DEC delivers nearly 150K fish to Oak Orchard for pen-rearing

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 April 2024 at 3:34 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

POINT BREEZE – Three trucks from the fish hatchery in Altmar in northern New York delivered nearly 150,000 fish today to be raised in pens for about a month in the Oak Orchard River.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation brought 138,210 Chinook salmon and 10,000 steelhead for the pen-rearing.

That is up from the 126,330 Chinook a year ago, and 90,200 from 2019 for the pen-rearing.

The DEC has increase the stocking levels based on alewife biomass and Chinook salmon growth and condition. The alewife biomass has increased and the weight of age-3 salmon increased to 20.7 pounds in 2022, staying above the lower threshold of 18.4 pounds, the DEC said.

It was a community effort with the charter boat captains and other volunteers today, helping the DEC get the fish into the six pens.

Bob Songin gets the first pen propped open for a pipe from the DEC truck to the Oak Orchard. Songin has been a key leader in the pen-rearing project since it started in 1998. Oak Orchard had the first pen-rearing project on the south shore. Now there are several, including nearby at the Genesee River, Sodus, Olcott and the Niagara River.

Raising them in pens at Ernst’s Lake Breeze Marina increases their survival rate, and also helps them to imprint on the Oak Orchard River. That boosts the chances they will come back when they are mature in about three years.

One of the trucks carrying fish has a display telling people these are the good ol’ days for fishing.

The pens have automated feeders with a pellet mix of food provided by the DEC.

The DEC also will be delivering 25,000 steelhead directly to the Oak Orchard and 6,380 for Johnson Creek on Friday. They are expected to be put into the Oak Orchard from Captain’s Cove.

Fishing is Orleans County’s top tourism industry with a $28 million annual impact, according to a DEC study and survey from 2017.

Out-of-state anglers account for 70 percent of the fishing economic output in Orleans County, $19,620,488 of the $27,989,393. County residents who fish accounted for $1,767,334 in economic activity while other New York state residents outside Orleans represented another $6,601,571, according to that report.