The Salmon are Coming Back
The second phase of Bring Back the Salmon, also known as the Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program, is delivering some exciting results on the efforts of the first five years. Since 2006, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) and Ministry of Natural Resources have led the program, which has been raising and releasing Atlantic Salmon into target streams on Lake Ontario, including the Credit River. Bring Back the Salmon's aim is to restore wild, self-sustaining populations of the once-abundant native species to the lake and its tributaries.
In August, watershed monitoring crews working for Credit Valley Conservation, a program partner, captured three adult Atlantic Salmon more than 70 km upstream from Lake Ontario. The fish were likely stocked into the river as juveniles in 2008 or 2009. As part of their natural life cycle, they would have spent one to three years in the lake before migrating upstream again to spawn. To reach these locations at which they were released, some fish had to pass four to six migration barriers on their own, living up to their nickname, "the leaper".
"Each year we are seeing more signs that we're on track for long-term success in this major native species restoration effort. From returning Atlantic Salmon adults lower down in the streams, to successful spawning, to wild juvenile fish, and now to adults returning to their release locations, these results are thrilling to our many partners and everyone who values Ontario's natural heritage," said OFAH Executive Director, Mike Reader.
Aiding Atlantic Salmon in their upstream migration is a new fishway at Norval, which was completed this year with funding assistance from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Credit River Anglers Association and the Bring Back the Salmon program. In late August, the MNR monitoring crew recorded the first confirmed Atlantic Salmon to move through the fishway.
In addition to collecting length and weight information, monitoring crews also remove a small piece of fin tissue from each Atlantic Salmon captured before releasing it back into the wild. These samples enable scientists to determine an individual fish's hatchery parents, year of birth, strain and age at stocking - all valuable data for the restoration program. This use of genetic assessment (think Atlantic Salmon CSI) is cutting-edge conservation biology, aided by support from the Canada-Ontario Agreement.
Anglers are reminded that it is illegal to fish for Atlantic Salmon in Lake Ontario streams. The Credit River is regularly patrolled by MNR Conservation Officers to ensure compliance with fishing regulations. With limited exceptions (in lower reaches of rivers) for Chinook/Coho Salmon and trout, the season in Fisheries Management Zone 16 closes September 30. See the Ontario Recreational Fishing Regulations Summary for details at www.ontario.ca/fishing.