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Round Whitefish Restoration

Round Whitefish Recovery Landmarked by First Time Spawning in Two Adirondack Lakes

Round whitefish, an endangered species in New York State, were once found in over 80 lakes but this declined to fewer than 8. Efforts toward their recovery were necessary and several lakes in western portion of the Adirondacks looked favorable. Round Whitefish were stocked in Evergreen Lake and Trout Pond as spring fingerlings in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Evergreen Lake is 45 acres and is located in the Five Ponds Wilderness Area north of Stillwater Reservoir, in Herkimer County; and Trout Pond is 167 acres in Round Lake Wilderness Area near Horseshoe Lake and the Whitney Tract in St. Lawrence County. They were chosen as candidates for self-sustaining populations of whitefish because they are cold and clean lakes in remote areas. The lakes receive annual stocking of trout and provide high quality fishing.

Picture of 2 round whitefishWatertown Fisheries staff traveled to Evergreen Lake and Trout Pond in 2010 and 2011 to evaluate the survival of the stocked whitefish. Setting gill nets overnight resulted in catches of over 20 fish in each lake. The expected 8 to 11 year old stocked fish were found in the nets, but the big news were the two year old round whitefish which must have been hatched in the lakes. These netting results indicate high survival from the stocking the decade earlier and the ultimate goal of restoration of reproducing populations has been achieved.

Other waters that have received round whitefish include 3 more in the western Adirondacks, Region 6, and five in the Eastern Adirondacks, Region 5. Eight of these ten had no prior history of round whitefish but all were judged as the good candidates because they were like other historic waters with round whitefish and with fish communities still intact.

The very first efforts for restoration of round whitefish began in 1970, with more recent efforts in the late 1990s. Both efforts began by selecting possible ponds to stock, collection of eggs and putting out fingerlings. Only one pond remains with round whitefish from stocking in the 1970s, Cat Pond, a privately owned body of water in Franklin County. The recent effort has surpassed that and looks favorable for achieving the long term goal to upgrade their status from "endangered" to perhaps removal from the New York State "endangered/threatened" list all together. This will require going beyond the 6 newly established and historical populations that are self-sustaining, to be assured that there are at least 10 separate waters with this species in the Adirondacks.

Credits to this restoration effort go to fisheries biologists in DEC Regions 6 and 5 and the work by Cornell University researchers who conducted field surveys and others who assist with these programs in the Adirondacks.