Report: Lake Ontario fishing improves

Mike and Chris Dushane enjoyed a fine day of fishing for king salmon in the Oswego County waters of Lake Ontario last summer. They fished out of Oswego with Capt. Ed Monette of Cannonbull Runner Charters.  Photo courtesy of Capt. Ed Monette
Mike and Chris Dushane enjoyed a fine day of fishing for king salmon in the Oswego County waters of Lake Ontario last summer. They fished out of Oswego with Capt. Ed Monette of Cannonbull Runner Charters.
Photo courtesy of Capt. Ed Monette

By Spider Rybaak

A preliminary report published recently by the state Department of Environmental Conservation indicates the fishing on Lake Ontario has improved steadily over the past decade, and this summer promises to see more of the same.

Titled “New York’s 2013 Lake Ontario Fisheries Program Highlights” (www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/27068.html),  the paper gathers fisheries data from DEC sources, combines it with information gleaned from the US Geological Survey, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and other academic partners, and compiles a glowing report on the state of the tiniest Great Lake’s fishery.

The section most relevant, especially to anglers planning fishing trips this summer, is the Sportsfishery Assessments starting on page 3.

Drawn from the 2013 Open Lake Fishing Boat Survey conducted between April 15 and Sept. 30, 2013, the highlights of its findings include:

  • Based on information provided by charter boats, last year’s per-hour catch rate for salmon and trout was the 4th highest in the survey’s 29-year history.
  • Last year was the 11th in a row of excellent king salmon fishing, with growth rates remaining above average.
  • Catch rates for brown trout approached near record levels, reaching almost 22 percent above the long-term average.
  • Anglers enjoyed their 6th consecutive year of near record catch rates for rainbow trout.
  • The catch rate for lake trout has improved steadily since tanking to a record low in 2007, and last summer marked the 9th best season in the 29-year data series.
  • Atlantic salmon appeared regularly in creel surveys.
  • While the estimated number of boat trips targeting smallmouth bass dropped to its lowest level in the data series, reflecting the dramatic decrease in bronzeback populations during the first decade of the century, populations have rebounded dramatically, sparking a 69.7 percent increase in angler interest over the past three years.

More of the Same 

“This year’s fishing should be every bit as good as 2013s,” said Scott Prindle, senior fisheries biologist with DEC Region 7.

“Salmon and trout may be smaller because last winter’s severity had a negative impact on alewife populations, but overall, salmonid numbers are higher,” Prindle said.

“Even with slightly smaller fish, Lake Ontario still offers the largest salmonids in the Great Lakes,” adds Prindle.

Lake Ontario’s Productivity

 DEC deserves a lot of the credit for launching the tiniest Great Lake’s fishery to world-class status and keeping it there. Its hatcheries greatly augment the lake’s natural reproduction. In addition, the agency’s zealous cormorant management program and its never ending battle against lamprey eels are bearing fruit, increasing long term survival rates of all the lake’s sports fish, free of the terrible scars that marred large numbers of trophies in the recent past.

 Still, not all of Lake Ontario offers consistent, diverse, year-round populations of freshwater’s most popular fish. For that, you have to go to where the food and waters flow. And the best spot on the eastern half of the lake is the territorial waters of Oswego County.

Home to the world-famous Salmon (massive quantities of monster trout, salmon and smallmouth bass) and Oswego Rivers (trout, salmon, walleyes, black bass, catfish, carp, sheepshead and panfish), and watered by more skinny creeks than you can shake a long rod at on a good day, Oswego County claims the most productive corner of the lake. Add spectacular sunsets and scenic waterfront to the picture and you come up with the stuff dreams are made of.

 For fishing charters and conditions, special events, and visitor information, call 1-800-248-4FUN (4386) or go to www.visitoswegocounty.com.

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