Walleye in Lake Erie - Fishery Movement and Study

April 8, 2017
Conservation , Fishing , New York , State Reports
4


  • Fish are Tagged, Electronically Monitored for Movement

  • Angler Reward System ($100)

  • Cooperative Study: Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS)


By Forrest Fisher

Biologists throughout the Great Lakes are using science and technology to help understand the mysteries of Great Lakes fish, their health and their seasonal movements. NYSDEC Photo


Trained biologists and technicians implant acoustic transmitters to understand fish movements and how they relate to fishing effort and harvest. 

Walleye, lake trout and musky in eastern Lake Erie are netted, identified, tagged with a transmitter and released, then monitored to determine preferred spawning areas and habitat. 

The tagged fish are monitored by a network of acoustic receivers throughout Lake Erie.  Orange external loop tags identify fish that contain acoustic transmitters and offer a $100 reward when returned by an angler. 

This is one of 12 programs that the NYSDEC Lake Erie Fisheries Unit is has provided staff and study toward research and management of objectives for Lake Erie, Chautauqua County and Region 9 in New York State.

For many decades, knowledgeable eastern basin anglers (Russell Johnson, Elma, NY) pondered the idea with angler groups that walleye from the western basin might travel long distances and move to the eastern basin during summer weather to feed on plentiful rainbow smelt, emerald shiners and alewife schools of baitfish.   The color and shape of the migrating fish was slightly different in appearance according to some anglers in the late 1970's.  Today, the 2010s plus, the forage base adds in the vast population of the round goby family.  Every predator fish seems to find this plentiful resource, perhaps an invasive species godsend that was not accepted as a stable forage base upon it's early discovery a decade or two ago.

Trained biologists and technicians implant acoustic transmitters to understand fish movements and how they relate to fishing effort and harvest.  NYSDEC Photo


Today, we know from early metal fin-tagging studies and angler report data that walleye in the Great Lakes are known to move long distances through multiple fish and wildlife management jurisdictions.  Understanding fish movements and how they relate to fishing effort and harvest is essential when managing a complex, valuable, multijurisdictional fishery such as the Lake Erie walleye fishery.  Today, this can be accomplished in a more dynamic manner and in real time with in-the-water migratory data collection.

Beginning in spring 2015, New York State DEC biologists started to deploy acoustic receivers in the eastern basin of Lake Erie to monitor the timing, magnitude, demographics, and spatial extent of the western basin walleye migrants tagged on western basin spawning areas by Ohio DNR. Additionally, acoustic transmitters were surgically implanted into walleyes from eastern basin spawning aggregations to estimate spawning site fidelity and movement patterns of individual eastern basin spawning stocks.  

Orange external loop tags identify fish that contain acoustic transmitters and offer a $100 reward when returned by an angler.  NYSDEC Photo


The relative contribution of eastern basin walleyes to the mixed-origin fisheries in the eastern basin will be assessed by implanting acoustic tags in walleye captured in the eastern basin summer fishery.  Acoustic receivers are placed on known spawning areas in the spring and deployed in four lines spanning the eastern basin from north to south to monitor summer and fall movement.  Existing acoustic lines in the western and central basins will allow detection of the westward movement of walleye tagged as part of this study.

Participating organizations include New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Great Lakes Fishery Commission and Michigan State University.

Acoustic transmitters were surgically implanted into walleyes from eastern basin spawning aggregations to estimate spawning site fidelity and movement patterns of individual eastern basin spawning stocks. NYSDEC Photo


Project personnel are many, but key investigators include Jason Robinson (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation) - jason.robinson@dec.ny.gov; Don Einhouse (New York State Department Of Environmental Conservation); Chuck Murray (Pennsylvania Fish And Boat Commission); Tom Macdougall (Ontario Ministry Of Natural Resources And Forestry); Chris Vandergoot (United States Geological Survey); John Dettmers (Great Lakes Fishery Commission) and Charles Krueger (Michigan State University).

The project is set to run from January 2015 through January 2019, receiving funding from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health, United States Fish and Wildlife Service and Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System. Federal and International tax dollars are at work here for a worthy environmental cause.

The information contained in this article and more information on these and other Great Lakes acoustic projects is available in greater detail at the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS) website.

 

 

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