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NYSDEC’s 2015 Lake Ontario Fisheries Programs

March 15th, 2016 | Posted by admin

from the Watertown Daily Times, published on March 14, 2016.

Biologists, anglers talk state of Lake Ontario fishing

“The anglers knew it, and the biologists had the charts to confirm it: last season’s fishing on Lake Ontario was officially lousy.

With few answers about the cause of the dip, beyond colder-than-average water, there was little hope the state Department of Environmental Conservation could offer for fishing this year.”

For the entire story click here: http://ow.ly/ZqZ2q

For NYSDEC’s 2015 Lake Ontario Fisheries Report click here: http://ow.ly/Zr4Oj

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Week 10 Photo Contest Winners

October 15th, 2015 | Posted by admin

We are pleased to announce this week’s photo contest winners. We had many photos submitted to us by people practicing catch & release fishing and hope that this continues throughout the season.

Week 10 Winners

First Place Winner: Tim H.

Second Place Winner: Paul P.

Third Place Winner: BJ B.

Thank you to everyone who submitted photos this week. This contest is open to everyone practicing catch and release fishing and you are welcome to submit as many photos as you would like.

Photos can be submitted directly to Save The River’s Catch and Release Program Facebook page or via email to lindsey@savetheriver.org.

By submitting photos you consent to their use by Save The River.

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Smallmouth bass season subpar in north country; reasons unclear

September 29th, 2015 | Posted by admin

From the Watertown Daily Times. Published on Sunday, September 27th, 2015

For Robert W. Dick, captain of Moby Dick Charters in Henderson since 1987 and an angler since he was “old enough to hold a pole,” this year’s bass fishing season has been the worst he’s ever seen.

Smallmouth bass still can be found, and some of the bass have been bigger than usual, but Mr. Dick and other anglers on Lake Ontario said they have had to search much longer than in years past to pull in the coveted fish.

“Guys are spending lots and lots of money going place to place trying to find them, and not finding any results at all,” Mr. Dick said.

Charter captains on the St. Lawrence River also have found their catches lacking.

“Usually it’s an easy target — you get over them and you put them in the boat,” said Paul J. Corbett, a captain in Clayton. “This year it’s been a grind. If you can get a couple, you’ve had a good day.”

A combination of invasive species, predators and uneven water temperatures that lingered well into August might be part of the problem, according to state officials and anglers. However, they said, there is little in the way of direct links to the decreased count this bass season, which started June 20 and ends Nov. 30.

Data for the full season will be released in March.

“A lot of people are wondering what is causing it,” Mr. Dick said of the drop. “They don’t know.”

Fishing is big business in New York. Statewide, the most recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service census of sporting activity, in 2011, found that fishing-related expenditures totaled $2 billion that year, a part of $41.8 billion in angling expenditures nationwide.

And the north country is home to several large fishing tournaments that draw people from inside and outside of the region. The biggest of those: the Evan Williams Bourbon Bassmaster Elite, held July 30 through Aug. 2 on the St. Lawrence River in Waddington.

At the beginning of this year, Bassmaster ranked the Thousand Islands region as the eighth-best in the United States in its top 100 lakes list.

But despite the high rating, variability has marked the species’ existence in the region.

Statistics from the state Department of Environmental Conservation show the numbers of smallmouth bass in the St. Lawrence River have ranged widely from the mid-1970s until now. The fish’s levels peaked in 1988, fell from 1996 to 2004, and generally rose after 2005, peaking in 2012.

“Every year you have to adjust,” said Myrle R. Bauer, a captain in Clayton for 24 years. “This year it’s a little harder.”

In the eastern basin of Lake Ontario, the DEC said, the 2014 smallmouth catch rate was at its worst since 2004. The department said cooler water temperatures, which can negatively affect fish distribution, might have played a role.

Observers said a large influx of round gobies, an invasive species that eats fish eggs, might be affecting the bass population. However, they note, the gobies are eaten by the bass, helping to increase the latter fish’s size.

The number of cormorants — ubiquitous waterfowl that prey on bass — also has created problems, though the birds’ impact has been lessened in recent years due to DEC egg addling and nest destruction, plus a switch by the birds to eating gobies, according to DEC officials.

