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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 samples of Coho Salmon caught in Lake Ontario beginning in 2018 and continuing until 2021. 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 evaluating Coho Salmon stocking strategies by mass marking and/or tagging all stocked Coho Salmon in 2016-2019.

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 2016-2019, including the fall fingerlings stocked by Metro East Anglers at the Credit River. Tags are 1 mm long pieces of coded wire inserted into the snouts of fish prior to stocking, therefore invisible to the naked eye and undetectable without specialized equipment. Recovery of mark and tag data is ongoing until 2022.

To supplement NYSDEC and OMNRF sampling by the Fishing Boat survey and at fishing tournaments, we are asking volunteers to collect Coho Salmon heads from fish harvested in the Lake 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 fwfishlo@dec.ny.gov.

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 fwfishlo@dec.ny.gov by email. Thank you very much for your assistance.

Freezer Locations for Depositing Coho Salmon Heads

Location Latitude Longitude
Fort Niagara State Park Cleaning Station 43.260500 -79.058350
Wilson-Bootleggers Marina 43.313667 -78.841972
Olcott - Town of Newfane Marina Cleaning Station 43.336282 -78.717636
Rochester - Shumway Marina Gas Dock 43.251741 -77.608563
Fairhaven - Bayside Marina Cleaning Station 43.314825 -76.718921
Oswego - US Geological Survey, 17 Lake Street 43.462620 -76.517095

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. Labels and bags are available at the freezers.

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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  • NYSDEC
    Lake Ontario Fisheries Unit
    Cape Vincent Fisheries Research Station
    541 East Broadway
    P.O. Box 292
    Cape Vincent, NY 13618
    315-654-2147
    Send us an email
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