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Lake Champlain Atlantic Salmon Net Pen-Rearing Program

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced the second year of a five-year experimental Atlantic Salmon pen rearing project on the Saranac River Estuary. In partnership with the Plattsburgh Boat Basin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lake Champlain chapter of Trout Unlimited, SUNY Plattsburgh, and Paul Smith’s College, the initiative will help improve post-stocking survival of this species.

“Atlantic salmon is a prized native fish and a critical component of the ecosystem of the Saranac River Estuary in Lake Champlain,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “With the ongoing support and commitment of our partners, DEC’s innovative pen rearing program is improving the salmon population and enhancing the potential for increased spawning, bolstering future opportunities for New York anglers.”

Atlantic salmon smolts are being held in six net pens at the Plattsburgh Boat Basin docks for three weeks starting in April in an effort to improve survival and familiarize the fish with the stocked water in order to increase the likelihood of its later return for spawning – a process called imprinting.

The project will compare two lots of approximately 26,000 salmon smolts to evaluate effectiveness of net pen rearing as a stocking method. One lot of Atlantic salmon will be stocked into net pens in the Saranac River Estuary, pre-smolt, and held for approximately three weeks prior to release as smolts. A second lot will be directly stocked into the Saranac River Estuary at the same time as the net pen smolts are released, serving as a control. A comparison of returns between the two stocking methods will determine if pen rearing results in greater survival and homing than conventional, direct stocking.

Sebago strain of landlocked Atlantic salmon smolts and fish food will be provided by the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery. DEC will supply the net pens, transport the smolts and coordinate a volunteer program with the Lake Champlain chapter of Trout Unlimited, SUNY Plattsburgh, and Paul Smith’s College to feed the salmon and monitor the fish until released.

For more information about salmon in New York State, visit DEC’s Salmon and Atlantic salmon webpages.

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