Niagara Power Project FERC No. 2216

 

RECREATION FISHING SURVEY OF THE UPPER NIAGARA RIVER

 

HTML Format.  Text only

 

Prepared for: New York Power Authority 

Prepared by: Normandeau Associates, Inc.

 

August 2005

 

___________________________________________________

 

Copyright © 2005 New York Power Authority

 

ABBREVIATIONS AND COMMON TERMS

angler hour           basic unit of angler effort

angler trip             a measure of angling effort, calculated by dividing angler hours (also a measure of effort) by mean trip length in hours

B.A.S.S.                 Bass Anglers Sportsman Society

black bass             fishes within genus Micropterus; herein, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass

catch                      all fish caught by an angler

cfs                          cubic feet per second

CPUE                    acronym for catch-per-unit-of-effort; catch rate.  Herein, fish caught per angler-hour; a measure of angler success

directed fishery     effort by anglers targeting a specific species (e.g., striped bass) or group of fishes (black bass, catfishes)

ESPN                     Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, owner of B.A.S.S.

h                            hours

harvest                  fish caught that are kept by the angler

HPUE                    acronym for harvest-per-unit-of-effort; harvest rate.  Herein, fish harvested per angler-hour; a measure of angler success

mm                        millimeter

NYSDEC               New York State Department o Environmental Conservation

QA                        quality assurance

SE                          standard error, a precision measure of an estimate

retention rate        the proportion of fish caught that were harvested by an angler

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

A sport fishing survey was conducted on the upper Niagara River from April 5 through November 30, 2003.  The objectives were to estimate the number of hours fished, the number of fish caught and harvested, catch rates, and harvest rates for both shore and boat anglers.  Data on fishing from boats were collected from 35 weekly aerial counts and from interviews with 379 boat angling parties at a combination of eight boat ramps and marinas.  Data on fishing from shore were collected from counts of anglers and 5,124 anglers interviewed representing 3,072 fishing parties at 15 public access sites along the river.

Boat anglers made an estimated 16,741 trips to the upper Niagara River and spent an estimated 65,050 hours fishing. Seasonally, the greatest number of the trips (54%) and hours spent fishing (56%) occurred during the summer.  More boat trips were made to the Tonawanda Channel (6,880) than to the Chippewa Channel (4,219) or mainstem of the Niagara River (5,642).  Among boat anglers who fished for a particular species rather than anything they could catch, smallmouth bass was most frequently sought, followed by muskellunge and northern pike.  Boat anglers fished for smallmouth bass and muskellunge primarily during the summer and fall and for northern pike primarily during the spring.

 Shore anglers made an estimated 44,854 trips to the upper Niagara River and spent an estimated 91,530 hours fishing. Seasonally, the estimated greatest number of the trips (47%) and hours spent fishing (47%) occurred during the summer.  Most of their trips were to Ferry Street (Broderick Park), Squaw Island, and Ontario Street; 71% of the trips were to Buffalo waterfront sites. Unlike boat anglers, most shore anglers (70%) fished for whatever they could catch rather than a particular species.  Among shore anglers who fished for a particular species, black bass (primarily smallmouth bass) was most frequently sought, followed by yellow perch and northern pike.  Shore anglers fished for black bass (primarily for smallmouth bass) during all seasons and for yellow perch and northern pike primarily during the spring and fall.

The catch rate of yellow perch by boat anglers seeking yellow perch during 2003 was 4.68 fish/hour for the period April 5 through November 30 and 4.02 fish/hour for the period May 18 through November 30, i.e., the period when boat anglers were interviewed during a 1999 survey.  The catch rate during the 1999 survey, based on anglers interviewed in New York only, was. 5.20 fish/hour. The catch rate of yellow perch by shore anglers seeking yellow perch during 2003 was 4.11 fish/hour for the period April 5 through November 30 and 3.20 fish/hour for the period July 23 through November 30, i.e., the period when shore anglers were interviewed during the 1999 survey. The catch rate of yellow perch during the 1999 survey was 5.11 fish/hour.   

The catch rate of smallmouth bass by boat anglers seeking smallmouth bass during 2003 was 0.84 fish/hour for the period April 5 through November 30 and 0.79 fish/hour for the period May 18 through November 30, i.e., the period when boat anglers were interviewed during a 1999 survey.  The catch rate during the 1999 survey, based on anglers interviewed in New York only, was 0.90 fish/hour. The catch rate of smallmouth bass by shore anglers seeking smallmouth bass during 2003 was 0.55 fish/hour for the period April 5 through November 30 and 0.49 fish/hour for the period July 23 through November 30, i.e., the period when shore anglers were interviewed during the 1999 survey. The catch rate of smallmouth bass during the 1999 shore survey was 1.64 fish/hour.  

The catch rate of northern pike by boat anglers seeking northern pike during 2003 was 0.45 fish/hour for the period April 5 through November 30 and 0.45 fish/hour for the period May 18 through November 30, i.e., the period when boat anglers were interviewed during a 1999 survey.  The catch rate during the 1999 survey, based on anglers interviewed in New York only, was 0.25 fish/hour. The catch rate of muskellunge by boat anglers seeking muskellunge during 2003 was 0.07 fish/hour for the period April 5 through November 30 and 0.07 fish/hour for the period May 18 through November 30, i.e., the period when boat anglers were interviewed during the 1999 survey. The catch rate of muskellunge during the 1999 survey was 0.08 fish/hour.  

Overall CPUE for the boat fishery was 1.08 fish/h, with angler success higher during spring than during other seasons.  The overall HPUE was 0.13 fish/h as boat anglers released a high proportion of fish caught.  Overall CPUE and HPUE for the shore fishery was 2.10 and 0.90 fish/h, with angler success and harvest higher in the fall than in other seasons.  The largest components of total CPUE and HPUE by shore anglers resulted from success catching yellow perch, round goby, smallmouth bass, and rock bass.

