Studies by the U.S. Geological Survey over the last 3 years have found young Atlantic salmon in the Salmon River. Known for many other non-native varieties, the Salmon river is a popular tributary to Lake Ontario.
Not seen since the late 1800’s, the turnaround is not exactly known. There is speculation that the invasive goby population may be have a positive affect on the nutritional needs of the salmon, and counteract negative affects of consuming alewives.
Wild Atlantic salmon join Steelhead in upstate river
PULASKI, N.Y. — Native Atlantic salmon are once again reproducing in the wild in central New York’s renowned Salmon River, where anglers travel from across North America and overseas every autumn to reel in hatchery-bred Atlantics as well as non-native chinooks, cohos, brown trout and feisty steelheads that swim upstream from Lake Ontario.
After more than a century without a wild-breeding population, this is the third year in a row that researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey have found young Atlantic salmon in the river, said USGS scientist Jim Johnson. When the young mature, eggs will be taken from some to propagate at the USGS research lab in Cortland, he said.
The goal is to re-establish a heritage species that had a prominent place in the cultural history of the region, where early settlers wrote of spearing hundreds of salmon a night during the spawning run.
“Our geneticist says any strain that survives to adulthood will be a preferential strain to use in the future,” Johnson said.
Lake Ontario once supported the world’s largest freshwater population of Atlantic salmon. But the fish vanished in the late 1800s as a result of overfishing and habitat destruction. Government agencies in the U.S. and Canada have maintained an Atlantic salmon fishery by the annual stocking of millions of hatchery fish, but the fish haven’t been able to reproduce in the wild because of a thiamine deficiency caused by eating alewives, an invasive species. Alewives contain an enzyme that destroys thiamine, also known as Vitamin B1.
What do you think about the prospect of native species making a comeback? Will you head out to the Salmon River to wet a line in search of an Atlantic salmon?