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Fishing the Salmon River, one of the Lake Ontario tributaries stocked by the DEC. Photo: David Chanatry, New York Reporting Project
Fishing the Salmon River, one of the Lake Ontario tributaries stocked by the DEC. Photo: David Chanatry, New York Reporting Project

Lake Ontario sport fishery is a $110M business

A successful stocking program has led Lake Ontario to be one of the premier fishing destinations in the Great Lakes.

The Department of Environmental Conservation pumps trout and salmon into the lake each year. That brings out more than 2.5 million anglers to the lake and its tributaries.

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Reported by

Martha Foley
News and Public Affairs Director

Dave MacNeill of the New York Sea Grant says the lake has rebounded well since it was an ecological disaster in the 1970s. "As improvements in water quality occurred," he said, "some stocking programs began, a sea lamprey control program began and stocking of trout and salmon really took hold, creating a multimillion dollar industry. And perhaps the best of any of the fisheries in the Great Lakes."

Today, many of the sport fish caught in Lake Ontario are not native. Steve LePan, from the DEC's Fisheries Research Station, says keeping the lake healthy and the fishing viable is a bit of a juggling act. "Overall," he said, "there are some negative aspects of stocking non-native fish. But I think if you look at the way the lake is functioning ecologically and the economic benefits along the lakeshore are enjoying, I'd say it's highly successful."

As for the economic impact, the most recent angler's survey showed sport fishing as a $113 million industry for communities along the lake's shoreline. LePan says that's remained steady over the years.

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