Second Milestone Reached in the Buffalo River Walleye Restoration Project

Second Milestone Reached in the Buffalo River Walleye Restoration Project

Thursday, June 24, 2004 The Wall-I-Guys, a group of sportsmen from the Southtowns Walleye Association, Bison City Rod and Gun Club, East Aurora Fish & Game Club, Alden Rod and Gun Club, Erie County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, Erie County Fish Advisory Board, Erie County Department of Environment and Planning (Spencer Schofield) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC, Bill Culligan, Don Einhouse, Mike Wilkenson and staff), today stocked young walleye in the Buffalo River as part of the Buffalo River Walleye Restoration Project. The stocking took place at the Seneca Street Bridge in South Buffalo.

The first milestone was in the first week of May when the first walleye eggs were collected to start the stocking phase of this project. The walleye restoration project was started in 2002 when the Wall-I-Guys was formed.

DEC Region 9 Director Gerald Mikol, who was on hand for this initial stocking in the seven-year project, said, "Walleye are one of the most popular sportfish in Western New York. This stocking marks the beginning of a journey to establish a self-sustaining population of walleye in this urban river."

Spencer Schofield who, along with the DEC was instrumental in getting this project off the ground remarked with excitement what a great day it was for our local fishery and sportsmen. The weather was perfect and the river conditions could not have been better.

The eggs for this first stocking were collected from adult walleye caught in Cattaraugus Creek this past spring. The DEC's Chautauqua Hatchery provided the use of one pond to raise the fingerlings for the Buffalo River stocking. The Cattaraugus Creek walleye, a river spawning fish, which spend most of their lives in the lake were selected as the egg source because they return to the creek each spring to spawn.

The 28,000 fingerlings about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches long, were transported to the Buffalo River and released. It is hoped that these walleye will imprint on the Buffalo River and return to spawn as their parents do on the Cattaraugus Creek. The Wall-I-Guys and the DEC would like to establish a Buffalo River walleye population that lives in Lake Erie and spawns in the river each spring. It is believed that the Buffalo River once supported such a river spawning population of walleye.

Approximately 105,000 walleye fry the excess from the initial egg collection were stocked in the river in May. The first adult walleye from this initial stocking are not expected to return until 2008. The stocking of the river is planned for the next six years. It is hoped by the year 2010 to achieve 5000 adult walleye returning. It is a goal of the group to restore a naturally reproducing, self-sustaining walleye population in the Buffalo River. If the project is successful we should see a more stable abundant walleye population in the in the Buffalo River and adjacent areas of Lake Erie and the Upper Niagara River.

Historically the Buffalo River had a river spawning population of walleye. However, by the early 1900's, the river had become too polluted to support any viable fishery. Heavy industry along and dredging of the lower river destroyed much of the suitable spawning habitat. In recent years, the pollution has been abated and the water quality is much improved. It is believed that fish can reach the suitable spawning habitat further upstream. The Restoration Project includes construction of a walleye-rearing pond on Erie County property adjacent to the river. Walleye will be raised in this pond by volunteer labor and with DEC supervision. When ready the fingerlings will be released directly in to the river, this will reduce transport injury to the fish. Water from the river will be used in the pond to increase the potential for imprinting.

Success is not guaranteed for this project there will be a lot of work in the future. However, the team and all involved are very optimistic.

 

Paul McKeown, Supervisor of Fisheries NYS DEC, (left) and Gerald Mikol, DEC Region 9 Director on hand for the walleye release.

 

Eric Defries, DEC Biologist from the Chautauqua Hatchery getting the first pail of walleye to release.

The first bucket of walleye fingerlings released into the Buffalo River, the restoration has begun!

Released! Live long and prosper and y'all come back now!

 



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