An emergency regulation will postpone the opening of the Lower Fly Fishing Area on the Salmon River from September 15th until October 31st the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. The intent of the emergency regulation is to ensure that adequate numbers of salmon enter DEC’s Salmon River Hatchery in order to provide eggs for salmon stocking that supports Lake Ontario and tributary fisheries. Due to unusually warm water temperatures and low water flow, DEC is concerned that unintentional fishing mortality of Pacific salmon could impact egg take operations and result in fewer fish for anglers in future years.
The quarter mile section of the Salmon River that comprises the Lower Fly Fishing Area is located immediately downstream of the Salmon River Hatchery and upstream of the County Rt. 52 Bridge in Altmar. The upper boundary of the area is just downstream from Beaverdam Brook. This location is a staging area for various species of fish, including Chinook and coho salmon, as they prepare to enter the hatchery via Beaverdam Brook.
Flows in the Salmon River are partially maintained through controlled releases from the Salmon River Reservoir. Under normal conditions, water releases from the reservoir are regulated through a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license intended to provide year-round minimum or “base” flows to the lower 18 miles of the Salmon River accessible to trout and salmon returning from Lake Ontario to spawn. In a typical year, base flows are increased on September 1 from summer level (185 cubic feet per second (cfs)) to fall level (335 cfs). However, the recent drought conditions have left the reservoir at a near historic low level (14 feet below dam crest on September 5, 2012) with no significant rain in the forecast. As a result, the executive committee of the Salmon River Flow Management Team agreed to conserve water in the reservoir by eliminating several high volume whitewater releases and delaying the transition from summer to fall base flow. Without these actions, there was a strong potential to deplete reservoir water by mid-October, based on current precipitation levels.
Should salmon returns to the hatchery be inadequate, DEC has developed a contingency plan to secure additional salmon eggs from other Lake Ontario tributaries, including the Black River and Orwell Brook. Further information on this regulation can be obtained by contacting the DEC’s Cape Vincent Fisheries Station at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 315-654-2147.
Image courtesy New York DEC