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Request for Assistance with Coho Salmon Head Collection

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF) requests your help with recovering heads from Coho Salmon caught in Lake Ontario beginning in 2018. Each year, NYSDEC stocks Coho Salmon as fall fingerlings at six sites along the New York shoreline and as spring yearlings at the Salmon River; and Metro East Anglers in cooperation with OMNRF, stock Coho fall fingerlings at the Credit River. As part of a continuing effort to evaluate the effectiveness of stocking programs, we are comparing Coho Salmon stocking strategies by mass marking and/or tagging all stocked Coho Salmon in 2016-2018. Tags are 1 mm long pieces of coded wire inserted into the snouts of fish prior to stocking. Tags are invisible to the naked eye, and undetectable without specialized equipment; therefore we need to collect the heads to retrieve the tags.

Some portion of the Coho Salmon caught in Lake Ontario may also come from natural reproduction instead of hatcheries. Although some streams are known to produce wild Coho smolts, the relative contribution of wild and hatchery Coho Salmon to the Lake Ontario fishery is unknown. This information is important for fisheries managers to understand trends in Coho Salmon catch rates. To determine the proportion of wild Coho Salmon in the Lake Ontario fishery, the adipose fin of all Coho Salmon stocked by NYSDEC and OMNRF will be clipped in 2016-2018, including the fall fingerlings stocked by Metro East Anglers at the Credit River. Anglers can help by noting whether their Coho is clipped or not and include that data with the head along with noting collection date, location, and fish length on a label. See attached instructions. Recovery of mark and tag data is ongoing until 2021.

We are asking volunteers to collect heads and data from Coho Salmon harvested in Lake Ontario and tributaries and place them in freezers located at sites from the Niagara River to Oswego (see below). Bags and labels will be available at freezer locations, and instructions for collections are provided below. We would like your help. Please be on the lookout for Coho Salmon when fishing. For all harvested Coho Salmon, please cut off its head, toss it in a bag, label, and put it in a freezer. If you are willing to collect Coho Salmon heads and store them in your personal freezer, we will happily come pick them up. Arrangements can be made by emailing

Each year, NYSDEC and OMNRF relies on the cooperation of anglers like you for collecting valuable data used to inform fisheries management and science in Lake Ontario. If you have any questions regarding collection instructions or the mass marking program, please contact Michael Connerton at 315-654-2147 or by email. Thank you very much for your assistance.

Freezer Locations for Depositing Coho Salmon Heads (starting April 1, 2018)

Location Latitude Longitude
Fort Niagara State Park Cleaning Station 43° 15.630' N 79° 3.501' W
Wilson Tuscarora State Park Cleaning Station (near bathroom) 43° 18.776' N 78° 50.712' W
Wilson Boat Yard (Freezer available only in April/May at this location) 43° 18'59.21' N 78° 50'1.43 W
Town of Newfane Marina Cleaning Station, Olcott 43° 20.176' N 43.064' W
* Lake Breeze Marina near launch, Point Breeze 43° 22.080'N 78° 11.521' W
Shumway Marina Gas Dock, Rochester 43° 15.103'N 36.517' W
Bayside Marina Cleaning Station, Fairhaven 43° 18.890'N 76° 43.141' W
* Wrights Landing Cleaning Station, Oswego 43° 27.724'N, 76° 31.071'W 43° 27.724'N 76° 31.071'W

* Access to starred locations pending

Instructions for Coho Salmon Sample Collection

Cut the whole head off and place it in a bag. Note capture location, date, whether it has an adipose clip (Yes/No), fish length and the collector's name on the bag label. Note: If you did not note the presence of a clip or its length at capture, please leave that data blank. Use pencil if possible.

Diagram showing coho salmon and amount of the head that needs to be donated

Quick Coho Salmon Identification Tips

A downloadable Salmon and Trout visual identification guide (link leaves DEC's website) is available at the New York Sea Grant website.

Illustrations provided by New York Sea Grant, Artwork by Peter Thompson

Coho Salmon ID, Illustration by Peter Thompson

Chinook salmon ID, Illustration by Peter Thompson

steelhead rainbow trout ID, Illustration by Peter Thompson

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    Lake Ontario Fisheries Unit
    Cape Vincent Fisheries Research Station
    541 East Broadway
    P.O. Box 292
    Cape Vincent, NY 13618
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