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Lake Champlain Fisheries Meeting Summary for February 2005

February 8, 2005

1. Announcements.

  • Craig Martin announced that The Nature Conservancy is hosting a Sea lamprey Control Alternatives Working Group meeting February 17 at their West Haven, VT Office. Principal investigators will be presenting their alternatives research findings.
  • Craig Martin distributed copies of the final report Exploratory Study of Dismantling Sea Lamprey Nests to Reduce Egg and Larval Production in Two Lake Champlain Basin Tributaries (Lake Champlain Basin Program Technical Report No. 44).

2. Smelt Monitoring.

  • Nick Staats presented the 2004 smelt monitoring data. Adult smelt (age 1 and older) catch per unit effort (CPUE) declined at all sampling stations, from the very high levels observed in 2003. The Juniper Island and Barber Point stations in the Main Lake show similar trends in CPUE. The relative proportion of Age 3 smelt in the Main Lake and Northeast Arm (Inland Sea) catches were the highest in recent years.

    Bernie Pientka described the enhanced acoustic forage fish survey method, which began in 2004. Acoustic transects were expanded in length for greater lake coverage. Periodic tucker trawl tows were added along the acoustic transects to sample young-of-year smelt. Bernie also summarized preliminary condition factor data for landlocked salmon and walleye. Condition factor monitoring started in 2004, as a measure of the status of the smelt forage base relative to predator density.

3. Champlain Canal.

  • Mark Malchoff summarized the Sea Grant-funded Champlain Canal barrier feasibility study. The goal is to recommend a feasible alternative to block the passage of invasive species through the canal into Lake Champlain. The proposed barrier alternatives are (1) do nothing; (2) close the canal; (3) physical/mechanical modification of locks (hydrologic separation); (4) electrical; (5) water quality/chemical barrier; and (6) biological barrier. Some potential costs/benefits of each alternative will be detailed in the draft final report, to be made available in May.

4. Lamprey Trapping.

  • Wayne Bouffard reported on 2004 migratory phase sea lamprey trapping results. Trap catches generally increased from 2003; for example 832 sea lampreys were trapped in the Great Chazy River in 2004, compared to 373 in 2003. Other 2004 trap catches of sea lamprey included about 270 in Malletts Creek; 200 in Trout Brook; 137 in Beaver Brook; and none in Indian Brook (trapping has apparently eliminated sea lamprey spawning in Indian Brook.
  • A trapping experiment utilizing two traps was conducted in Stone Bridge Brook, to estimate blocking efficiency, and a mark and recapture spawning population estimate. A total of 79 sea lampreys were caught in the downstream trap, and 3 were caught in the upstream; the estimated blocking efficiency of the downstream trap was 94.7%.
  • 2005 plans: Larval population surveys will be conducted in trapped streams to determine the impact of trapping as a control method.

5. Status of Landlocked Atlantic Salmon Production.

  • Steve Jackson distributed a briefing paper on salmon production changes at the Pittsford and White River National Fish Hatcheries. FWS currently produces 70% of Lake Champlain's landlocked Atlantic salmon. Pittsford NFH was considered for placing in caretaker status this spring, but operation has been extended through 2005 by shifting maintenance money to operation. Lake Champlain salmon eggs for 2006 smolt stocking are at the White River NFH, and this production will stay there to maintain the Service's options depending on the FY 2006 budget. Service fish health policy would prohibit transfer of the fish started this year at Pittsford NFH to White River NFH in 2006, because White River NFH serves as a broodstock facility that includes a special genetics program.
  • Pittsford NFH is on track to produce 8" smolts in Spring 2005 (they average 7" now).
  • White River NFH has not had a good track record for quality of salmon smolts produced for the Connecticut River program. Several members proposed that the Technical Committee make a recommendation to switch production at White River NFH to lake trout and move all of the landlocked salmon production to Vermont's Ed Weed Fish Culture Station. Steve Jackson thinks this option may be considered by FWS. It was agreed that the Technical Committee will first draft a letter to the Policy Committee expressing concerns about White River NFH smolt production, and asking for a growth and smoltification evaluation of salmon production for 2006 stocking.

6. Draft Leahy Budget.

  • The Technical Committee follwed the Management Committee's direction to propose all of the budget items we really need to get lamprey control done, instead of a conservative "chemical only" budget. A few minor edits made, and Bill Schoch will clean up the budget spreadsheet and circulate for final review. The proposed budget will go to Management Committee, who will arrange to meet with Senator Leahy's staff to discuss future funding needs (beyond the current $845,000 granted).

7. Lake Champlain Strategic Plan.

  • Craig Martin distributed the preliminary draft outline for discussion. The final outline must be completed for Policy Committee review in May 2005. The goal is to have the strategic plan completed and submitted to the Policy Committee by winter 2006. A working group was formed to complete the outline and circulate it for Technical Committee review prior to the Policy Committee meeting. Working group members are Craig Martin (chair), Pierre Bilodeau, Brian Chipman, Lance Durfey, Doug Facey, Ellen Marsden and Bernie Pientka. Primary authors of specific sections of the plan remain to be identified.

8. Draft Agenda for Policy Committee Meeting.

  • The following agenda items were added to the list of agenda items included in this meeting agenda: (1) Technical team to develop an operational strategy to carry out sea lamprey control, given staffing shortfalls (Brian, Bill & Craig); (2) The feasibility of FWS becoming primary applicant for future treatment permits (3) present the 2003 Annual Report; and (4) an update on 2004 activities and report progress.

9. American Eels.

  • Pierre Bilodeau reported on the Richelieu River, Chambly eel ladder. It has operated for about the last 6 years, open from ice-out through the summer.
  • The Quebec Fisherman's Association plan to stock glass eels in Richelieu, near the international border, was delayed due to disease concerns. They will stock them this year (they will be OTC marked). Eels are beginning to be seen again in Champlain (angler catch and agency sampling).

10. New York Sturgeon Plan.

  • Bill Schoch reported that the draft New York lake sturgeon restoration plan (authored by Doug Carlson) is currently proposing stocking of St. Lawrence strain lake sturgeon in the Ausable River. The Technical Committee does not support this proposal. Investigations into the status of the Lake Champlain sturgeon population need to continue before we consider stocking other strains in the basin.

11. 2004 Annual Report.

  • Every one should to get their contributions to the 2004 Annual Report to Lance Durfey as soon as possible.

12. Missisquoi Bay Research Needs.

  • Doug Facey is chairing a Lake Champlain Research Consortium interdisciplinary research planning effort for the Missisquoi Bay watershed, called PRIME (Partnership for Research and Integration in the Missisquoi Ecosystem). Doug distributed a handout showing the draft conceptual diagram. The main focus areas are (1) factors affecting algal blooms/cyanobacteria; (2) toxics (transport; effects on humans, and fish and wildlife); and (3) community structure (invasives, rare/endangered, and common species).
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