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Charter captains, guides return to operating in WNY

The big news this week with phase one of reopening Western New York is that charter captains and guides can begin operating trips for fishing and hunting. This is certainly good news not only for the captains and guides, but also for local communities that benefit from these operations. There is a long list of guidelines for captains to follow; they must develop a plan to keep people safe and they must read and sign off on a variety of conditions as it pertains to opening for business.

Capt. Rob Westcott, president of the Lake Ontario Charter Boat Association, made this statement last Friday:

“Today is the day most in our industry gets to return to work as New York regional openings begin. It has been known that as all businesses return to work, we must implement new pandemic procedures and protocols to move forward. New York State has put a lot of information up on its website regarding all of this and it is imperative that we all do a solid job to represent our industry in a positive way.

“Guidelines are one thing, but the state demands proper documentation also. Cleaning protocols are something that we should be familiar with due to the very nature of our business. However, the documentation demands are new to our industry and in the eyes of the state, it is a big one.”

In addition to Lake Ontario, charters and guides can now fish Niagara River, Lake Erie and Chautauqua Lake in Western New York. For information on guidelines, visit https://forward.ny.gov/industries-reopening-phase.

Sturgeon Point Marina dredging near

After several announcements stating that dredging at Sturgeon Point Marina will not take place this year, there has been an about-face thanks to a partnership with Spoth Enterprises, Union Concrete Construction and Engineers Local 17, who are supplying free labor and equipment to get the necessary work accomplished and ready for the fishing season on Lake Erie. The only thing that is needed from the Town of Evans is a high lift to help spread out the dredged material.

Jeanne Macko, with Lake Erie Towing and Salvage, stresses that it is a safety issue. The company keeps two boats in Buffalo and one boat at Sturgeon Point when the marina is open.

“We work hand-in-hand with the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Macko, “especially in the Evans area. There is no other safe harbor between Buffalo and Dunkirk.”

It is unclear if the marina portion of the harbor will be functioning, but some work installing docks was taking place. At the very least, the launch ramp access will provide a huge benefit to the local fishing community and assist with safety issues on the lake.

DEC needs coho salmon for study in Lake Ontario

Now that charter captains are working on Lake Ontario, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation reminds anglers that there is a study in place to analyze coho salmon through 2021. Each year, DEC stocks coho salmon at six sites along Lake Ontario as fall fingerlings and as spring yearlings. This is a continuing effort to evaluate the effectiveness of the stocking programs. All coho salmon stocked from 2016 to 2019 were marked or tagged. Researchers will be able to determine the amount of natural reproduction taking place for these fish.

Since it is unknown if the open lake creel census will be conducted by DEC on the lake this year due to Covid-19, it is vitally important that the study receives cooperation from the fishing fraternity. The agency asks volunteers to collect coho salmon heads from fish caught in the lake. Bags and labels will be located at the freezer sites, which have changed slightly from last year. At this end of the lake, there are freezers at the Fort Niagara cleaning station, Town of Newfane cleaning station, Bootleggers Cove Marina and Bald Eagle Marina. For details on the study, see https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/112942.html.

National Lake Trout Derby set for May 23-25

Despite concerns early on relative to social distancing and keeping people safe, organizers of the 56th annual National Lake Trout Derby on Seneca Lake will conduct the contest this weekend after receiving approval from the local health department.

Some rules that have been put into place include using only one weigh station during the event, located at Stivers Seneca Marine in Waterloo. Online registration will be accepted until 5 p.m. Friday, and walk-in registration will be accepted until 5 a.m. Saturday at Stivers. Roy’s Marina also is a registration point during normal business hours until the start of the derby.

When weighing a fish by boat or car, the procedure will be to blow your horn. Weigh-in will take place one at a time, always maintaining your social distancing. You can call (315) 789-5520 to let them know you have a fish to weigh. Do not weigh fish that will not make the leaderboard. A live board will be kept at www.laketroutderby.org.

No awards ceremony will be held Monday following the event. All prizes will be mailed. Prize money will be prorated based upon the number of participants in this year’s event. The top three places will receive cash prizes in each category.

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