Ever see or hear of a gilt darter? How about a deep-water cisco? No?
Most anglers and water-life watchers may not have heard of or seen them, but fisheries biologists and researchers have been focusing attention and efforts on restoring these freshwater fish species that have become rare and endangered in years past.
Both of these unusual species were reintroduced to New York State waters on Thursday, Nov. 8 through the collective efforts of the DEC and cooperating agencies.
Mike Clancy, Region 9 fisheries manager at the DEC Allegany office, administered a restoration outing that day along the Allegheny River. At three sites, Clancy and personnel from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and from SUNY Cobleskill stocked 1,200 gilt darters. Stocking conditions were ideal, a sunny but chilly day with river waters slightly stained and flowing at normal pool.
Dr. John Foster, Cobleskill professor, oversaw the hatching and rearing of gilt darter stock on campus. Doug Fischer and Chris Urban, with the PF&BC, brought darters taken from river waters in Pennsylvania below the Kinzua Dam.
Foster explained: “We have injected each fish with a colored ‘eastomer’ (latex lining under the skin), pink for fish from Pennsylvania and yellow from the New York hatching. The injection does not harm the fish and this will help to determine which source shows greater survival.”
Survival of gilt darters and several other fish species were impaired when the Kinzua Dam was built decades ago. Biologists cite water quality improvements that prompted the reintroduction of this darter species.
Clancy recalls the reintroduction of paddlefish in this waterway accomplished several years ago. “Some of those fish that were stocked at 8 to 12 inches are now 60 or 70 pounds in weight and thriving here,” he said of this once nearly extinct species in the Allegheny River.
While these gilt darters darted into river waters, DEC officials along Lake Ontario in Oswego partnered with the U.S. Geological Service, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to announce a re-introduction of the deepwater cisco, commonly referred to as the “bloater” fish, a rare species that had not been seen in Ontario waters for more than 30 years.
A deepwater cisco presence serves as an indicator of the stability of Lake Ontario’s fish community.
This native species once was a popular commercial catch and served as a food source for lake trout and burbot.
Successful restoration of both gilt darters in Allegheny River waters and the deepwater cisco into Lake Ontario will serve as a good indicator of improved water quality and another step in restoring native fish species in area waters.