Thursday, March 28, 2013

Grand gets its steelhead; other streams to follow

(Personal note: While I am officially retired from The News-Herald, my objective is to keep this blog active. Note the new email contact address at the end. This is my personal contact information. Like I keep telling folks, I'm retired, not dead. - JLF.)
The Grand River got its annual booster shot of steelhead trout March 26; 90,000 fish strong, in fact.
As for the Vermilion, Rocky and Chagrin rivers, each of these streams will see their slug of 90,000 trout released on toward the middle of April.
Or shortly thereafter, says the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
At about the same time Conneaut Creek is targeted for a release of 75,000 fish by the Wildlife Division and another 75,000 from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
If all of the planned stockings materialize as planned for then the agency will meet its steelhead-stocking objectives.
And these stockings will also exceed the numbers that were released in 2011. That year the Wildlife Division encountered fish-rearing difficulties beyond its control and experienced greatly diminished releases, the echoes of which are still haunting steelhead anglers.
Speaking as to the why the Wildlife Division jumped the gun on the Grand River, Phil Hillman said his agency’s 90-acre Castalia cold-water trout hatchery was running out of space.
Which is a good thing, really, says Hillman, the fisheries management administrator for the Wildlife Division’s District Three (Northeast Ohio) Office in Akron .
“Castalia needed to reduce the stock,” Hillman said. “The fish stocked in the Grand River averaged 7.9 inches each and the hatchery was concerned about maintaining optimum conditions.”
Thus it appears the steelhead are thriving so well at the spring-fed Castalia hatchery that the fish are packing on the weight and growing faster than dandelions in your front yard..
As a result, says Hillman, once the fish are released into the four other Lake Erie tributaries the remaining
fishes likely will exceed eight inches. This length should help the fish survive as well, says Hillman.
Critical to the other streams’ stocking, however, Hillman also says, is the impending preventative treatment for sea lamprey larvae.
What the Wildlife Division is seeking to avoid is stocking the fish when the lampricide TFM is also in the water.
The biologists’ concerns, says Hillman, is that the stockers’ ultra-sensitive olfactory system could become jammed or distorted by the alien odor.
Consequently, the fish might become confused when they attempt to locate their natal stream and migrate into another river system as spawning adults.
Never-the-less, the Wildlife Division maintains how now that Castalia is in full control of the state’s entire steelhead-rearing chores the program is on the correct path.
As for when this year’s class of stocked steelhead will reach a size that will bring a wide smile to the face of anglers, after one year of feasting on Lake Erie forage the trout will average 17 inches.
Two years in the lake and the trout will average 23 inches and by year three, 26 inches.
At year four any trout that has managed to avoid sea lampreys, Canadian commercial fishing nets, Lake Erie sport-fishing charters, and stream anglers will have grown to trophy size, or 28 inches,  Wildlife Division statistics say.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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