Boat anglers caught an estimated 71,126 fish, 85% of which were smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, yellow perch, and northern pike, and harvested an estimated at 9,457 fish, 78% of which were smallmouth bass and yellow perch.  Catch and harvest of smallmouth bass peaked during summer while catch and harvest of yellow perch peaked in the fall.

Shore anglers caught an estimated 185,637 fish, of which most were yellow perch, round goby, rock bass, and smallmouth bass, and harvested an estimated 79,040 fish, with more than half the harvest consisting of round goby that were typically discarded by the anglers. Yellow perch and rock bass formed the bulk of the remaining fish harvested for personal use.  Although 24,353 smallmouth bass were caught, only 1,617 were harvested.  Catch and harvest of round goby and smallmouth bass peaked in summer, while catch and harvest of yellow perch peaked in spring and fall.  Catch and harvest rock bass was highest in spring and summer.

About 95% of all anglers interviewed resided locally, i.e., in Erie County, Niagara County, or nearby portions of the five adjacent counties; most of the others were from out-of-state.

 

1.0     INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) is engaged in the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston, Niagara County, New York.  The present operating license of the plant expires in August 2007.  As part of its preparation for the relicensing of the Niagara Project, NYPA is developing background information related to the ecological, engineering, recreational, cultural, and socioeconomic aspects of the Project. 

The 1,880-MW (firm capacity) Niagara Power Project is one of the largest non-federal hydroelectric facilities in North America.  The Project was licensed to the newly created Power Authority of the State of New York (now the New York Power Authority) in 1957.  Construction of the Project began in 1958, and first electricity was produced in 1961.

The Project has several components.  Twin intakes are located approximately 2.6 miles above Niagara Falls.  Water entering these intakes is routed around the Falls via two large low-head conduits to a 1.8-billion-gallon forebay, lying on an east-west axis about 4 miles downstream of the Falls.  The forebay is located on the east bank of the Niagara River.  At the west end of the forebay, between the forebay itself and the river, is the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant, NYPA’s main generating plant at Niagara.  This plant has 13 turbines that generate electricity from water stored in the forebay.  Head is approximately 300 feet.  At the east end of the forebay is the Lewiston Pump Generating Plant.  Under non-peak-usage conditions (i.e., at night and on weekends), water is pumped from the forebay via the plant’s 12 pumps into the 22-billion-gallon Lewiston Reservoir, which lies east of the plant.  During peak usage conditions (i.e., daytime Monday through Friday), the pumps are reversed for use as generators, and water is allowed to flow back through the plant, producing electricity.  The forebay therefore serves as headwater for the Robert Moses plant and receptor of tailwater from the Lewiston Plant.  South of the forebay is a switchyard, which serves as the electrical interface between the Project and its service area.

For purposes of generating electricity from Niagara Falls, two seasons are recognized:  tourist season and non-tourist season.  By law, at least 100,000 cfs must be allowed to flow over Niagara Falls during tourist season (April 1 – October 31) daytime and evening hours, and at least 50,000 cfs at all other times.  Canada and the United States are entitled by international treaty to produce hydroelectric power with the remainder, sharing equally.

One of the studies NYPA agreed to conduct as part of the relicensing process was a sport fishing survey conducted on the upper Niagara River from April through November 2003.  The objectives of the survey were to estimate:

1.       shore and boat fishing effort on the upper Niagara River,

2.       the numbers of fish caught and harvested, and

3.       catch and harvest rates.

 

2.0     METHODS

2.1         Study Area

The upper Niagara River flows north past Buffalo, New York, a major urban center of more than 292 thousand residents (2000 U.S. census; http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/36000.html), and further north creates Niagara Falls, a prime, international tourist attraction.  The combined population of adjacent Erie County, which includes Buffalo, and less densely populated Niagara County to the north is approximately 1.16 million people (2000 U.S. census; http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/36000.html). Previous estimates suggested that more than a quarter-million angler days of fishing effort may be spent on the upper Niagara River (Connelly et al. 1997). Recreational angling is enhanced by the quality and variety of fish species readily available to both shore and boat anglers, including game fish such as smallmouth bass, steelhead, walleye, northern pike, and muskellunge, plus numerous panfish species (NYSDEC 2002). Scientific names of fishes corresponding to the common names used throughout this report are listed in Appendix A.

The sport fishery assessment was conducted on the entire upper Niagara River, bordered on the south by the Peace Bridge and on the north by the navigation-restriction boundary about 2.5 miles above Niagara Falls (Figure 2.1-1).  The Peace Bridge was considered the boundary between Lake Erie and the upper Niagara River.  The Niagara River represents the international boundary between the United States (US) and Canada.  The actual border roughly bisects the mainstem river for several miles north of the Peace Bridge, but further north follows the western shore of Grand Island about 100 m offshore.  Grand Island splits the river for much of the study area into the East Channel (Tonawanda Channel) and the West Channel (Chippewa Channel).  Thus, the East Channel is entirely within US (New York) waters, whereas the West Channel is primarily Canadian (Ontario province) waters. Physical and habitat characteristics of the upper Niagara River are provided in NYSDEC 2002.

2.2         General Survey Design Characteristics

The 2003 upper Niagara River sport fishery assessment consisted of two concurrent study designs that extended from 5 April through 30 November.  The individual study designs were developed to independently assess the shore and boat-based fisheries.  The shore fishery design was conducted entirely within New York State, and survey data represent only New York-based sport fisheries.  The boat fishery design yielded data judged to be representative of the entire river (US and Canada) sport fishery (NYSDEC 2002), although interviews were conducted only at selected New York public access points. See Section 4.2 for a discussion of the underlying survey assumptions.

