80,600 lake trout stocked off Oak Orchard

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 May 2013 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Caledonia Fish hatchery manager Alan Mack, bottom, works with Brian Edmonds from the DEC’s Salmon River Hatchery to unload a truck full of lake trout.

The lake trout are yearlings that are about 7 inches long.

POINT BREEZE –  A decade from now, many of them will hopefully be two feet long, trophy fish that will draw angling tourists and their money to Orleans County.

For now, the 80,600 lake trout that were stocked off the Oak Orchard Harbor are about seven inches long. This morning they were hauled on a barge 2.1 miles from the harbor and released into Lake Ontario.

A sample of the lake trout are measured, and checked to see if a fin is clipped. The group includes, from left: Matt Sanderson, senior aquatic biologist for the DEC in Avon; and Mike Waterhouse, the county’s sportsfishing coordinator.

The fish were taken out where the lake is 150 feet deep. That is their preferred environment, and also avoids many of the predators, bigger fish and birds, that stalk the waters close to shore.

“If we stocked them off shore they’d have to run a 2-mile gauntlet to get through,” said Alan Mack, the Caledonia Fish Hatchery manager. “If we stocked them by the shore the chance of them getting eaten are pretty good.”

The lake trout that were released today were raised at the Allegheny National Fish Hatchery in Warren, Pa. The fish each had a fin clipped to show it was a hatchery-raised fish. A tiny tag in its snout will help the state Department of Environmental Conservation track it for survivability. The tag will note the fish was released near the Oak Orchard on May 22, 2013. It will also indicate one of three strains of lake trout: Lake Cayuga, Lake Chautauqua and Lake Champlain.

The fish are taken out 2.1 miles from shore and released into water that is 150 feet deep. That reduces the predators that are closer to shore. In this photo, the vessel carrying a truck of fish returns from the lake through the Oak Orchard Harbor.

DEC officials get ready to swap out this truck with another one, and then make the 2.1-mile trip out to the lake.

“It will help us know which ones survive more and have the highest catch-ability,” Mack said on the barge this morning.

The DEC has already stocked steelhead in Orleans County this spring, as well as a batch of pen-reared Chinook salmon. Next week more Chinook and brown trout will be stocked with cohoes put in the lake in the fall.

Fishing has a $12 million annual economic impact in Orleans County, according to county officials, with about $1 billion each year in the state, Mack said.

After a year in a fish hatchery in Warren, Pa, these lake trout are released into Lake Ontario.