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Spotlight on Partnerships

Fishing Regulations Icon New York Fishing

Cooperative Pen-rearing Projects for Great Lakes Trout and Salmon

The Great Lakes pen-rearing program is an outstanding example of cooperation between DEC and the angling public to improve NYS fisheries. Pen-rearing involves stocking fingerling salmon and trout into holding pens, where they are fed and cared for by volunteers for a period up to 28 days prior to release. The purpose of this program is to increase survival of stocked fish and to improve returns of adult fish back to specific stocking sites.

Cooperative pen-rearing projects for Chinook salmon and steelhead began on Lake Ontario in 1998, and on Lake Erie in 1992. Evaluations of the relative survival and returns to the stocking site of pen-reared vs. direct-stocked Chinook salmon showed that, on average, pen-reared fish survived more than twice as well as direct-stocked fish. Pen-reared fish also showed improved returns to the streams where they were stocked. The long-term success of the pen-rearing program would not be possible without the efforts of countless dedicated volunteers, and the program continues to show how Great Lakes sport fisheries can be enhanced by collaboration between stakeholders and DEC. In 2019, more than 500,000 Chinook salmon and 60,000 steelhead will be raised in ten cooperative pen-rearing projects on Lake Ontario and one on Lake Erie.