The eight-month time frame was stratified into three seasons.  The seasons, which were of unequal length and were developed to reflect New York State fishing regulations, were defined as follows:

·         Spring = 5 April - 20 June;

·         Summer = 21 June - 1 September (Labor Day); and

·         Fall = 2 September - 30 November.

Weekdays and weekend days/holidays represented additional temporal strata. Each weekend day and designated federal (US) holiday was sampled, as well as three weekdays per week throughout the survey.  The Friday after Thanksgiving was substituted for the federal Thanksgiving Day holiday.  Throughout the survey period, a fishing day was defined as 0730 to approximately 1-h after sunset.

A total of 17 public access sites were included in the overall study design (Table 2.2-1; Figure 2.1-1).  The shore survey included 15 sites divided into two geographic areas.  Seven shore fishing sites (100-numbered series in Table 2.2-1) bordered the Buffalo waterfront.  Eight additional shore sites (200-numbered series in Table 2.2-1) were located north of Buffalo in the Town or City of Tonawanda, North Tonawanda, Niagara Falls, or on Grand Island (see Figure 2.1-1).  The shoreline sites ranged in size from smaller parks (e.g., Towpath Park, Griffon Park) to extensive shoreline areas within linear river parks, particularly in the Tonawandas (e.g., Isle View, Niawanda, and Gratwick Riverside Parks).  Three shore fishing sites were further partitioned as shown in Table 2.2-1 (e.g., West River Parkway on Grand Island) to better describe angler usage.

Several shore fishing sites such as Isle View and Niawanda Parks or Broderick Park at the foot of Ferry Street were extensive.  Further, angler movement among or within such sites was enhanced by the biking/hiking path that parallels the upper Niagara River throughout this reach.  In these instances, site boundaries (not listed in Table 2.2-1 but provided in the SOP, Appendix B) were established to facilitate angler count consistency among survey technicians, and to meet survey time requirements, especially during peak angler use periods such as weekends during good weather.  In addition, anglers counted and interviewed in Beaver Island State Park were limited to those fishing from structures associated with the marina. 

Eight public boat ramps were sampled for the boat fishing survey (Table 2.2-1; Figure 2.1-1).  Six boat ramps were located within sites that also offered shore fishing access.  The two boat-only sites also offered seasonal dockage facilities that were sampled along with ramp retrievals.  Locally abundant private marinas were not sampled.

2.3         Boat Fishery Sampling Methods

The upper Niagara River boat fishery was assessed with a complemented survey (Pollock et al. 1994) that combined aerial counts of fishing boats with information obtained from ground interviews at boat ramps.  Field data collection effort totaled 178 technician days. Weekly flights were made by helicopter flown at about 500 ft above ground level that facilitated separate counts of active fishing boats, fishing boats in transit (visible wake), and other recreational craft.  Fishing boats were identified by location, activity, or visible gear, occasionally with assistance of binoculars.  An approximately equal number of weekday and weekend/holiday flights was achieved by alternating flight days between daytypes throughout the survey.  The specific flight day was chosen at random.  Fishing and non-fishing boat counts were recorded separately for the East Channel, West Channel, and river mainstem on standardized boat count forms (Figure 2.3-1).

Flights occurred mid-day (between 1100-1500 h) to coincide with the expected period of maximum boat use, as demonstrated by Lockwood et al. (2001) for another Great Lakes boat fishery.  The rationale for non-random scheduling of count flight times is provided principally in Lockwood et al. (2001) but also in Dauk and Schwarz (2001).  Counting fishing boats during times of expected maximum use results in fishing pressure estimates based on the maximum amount of data and the minimum amount of data expansion to represent effort for the respective stratum, while reducing any error (variability) associated with count expansion (Lockwood et al. 2001).

Boat angler count flights originated at Niagara Falls International Airport.  Each flight proceeded south over the east or west channel, over the river mainstem to the Peace Bridge, and returned via the uncounted channel (Figure 2.1-1).  Count times were short, typically lasting 20-35 minutes, and only rarely longer.

The time and location of on-site boat angler interviews were each selected randomly from among a series of potential starting times (0730 h -1430 h, depending upon day length) and the eight boat ramps included in the design (Table 2.2-1).  The design specified three boat ramps each surveyed for two hours per day, thus surveys could begin as late as 1430 h during summer (but no later than 1130 h in November) and be completed by dark.  New York State-owned Big Sixmile Marina on Grand Island was surveyed only when open between May 10 and November 1.  Technicians interviewed all returning anglers during the 2-h interval.  Ramps were never sufficiently busy to require a formal subsample of returning anglers  (see Section 2.4 below).  The exceptions occurred when anglers refused to be interviewed which happened infrequently.  Technicians also tallied the number of non-fishing boats returning to the ramp during the interval.  Personal water craft (jet-skis) and recreational boats retrieved from in-water dockage at the end of boating season were not tallied.  The number of boat anglers returning and the number interviewed were recorded on the standard count form (Figure 2.3-2).

Completed trip interview data were recorded on standardized survey forms (Figure 2.3-3). Interrupted fishing trips that returned to the ramp for food, fuel, or mechanical problems were considered completed trips.  All boat anglers were asked where they fished.  Upper Niagara River anglers were classified into four groups: East Channel only, West Channel only, mainstem only, or multiple river locations.  Anglers fishing only in Lake Erie or that fished in both Lake Erie and the Niagara River were interviewed but identified separately.  Generally, such an interview proceeded until the angler mentioned Lake Erie. As a result, characteristics of Lake Erie anglers were consistently gathered but accurate catch data sometimes were not.  Further, attempts during interviews to separate time spent in the lake or the river as well as any associated catch during a fishing trip that included both locations proved fruitless.  All data from anglers that fished all or part of their trip in Lake Erie were omitted from any upper Niagara River analyses.