Theodore R. “Rusty” Hinckley, a fourth-generation charter captain in Cape Vincent, said bass fishing has been touch-and-go through the years.

“We hope it cycles,” he said. “Everything comes back.”

Frank M. Flack, the DEC’s Region 6 fisheries manager, said anglers have complained about a drop in smallmouth bass and northern pike in the river, but he has heard fewer specific issues about Lake Ontario.

Though quantities have dropped, he said the fish that have been found are bigger than anticipated.

“What we have out there is a lot of bigger fish, but less of them,” Mr. Flack said.

One part-time captain in Henderson, James H. McGowan, said the bass have been getting bigger and bigger in the past few years.

“For trophy fishing, it was an outstanding year,” he said. “The bass, when they were found, they were huge.”

Regardless of water body, the shortage of bass has caused charter fishing captains to adjust expectations to keep customers.

Mr. Corbett said he at times has pushed customers to other targets.

“The goal is to get fish,” he said. “If it’s not bass, it’s pike. If it’s not pike, it’s perch.”

He said he was trying to focus on what he could control.

“We can’t control Mother Nature,” he said. “If the fish are there, we’ll make it work.”

Mr. Dick said he hasn’t seen any dip in his customers, because many who travel are flexible with what they catch. He said Henderson Harbor’s walleye and lake trout populations have been very good this season.

“They want to catch something, and they know the action is excellent,” he said.

Steven R. LaPan, who leads the DEC’s Great Lakes fisheries section in Cape Vincent, said that despite the reduced bass catch-load this season, patience is the key.

“Next year it could be completely different,” he said.

Mr. LaPan said the problem would become more pressing if the trend continues for three or four more years.

“Then we’re all concerned,” he said. “The stars would be aligning, and not in a good way.”

That patience could be tested, as concerns are rising among anglers that next summer might have a similar outcome as this year.

With the Farmers’ Almanac predicting bitterly cold temperatures for the eastern side of the Great Lakes for another winter, Patrick J. Clarke, a second-generation charter captain in Clayton, said “all of us guides are kind of cringing,” due to the effects of cooler waters on bass movements and feeding levels.

Though he and fellow charter operators have weathered poor bass hauls in summers past thanks to the quality of other fish, he said it eventually could have an impact on people considering where to travel.

“That person — that first-timer who doesn’t do as well as they thought — they may not come back,” Mr. Clarke said.

smallmouth bass abundance graph

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Catch and release: Use care and common sense

September 1st, 2015 | Posted by admin
Great read from the Oneida Daily Dispatch:
Catch and release: Use care and common sense
“Two things, however, must be kept in mind when fishing: It does not do any good to release the fish if you are careless and do not handle the fish carefully. Secondly, this is a guideline and should not be a dogmatic, black and white issue either way.
It is more important to practice this where the fish population is pressured, numbers are limited and much of the population comes from natural propagation. Save The River​, a conservation-based organization on the St. Lawrence River, is stressing limiting the number of smallmouth bass that you keep while fishing. Numbers of smallmouth bass have declined sharply in recent years due to several factors, mainly the presence of the predatory round gobies which raid the nests.”
http://www.oneidadispatch.com/sports/20150812/outdoors-catch-and-release-use-care-and-common-sense

Published by Oneida Daily Dispatch on August 12, 2015

The famous fly fisherman and star of the TV show “American Sportsman” Lee Wulff popularized the saying that a great game fish was too valuable to only catch once. Lee Wulff’s fishing adventures often stressed catch and release and demonstrated how to properly do it. But Wulff was not rigid or dogmatic about the idea. He would say that it was also proper to keep a few fish to eat. Moderation and common sense should be the angler’s guidelines.

In a recent column we discussed the idea that catch and release often a good thing, especially in areas of high fishing pressure or for species that are naturally propagated instead of raised in a hatchery. That column focused more on the methods of safe handling and care for fish so they can be released successfully.

