New York’s Great Lakes are amazing fisheries

Tim Anderson Of Columbus Oh With Capt Vince Pierleoni Right And A 31 Lb 5 Oz Leading Loc Fish

I have been blessed growing up alongside two Great Lakes – Erie and Ontario. I must include the Niagara River and the St. Lawrence River, too, because they are part of the Great Lakes Basin for the Empire State. It’s been a great ride.

As a media person for over 40 years, I have witnessed the ups and downs, the changes from top to bottom. What we have before us now is one of the best freshwater fishing resources on the planet. If you don’t believe me, check out the “Great Lakes Preview” issue for New York Outdoor News on May 6. You won’t be disappointed as you take in what’s happening in these lakes and how the future looks moving forward.

On Lake Erie, these are the “good old days” regarding bass, walleye, and yellow perch. All these species are at the top of their game. If you have never fished this lake, you owe it to yourself to see why this lake is “great.”

With the recent documentation of spawning lake trout near Barcelona, and adult populations that continue to grow, this continues to be an untapped fishery that is both underrated and underutilized. And, yes, the state record lake trout comes from Lake Erie, too.

Let’s not forget the tributary fishery for steelhead. Thanks to some innovative ideas regarding stocking, the catch rates in these streams are among the best in the country. Of course, there are other species of fish in the tributaries and the spring bass fishing can be great. We are also coming into a decent time for catfish action for something a little different.

The folks in the Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit out of Dunkirk, headed up by Dr. Jason Robinson, do an outstanding job keeping their pulse on the lake. Even during a pandemic, they managed to get the job accomplished in the way of research and keeping people safe. Hats off for a job well done!

On Lake Ontario, the mighty Chinook salmon is still king. Holding on to a fishing rod as a spring king screams out line is a game changer for many anglers. It only takes once, and you will be hooked for life. My first king was battled nearly 50 years ago and the excitement of repeating that thrill time and time again has never stopped.

After a few years of stocking reductions in the lake due to concern over the forage base, lake managers are back to increasing salmon stockings this year – both in New York and the Province of Ontario. They work closely with one another to manage this resource as one water body. In addition to shared stocking numbers, they will also be on the lake this spring documenting the forage base with the U.S. Geological Survey. Research is key to making sure that this fishery will remain a top-notch destination for generations to come.

There are so many stories that need to be told … and need to be remembered. We can’t do it justice in just one issue or just one blog. From the time that DEC’s Bill Pearce pushed to have the first salmon and trout stocked in the lake to the many pen rearing projects that help DEC and Mother Nature out by holding salmon and trout to improve survival rates, these memorable fisheries don’t just happen.

We need to do our best to acknowledge the people who help to make a difference. For example, Dave Chilson with the Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon derbies, provides annual events that happen every spring, summer, and fall. These contests help to create an awareness for the fishery as more than 40 different states are represented when it’s all said and done. The first one this year, coincidentally, occurs the same day that the Great Lakes issue comes out. Catching the biggest salmon will earn you $15,000 in the spring; $25,000 in the fall.

For Lake Ontario, DEC’s Lake Ontario Unit (headed up by Unit Leader Chris Legard), also does an outstanding job managing the resource. He makes the tough decisions to ensure a bright future. It’s not all king salmon. One of the big selling points of this fishery is its diversity and that’s probably the biggest reason why it attracts more nonresident anglers than any other water body in the state.

The true ambassadors for both Great Lakes are the charter captains. The industry was hampered at first by the pandemic, but thanks to the skippers uniting to show their importance, they were part of Phase One to get things going again and it has never slowed down.

Last, but certainly not least, is a pat on the back for Chief of the Bureau of Fisheries Steve Hurst. Through his leadership, these Great Lakes have gotten through the pandemic. The state hatcheries have managed to get the job done in a safe and responsible manner. And, he has recognized that his agency needs to be part of the big picture when it comes to managing AND marketing our fishing resources. He has done an outstanding job.

Hopefully this is enough of a teaser to make you want to pick up a Great Lakes Preview issue of New York Outdoor News on May 6. By that time, both of New York’s Great Lakes will be rocking and rolling with some outstanding fishing opportunities. Go grab a paper … and your fishing rod!

Categories: Blog Content, New York – Bill Hilts Jr

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