2.4         Shore Fishery Sampling Methods

The shore fishery was assessed with a roving-roving angler survey design that combined pressure counts with on-site interviews (Pollock et al. 1994).  Technicians traveled site to site along specific routes on a precise time schedule.  The time schedule provided “check points” to assure continued movement during the count-while-interviewing procedure.  Each shore site was visited each survey day.  Due to the large number of access sites in the design, two independent but concurrent sampling events were scheduled daily, termed the Buffalo Route and the Northern Route. Morning and afternoon survey periods scheduled on alternate days provided additional temporal stratification.  The duration of each survey period equaled one-half of the hours available monthly from 0730 to approximately 1-h post-sunset.  Field data collection for the shore fishery totaled 356 technician days.

The Buffalo Route always consisted of seven sites.  The Northern Route consisted of eight sites during April through 23 May, and from 18 October through the survey conclusion, and seven sites during 24 May through 17 October.  The Beaver Island State Park site on Grand Island was dropped from the Northern Route for approximately five months because shore anglers were denied marina access to avoid conflicts with boaters. Daily routes of travel were selected at random from among three site-order options to avoid repeated sampling at a site at the same time of day.

Equal time intervals were spent at each site on a route and included a count of all anglers upon arrival, interview time, and travel time to the next site on the route.  Several sites were small enough to also permit a departure angler count.  These sites included Towpath Park, Sheridan Drive, Fisherman’s Park, Griffon Park, Woods Creek mouth, and Beaver Island State Park.  Departure counts were initiated on April 22 when technicians observed frequent angler arrivals and departures following their initial angler count. All angler counts were recorded on standardized survey count forms (Figure 2.3-2).

Angler interviews occurred after the arrival count.  Technicians moved through the site and interviewed all or a subsample of angler parties actively fishing. As a result, most interviews consisted of incomplete trips.  At busy sites it frequently was necessary to interview every 2nd or 3rd party to accommodate the time schedule. Interview data were recorded on standardized survey forms (Figure 2.3-3).

2.5         Biological Data

Selected harvested species were measured (total length, TL, in mm) and checked for marks and tags (as made available by anglers) according to the protocol in Table 2.5-1.  Marks and tags included fin clips, passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags, or coded wire tags (CWT) used by NYPA contractors during companion relicensing studies, dorsal tags applied by the Niagara Musky Association, or fin clips and tags utilized by various resource agencies.  Interviewed anglers who caught and released muskellunge were asked to estimate TL in inches.

2.6         Tournaments

Fishing tournaments were identified and catalogued prior to and during the survey.  Tournaments sponsored by national, statewide, or regional groups were usually well publicized in the local media or over the Internet.  Bait and tackle stores were checked regularly for news of upcoming events, local or otherwise.  However, many locally-sponsored events were encountered only by chance.  Tournament participants encountered during interviews were noted on the standard interview form (Figure 2.3-3). 

2.7         Computational Methods

Field data quality control began with a review of each day’s data sheets for accuracy and completeness by the survey technician prior to delivery to the field coordinator. The field coordinator and project manager each completed subsequent data sheet reviews before submittal for electronic processing. All questionable entries were resolved prior to data entry.

Shore angler count data were double-keyed into a Microsoft Excel database.  Database listings were produced and compared to original data sheets, and any corrections made as necessary. Following these QA steps, the shore count data were loaded to a SAS Version 8.0 database for further processing and analysis.  Similarly, all aerial count and ground interview data were double-keyed to separate Excel databases and, following the QA process, were loaded into a SAS Version 8.0 database for all calculations.

2.7.1        Boat Angler Survey

Effort estimates for the boat fishery were based on the weekly helicopter flights that counted active fishing boats.  Effort estimates in angler hours were developed as described in Lockwood et al. (2001). The number of anglers per fishing boat was obtained from the ground interviews.  The expansion from boat counts to angler hours of effort depends upon development of “boat angler use profiles” based on ground interview data.  These profiles were developed for each of the six boat angler strata (season = 3; daytype = 2) from all the boat interviews in the stratum.  Each profile describes the hourly distribution of boat anglers on the water throughout a fishing day in the respective stratum. Factors ept for expanding counts for i = 1-24 hours are

 

where   bpt = number of boating parties each hour of the day during the period.

Since it represented a minimal portion of the overall effort variance, the variance attributable to the expansion factors derived from the “boat angler use profiles” was not included in the overall effort variance calculations (Roger Lockwood, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, personal communication to John Magee, Gomez and Sullivan Engineers). Each individual count Bpt was then expanded by ept and the number of days in the period Dp to estimate effort Ept.

 

Mean effort for the period was estimated by averaging over n counts in the period.

Estimated variance for is

.

Estimated boat anglers hours for the period was derived by multiplying by the mean number of anglers per boat Ap in the period. Variance of the estimated boat angler hours is

.

Estimated effort in angler hours was calculated for targeted species.  Species -specific effort was the product of the amount of boat angler effort in a primary stratum (e.g., summer) and the proportion of anglers targeting a species in the respective stratum.  This method is simplified in that it does not account for variations in trip length among anglers targeting different species.

Effort in angler trips was also estimated as described in Malvestuto (1983).  The estimate of angler effort in angler hours for a stratum was divided by the mean length of a completed fishing trip in the stratum.  Total effort in trips was the aggregate of individual strata.

