of Salmon River Project
Pacific salmon released from hatcheries are a major component
the Lake Ontario recreational fishery, where annual angler
expenditures exceed $170 million (Connelly 1999). The salmon
fishery generates economic activity in the surrounding
coastal communities; therefore any decrease in angler participation
translates to a reduction in money spent on travel, accommodations,
local fishing guides and products.
levels receive considerable bi-national management attention
and public scrutiny (Kocik and Jones 1999; O’Gorman and
Stewart 1999; Stewart et al. 1999). What began as a management
experiment to control overabundant alewife populations in the
1970s has evolved into a multi-million dollar put-and-take
fishery relied upon by coastal communities.
photo couresy of Fran Verdoliva
By the 1980s stocking
of salmonines increased to over 8 million fish, until 1992 when
OMNR and NYDEC underwent
a management review (O’Gorman and Stewart 1999). Decisions
by managers to reduce stocking levels to 4.5 million fish in
1994 received much resistance from the public. Due to stakeholder
demand, and a second management review (Anonymous 1996), stocking
was increased slightly in 1997 and maintained between 4 and 5.5
million fish annually (Stewart and Schaner 2001). This stocking
level is set by managers with only a limited understanding of
the relative contribution that Lake Ontario streams make to overall
salmonine production (Rand et al. 1993). The conflicting realities
of the changing productivity of the Lake and stakeholder desires
present a fishery management dilemma (GLFC, 2003).
The public’s understanding about the contribution that natural reproduction
can make to the overall salmonine fishery is also limited by available information,
which also hinders effective management of stocking levels. Stakeholders desire
a diverse salmonine fishery with chinook salmon as the top species, and recently
have expressed support for an increase in naturally spawned or “wild” fish.
(Stewart et al, 1999). Managers need better data to communicate with the public
about natural reproduction as a source of natural “stocking.” The
current public perception and the dominant management paradigm of a “put
and take” fishery can only be changed with adequate information about
the natural reproductive potential of the Lake Ontario system.
The Salmon River is
located in Oswego County, New York at the eastern end of Lake
Ontario. It is considered to be the best place in the Northeast
United states for salmon angling because of its high diversity
of trophy-size salmon and trout including Chinook salmon, coho
salmon , steelhead trout, Atlantic salmon, and brown trout.
View from the bridge
above Staircase Hole on the Salmon River
With the establishment
of minimal base flows in 1996 through the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission’s licensing process, the Salmon River is likely
the largest source of naturalized Chinook salmon entering Lake
Ontario. The current contribution of naturally produced salmonines
in Lake Ontario tributaries is unknown. Our research will quantify
Chinook salmon reproduction in the Salmon River. We will use
split beam hydroacoustic technology in combination with other
techniques to count the number of adult salmon returns in the
fall, and the number of smolts migrating downstream the following
spring. Highly variable flows and the size of the Salmon River
preclude using weirs and other commonly used assessment methods
for monitoring salmon adult returns and smolt recruitment. Hydroacoustic
split-beam systems have advantages over more direct counting
procedures because data can be continuously collected for months
at a time with limited attention. These systems also provide
important information on timing of spawning runs, fish size,
fish speed, and tracking fish trajectories in three-dimensions,
yielding valuable behavioral data in addition to escapement estimates.
This project will also quantify fry-smolt densities and habitat throughout
the river basin bi-weekly from late April to early July in 2004 and 2005. Seine
haul estimates coupled with trapping will be used to determine fry distribution
and abundance in a representative set of habitats. Studies will also include
the distribution and abundance of chinook salmon redds in the fall of 2004
and 2005, a creel census and carcass counts. The overall approach is to estimate
potential smolt production from fry/parr data, and to then directly measure
actual emigration rates with acoustic technology.
juvenile salmon distribution and abundance in various habitats
by seining and trapping.
adult abundance (creel census,hatchery and carcass counts)
and identify spawning areas.
- Map spawning areas and juvenile
habitat using GIS to estimate total abundance of juvenile salmon.
adult chinook salmon migration and juvenile salmon emigration
- Compare estimates of juvenile abundance
based on hydroacoustics with estimates based on sampling and
- Relate juvenile emigration rates
to measured river discharge