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Lake Champlain Fisheries Meeting Summary for October 2002

October 16, 2002

1. Status of Leahy funding. As of late September, $300,000 was requested in the Senate's proposed budget; not sure what is proposed in the House budget. The proposed budget is still in conference and may be stalled long term. Continuing resolutions may fund the federal government through the year, which could mean that special appropriations such as this are not acted on.

2. Deep water electrofishing:

  • Based on results from 2002, treatments will not be done on the Little Ausable and Salmon River deltas. Only about 135 acres on the Ausable delta, and a portion of the South Fork of the Ausable River are presently projected for treatments. This is a major cost savings to the program.
  • The Committee agreed that equipment to outfit a second boat would be purchased utilizing the Leahy funds. A list of equipment needs, drafted by Dave Nettles, was provided to the group. Wayne Bouffard noted that he has an electrofisher unit that can be made available for use on the second boat. Dave N. should talk to Brian Chipman about purchasing the necessary equipment using the Leahy funds. A second deepwater electrofishing boat will provide back up for equipment failure as well as capacity make up for fowl weather down time. Improved statistical reliability can also be achieved with the additional sampling that a second boat would allow.
  • The ability of the various agencies to staff a second electrofishing boat in 2003 is presently unknown. However, the Leahy funds can apparently be used for that purpose if necessary. Dave N. will again direct the sampling.

3. Summary of this fall's lamprey treatments as of the date of the meeting.

  • Post treatment assessments estimated about 110,000 lamprey were killed on the treatments of the Salmon, Little Ausable and Ausable Rivers. Non-target mortalities were very light. Incident reports must be completed for treatments that kill 50 or more of any non-target species.
  • Transformers were relatively abundant in Ausable River even though the last treatment was just 3 years ago. That could indicate unexpectedly rapid growth, or that ammocoetes were missed in the previous treatment.
  • Wayne B. has complete some pretreatment surveys on Lewis Creek and expects to re-sample following the treatment. Live cages with non-target species will also be placed in Lewis Creek during the treatment.

4. Treatments in 2003.

  • Bill Schoch should contact the GLFC concerning procedures for ordering Bayluscide granules and TFM for next year's treatments. Chemical will be purchased using the Leahy funds.
  • Dave Nettles should determine equipment needs for applying Bayluscide granules. The Leahy funds will be used to purchase the equipment.
  • Expectations are to treat the Boquet and Winooski Rivers with TFM in 2003, not with the TFM/Niclosamide combination. Permits for a combination treatment on the Winooski River probably can not be obtained in time for a 2003 treatment.
  • If feasible, staff may be sent to the Great Lakes in 2003 to be trained in combination treatments.
  • Storage of chemical may be limiting next year due to the large quantity of TFM needed for the Winooski River. Possibly Bayluscide granules can be stored in Federal or State facilities in Vermont to allow sufficient space for the TFM in the specialized pesticide storage building in New York. Bayluscide granules apparently do not need to be stored in a heated building, and do not have the volatility concern associated with the TFM formulation.
  • Vermont will begin the design process for a pesticide storage facility this winter.
  • Two portable HPLC's were ordered an have arrived. The process has begun for ordering a mobile lab.

5. Pike River, recent response from Quebec.

  • The Quebec Ministry of the Environment has posed a variety of questions about lamprey control. Fish and Wildlife Service staff are preparing responses.
  • The Quebec letter indicates that a federal Canadian agency is "reevaluating" TFM. Dave T. will following up with his Canadian counter part as to what the review may involve.
  • The response from Quebec was supportive of barrier on Morpion Stream. A barrier is consistent with the FSEIS's approach to the Pike River, so the committee supported seeking funding from the Basin Program for an engineering study of a barrier on Morpion Stream. It was noted that funding for the actual construction of a project located in another country may be difficult to obtain.

6. When does the time clock start for the five year Poultney River delay? Craig M. has been questioned about what starts the 5 year time clock for the Poultney River. The committee agreed that initiation of treatments, in September of 2002, started the time clock. If walleye sampling in spring of 2007 shows that the walleye objectives have not been met, then the Poultney treatment could proceed in 2007. For other species, analyses of wounding rates from 2007 may not be completed in time to make a decision on treating in 2007.

7. Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Conceptual information on the Salmon River barrier proposal should be provided to Dave T. to bring to the CORPS for their consideration.

