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They'll be biting on Lake Ontario this season, DEC says

Mike Desmond

Fishing is good on Lake Ontario and it might be even better this year, according to state Department of Evironmental Conservation briefing on the "State of Lake Ontario" Thursday night in Lockport.

Fishing is a big deal in Niagara County, with the region's long coastline along the Niagara River and out into Lake Ontario from places like Wilson. DEC fisheries experts were at Lockport's Cooperative Extension complex to talk with dozens of local anglers about last year's fishing season on the lake and what to look forward to as the weather warms up.

There have been some problems because of the rising and falling lake levels, although the chinook salmon don't seem to care much because they are actually breeding in a few places, after years of fish stocking. State Fisheries Chief Steve Hurst said trout are the next big project.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"We still have a ways to go with lake trout. We've been at it for a while. It's a very complicated situation you got," Hurst said. "Remember, they were extirpated from this lake years ago, due to over-fishing, lampreys. That's the one thing that we stay up on with our partners in Canada and the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission is treating the lampreys."

Conversations with recreational anglers and charter boat skippers suggest things are pretty good and there are some large chinook out there, willing to fight the hook to escape into deeper water. Mike Johannes, skipper of On-The-Rocks Fishing Charter, said last year was the best since started fishing in 1973.

"Our fishery is a put-and-take fishery. What they put in the lake is what we fish for, pretty much," Johannes said. "We can't really rely on the natural reproduction because the water levels fluctuate so much. This end of the lake, there is basically no natural reproduction because of the erosion and runoff here."

There is some natural reproduction along the lake's Canadian shore and in the Salmon River in the Adirondacks.

"I wouldn't say they're bigger," said angler Angler Tim Bromund. "They're healthy fish, but something seems to have happened with the genetics, that a lot of them are maturing as two-year-olds, instead of three-year-olds. You don't see the big 30-plus fish that we used to years ago, but a 20-pound king is still a heck of a lot of fun to catch."

DEC experts said with chinook thriving, they are moving on to lake trout and that involves continuing to fight the lethal lamprey eel.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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