Catch and harvest rates were developed from completed trip interviews.  A ratio-of-means estimator (Jones et al. 1995; Lockwood 1997; Pollock et al. 1997) was used to calculate catch and harvest rates within each stratum.  All rates are expressed as fish per angler-hour (fish/h).  Overall rates (all anglers) as well as directed (targeted fishing) rates were calculated.  Overall rates were used to calculate catch and effort, whereas directed rates were used for various comparisons of angler success.  Catch rates and harvest rates for boat anglers were determined using a ratio-of-means estimator, which is recommended when using completed trip interviews (Jones et al. 1995).  The ratio-of-means estimator is calculated by dividing the total catch by the total effort of all the interviewed anglers within the stratum.  This estimator was defined as:

 

where   =  mean boat catch rate or harvest rate for the stratum,

            n = the number of party interviews in the stratum,

            xi = the catch or harvest of the ith party i=1,......,n,

            ci = the total angler hours expended by the ith party.

The estimates of variance of the mean catch or harvest rate were calculated by using the single cluster sampling with replacement formula described by Jones et al. (1995):

 

where   estimated variance of the mean catch or harvest rate for boat anglers,

            = mean catch or harvest rate for boat anglers,

            n = the number of party interviews in the stratum,

            xi = the catch or harvest rate for the ith party i=1,.........,n,

            ci = the total angler hours expended by the ith party,

            N = number of anglers in the stratum or given day,

            mean angler effort.

Using the variance of the means, the standard error of estimation was calculated:

.

Catch and harvest for each species by season were the products of effort and overall catch/harvest rates for that species for each day type (weekday, weekend) in a season.  Seasonal estimates were the sum of the two day type estimates per season.

Similar calculations of catch and harvest estimates for geographic areas were not done because boat anglers were generally unable to identify the number and species of fish caught and the amount of time spent in each geographic area when they moved between or among geographic areas during a trip.

2.7.2        Shore Angler Survey

Daily stratum (AM or PM) effort in angler hours was the product of the summed angler counts (including any averages of an arrival and departure count) and the survey period length for each day type (weekday, weekend).  Survey period length was one-half the length of the defined fishing day (0730 h to approximately 1-h past sunset).  The mean of the daily estimates for an AM or PM stratum was multiplied by the number of days in the respective day type each month or season and then summed to estimate total effort for the month or season.  Monthly and seasonal effort was summed for the April-November period and expressed in angler hours. Angler counts were expanded to estimate effort of the ith fishing day by:

 

where   Ii = count of anglers at time i,

            T = length of the fishing period.

Monthly and seasonal strata effort was summed for the April-November period and expressed in angler hours.  The estimated effort for the stratum is:

 

where   πi = nk / Nk for all of the sampling units in the ith stratum.

Total effort is the sum of the effort of each stratum.

The variance for each stratum and standard error is:

 

 

where   na = number of units sampled in stratum,

            Na = total number of units in stratum.

The sum of the variances for each stratum is the variance for total effort.

Estimated effort in angler hours was calculated for targeted species.  Species-specific effort was the product of the amount of shore angler effort in a primary stratum (e.g., summer) and the proportion of anglers targeting a species in the respective stratum.  This method is simplified in that it does not account for variations in trip length among anglers targeting different species.

Effort in angler trips was estimated by dividing the angler hour estimates by the appropriate mean trip length (h).  Angler trips were calculated for seasons to increase the number of completed trips available for the mean trip length calculation.  Catch and harvest rates were estimated using the mean-of-ratios estimator as recommended by Pollock et al. (1994) and Jones et al. (1995) for incomplete trips.  The mean-of-ratios estimator averages the catch and harvest rates for individual anglers/parties in a stratum. Incomplete fishing trips <0.5 h were omitted from catch and harvest rate calculations to avoid extreme catch rates (Pollock et al. 1994). Overall and targeted catch and harvest rates were calculated. This estimator was defined as:

 

where   = mean catch or harvest rate for shore anglers,

            yi = catch of the ith shore angler,

            xi = trip length of the ith angler,

            n = number of interviews in a stratum.

The variance and standard error for this estimator are:

 

.

Catch  and harvest  were estimated as the product of effort  for each stratum and the overall catch and harvest rates for each species of that stratum.  Strata totals were summed to estimate total catch and harvest for each month and each season.  Monthly or seasonal totals were summed to yield total catch and harvest.

 

.

The variance for catch and harvest was calculated as in Pollock et al. (1994).

 

where   Ci = daily catch estimates for stratum 1,

            ni = number of days sampled in stratum 1,

            N = number of days in stratum.

The variances were summed across strata to estimate the variance of total catch and harvest. Standard error of the total was estimated by

.

 

 

Table 2.2-1

Access Sites (all U.S.) Sampled During 2003 Upper Niagara River Sport Fishery Assessment

Access site

Survey*

Code**

Sub-site

Sampled Area

Bird Island Pier

S

101

river side

Pier proper south to Peace Bridge

S

102

canal side

Pier proper south to Peace Bridge

Ferry Street (Broderick Park)

S

110

 

Includes shoreline fronting Broderick Park and Bird Island Pier parking lots

Squaw Island

S

121

canal entrance

Entire bulkhead area and adjacent river bank at Black Rock Canal entrance

S

122

railroad bridge

River shoreline south of international railroad bridge

Towpath Park

S

130

 

Entire park

Ontario Street

S&B

140

 

Shoreline fronting parking lots north and south of boat ramp

Riverside Park

S

150

 

Shoreline from foot bridge overpass south to Ontario St. parking lot

Foot of Sheridan Drive

S&B

160

 

Vicinity of boat ramp and Aqua Lane Park shoreline south of ramp

Isle View Park

S&B

200

 

Shoreline accessible from motor vehicle

Niawanda Park

S&B

210

 

Shoreline accessible from motor vehicle

Fisherman's Park

S

220

 

Includes wooden pier, pavilion area, and park shoreline south to boat davit

Gratwick Riverside Park

S&B

230

 

Shoreline accessible from motor vehicle, including riprap breakwaters

Griffon Park

S&B

240

 

Docks and immediate shoreline

Mouth of Wood's Creek

S

250

 

Area in the bridge vicinity at creek mouth and shoreline along access road

Big Sixmile Marina

B

260

 

Public ramp and long-term slips

West River Parkway

S

271

north pull-off

Shoreline accessible from parking lot (including wading anglers)

S

272

middle pull-off

Shoreline accessible from parking lot (including wading anglers)

S

273

south pull-off

Shoreline accessible from parking lot (including wading anglers)

 

Table 2.2-1 (Cont.)

