties to a group of five volunteers – Mike Lavender, Bob Stevens, James Cond, Chris Efing and Ian Scroger.
The volunteers will feed the fish five times a day over the next month.
Leigha Townsend and another volunteer direct the fish into a pen in the Oak Orchard River today.
James Cond said the pen-rearing project has made a big difference in the fall fishery. Many of the 20-pound-plus Chinook are in the Oak Orchard to spawn. Their presence attracts anglers from all over the country for the fall fishery.
Without the pen-rearing, Cond doubts the county would have such a vibrant fall fishery. Those fish would likely head back to the Salmon River near Oswego where the fish were initially raised.
“Since we’ve stocked, we notice more of the fish come back to the river,” said Cond, a charter boat captain.
He praised Songin for leading the effort for so many years.
“He’s put a lot of time and energy into it,” Cond said.
Cond (pictured on dock) said the group of volunteers is ready to step up and tend to the fish for the next month.
“We got to give back to the lake,” he said. “A lot of guys will just take, take and take.”