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Fish arrive in pens to grow bigger, and imprint on Oak Orchard

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 April 2014 at 12:00 am

106K Chinook, 21K steelhead delivered by DEC

Photos by Tom Rivers – Department of Environmental Conservation officials deliver Steelhead from the Altmar Hatchery this afternoon at the Oak Orchard River. The fish will spend the next month in pens by Ernst’s Lake Breeze Marina.

The Steelhead are six months old and about 3 or 4 inches long. They will nearly double in size in the next month in the pens.

POINT BREEZE – Charter boat captains and other Point Breeze stakeholders welcomed more than 100,000 fish today that will be nurtured in pens for the next month or so.

The tiny Chinook salmon and steelhead will be released about twice their current size. That will increase their chances of surviving in Lake Ontario and its tributaries. The fish, while they grow in the pens, also will imprint on the river.

When they are mature and ready to spawn, they are more likely to return to the Oak Orchard to lay their eggs.

Mike Waterhouse, the Orleans County sportsfishing promotion coordinator, helps with the fish stocking in one of the pens.

The Point Breeze community started the pen-rearing project in 1998. Bob Songin, charter boat captain with Reel Excitement, has been leader of the project each year.

Volunteers are up at 5 a.m. each morning to feed the fish, which are fed five times a day.

Songin said the project has resulted in more mature fish that return to the Oak Orchard and also in Lake Ontario near Point Breeze.

“We have double the survival rate, which means we have more fish to catch,” he said.

Bob Songin, in red, leads the pen-rearing project. About 20 volunteers assist with the effort each year.

The Department of Environmental Conservation brought truckloads of fish from the Altmar Hatchery. The agency stocked 106,000 Chinook in the pens, and 14,000 Steelhead or Rainbow Trout for the pens. The DEC also stocked 7,000 Steelhead in the Oak Orchard River by the Twin Bridges near Narby’s.

Volunteers are welcome to sign up at Ernst’s Lake Breeze Marina for a chance to feed the fish. The DEC provides the food for the fish.

The pens will keep the fish safe from predators while the Steelhead and Chinook grow in the next month.