Collaborative Lake Erie study tracking walleye movement
Buffalo, N.Y. — DEC fisheries staff have been conducting a study on the movement of Lake Erie walleye as part of a joint effort with Canadian officials.
The study, which is now drawing to a close, is designed to identify walleye movement patterns throughout the lake.
“Lake Erie supports one of New York’s most important sport fisheries, and walleye are (one of) the most prominent species in the lake,” Acting DEC Commissioner Marc Gertsman said. “Given that recreational and commercial walleye fisheries are cooperatively managed by four states and the Province of Ontario, it is critical that we better understand the movements of these fish and their management implications.”
DEC, together with partners from other Lake Erie fisheries agencies and the Canadian province, is studying walleye movements in Lake Erie using cutting-edge acoustic telemetry technology that was unavailable just a few years ago.
Acoustic telemetry technology employs a network of stationary acoustic receivers located on the lake bottom and surgically implanted acoustic tags in fish. The acoustic tags are the size of an AA-size battery and continually transmit signals to identify individual fish. When a tagged fish swims near a receiver, the receiver records the signal from the tag.
Researchers from the DEC deployed acoustic receivers and surgically implanted acoustic tags in 70 adult walleye during the spring 2015 spawning period, with additional acoustic tagging planned in 2016 and 2017.
Collaborators from other state and provincial agencies around Lake Erie are also implanting acoustic tags in walleye and deploying acoustic receivers in their waters as part of the study. Results from this study “will provide fisheries managers with important insights into walleye migration patterns, habitat use and survival,” officials said.
Don Einhouse, DEC’s Lake Erie Fisheries Research unit leader, said the study “will allow us to learn a great deal more about Lake Erie walleye movements than any previous study.”
There are currently over 100 acoustic receivers in Lake Erie recording the movements of walleye and other fish species. DEC staff were set to begin to retrieve the receivers and download the fish detection data.
Early results have confirmed large-scale walleye movements in the lake, with fish tagged by DEC in New York caught in Ohio waters. Previous studies documented movement of walleye produced in Lake Erie’s western basin moving into New York waters as adults during the summer months, only to return to the western basin in fall.
Officials said angler cooperation is critical to the success of the study. Anglers who catch an acoustic-tagged walleye will receive a $100 reward for returning the transmitter and fish. Tag return and reward information can be found on an orange tag visible on the back of each tagged walleye.
Several walleye tagged in New York waters have already been returned by anglers in 2015, officials said.
A 2007 statewide angler survey estimated more than 1.1 million angler days were spent on Lake Erie and major tributaries. Fishing activity generates more than $26 million annually to the region’s economy.