One thing worth repeating is that it is usually better to release the fish while it is still in the water whenever possible. This is especially true when dealing with large fish like northern pike. Mike Seymour is a guide on the St. Lawrence River who guides clients for muskies, bass and pike. Often his clients will hook a nice-sized pike and bring it alongside the boat. The angler smiles and asks Captain Mike Seymour how much he thinks it weighs. Mike nods and says “well right now it is a 10 pounder. But if we bring it into the boat it will weigh 7 pounds.” The angler grins and says OK, while Mike deftly uses his pliers to unhook the pike and watch it swim away.

As a guide and a sportsman, Mike Seymour quietly stresses the importance of the practice of catch and release. Throughout the season Mike or his son regularly catch big muskies and quickly photograph and release them. This has been an ethic stressed for many years by most muskie fisherman. These elusive and mysterious fish have increased in both size and number in the St. Lawrence in recent years due to this common practice.

Two things, however, must be kept in mind when fishing: It does not do any good to release the fish if you are careless and do not handle the fish carefully. Secondly, this is a guideline and should not be a dogmatic, black and white issue either way.

It is more important to practice this where the fish population is pressured, numbers are limited and much of the population comes from natural propagation. Save the River, a conservation-based organization on the St. Lawrence River, is stressing limiting the number of smallmouth bass that you keep while fishing. Numbers of smallmouth bass have declined sharply in recent years due to several factors, mainly the presence of the predatory round gobies which raid the nests.

But if there are large numbers, or many of that species come from hatchery stock, that is a different situation. You should not feel guilty or be ostracized if you keep some fish for the frying pan. As long as you do it – like most things – in moderation the resource will not be harmed.

Very few people believe in catch and release for walleye. One factor is that walleye are good tasting and that is the reason people fish for them. It certainly is not the excitement of fighting them. Walleye are also stocked by the DEC so the majority of the population comes from this stock.

Of course king and Coho salmon are going to die after spawning so there is no reason to feel guilty. Some people release them so they can continue fishing and others may have the chance to catch the same fish. But the great taste of salmon and the numbers of stocked fish means most will naturally end up on the grill.

When releasing fish with care you should minimize the time out of the water. Using barbless hooks and using pliers makes it easier to release a fish. Wet your hands to minimize removing protective slime when you have to handle fish. Take some quick photos and carefully put it back in the water, or put it in the live well to be photographed later.

If you do have to net a large fish like a muskie to unhook it, place a wet towel over its eyes to keep it from thrashing about the boat. Do not lift it vertically since this unnatural position can put great stress on its organs.

Grabbing a bass by the lower lip can immobilize it, but do not try to force it into a horizontal position using this grip. If you need to take a horizontal photo, use your other hand to support the fish underneath. Pike can be immobilized by firmly gripping the fish over the gill plates or using a “spreader.” Never grab any fish through the gills.

Lifting a trout up under its belly seems to temporarily relax or immobilize them. Again a quick photo, or even one in the shallow water will provide memories or proof of your catch to your friends.

When I was a youngster I practiced a lot of catch and release even before it was popular. Part of the reason was that I wanted to insure lots of fish to catch later and part of the reason was that I was too lazy to clean many fish. We always had a rule to keep any big brown trout. Part of it was the desire to show off a trophy, and part of it was the fact that big browns are cannibals and clean out a pool by eating all the small trout. Today some fishing clubs or leases have similar rules.

Keep in mind that you are fishing to enjoy the experience and if you catch some fish the experience is even more rewarding. If you are going to keep some fish for the grill, just consider the circumstances and do it in moderation.

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Save The River’s Catch and Release Program Weekly Photo Contest

July 10th, 2015 | Posted by admin

Submit your photos to our page of you or a family member practicing catch & release fishing for a chance to win a special edition sweatshirt and other special prizes. Every week one lucky winner will receive a sweatshirt generously donated by Ed Huck Marine and two runner-ups will also receive special prizes!

Please include your name and contact information when submitting photos. If your photo is selected as winner you will be notified!

Submit your photos to Save The River’s Catch and Release Program Facebook or via email to lindsey@savetheriver.org for your chance to win! Winners will be chosen weekly.

By submitting your photos you approve of future use of them by Save The River.

Click here for information about Save The River’s Catch and Release Program.

C&R photo contest prize collage

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