On Wednesday, November 2, law enforcement officials made a midnight bust of a massive poaching infraction on one of New York’s premier Salmon and Steelhead streams. Officers from from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation arrested three men in possession of nearly 70 salmon loaded into garbage bags staged for loading into a waiting getaway pickup truck.
As reported by the Buffalo News, arresting officers noted, “They said they were going to eat them,” Schultz said. “They said they ‘really like them.'”
Schultz added: “We have no evidence they were anything other than what they said.”
The News went on to cite, “The suspects were charged with 32 violations, including fishing without a license, taking fish over the daily limit and illegal fishing at night, according to the DEC. Ironically, the state Health Department has a “do-not-eat” advisory for fish from the creek, which is listed on the federal Superfund list of toxic sites.
All of the men were U.S. citizens of Russian descent, officials said.
The Department of Environmental Conservation itself cited the following details of the bust.
A total of 69 salmon ranging in size from 5 to 35 pounds had been poached from the creek, the subjects using a weighted treble hook and net to snag the fish.
The exact species of fish that were taken during the incident was not articulated in the press, but 18-mile creek and the area of Lake Ontario offshore of the mouth are subject to heavy stocking of Chinook and Coho salmon, and Steelhead, which are a subspecies of Rainbow trout. Salmon and Steelhead — both species native to the western US — typically are spawned in headwater rivers, where they then migrate downstream to the ocean to mature in salt water. Unlimited feed allows the fish to reach sizes much larger than landlocked species. In the case of introduced salmonids in the Great Lakes drainages, large amounts of forage fish such as Shad allow the lakes to act as a similar rearing environment, with Great lakes fisheries for now considered by many to be of equal or better quality to sport fisheries in the Pacific Northwest.
Self -sustaining runs of fish in 18-mile creek are apparently not viable because of unsuccessful spawns in the upper reaches of the stream. The NY DEC cites that, “ Some natural reproduction of Pacific salmon occurs but is limited by the lack of high quality tributaries with good spawning and nursery habitat.”
It is not made clear whether this quality designation is a function of natural habitat or the above mentioned federal Superfund toxic cleanup status.