New York's 2014 Great Lakes angler surveys indicate Lake Erie and Lake Ontario offer anglers excellent fishing opportunities, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. Survey results indicate Lake Erie experienced the greatest level of fishing participation in 12 years, while Lake Ontario anglers experienced another year of excellent trout and salmon fishing.

New York's Great Lakes waters offer anglers a broad diversity of outstanding fishing opportunities ranging from tackle-busting fishing for trophy Chinook salmon on Lake Ontario, winter steelhead fishing on the lower Niagara River, to catching a family meal of yellow perch from a dock on Lake Erie or the St. Lawrence River.

"Anglers in New York's Great Lakes waters continue to experience outstanding fishing opportunities," Commissioner Martens said. "New York's Great Lakes offer some of the best angling experiences available in North America. DEC staff conducts angler surveys each year that are critical in providing information necessary to effectively manage these fisheries for future generations."

Anglers can fish from shore, in tributaries, from a kayak or a canoe, or hire a local fishing guide to ply the waters in a large, fully equipped charter vessel. Due to a broad range of habitats and water temperatures, trophy fishing opportunities include trout and salmon, small and largemouth bass, walleye, muskellunge, northern pike and even catfish. Children can experience panfish angling in quiet backwaters for perch, pumpkinseeds, bluegills and bullheads.

In particular, anglers on Lakes Erie and Ontario in recent years have enjoyed exceptional fishing success, which is measured by the number of fish caught per hour of fishing.

The survey found on Lake Erie in 2014:

  • Anglers spent approximately 370,000 hours fishing, the highest effort in over 12 years.

  • The majority of anglers sought walleye (50 percent), yellow perch (21 percent) and bass (17 percent). Angling quality for walleye, smallmouth bass and yellow perch in 2014, as measured by angler catch rates, was at or near record levels. Walleye and yellow perch catch rates were the highest observed in the 27-year survey, while smallmouth bass catch rates were the second highest on record.

  • Yellow perch anglers harvested approximately 212,000 fish, the highest observed in the survey, and walleye anglers harvested nearly 62,000 fish, the third highest on record.

DEC's annual Lake Ontario Fishing Boat Survey provides information essential for managing a diverse, world-class trout and salmon fishery that attracts anglers from across the U.S. (38 states in 2014). In recent years, Lake Ontario anglers have experienced the best trout and salmon fishing on record. That trend continued in 2014 despite colder than normal water temperature patterns. The Lake Ontario 2014 survey found:

  • Trout and salmon anglers represented 94 percent of all anglers' hours on Lake Ontario.

  • Availability of brown trout along New York's entire Lake Ontario shoreline resulted in above average (18 percent) angler success in 2014.

  • Six species of trout and salmon stocked by DEC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provide anglers diverse opportunities to target different species when needed, and anglers took advantage of this during 2014 with catch rates for all trout and salmon species combined was 20 percent above average.

  • Chinook salmon anglers experienced periods of both excellent and difficult fishing in 2014, but overall angling quality was up 34 percent above average, the 12th consecutive year of elevated catch rates.

  • Rainbow trout angling quality was 35 percent above average, maintaining near-record high levels for the 7th consecutive year.

  • Lake trout fishing quality improved in recent years, and Atlantic salmon angler success remained 11 percent above average.

  • Coho salmon fishing quality was slightly below average in 2014.

Angler surveys are conducted each year from May through October on Lake Erie and from mid-April through September on Lake Ontario. Anglers returning to ports from the open waters of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are interviewed to gather information including numbers of anglers and the length of their fishing trip, which fish species were harvested or released, and biological data are collected from harvested fish to determine age and growth rates of various species. DEC extrapolates the data from those interviews to generate lakewide estimates for the angling year. The surveys for lakes Erie and Ontario were initiated in 1988 and 1985, respectively. New York's Lake Erie angler effort and harvest data for walleye and yellow perch are combined with companion data from neighboring states and the Province of Ontario to produce annual lake-wide assessments of the status of these species, providing essential information for establishing sustainable recreational and commercial harvest limits across jurisdictional borders.

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, 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 on the Lake Erie angler survey and for Lake Ontario Fisheries Unit Reports visit DEC's website, or contact Steven LaPan, New York Great Lakes Section Leader at Cape Vincent Fisheries Research Station, (315) 654-2147.