In recent decades, an important sport fishery for walleye (Sander vitreus) has emerged in New York's waters of eastern Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River. Since the early 1990s, anglers have enjoyed significant catches of trophy size (over 10 lbs. or 4.5 kg) walleye throughout the region, attracting anglers from across the United States and Canada. Charter businesses and the tourism-based economy have benefited greatly from the walleye fishery.
Unfortunately, limited information is available to assist managers with understanding the fishery and making management decisions. Some studies suggest that a declining Bay of Quinte (Ontario, Canada) walleye population might be the primary source of walleye for the economically important sport fishery.
Drift nets for sampling larval
walleye at Brandy Brook
One objective of our research is to use DNA analyses to determine where the walleye originate from. In addition, we are evaluating the health and condition of the walleye fishery by surveying fish communities and assessing spawning and nursery habitats.
Recent efforts are focused on habitat improvement for walleye spawning in tributaries to enhance reproductive success.
Partnering with the Lake Ontario Fisheries Coalition (LOFC) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), we began an evaluation of a walleye fingerling stocking program for eastern Lake Ontario and the Thousand Islands region. We now have diversified research with walleye enhancement through a focus on critical habitat management to sustain viability of natural reproduction. With research funded by DEC and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation special project through the US FWS Fish Enhancement Mitigation and Research Fund - recent studies by Kelder and Farrell (2009) indicate that moderate to high flows in the Kent's Creek can induce egg loss from the spawning substrates. The physical structure of spawning habitat is being intensively studied in the field and laboratory to better understand factors that influence egg retention that may benefit future enhancement efforts. Watershed protection (USDA NRCS) and physical enhancements are also being implemented and evaluated.