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Lake Champlain Fisheries Meeting Summary for June 2007

June 14, 2007

In attendance were the following: New York DEC: Lance Durfey; Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife: Brian Chipman, Shawn Good, Chet MacKenzie, Bernie Pientka, Tom Wiggins, Kevin Kelsey; US Fish and Wildlife Service: Madeleine Lyttle, Wayne Bouffard, Nick Staats, Brad Young; Dave Tilton, Steve Smith, Ken Gillette; Vermont Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit: Donna Parrish; University of Vermont: Ellen Marsden; Lake Champlain Sea Grant: Mark Malchoff; Lake Champlain Basin Program: Kris Joppe-Mercure

1. Transition to GLFC model and interim plans for lamprey control

• Dave Tilton presented a short summary of the issues. Instead of adding personnel through annual appropriations it was deemed more responsible to pursue added funding to the GLFC baseline budget. In order for the GLFC to add the Champlain program to its responsibilities, the underlying agreement establishing the commission needs to be modified. Senator Leahy has expressed interest in this approach. In the meantime, it is hoped that a single appropriation of $200,000 or more could be forthcoming to fund the program until the enabling legislation can be modified.

2. Landlocked salmon shortage for 2008

• The Fish Culture Subcommittee held their first meeting and Tom Wiggins distributed the resulting stocking commitments through 2009. White River National Fish Hatchery (WRNFH) will be 40,000 LLS short of target in 2008. VT cannot provide parr to WRNFH because of federal hatchery disease protocols. NY has not done their inventory of LLS yet, but it's unlikely there is any significant surplus due to poor egg-take last fall. It seems likely at this point that VT will have a surplus of 20,000 LLS, so a portion of the shortfall may be covered. WRNFH does have surplus lake trout (Superior and Finger Lakes strain). There was discussion of whether we should stock some of the surplus Finger Lakes strain to compensate for the LLS shortage. WRNFH can hang on to these surplus fish another month, so the issue will be revisited as inventory numbers from the NY and Vermont hatcheries firm-up.

3. Strategic Plan

• Dave Tilton reminded the group that it is important to keep the Strategic Plan re-write moving. Ellen pointed out that there is a substantive draft written. The strategic planning team will reconvene this fall.

4. South Fork Ausable treatment update

• Lance provided a brief summary of the South Fork Ausable treatment conducted in May. He was guardedly optimistic of the treatment effectiveness, but post-treatment assessment had yet to be completed.

5. Poultney River treatment permitting update

• Brian gave an update of the status of the Poultney River treatment permit in Vermont. There was a new administration and administrative organizational structure implemented, so there are some administrative delays associated with that process. There will be no public hearing required for the Aquatic Nuisance Permit. However there will be one for the Endangered Species Permit, which might be held sometime in July. Brian also handed out preliminary walleye wounding rates, which showed wounding rates exceeding the target of 2 wounds/100 walleye.

• Lance provided an update on the status of the Poultney permit in NY. Two comment letters had been received on the proposed permits. The Environmental Permits Office will respond to those letters, but they will need assistance on the response because they lack the expertise on many of the sea lamprey control-related issues. Lance will prepare a response to the comments and will forward them to Brad, Brian and Chet for their review so that the Cooperative is more likely to provide consistent responses to public and administrative enquiries. It is possible changes will be made in the draft permits in response to some of the comments received. After the response letters go out, the potentially modified permits should be able to be issued.

6. Missisquoi River plume modeling proposal

• A proposal to model the extent of the TFM plume in the lake following a potential Missisquoi River treatment has been received. The modeling would use already-developed phosphorus transport models to predict the extent of the plume and necessary water-use advisory zone. Use of the proposed model will not require the labor-intensive dye study that traditionally has been conducted for plume modeling. There will be additional data needs for the modeling to proceed. These include stream cross-sectional depths tied to stream gage and lake elevation data. The USFWS will collect these data as part of their larval sea lamprey assessments. Landowner inventories have been completed.

7. Trapping Update

• Wayne handed out the results-to-date of the spawning-phase sea lamprey trapping conducted this spring. Not all trapping had been completed by the time the summary was compiled. Most sites saw increased catches compared to 2006.

8. VHS regulations update

• Lance provided a brief update on NY's VHS regulations. The final VHS regulations have been adopted, with minor modifications from the emergency regulations. The final version does allow Lake Champlain anglers to transport fish (such as bass) in live-wells across the state line; however transport of live baitfish across the state line is still illegal.

9. Delta Assessment

• Steve provided a summary of a proposed change in the larval sea lamprey delta sampling methodology. The change would match the Great Lakes Fishery Commission protocol. The group was in agreement the change should be implemented. The delta areas off the Ausable River mouths will be sampled to determine if the TFM treatments there this past spring and fall helped to eliminate sea lamprey from these areas.

10. UVM research updates

• Ellen provided brief updates on ongoing research projects: Larval lake trout: Yellow perch, rock bass and burbot predation on lake trout fry has been documented; whitefish eggs and adults and larvae were also sampled. Larval pheromone: It appears attempts to attract spawning phase sea lamprey using larval pheromone were not successful. It is still unclear how long or if adults cue in on larval pheromones.

• Donna provided brief updates on ongoing research projects: Sex pheromone: sex pheromones are being used in an attempt to attract female sea lamprey against a background of 5 males in Malletts Creek - results negative so far. Smelt monitoring: smelt work with Bernie is pending.

11. State HAACP policies

• Brad led a discussion regarding whether Vermont and NY are concerned about transport of nuisance species between locations on Lake Champlain. Generally the states consider the lake up to the first impassable barrier or fault-line as one water body for the purposes of taking preventative measures. Common-sense exceptions however also indicate that boats and trailers should be inspected to prevent the spread of certain nuisance species such as water chestnut. The USFWS will consider the lake as one water body for the work they do, and will change that policy as needed.

12. LCBP Fisheries Indicators

• There was discussion of the purpose and merits of the list of potential fisheries indicators list submitted by Kris. The LCBP will use these indicators in providing the public with a score-card that indicates the status of the fisheries in the lake.

13. Morpion Stream barrier dam update

• Brad and Dave provided an update on the weir planned for Morpion Stream. While the money for the barrier dam construction and permitting process is available, it has become problematic for the actual payments to occur given the underlying administrative policies and procedures. The GLFC may be able to act on our behalf to pay the Quebec firms as needed. Actual construction is not expected to begin until next year.

14. Auger Trapping

• Nick discussed the landlocked salmon smolt sampling he has been conducing using an auger-type trap in Vermont's Huntington River. The trap was purchased via a SWIG-grant. Catch has totaled over 300 smolts this spring; captured smolts are marked and released above the trap to calculate capture efficiencies.

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