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Fish Stocking

Big Tupper Lake

14
May
2015
Author:
Don Meissner

Tupper Lake's Annual Fish Stocking

On May 7, 2015, I was able to join the New York State DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) and a dozen or so volunteers for the annual stocking of Big Tupper Lake. This year they stocked the lake with approximately 10,000 lake trout and 3,000 landlocked salmon. The video above is a quick recap of how the day transpired. It was truly inspiring to be part of the whole process.

View from our fishing boat on Big Tupper Lake

Reflecting on the day

What I try to do is put words to the feelings that I have - to try to express what fishing is like and all of these other experiences for people, but sometimes it is really difficult. As we went up the lake and I was looking at the splendor, and the beauty, and the grandeur around me, I was thinking... how can I put words to this? You just have to be there on the lake. I honestly didn't think Tupper Lake was as marvelous as it is. And all I can tell you if you get a chance to get out on Tupper Lake - spend a week, spend a lot of time fishing in some of the back bays, but more important just be there. Be in the moment and look around you. Look at the peaks, the mountains and the flow of the water. Just to be able to see it and sense it. It's worth an entire vacation. 

Hope you enjoy the video! - Don

Video Commentary 

Introduction 

"Hi folks, I'm Don Meissner. I'm here on Tupper Lake - yes, Tupper Lake, in the middle of the beautiful Adirondacks for a special day when the DEC is going to be stocking landlocked salmon and lake trout. I think those are some of their boats behind me, and we have perfect weather. But here is what's interesting - there aren't many lakes that can support these kind of fish. The lake has to be deep, it has to be cold, it has to have the right amount of oxygen and Tupper Lake has it all. It has over 28 miles of shoreline and it reaches depths of over a hundred feet. To have these lakers lurking in the depths, while you are fishing for bass and northern (pike) along the shoreline - my goodness, the opportunities and the fishing enjoyment you can have here I don't think can be rivaled by many places in this country."

Talking with Bobby Helms of Tame the Trout Charters 

Bobby Helms (left), Don Meissner (right)

Don: "I'm here speaking with Bobby Helms as we are getting ready to put these fish here into Tupper Lake, but Bobby knows a lot more about it than I do, so first of all is this a big day, putting these fish in here?"

Bobby: "Oh yeah. This is the second year that we have done it and we noticed last year that we started catching a few more salmon, just because they are not just dumping them right in water. We are deep water planting them right where they need to be."

Don: "So what does that mean, deep water planting them?"

Bobby: "We are putting them where they should live as adult fish and where all the smelt, where all the bait is, so there is less predation for them. We are putting them if 50 to almost 100 feet of water, so they can just disappear, because they are 7-9 inchers."

Don: "How long will it take for the fish here with the smelt that is here for that to reach the size that fishermen will be fishing them?"

Bobby: "I would say a couple of years. They eat very well here, they are well fed, the smelt population is massive! It's amazing, use see it on the depth finder and you will see clouds that have to be billions of smelt strong."

Don: "Is that right? Well, smelt is a major food of both lake trout and the salmon."

Bobby: "Yup, that's the forage base for pretty much every species of fish. When we troll deep in the summer for the lakers and the salmon, a lot of times we catch 6 to 40 inch northern, big walleyes. We'll catch 5-5 pound small mouths 45 feet down in the summer." 

Don: "Okay, that brings up an interesting point, these fish which you are talking about, which are trophy and highly sought after fish by fishermen all over, how much do they play a predator scale for these small salmon and these small lake trout?"

Bobby: "Oh, they have to eat them. There's no doubt."

Don: "They must love them."

Bobby: "Lakers don't care. I've caught Lakers in here that are 8-9 pounds and they have got cisco tails sticking out of their throat and still hitting. I've had salmon out here vomit up fist-sized piles of smelt and still take a spoon while we are trolling."

Don: "Is that right?" 

Speaking with Jack Delehanty about the fish stocking process

Don Meissner (left), Jack Delehanty (right)

Don: "There's a lot of activity going on around us right now, and I take it all of these boats have come here are going to volunteer to help disperse these fish. Is that what's going on?"

Jack: "We did it last year for the first time with 3,000 landlocked salmon. We know we have to put the salmon in as quickly as as we can. Although they are only coming from down the street - Lake Clear, The Adirondack Fish Hatchery - we know that once they are out of that truck, we've got to get them in as quickly as we can. In the old days, the department used to move their trucks out to the pump house that you can see over in that direction, and flush them out into the lake. The difficulty with that was - it's flat as a pancake in front of the pump house. It only reaches a depth of about 30 feet - 400 yards out. It was like ringing a dinner bell for the bass, and there are bass in here... for the walleye, and there are walleye in here, and there is probably going to be a state record walleye caught here in the next couple of year... and these socks... the north...

Don: "You know I love northern pikes..."

Jack: "They are terrible, slimy, toothy critters and they never come into the boat of a salmon fisher."

Don: "Oh, okay. As you can tell now, you've got the elite...(laugh)"

Jack: "no, no, no...(laugh)"

Don: "Although we all think we are the elite. The northern pike fishermen think they are the elite. But anyway, trout and salmon are really special. They are really the legends of what the northeast are made of. From Maine, all the way down through New Hampshire and the Adirondacks here in New York - and so, I'm just thrilled to be part of this whole thing, and to be part of the development and growth of Tupper Lake."

Jack: "You know there is a little self interest in it for us. We of course, want these fish to survive! The department has put tons of person-hours into growing them, tons of money into funding all of stocking programs and the Adirondack Fish Cultural Station in Chateaugay, where the lake trout come from. We just want them to have a chance to survive and that's why it is in our self interest to come out here and volunteer to plant them in the deep water rather than just have a tube go into the lake and have them become a buffet for your slimy, toothy critters (laugh)."

Adirondack Fish Hatchery, Lake Clear, NY

Don: "One final thought that comes out, of these 3,000 salmon that you are putting in today, what is the survival projection or percentage?"

Jack: "You would have to ask someone who knows a lot more about it that I do. What I have read, and I have done a lot of reading since I don't have anything to do anymore except hunt and fish..."

Don: "(laugh) ...poor guy"  

Jack: "Between 30 & 50 percent mortality. Where people fish them, it is more than that if you know what you are doing."

Don: "Interesting."

Jack: "So my advice to everyone if you may be watching this, is come on to Tupper Lake, we have a very good fishery. You may not catch a fish, but when you do, you will remember it for the rest of your life!"

Fish Stocking Commentary

Boats gather at the boat launch to help transport the fish out to the lake's deep waters

"In years past, what they would do is they would just dump all these fish through a tunnel right here next to shore and the fish would have to disperse. By having the volunteer boats come in, they can take the nets, put them in their coolers or whatever they have filled with fresh water, to be able to take them out a quarter of a mile to dump them. That is the process that is going on right now. We are taking each individual boat and putting as many salmon as we can - that are safe to be into their reservoirs." 

Taking the fish up the lake

"We are beginning our journey now to the magic hole where all these salmon are going - if you could tell right now where we are going, then you have got one up on everyone else, and you know where all these salmon are going to call home right now. Now of course that is a joke, but in any event, it will be fun to see them go to their new home."

Increasing the fish population by 13k

"We hit our spot where we are going to put these fish in and this is pretty exciting, what a beautiful boat ride too. This is their new home."

Returning to the boat launch for more fish

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