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For Release: Monday, March 30, 2020

DEC Announces Reductions in 2020 Oneida Lake Walleye Egg Take

Oneida's Walleye Population is at Highest Levels in More Than 30 Years and Expected to Thrive

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced that in order to help further limit the community spread of COVID-19, DEC will be adhering to social distancing restrictions to protect staff and the state's essential hatchery operations. As a result, DEC is reducing this spring's walleye egg take on Oneida Lake and will not stock walleye fry into Oneida Lake in 2020.

"Oneida Lake's walleye population is booming, providing great fishing opportunities for New York's anglers and increasing tourism," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "The health of this fishery and the necessary precautions we are taking to protect staff and our hatcheries will ensure DEC maintains our walleye stocking programs well into the future."

Traditionally, DEC staff from fish hatcheries across the state assemble at the Oneida Hatchery to assist with a massive, weeklong effort that involves the netting and spawning of thousands of fish. To reduce virus transmission risks, the number of staff participating in the egg take will be reduced this year. Egg collection efforts will be primarily for fingerling production needs, reducing the number of eggs needed. Any eggs collected in excess of those needs will be used to provide fry for direct stocking in some waters that annually receive them.

While Oneida Lake is typically stocked with 150 million fry, the lake will not receive fry this year. The lack of stocking should not impact the Oneida Lake walleye fishery, as the adult population is abundant and at numbers higher than in more than three decades. This, coupled with a strong year class will enter the fishery in 2020, should provide walleye fishing this year and for the immediate future.

Randy Jackson, Cornell University research associate at the Cornell Biological Field Station on Oneida Lake, said, "Given the current population size and likely additions from upcoming year classes, there is no compelling reason to believe that missing a single year of fry stocking will present a threat to the sustainability of the walleye fishery."

William Girvan, President of the Oneida Lake Association (OLA), said, "This is a prudent and necessary action that DEC must take to protect the hatchery, and OLA stands by the Commissioner's decision to curtail the egg take and safeguard staff at the hatchery, who we consider are part of our lake community."

The reduced egg take operations will begin once the water temperature rises and walleyes begin running Scriba Creek to spawn. To protect both staff and the general public, all DEC hatcheries, including the Oneida Hatchery, are temporarily closed to visitors.

While enjoying the outdoors, please continue to follow the CDC/New York State Department of Health guidelines for preventing the spread of colds, flu, and COVID-19:

  • Try to keep at least six (6) feet of distance between you and others.
  • Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, and kissing.
  • Wash hands often or use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs, handrails, and playground equipment.
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