Wild trout found breeding in Lake Erie near Barcelona | News, Sports, Jobs


Lake trout captured on May 14, 2021, near Barcelona, ​​is pictured.

A significant milestone for lake trout recovery efforts in Lake Erie has been reached following the confirmed identification of wild fry collected by CED’s Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit this spring.

The discovery of wild lake trout fry is a historical indicator of restoration for a population that was once abundant but has collapsed due to overfishing, habitat degradation and invasive species.

“Today marks a key milestone in the restoration of lake trout in Lake Erie after six decades of significant investments to improve water quality and habitat and promote sound fisheries management. “ said Basil Seggos, DEC state commissioner. “This phenomenal Great Lakes recovery story is a testament to the perseverance of researchers and biologists at CED and partner organizations who have worked tirelessly to help restore this fishery.

The recent discovery is the result of an acoustic telemetry study, conducted by expert staff at DEC and its partners, which identified potential spawning grounds for lake trout in eastern Lake Erie. On May 14, 2021, staff from DEC’s Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit collected several recently hatched fry in fry traps on a rocky reef about five miles west of the port of Barcelona in the Chautauqua County. In July, Dr Chris Wilson of Trent University positively identified the fry as lake trout using a genetic barcode.

DEC works closely with partners to assess and restore lake trout, including the US Geological Survey, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (CBFP), the US Department of Natural Resources Ontario, the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System, and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

Jason M. Robinson, CED’s Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit Leader, (left) and James L. Markham, Fish Biologist, Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit, (right) tagged lake trout on Lake Erie in 2017, leading to the discovery of frying.

Lake trout were once the main predator in Lake Erie with records of fish measuring over 50 inches and weighing 75 pounds. The commercial lake trout fishery in Lake Erie began in the late 1700s and by the late 1800s the population had declined dramatically. By the 1930s commercial fishing had all but ceased, and by 1965 lake trout were considered extinct from Lake Erie. Modern efforts to restore lake trout began in 1982, with an annual restocking by USFWS in partnership with DEC and CBFP. In 1986, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission began removing the invasive sea lamprey population to support lake trout recovery efforts. The sea lamprey is a jawless parasitic fish that feeds on other fish by attaching to them using a sucker mouth filled with raspy teeth and a file-like tongue.

Recently, biologists determined that adult lake trout stocks had improved to a level at which natural recruitment could be detectable. Although the number of wild lake trout fry collected earlier in 2021 was low, finding evidence that lake trout spawn and their eggs survive and hatch successfully is historic. After decades of research, this finding confirms that restoring wild lake trout populations is achievable. Biologists conduct annual population assessments in the eastern basin to measure progress towards rehabilitation goals.

Lake Erie contains some of the largest lake trout available to anglers in New York City. The New York State record lake trout (41 pounds, 8 ounces) was caught in Lake Erie in 2003.

Fish over 10 pounds are common, and lunkers over 20 pounds are caught each year. CED will continue its work to assess spawning habitats in order to identify the potential for habitat restoration.

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