Lakers spawning in Lake Erie after 60 years

by Steve Galea | October 7, 2021
lake trout

The discovery of wild lake trout fry in mid-May by New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was confirmed in a press release.

DEC staff and partners conducted an acoustic telemetry study, which identified potential lake trout spawning areas in eastern Lake Erie. On May 14, DEC’s staff collected multiple, recently hatched fry in fry traps on a rock reef about five miles west of Barcelona Harbor in Chautauqua County. In July, Dr. Chris Wilson at Ontario’s Trent University identified the fry as lake trout through genetic barcoding.

A brief history

Commercial fishing for lake trout in the lake began in the 1700s, and by the late 1800s, the population had significantly declined. By the 1930s, commercial fishing had all but ceased, and by 1965, lake trout were considered extirpated from Lake Erie.

Restoration efforts began in 1982, with annual stocking by US Fish and Wildlife Service in partnership with DEC and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC). In 1986, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) began suppressing the invasive sea lamprey to support those efforts.

Management action

“It’s a good news story, especially considering reports of poor water quality and algal blooms we often hear about in the media,” OFAH Fisheries Biologist Adam Weir said. “These findings aren’t without longstanding fisheries management actions. Lake trout stocking efforts in Lake Erie first began in the early 1980s, and now, around 200,000 to 300,000 lake trout are stocked annually by binational partners.”

“The findings came about while conducting spring trawls and the hope is to one day see juvenile lake trout reach spawning age,” Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) Lake Erie Management Unit Manager Brian Locke said. “Natural reproduction may be the end goal to this story, but in the face of uncertainty around the impacts of climate change, sensitive species like lake trout will inevitably have other barriers to overcome.”

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