A Lake Erie Success Story – Lake Trout Naturally Reproducing For First Time in 60 Years

“This phenomenal Great Lakes story of recovery is a testament to the perseverance of the researchers and biologists from DEC and partner agencies who worked tirelessly to help restore this fishery.”                                                                                                            – New York State Department of Environment Commissioner Basil Seggos in a news  release

Some Good News about Lake Erie from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Posted September 15th, 2021 on Niagara At Large

A Brief Foreword from Doug Draper at Niagara At Large –

A look at Lake Erie at its worst. Toxic algae – a product of pollutants running off from rural and urban areas around the lakes – smothers fish populations and makes the water virtually unusable in so many other ways

With all of the disturbing news about our environment we are facing these days, how welcoming it is to receive some good news every once in a while.

On that score, here is a report from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, issued this past August, that for the first time in 60 years, there is solid evidence of Lake Trout reproducing in Lake Erie.

One of the reasons I wanted to cover environmental issues at The St. Catharines Standard when I was hired by the newspaper in 1979 was the ongoing reports that Lake Erie, as a healthy body of fresh water and a sustainable  ecosystem for fish and birds and a host of other species, was literally dying from the phosphorus pollution suffocating the lake. Most of that pollution was coming from municipal wastewater outfalls and from farmlands in both Ontario and U.S. states, including Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York State.

One of many headlines – this one from the late-1960s. There were similar headlines in newspapers on the Ontario side of the lake.

It was former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and former U.S. Richard Nixon who signed a Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in the early 1970s that began the process of reigning in that pollution, that was robbing water bodies like Lake Erie of oxygen for allowing Lake Trout and other aquatic species to survive.

A good deal of work has been done in the decades since that agreement was signed to bring Lake Erie back from the brink of death, and the following news from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation shows another very positive outcome unfolding from that.

My cautionary note is that there are government’s like that of Doug Ford in Ontario and the polluters they represent that are working day and night to unravel the policies and programs put in place to keep all of that good environmental protection work up.

It is up to those of us who care about our Great Lakes to stop Ford and company from fulfilling this agenda.

Now here is the News from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation –

A lake trout fry captured on May 14, 2021, in Lake Erie near Barcelona, Chautauqua County.

Following 60 years of significant investments in money and time by U.S. and Canadian agencies, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced this (August) a significant milestone for lake trout restoration in Lake Erie.

A lake trout fry captured on May 14, 2021, in Lake Erie near Barcelona, Chautauqua County.

The DEC confirmed identification of wild lake trout fry recently collected by the department’s Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit in late May. DEC staff collected “multiple, recently hatched fry” in fry traps in Eastern Lake Erie – specifically, on a rock reef about five miles west of Barcelona Harbor in Chautauqua County.

In July, Dr. Chris Wilson at Trent University positively identified the fry as lake trout through genetic testing.

“This phenomenal Great Lakes story of recovery is a testament to the perseverance of the researchers and biologists from DEC and partner agencies who worked tirelessly to help restore this fishery,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos in a press release.

The recent discovery is the result of an acoustic telemetry study, conducted by DEC expert staff and partners, which identified potential lake trout spawning areas in eastern Lake Erie. DEC worked with the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System, and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

Lake trout were once the top predator in Lake Erie with records of fish measuring in excess of 50 inches and weighing 75 pounds. Commercial fishing for lake trout in Lake Erie began in the late-1700s, and by the late 1800s, the population had significantly declined. By the 1930s, the commercial fishery had all but ceased, and by 1965, lake trout were considered extirpated from Lake Erie.

Modern-day efforts to restore lake trout began in 1982, with annual stocking by USFWS in partnership with DEC and PFBC. In 1986, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission began suppressing the invasive sea lamprey population to support lake trout rehabilitation efforts. The sea lamprey is a parasitic jawless fish that feeds on other fish by attaching to them using a suction-disk mouth filled with rasping teeth and a file-like tongue.

Jason M. Robinson, DEC’s Unit Leader — Lake Erie Fisheries Research, (left) and James L. Markham, fish biologist with the Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit, (right) tag lake trout on Lake Erie in 2017, leading to discovery of the fry.

Jason M. Robinson, DEC’s Unit Leader — Lake Erie Fisheries Research, (left) and James L. Markham, fish biologist with the Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit, (right) tag lake trout on Lake Erie in 2017, leading to discovery of the fry.

Recently, biologists determined that adult, stocked lake trout numbers had improved to a level at which natural recruitment could be detectable. “Although the number of wild lake trout fry collected earlier in 2021 was small, the discovery of evidence that lake trout are spawning and their eggs are surviving and successfully hatching is historic,” DEC said.

Lake Erie contains some of the largest lake trout available to anglers in New York, DEC said. The state ‘s record lake trout (41 pounds, 8 ounces) was caught in Lake Erie in 2003. Fish exceeding 10 pounds are common and lunkers over 20 pounds are caught every year. DEC will continue work to evaluate spawning habitats to identify the potential for habitat restoration.

“Following decades of research, this finding validates that restoring wild lake trout populations is attainable,” DEC said, adding the department will continue work to evaluate spawning habitats to identify the potential for habitat restoration.

A Lake Trout at its best. Their presence or lack there-of in our Great Lakes says a good deal about the health of these precious waterbodies.

NIAGARA AT LARGE Encourages You To Join The Conversation By Sharing Your Views On This Post In The Space Following The Bernie Sanders Quote Below.

“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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