Champlain Lake Trout Natural Reproduction Allows Reduced Stocking
Natural reproduction of Lake Champlain’s lake trout has increased enough to allow a reduction in the number that are annually stocked according to a recommendation from the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative – a working group of fisheries professionals from the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A stocking program was established in the 1950’s to restore lake trout to Lake Champlain following the loss of the native population from water quality and habitat changes. Currently, 82,000 fin-clipped yearling lake trout are stocked annually, and while surveys indicated good survival of the stocked fish in the early years, there was little evidence of natural reproduction occurring.
In the last 10 years, however, University of Vermont researchers have documented an increasing number of unclipped juvenile lake trout, a potential indication of successful natural reproduction resulting in wild fish. Additionally, surveys conducted by the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative in 2020 found that the percentage of unclipped young lake trout collected was increasing and exceeded the threshold established by the Cooperative for reducing stocking.
As a result, the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative is proposing to reduce lake trout stocking by 33 percent (~27,060 fish) to maintain quality lake trout populations while avoiding overstocking. Current Lake Champlain stocking levels of landlocked Atlantic salmon, brown trout and steelhead will remain the same.
The reduction will be achieved initially by eliminating lake trout stocked by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Members of the Lake Champlain Fisheries Technical Committee will continue conducting annual assessments and data collection to guide future decisions.
“The observations of increasing wild lake trout production in Lake Champlain is exciting news and a testament to the progress that has been made in the last 60 years,” said Vermont’s Director of Fisheries Eric Palmer. “The Lake Champlain fishing community will benefit greatly from these improvements.”
For Immediate Release: March 22, 2021
Media Contacts: Eric Palmer 802-751-0107, Shawn Good 802-786-3863