DEC stocking Irondequoit Bay with lake herring

Posted at: 12/20/2012 4:50 PM
Updated at: 12/21/2012 2:16 PM
By: Joangel Concepcion

There are plenty of fish our surrounding waters but according to some researchers there are certain native species that don't even exist anymore in our area.

Lake Ontario was home to a diverse group of whitefish. Until the mid-1950's, there were around seven species at that time and now only three species remain.

In some areas, they don't even exist. Researchers are hoping to change all of that by reestablishing native white fish in the lake through a large collaborative effort.

The nature conservancy searched for lake herring in Irondequoit Bay for weeks but in the end they didn’t find. For researchers, it wasn't much of a surprise. The species hasn't been present for a very long time. of the Fresh Water Conservation Practitioner Stevie Adams said, “It wasn't unexpected but it was a disappointment. It's been actually longer than 10 years.”

The lake herring is a native fish found mostly in eastern Lake Ontario. They aren't found here because of an invasive species.

“The lake herring have been gone for possibly a little more than a decade. Basically, they have been out competed by the basic fore fish the alewife.” Jim Johnson is the director of the USGS Tunison Laboratory of Aquatic Science. He says not having the species in this part of the lake is disrupting the food chain. “They are creating a vitamin deficiency and the predators are eating them and that is inhibiting the trout and salmon reproduction cycle.”
But now through a unique experiment, the U.S. Geological Survey and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation are hoping to bring the lake herring species back. They believe the time is now. “Alewife populations have declined a little bit so we believe this is an opportunity to get lake herring back, into the western portion of lake Ontario.”

Researchers released around 10,000 lake herring into the bay Thursday morning. The eggs were taken from Chaumont Bay last December and it took around a year to produce.

Johnson says the little fish will enrich life in Irondequoit Bay for many years to come. “If we can reduce the importance of alewifes in the food chain of the larger salmon and trout, it should increase their reproductive capability.”

Researchers will continue to monitor Irondequoit Bay within the next year to make sure the project stays on track. They say the herring will be full grown and ready to reproduce in about three years.