The Fishing Line - September 29th Issue

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
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The Fishing Line - September 29th Issue

Freshwater Fishing, Fisheries Management, and Fishing Access News

In This Issue:

  • Fish On!
  • Lake Ontario Spring Preyfish Assessment Report Available
  • Cadets Tour DEC Hatcheries
  • "Fall" Fish
  • Highlight Hatchery - Bath Fish Hatchery 

Angler holding a Chinook salmon

Fish On!

It’s "o-fish-ally" fall and Pacific salmon (Chinook and coho) are starting their spawning runs up into the tributaries of Lake Ontario. Of these, the Salmon River is the most famous. There's nothing quite like hooking into a big “King” in the river. Just ask the thousands of anglers that flock there every year. Full disclaimer: this is a very popular fishery and not the spot to go if you're seeking solitude.

For recommended fishing techniques and where to fish for Pacific salmon, check out the following links:


Lake Ontario Spring Preyfish Assessment Report Available

DEC Fisheries Staff observing alewife collected from a bottom trawl survey.

The final report from the 2023 Lake Ontario Spring Preyfish Assessment is now available on the Great Lakes Fishery Commission website (PDF). Alewife are the main prey in Lake Ontario and support a multi-million dollar sport fishery in which fisheries managers must balance stocking levels with lake prey levels.

Lake Ontario preyfish are assessed annually through a multi-agency bottom trawl survey conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNR).

The 2023 assessment found: 

  • A large year class of alewife produced in 2022 (measured as age-1 fish in 2023).
  • Adult alewife biomass increased slightly from last year.
  • Adult alewife biomass is predicted to increase again in 2024.

Lake Ontario April Prey Fish Survey Results and Alewife Assessment, 2023 (PDF)

Cadets Tour DEC Hatcheries

Cadet Hager holding a salmon

On Saturday, September 2nd, I was privileged to give the West Point Fly Fishing club a tour of the Rome Hatchery. They also wanted some guidance on fly fishing the Mohawk River which runs right by the hatchery. Though he’s not involved with this group, my nephew is a new cadet at West Point so it was easy to accept this task.

Since I’m not much of a fly fisherman, I invited my friend and local fly fishing celebrity Jordan Ross to talk the fly fishing part. It was pretty cool to surprise the cadets with Jordan being there because the groups leader, Retired Lt. Colonel Ron Hasz, had shared with the group, and myself, a link to an article Jordan wrote about fishing the Mohawk River. In tough conditions, the group of 14 cadets caught a few small fish, but still had a great time fishing the Mohawk River following the tour.

On Sunday the group toured the Salmon River Fish Hatchery in Altmar, NY. Following the tour they fished the Salmon River and had some success there too. The Cadet in charge, Jack Hager, caught a very nice salmon that I would guess was around 25 pounds!

The group of 14 cadets had about a 50/50 ratio of experienced fly fisherman to novices but it seems they all picked up on it well and I hope to see them again next year. I may even have something special planned.

West Point cadets at the Rome Fish Hatchery.
Contributed by: Steve Grabowski, Assistant Manager, Rome Fish Hatchery

"Fall" fish

Angler holding a fallfish

Cliché, maybe. Seasonally appropriate, absolutely!

If you caught this species while fishing, you may have dismissed it as a big ole/huge minnow and tossed it back. Well, fallfish are minnows - in fact, they're the largest native members of the minnow family in New York!

Distribution/Habitat: Fallfish are found in medium to large streams and rivers throughout the state, with the exception of western New York.

Fishing: Try using flies, jigs, spinners or live bait on light tackle. Fallfish are not a regulated species, so they have no closed season, minimum length or daily limit.

State Record: (pictured above) 3 lbs. 9 oz. (19 inches), Susquehanna River (Tioga County), April 15, 2009 

Highlight Hatchery - Bath Fish Hatchery

Bath Fish Hatchery

Location: 7169 Fish Hatchery Road, one mile north of Bath, Steuben County

Visitor Hours: 8:00am - 3:45pm, year-round. Free admission.

Species Raised: Brook, brown, rainbow, and lake trout, cisco

Overview: Located at the headwaters of Cold Brook, a major tributary of Keuka Lake (one of the eleven Finger Lakes), Bath Hatchery was established in 1893 and is one of New York's oldest fish hatcheries. Major activities that take place here include:

  • Raise & stock Finger Lakes strain lake trout (eggs collected from Cayuga Lake lake trout).
  • Raise & stock Finger Lakes strain rainbow trout (eggs collected from rainbow trout in the Cayuga Inlet fish ladder).
  • Cultivate hybrid rainbow trout that are exclusively stocked in Skaneateles Lake.
  • Raise rainbow trout obtained from eggs collected by Randolph Hatchery and fingerlings from VanHornesville Hatchery.
  • Raise and stock cisco (eggs collected from Chaumont Bay, Lake Ontario).

Fun Fact: Bath is the only DEC hatchery that raises wild Finger Lakes strain rainbow trout.

Learn about other DEC Fish Hatcheries