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For Release: Thursday, October 8, 2015

DEC Joins Innovative Lake Erie Fisheries Study

Research Effort Will Provide Important Information on Lake Erie Walleye

The first phase of an innovative binational study designed to characterize walleye movements throughout Lake Erie is coming to a close in the next several weeks, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Marc Gerstman announced today.

"Lake Erie supports one of New York's most important sportfisheries, and walleye are the most prominent species in the lake," Acting Commissioner Gertsman said. "Given that recreational and commercial walleye fisheries are cooperatively managed by four states and the Province of Ontario, it is critical that we better understand the movements of these fish and their management implications."

A 2007 statewide angler survey estimated more than 1.1 million angler days were spent on Lake Erie and major tributaries. The estimated value of these fisheries contributed more than $26 million annually to the local New York economy.

DEC, together with partners from other Lake Erie fisheries agencies and the Canadian province, is studying walleye movements in Lake Erie using cutting-edge acoustic telemetry technology that was unavailable just a few years ago. Acoustic telemetry technology employs a network of stationary acoustic receivers located on the lake bottom and surgically implanted acoustic tags in fish. Acoustic tags are the size of an AA-size battery and continually transmit signals to identify individual fish. When a tagged fish swims near a receiver, the receiver records the signal from the tag.

Researchers from the DEC deployed acoustic receivers and surgically implanted acoustic tags in 70 adult walleye during the spring 2015 spawning period, with additional acoustic tagging planned in 2016 and 2017. Collaborators from other State and Provincial agencies around Lake Erie are also implanting acoustic tags in walleye and deploying acoustic receivers in their waters as part of this study. Results from this study will provide fisheries managers with important insights into walleye migration patterns, habitat use and survival.

"This will allow us to learn a great deal more about Lake Erie walleye movements than any previous study," said Don Einhouse, Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit Leader.

There are currently over 100 acoustic receivers in Lake Erie recording the movements of walleye and other fish species. In the next several weeks, DEC staff will begin to retrieve the receivers and download the fish detection data.

Early results have confirmed large-scale walleye movements in the lake, with fish tagged by DEC in New York caught in Ohio waters. Previous studies documented movement of walleye produced in Lake Erie's western basin moving into New York waters as adults during the summer months, only to return to the western basin in fall.

Angler cooperation is critical to the success of this effort. Anglers that capture an acoustic tagged walleye will receive a $100 reward for returning the transmitter and fish. Tag return and reward information can be found on an orange tag visible on the back of each tagged walleye. Several walleye tagged in New York waters have already been returned by anglers in 2015.

Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative is an effort to improve recreational opportunities for sportsmen and women and to boost tourism activities throughout the state. This includes streamlining fishing and hunting licenses, reducing license fees, improving access for fishing and increasing hunting opportunities in New York State. In support of this initiative, $10 million in NY Works funding has been dedicated to fish hatchery repairs and 50 new land and water access projects such as boat launches, hunting blinds, trails and parking areas.

The enacted state budget for 2015-16 raises the Environmental Protection Fund to $177 million dollars, an increase of 32 percent since Governor Cuomo took office. The $15 million increase will support 14 categories, including land conservation, stewardship, and invasive species control and prevention. The increase includes a new sub-allocation for capacity grants to State Parks friends' groups.

Under the initiative, the 2015-16 Enacted Budget adds an additional $8 million for state land access projects and an additional $4 million for the state's hatcheries in NY Works funding. The Budget also creates a new capital account which along with federal Pittman-Robertson funds will be used to manage, protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat, and to improve and develop public access for fish and wildlife-related recreation.

For further information, go to Lake Erie Fisheries Research on DEC's website or contact Don Einhouse, Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit Leader at (716) 366-0228.

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