Access sites (all U.S.) sampled during 2003 upper Niagara River sport fishery assessment

Access site

Survey*

Code**

Sub-site

Sampled Area

Blue Water Marina

B

280

 

Public ramp and long-term slips

Beaver Island State Park Marina

S

290

 

Bulkheads and dock fingers in immediate marina area only

* S = shore survey; B= boat survey

** Site codes refer to information in Appendix B.

 

Table 2.5-1

Protocol for Checking Total Length (TL), Marks and Tags among Harvested or Released Niagara River Fishes

Species

Harvested
TL-mm

Released
TL-in

Released TL
Legal/sublegal

Harvested Fish

PIT tag

CWT

Fin clips

Dorsal tags

Agency tags

Smallmouth bass

yes

 

yes

 

 

 

 

yes

Largemouth bass

yes

 

 

yes

yes

yes

 

 

Walleye

yes

 

 

 

 

 

 

yes

Lake trout

yes

 

 

 

 

yes

 

 

Rainbow trout/steelhead

yes

 

 

 

 

yes

 

 

Yellow perch

yes

 

 

yes

yes

yes

 

 

Northern pike

yes

 

 

yes

yes

yes

 

 

Muskellunge

yes

yes

 

 

 

 

yes

 

 

 

Figure 2.1-1

Sampled Access Sites in the Upper Niagara River Angler Survey in 2003

 

 

Figure 2.3-1

Upper Niagara River Recreational Fishery Survey – Aerial Survey Form (ASF.01)

 

 

Figure 2.3-2

Upper Niagara River Daily Count Summary – Site Count Form (DCS.01)

 

 

Figure 2.3-3

Upper Niagara Angler Survey Interview Form (NCS.01)

 

 

3.0     RESULTS

3.1         Observed Data

3.1.1        Boat Survey- Aerial Count Flights

A total of 35 boat count flights occurred during the April through November period (Table 3.1.1-1).  The initial flight (April 26) occurred three weeks after the start of ground data acquisition due to delays in obtaining security clearance for overflights and aircraft mechanical problems.  Postponed early April flights were made up by May 14 and proceeded weekly thereafter.  The number of flights was equal among survey temporal stratum (season and daytype) except for summer weekdays.  All count start times occurred between 1100-1450 h, with the majority (71.4%) of counts starting between 1100-1259 h (Table 3.1.1-1).

Active fishing boats favored the mainstem river during spring and fall, but were most abundant in the East Channel during summer when most fishing occurred (Table 3.1.1-2).  The proportion of anglers fishing in the West Channel was highest during fall, although overall it was the least utilized location among the three river sections.

Boat angling occurred throughout the entire upper Niagara River, but anglers were consistently noted at certain locations or features (see Figure 2.1-1).  Favored mainstem locations included: Motor Island and Strawberry Island (both southeast of Grand Island), southern tip of Grand Island, offshore of Riverside Park, and a back eddy along the Canadian shore near the Peace Bridge. East Channel sites included: the general area near the mouth of Wood’s Creek (northern Grand Island), offshore of Gratwick Park, offshore of Isle View and Niawanda Parks, a nearshore drift at Bluewater Marina (southeast Grand Island), and near the Huntley Station (east bank, just north of Sheridan Drive access).  West Channel anglers favored locations associated with channel edges (drop-offs) just off either shore rather than specific reaches.

Angling associated with the Huntley Station discharge (noted during at least 14 of 35 flights) was recorded at survey inception and continued throughout summer and fall.  Typically, anglers would orient approximately 100 ft north (downriver) of the discharge structure.  As many as three boats actively fished the discharge area during a flight.

Count flights recorded 292 fishing boats “in transit” (visible wake) in addition to 576 “actively fishing” boats, or 33.6% of all identified fishing boats.  Fishing boats “in transit” could have been 1) heading toward the initial fishing location of the day, including Lake Erie; 2) returning to the boat ramp or marina after completing a fishing trip in the upper Niagara River or Lake Erie; or 3) changing fishing locations during the “actively fishing” portion of their trip.  As identified above, boats in transit before or after a fishing trip were not actively fishing. However, changing locations was a normal activity during many fishing trips.  Such anglers may merely have been returning upriver to repeat a drift, or simply moving from one shoal or island or other feature to another.  The proportion of boats counted while changing fishing locations (relative to the other listed possibilities) is unknown, but if substantial may lead to an underestimate of boat fishing effort since fishing boats “in transit” were omitted from estimated effort calculations (see Section 2.7.1).

3.1.2        Boat Survey-Ground Interview Data

Boat angler counts (all fishing boats returning, including those that spent time in Lake Erie) were highest at Sheridan Drive during each month, and anglers using the Sheridan Drive ramp exceeded 50% of all boat anglers counted during April, June, October, and November (Table 3.1.2-1).  Overall boat ramp usage peaked in summer, particularly in August (Table 3.1.2-2).  No fishing boats were counted at the ramp in Gratwick Park during April, October, and November.  The boat ramp at Big Sixmile Marina on Grand Island did not open until May 10, and closed for the season on November 1.

