Surplus steelhead, lakers quickly stocked into Erie

Fairport Harbor, Ohio — No one ever turned down a bonus, especially if it involves rewarding Lake Erie with additional steelhead trout.

And as a bonus to the bonus, the Ohio Division of Wildlife recently stocked Lake Erie with surplus lake trout. It’s been a very long time since Ohio planted this species into Lake Erie, agency officials say.

In all, the wildlife division stocked 124,673 steelhead into Lake Erie, said Kevin Kayle, administrator of the agency’s Fairport Harbor Fisheries Research Station and overseer of the state’s steelhead program.

“Because they were surplus fish we wanted to move them around a bit and get them into the lake as quickly as possible,” Kayle said.

Thus, the state stocked Geneva State Park Marina with 60,202 steelhead with another 31,564 fish destined for the Ashtabula Harbor boat ramp, also on Lake Erie.

The remaining fish were released at the Avon Lake boat ramp, says Kayle.

“We didn’t want to stock all of the fish in one place and we looked at expanding into other areas,” he said. “We expect that the fish will imprint into either the harbor or a nearby river.”

Also, since these fish were smaller than what the wildlife division typically stocks – about 4 inches versus about 7 inches for all other steelhead that are stocked – “we would expect them to continue to grow through the winter and become smolts in the spring,” Kayle said.

“And we anticipate that the fish hang out around the harbors, feeding on small shiners and other such size fare,” Kayle said.

Kayle said for the stocked surplus lake trout, the releases were scheduled over a three-day period earlier in the month.

In all, the wildlife division stocked about 120,000 fish, all of which ranged from 3 to 4 inches and each coming from the federal cold-water fish hatchery along the Allegheny River near Warren, Pa.

“This is the first time in decades that we’ve stocked lake trout into either the Central or Western basins, and because they are surplus fish we will be trying new strategies, which are spelled out in our lake trout rehabilitation plan,” Kayle said.

In terms of numbers, 40,000 lake trout were released into Lake Erie at the Fairport Harbor boat launch while another 80,000 fish were released at the Miller boat dock on Catawba Island near Port Clinton.

“The reason we are stocking lake trout into the Western Basin is the hope that they will imprint on the near shore reefs where they could come back to spawn in the fall,” Kayle said.

All of the lake trout have their adipose fin clipped as well as a coded wire tag implanted in their snout.

“So when they are caught by anglers we’ll have good scientific data about survival, growth and other key biological signatures,” Kayle said. 

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