Wild lake trout are spotted in Lake Erie for the first time in 60 years after officials spend decades trying to improve water quality
- Lake trout have been born naturally in Lake Erie for the first time in 60 years
- Officials say they have spent decades improving water quality in the lake
- Before the announcement, officials would restock the lake with trout
It has been decades in the making, but lake trout have finally returned to Lake Erie.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) confirmed last week that wild fry, young trout, are swimming in the body of water that boarders Canada, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
This is the first time troutlings have been born naturally in Lake Erie in 60 years.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement: ‘Today marks a key milestone in the restoration of lake trout in Lake Erie after six decades of significant investments to improve water quality and habitat and promote sound fisheries management.
‘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.’
This is the first time troutlings, or fry, have been born naturally in Lake Erie in 60 years
The discovery is the result of an study that used sound to relay information across open space (acoustic telemetry) to identify potential lake trout spawning areas in eastern Lake Erie.
On May 14, DEC’s Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit staff collected multiple, recently hatched fry in fry traps on a rock reef about five miles west of Barcelona Harbor in Chautauqua County.
Scientists from Trent University recently identified the fish using genetic bar-coding, confirming they were born naturally in Lake Erie.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) confirmed last week that wild fry, young trout, are swimming in the body of water that boarders Canada, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York
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.
Following decades of research, this finding validates that restoring wild lake trout populations is attainable.
Lake trout were once the top predator in Lake Erie with records of fish measuring in excess of 50 inches and weighing 75 pounds.
Troutlings feed on plankton, insects and small invertebrates, while adults consume smaller fish.
Archaeological evidence shows Native American tribes fished in the Great Lakes as early as 3,000 to 2,000 BC.
However, European settlers eventually found their way to the region in the early 17th century AD and sparked the legal move for recreational fishing of trout, but by the late 1800s, the trout population had significantly declined.
Author Edward Guillet wrote in his 1933 book ‘Early life in Upper Canada’ that ‘in some parts of Lake Erie single hauls of 90,00 whitefish were not unusual.’
The discovery is the result of an acoustic telemetry study that identified potential lake trout spawning areas in eastern Lake Erie
He also stated that in the Detroit River, fish were driven into pens by the hundreds of thousands to be later dried and used as fertilizer.
The overfishing continued until 1965, when officials considered lake trout to have been wiped out from Lake Erie.
Wildlife officials began efforts in 1982 to restore the population, which was done by annually stocking Lake Erie with lake trout.
Four years later, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission began killing off 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.