Relative boat ramp usage was examined by accounting for the overall number of actual surveys conducted at each ramp (Table 3.1.2-3).  Based on the number of boat anglers counted per survey, the Sheridan Drive ramp supported nearly one-third of all boat fishing documented.  The ramp at Griffon Park ranked second in angler use.  The least amount of boat angling use occurred at Niawanda Park, a site heavily used by personal watercraft.

The temporal and spatial distribution of ground interviews generally mimicked boat ramp usage as determined by fishing boat arrival counts.  Any differences between the two samples resulted from angler refusals to participate in the survey or anglers returning from a trip that involved Lake Erie.  The various distributions of interview data are provided to characterize the angler sample by season, by river section, and overall.  Interview data were also used to compare spatial distribution of fishing boats in the upper Niagara River as determined by aerial counts to fishing locations reported by anglers returning to surveyed boat ramps.

The upper Niagara River sample totaled 773 interviewed boat anglers from g 379 angling parties (Table 3.1.2-4).  Most interviews occurred at Sheridan Drive (34.4%) on the mainstem river in Buffalo, and at Griffon Park (15.4%) in Niagara Falls at the north end of the East Channel (Figure 2.1-1).  The fewest interviews occurred at Niawanda Park, Bluewater Marina, and Gratwick Park.  The largest proportion of interviews occurred during summer (53.7%), specifically during the month of August (21.6%) (Table 3.1.2-5).  Isle View Park was the only access site with fewer interviews during summer than another season (spring).

Survey technicians also interviewed 144 boat anglers that represented 73 boats (15.7 % of all boat angler interviews) returning from trips that included all or a portion of the time spent fishing in Lake Erie.  All but four anglers were interviewed during summer.  The observed data from these interviews are provided separately at the end of Appendix C but are not discussed otherwise herein.

Based on interviews at eight US access sites, the East Channel was the favored fishing location during each season, and the West Channel was the least utilized (Table 3.1.2-6).  Nearly 20% of boat anglers fished in more than one river location during their trip, suggesting that many of the fishing boats observed “in transit” from the air may have merely been changing fishing locations during a trip entirely within the Niagara River.

The average number of anglers per boat was highest during spring, and declined thereafter (Table 3.1.2-7).  The overall average was 2.0 anglers per boat for 383 fishing parties returning from the upper Niagara River.

The average length of a completed boat fishing trip was 3.9 h (Table 3.1.2-8).  Trip length was greatest during the fall (4.3 h), and exceeded the mean trip length in spring by 1 h.

Anglers from four upper Niagara River charter boat trips were interviewed (Table 3.1.2-9).  Three targeted smallmouth bass and originated from Bluewater Marina on Grand Island.  One trip targeted muskellunge and originated at the Sheridan Drive ramp in November.  One trip (not shown in Table 3.1.2-9) to Lake Erie for smallmouth bass was also noted.

Boat angler use profiles developed from all the upper Niagara River interview data within each of six strata (spring-weekend, summer-weekday, etc.) depicted the aggregated number of boat fishing parties on the water throughout the sampled fishing days (Figures 3.1.2-1, 3.1.2-2, and 3.1.2-3).  All profiles were unimodal and suggested that peak boat fishing activity was achieved by or before mid-morning regardless of season or daytype.  Peak usage typically extended to 1200 or 1300 h, then declined steadily throughout the afternoon and evening.  The data fail to show evidence of increased evening fishing such as might occur after work on weekdays.  However, we commonly saw boats launched during evening surveys that may have been retrieved after dark following departure of the angler survey technician.  Each profile was used in combination with the corresponding aerial boat counts to estimate boat fishing pressure.

3.1.3        Species Sought by Boat Anglers

Seven fish species or species groups were targeted by the upper Niagara River boat fishery (Table 3.1.3-1).  Boat anglers seeking black bass (smallmouth bass and largemouth bass as a group) formed 48.6% of those interviewed.   Most bass anglers interviewed sought smallmouth bass, but more than 21% of all black bass anglers sought largemouth bass or were not specific (Table 3.1.3-2).  Among other boat anglers with a species preference, muskellunge (10.1%) and northern pike anglers (9.4%) ranked second and third. Approximately one-quarter of all boat anglers interviewed did not express a species preference (“Anything”).  Comparatively few boat anglers sought yellow perch, walleye, or trout (primarily rainbow trout/steelhead, but also brown trout).

Seasonally, black bass were the most sought during summer and fall (Table 3.1.3-1).  Smallmouth bass were mentioned most frequently, although some anglers also targeted largemouth bass, and other mentioned only “bass”.  Pre-season (before June 21) black bass anglers comprised 16.3% of those interviewed in the spring. Northern pike anglers were most prevalent during spring, whereas muskellunge anglers were most numerous during summer and, especially, fall.

The pursuit of black bass peaked during August and September when three of four boat anglers sought bass (Table 3.1.3-3).  Northern pike were targeted primarily in May and June, whereas muskellunge were targeted by the highest proportion of anglers during November.  The few boat anglers seeking yellow perch and trout did so primarily in October and November.  The proportion of anglers without a species preference was highest at survey onset and generally declined throughout the fishing season.

Black bass were also targeted by the most boat anglers in each river section (Table 3.1.3-4).  The northern pike angler proportion was highest (14.0%) among boat anglers fishing the mainstem river.  The highest proportion of muskellunge anglers (18.8%) occurred among those that fished in more than one river location.  Seasonally, northern pike were sought in each section in spring, whereas black bass dominated fishing in each section in summer and fall.  Muskellunge anglers in each section were most abundant in fall.

3.1.4        Shore Survey-Count and Interview Data

Daily counts by location summarized by survey week are provided in Appendix Table C-1.  A total of 6,037 anglers was counted during 178 daily survey periods (Table 3.1.4-1).  Peak shore angler usage occurred in June, followed by August, July, and May.  The fewest anglers occurred in November.  Seasonally, angler counts in summer formed 43.5% of the total (Table 3.1.4-2).  Anglers in spring were approximately twice as numerous as in fall.  The seven shore access sites in Buffalo accounted for 71.3% of all shore anglers counted.

