The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in collaboration with the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Fisheries, with outreach assistance from New York Sea Grant (NYSG) has been collecting research data on Lake Ontario lake trout movement using acoustic telemetry tags.
The research team is using specialized tags that communicate with acoustic receivers stationed on the lake bottom. The tags will provide information about the migration patterns and habitats used by adult lake trout. This innovative technology is particularly useful for locating spawning habitats and will help to inform future restoration efforts for potentially degraded spawning sites.
More than 350 lake trout will be tagged in 2023. The tags’ battery life allows the fish to be tracked over the next ten years.
This research has already produced a “first.”
“This work in 2023 represents the first time a wild-produced lake trout has ever been tagged in Lake Ontario,” said USFWS Fish Biologist Dimitry Gorsky, Ph.D. “Lake trout are a native species that is important to the ecosystem and to the world-class sport fishery on Lake Ontario.”
Gorsky is based at the USFWS Lower Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, Basom, New York.
This research is funded in part through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
The local charter fishing industry is assisting the research from ports at Mexico Bay, in eastern Lake Ontario, and Wilson, along the western end of the lake. Captain Casey Prisco and First Mates/Captains Roy Letcher and A.J. Berry of Dirty Goose Sport Fishing Charters, based in Pulaski, New York, were contracted to help the research team catch lake trout for the tagging study.
“In late April and early May, lake trout in the eastern end of Lake Ontario were found in deeper water, making them hard to collect with standard fisheries gear. Charter captains have a wealth of knowledge about the resource and are an efficient way for us to locate and collect the number of lake trout we need to tag,” said USGS Fish Research Biologist Alex Gatch of the USGS Tunison Lake Ontario Biological Station, Cortland, New York.
The tagged fish are returned to the water to resume normal behavior to assure quality data.
New York Sea Grant is providing public outreach support to inform angling, fisheries, and general public audiences about the value of this research.
NYSG Great Lakes Fisheries Specialist Stacy Furgal notes, “Tagged fish that are a part of this study are marked with an external orange-colored tag. If anglers catch a tagged lake trout, they can choose to return it to the water, or, if the fish is harvested, please contact Alex Gatch, email@example.com, 607-753-9391 extension 7540, to return the internal tracking tag.”
According to anglers surveyed this spring, there were:
- Above average Chinook salmon fishing in the west and east central lake areas in April and early May with unfavorable winds and slower fishing later in the reporting period;
- Slightly above average brown trout fishing in east central and east lake areas;
- A noticeable lack of larger-sized browns lake-wide;
- Lower lake trout catch rates in 3 out of 4 lake areas, and below average catch rates in the west central area for all species; and
- Lower numbers of lamprey observed compared to record highs in 2022.
For a full report (PDF) visit the DEC website.