Cape Vincent, N.Y. — The “good old days” are now when it comes to fishing on Lake Ontario.
The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released its preliminary creel census data for the first portion of the census year and catch rates are at a record clip for trout and salmon fishing from April 15 to June 30.
According to data collected by census takers, catch rates for all salmon and trout species were sitting at 5.9 fish per boat trip – the highest ever in the 30-year history of DEC’s creel census.
Since 1985, DEC has surveyed boats on Lake Ontario from April 15 through Sept. 30. This first installment gives a preliminary summary of the April 15-June 30 time frame.
“The 2014 Lake Ontario fishing season started off with exceptional trout and salmon fishing success,” said Steve LaPan, DEC’s Great Lakes supervisor. “In particular, anglers experienced excellent fishing for chinook salmon, rainbow trout and brown trout along much of New York’s shoreline this spring.”
In addition, catch rates were above the long-term averages for lake trout, coho salmon and Atlantic salmon.
So far this year, brown trout and chinook salmon represent 54 percent of the total catch (about 30,000 browns and 21,000 kings). Brown trout action was the second best ever in total numbers and the catch rate of 1.9 fish per boat trip was a 90 percent increase over the long-term average and the second highest ever observed.
For chinook salmon, it’s the 12th consecutive year catch rates were among the highest recorded; 1.3 fish per boat trip was the fourth highest ever recorded – over a 100 percent increase over the long-term average.
The rainbow trout estimated catch of 20,737 (representing 22 percent of the total angler catch) was the highest since 1994. Lake trout represented 18 percent of the catch at nearly 17,000 fish. While down 18 percent from 2013, laker catches were still above the long-term average.
Coho salmon and Atlantic salmon were also above long term-averages for catch rates.
Fishing effort on the lake accounted for nearly 16,000 boat trips targeting salmon and trout, on par with the past five years.
While the smallmouth bass fishing effort was low during the earlier catch and release season, once the regular season kicked into gear on June 21 there was an uptick in activity. In the last 10 days of June, there was an estimated 1,900 boat trips targeting bass – still among the lowest on record but nearly a 90 percent increase when compared with the five-year average.
“We are very grateful for the anglers who cooperate with our Lake Ontario creel survey agents; the information they provide DEC is critical in managing this multi-million dollar fishery,” said LaPan.
LaPan added that anglers should also be aware that DEC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff are continuing collections of chinook snouts that may contain coded wire tags.
“These tags were implanted in chinook snouts prior to stocking as part of an ongoing study on the relative performance of fish raised in net pens compared to those stocked by traditional methods. We greatly appreciate the information and chinook snouts anglers provide, and could not conduct these studies successfully without their help,” he said.