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DEC proposes fishing changes for Lake Ontario, tributaries

Staff Reports Posted 5 February 2019 at 9:06 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Anglers are pictured in the Oak Orchard River in Carlton on Oct. 19, 2018.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is seeking feedback from area fishermen on proposed regulation changes for New York’s Great Lakes, including an extended open season for lake trout on Lake Ontario.

The proposed changes are designed to safeguard and expand certain fish populations while also enhancing anglers’ continued enjoyment of one of the state’s premier fisheries, the DEC said. The majority of the proposals are a direct result of DEC’s work with anglers during the past year to identify desired outcomes for Lake Ontario’s fishery.

Potential regulation changes include:

• Extending the open season for lake trout and decreasing the daily creel limit for rainbow trout/steelhead on Lake Ontario and the Lower Niagara River, moving the start date from Dec. 1instead of Jan. 1. The season would be closed from October 1 through November 30.

Rationale: Anglers targeting rainbow trout/steelhead in the Lower Niagara River frequently catch lake trout. Since lake trout spawning is largely over by the end of November, opening the lake trout season on December 1 will provide anglers with additional opportunities to harvest trophy lake trout without jeopardizing lake trout restoration efforts.

• Increasing the minimum size limit for rainbow trout/steelhead on Lake Ontario tributaries from 21″ to 25″ (excluding the Lower Niagara River).

Rationale: This potential change is intended to prolong high quality rainbow trout/steelhead fishing opportunities through the winter months, while still allowing anglers the opportunity to harvest a trophy fish. Anglers have noted smaller rainbow trout/steelhead in recent years, and declining rainbow trout/steelhead fishing success as the winter season progresses.

• Decreasing the brown trout daily creel limit and increasing the minimum size limit for rainbow trout/steelhead on Lake Ontario tributaries from 3 fish per day to 1 fish per day (excluding the Lower Niagara River).

Rationale: This potential change is intended to prolong high quality brown trout fishing opportunities through the winter months, while still allowing anglers the opportunity to harvest a trophy fish. Fishing effort on Lake Ontario tributaries can be intense each year from fall through spring, and maintaining high quality brown trout fishing opportunities relies on anglers releasing a high proportion of their catch.

• Decrease the daily creel limit for rainbow trout/steelhead on Lake Ontario and the Lower Niagara River from 3 fish per day to 2 fish per day.

Rationale: Rainbow trout/steelhead provide the primary sportfishery in Lake Ontario’s tributaries from November through the following spring. This potential change is designed to increase numbers and sustainability of rainbow trout/steelhead in the tributary fishery by reducing open lake harvest during periods when Chinook fishing success in the lake declines and more anglers specifically target rainbow trout/steelhead.

Following a review of public comments received and further evaluation this winter, DEC may advance these proposals for formal adoption in 2020. DEC welcomes and encourages feedback on the regulation changes currently under consideration.

To view these and other proposals and provide input, visit DEC’s website (click here). Comments will be accepted through Feb. 28. Comments and questions can also be directed to Steve LaPan, Great Lakes Fisheries Section Head, at: New York State DEC, P.O. Box 292, Cape Vincent, NY 13618.

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