Following Success of Net Pen Programs for Other Species, DEC Anticipates Increased Survival of Stocked Smolts
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced the deployment of two new pen-rearing projects for Atlantic salmon to begin this spring. To improve post-stocking survival and imprinting to the stocked water, experimental Atlantic salmon pen-rearing projects will be conducted in the Saranac River estuary in Lake Champlain and in the Salmon River in Lake Ontario. DEC is partnering with the Lake Champlain Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Plattsburgh Boat Basin on the Saranac River project and partnering with the Tug Hill/Black River Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Salmon River Lighthouse and Marina on the Salmon River project.
Pen-rearing is a process in which young salmon (smolts) are stocked into net pens and held at the stocking site. At this life stage, the salmon will imprint on the river water and prepare to out-migrate to the lake system. The Trout Unlimited chapters will feed and care for the fish for approximately three weeks prior to release. DEC has been partnering with volunteer groups to pen-rear Chinook salmon and steelhead in Lake Ontario and Lake Erie for more than 20 years, and this method has improved the survival and imprinting for both species. Today’s announcement is the first project to test if pen-rearing can have a similar beneficial impact on stocked Atlantic salmon.
Each project will compare two lots of Atlantic salmon smolts to evaluate the effectiveness of pen-rearing as a stocking method. One lot of Atlantic salmon will be stocked into net pens and held for approximately three weeks prior to release. A second lot will be directly stocked into the water at the same site when the smolts are released from the pens. A comparison of returns between the two stocking methods will determine if pen-rearing results in greater survival and homing than conventional, direct stocking.
Salmon photo courtesy of Concordia University