8. Salmonid stocking

  • The salmonid stocking targets developed in 1997 continue to apply. For 2003, short-lived salmonids can be stocked in excess of the targets, based on the present high abundances of sea lamprey and smelt. If Vermont has surplus lake trout, up to a few thousand in excess of the target can be stocked in Lake Champlain. Larger surpluses of lake trout should not be stocked in Lake Champlain. Stocking large surpluses of (long-lived) lake trout concurrently with the anticipated decline in sea lamprey abundance raises concern for over exploitation of the smelt forage base.
  • Representatives from this committee will meet this winter to review whether we are collecting the appropriate data to know whether the stocking rates (salmonid and walleye) are appropriate. The primary concern is to avoid over exploiting the smelt forage base. Abundances of both predators and pray are likely to fluctuate dramatically in the next few years: Smelt abundances were high this year, but very low in 2000 and 2001; and piscivor numbers are expected to rebound as sea lamprey control takes effect.
  • Some anglers have expressed concern that stocking should be increased, because lamprey are abundant and the fishing is poor. Responses to that concern include: we have, and will continue to, stock surpluses of the short-lived salmonids; smelt abundances were very low in 2000 and 2001, indicating caution relative to stocking rates; and the abundance of sea lamprey is expected to decline sharply in the next few years.
  • Returns of Sebago strain salmon to the Grand Island Hatchery are well below expectations. If returns do not improve, the ability to conduct the proposed strain study may be threatened. If 30 pair have not been collected by November 1, additional effort will be directed to collections.

9. Lake trout strains. A genetic analysis indicates that the Lake Champlain lake trout population is a hodgepodge of strains, not predominantly Seneca strain as may have been expected. Vermont stocks lake trout from eggs collected from Lake Champlain, while New York utilizes eggs from Seneca Lake. This mixed approach has genetic implications, potentially prolonging outbreeding suppression. If all the lake trout eggs were collected from Lake Champlain, roughly 6 to 10 generations (many years for long-lived lake trout) may exhibit outbreeding suppression before a genetically fit, "Lake Champlain" strain is developed. Alternative strategies could maximize hybrid vigor, or focus on one strain (presumably Seneca). Representatives from this committee will meet to: review the genetic implications of the present lake trout egg take/stocking practices; consider objectives based on the genetic concerns; and evaluate resources and procedures needed to achieve those objectives.

10. Lamprey tagging update. About 2600 transformers were tagged in 2001. A total of 500 to 600 adults have been returned for testing. About 400 of those have been checked for tags and 3 contained tags. Additional transformers were tagged this fall and collections of adults will continue in 2003.

11. Pheromones: The GLFC is applying for an experimental use permit, and hopes to do field work with pheromones in 2003. That will likely to include work on Lake Champlain.

12. Wayne has conducted QAS on the LaPlatte , Missisquoi, Winooski, Boquet, Mount Hope, and Beaver this year. The results are not available yet.

13. Bioassays are needed on several species for TFM/Niclosamide combination treatments. Brian has a list.

14. Proposals for funding from Basin Program. This committee will recommend three proposals to the TAC: Morpion Stream barrier engineering study (Dave Tilton lead) was given the highest priority; followed by the cormorant/smelt interactions/smelt vertical distribution study (Dona Parrish); and the bait fish identification guide (Shawn Good) as the third priority.

15. The alternatives working group expects to have a meeting in January. A pilot "nest" study was conducted by Wayne Laroche in spring 2002 to develop preliminary information on the feasibility of nest raking and its effects on benthic organisms. Preliminary data from this study suggests that nest raking requires a greater amount of effort (as measured through raking strokes) to remove eggs from a nest than originally anticipated. The Alternatives Workgroup will be evaluating a suite of potential control methods, including nest raking, through a sea lamprey life-history model. This model is being developed by Ellen Marsden and her graduate student, Eric Howe. Research control strategies will be developed by the Alternatives Workgroup and forwarded to the Fishery Technical Committee for consideration.

16. The Lake Champlain Management Cooperative Policy Committee will meet in January, 2003. This committee recommends reporting on the budget, and lamprey control. We will also offer presentations on sturgeon, cormorants, stocking, lamprey tagging, walleye, alternatives, lake trout spawning, and salmon strains.

17. Annual report. March 2003 is the target date for completion of the 2002 annual report. To meet that deadline, committee members should have brief summaries of their areas of responsibilities to Bill Schoch by the end of January. A draft report should be ready for review by the end of February.

18. Eric Palmer is now chair of the Management Committee.

19. The next meeting of the full Technical Committee is scheduled for January 14, 2003. A meeting on lake trout genetics and data needs to assess/monitor stocking rates is scheduled for December 5, 2002.

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