Shore anglers in Buffalo at Ferry Street (Broderick Park), Squaw Island, and Ontario Street accounted for 54.5% of the total counted (Table 3.1.4-2).  Fisherman’s Park in North Tonawanda and Niawanda Park in Tonawanda combined supported an additional 15.3% of total anglers.  Two of the three shore access sites located on Grand Island were the least utilized.  Pull-offs along West River Parkway and the area at mouth of Wood’s Creek accounted for 0.5% and 1.6%, respectively, of angler use.

Monthly access site usage was highest at 11 of 15 shore locations in either May or June, including Squaw Island and Ontario Street, two of the three most heavily fished sites (Table 3.1.4-1).  Ferry Street, Fisherman’s Park, and the Bird Island Pier received the most use in August.  Most angling at Beaver Island State Park marina occurred in April, when only the Squaw Island site supported more use.  However, angling at Beaver Island in spring was terminated May 18, otherwise May use may have been higher.

The Squaw Island site was the most heavily utilized during April, May, and November (Table 3.1.4-1).  Ontario Street supported the most anglers in June, and Ferry Street was the most utilized site during July through October.  The mouth of Woods Creek and, especially, the West River Parkway pull-offs received comparatively little use during any month.

Seasonally, Squaw Island supported 22.0% of all shore anglers in spring (Table 3.1.4-2).  Ferry Street accounted for 21.2% and 25.3% of all shore anglers counted in summer and fall, respectively.  Other than at Beaver Island State Park marina, where angling was prohibited during summer, shore fishing at Griffon Park declined the most from spring to summer.  Technicians noted that the small size of the Griffon Park site and heavy fishing and recreational boat use of the launch ramp likely interfered with shore fishing.  In contrast, Niawanda Park use nearly tripled from spring to summer, possibly due, in part, to weekly fishing excursions for children sponsored by the local Boys/Girls Club.

Three access areas were further partitioned into sub-sites since anglers had clear choices where to fish at each (Table 3.1.4-3).  At Bird Island Pier, anglers elected to fish either in the Niagara River or the Black Rock Canal. On the pier section in the study area north of the Peace Bridge, slightly more anglers were counted fishing in the Black Rock Canal than in the Niagara River.  However, technicians noted that anglers commonly fished both sides of the pier during a fishing trip.  Additionally, technicians estimated that 75% of the anglers that fished the Bird Island Pier did so south of the Peace Bridge, outside the study area (designated Lake Erie).  It is unknown whether anglers also utilized the Black Rock Canal as extensively south of the Peace Bridge.

More than 93% of Squaw Island anglers were counted near the lock entrance to the Black Rock Canal or on the associated breakwall that effectively creates a large backwater.  Although relatively few anglers fished at the alternate Squaw Island site along the river shoreline near the international railroad bridge, occasionally anglers noted near the railroad bridge were later observed at the more heavily used lock entrance area, or elsewhere (e.g., Ferry Street/Broderick Park).  Movement among these proximal sites (and also among other sites surveyed) was facilitated by the bike path that parallels the upper Niagara River.

Few anglers were counted at the three parking areas (pull-offs) along West River Parkway on Grand Island.  The south pull-off received the most use.  Particularly noteworthy was use of the north and south pull-offs by wading anglers, especially the south pull-off by fly fishers.  The mouth of Woods Creek was the only other site amenable to wading anglers.

The temporal and spatial distribution of ground interviews generally mimicked shore access site usage as determined by instantaneous counts.  A substantial portion of the differences between the “count” and “interviewed” samples resulted from angler refusals to participate in the survey.  Shore anglers frequently refused to participate and at a substantially higher (though not quantified) rate than for boat anglers.  The various distributions of interview data are provided to characterize the angler sample by season, by access point, and overall.

The sample of shore anglers interviewed totaled 5,124 among 3,072 parties (Table 3.1.4-4).  Most interviews occurred at Ferry Street/Broderick Park (17.7%), followed by Squaw Island (16.7%) and Ontario Street (16.0%), all on the mainstem river in Buffalo.  Fisherman’s Park and Niawanda Park on the East Channel provided the most interviews at the northern end of the study reach (Figure 2.1-1).  The fewest interviews occurred at West River Parkway and at the mouth of Wood’s Creek, both on Grand Island.  The largest proportion of interviews occurred during summer (42.2%), followed closely by spring (39.8%) (Table 3.1.4-5). Monthly, interviews peaked during June which spanned both seasons (Table 3.1.4-4).  The period May through July accounted for 57.8% of all shore angler interviews.

The average shore fishing completed trip lasted 2.0 h (Table 3.1.2-8).  Trips were somewhat longer in the fall, similar to the boat fishery.

3.1.5        Species Sought by Shore Anglers

Upper Niagara shore anglers targeted 15 fish species, plus the categories “sunfish”, “catfish”, and “bait/minnows” (Table 3.1.5-1).  However, more than 70% of all shore anglers interviewed did not target a particular fish species during a trip.  The proportion of such “casual” anglers was nearly 80% during summer. Shore anglers seeking black bass (smallmouth bass and largemouth bass as a group) or yellow perch comprised most of those that expressed a preference.  Most yellow perch angling occurred during spring and fall, and although the proportion seeking yellow perch during spring (16.6%) and fall (16.4%) was similar, more than twice as many anglers participated in the spring fishery.  Black bass fishing from shore was most prevalent in summer.  Among other species, the largest proportion of northern pike, rock bass, trout, and white bass anglers occurred in spring.  Few shore anglers specifically targeted walleye, although walleye were more often mentioned as a secondary species by shore anglers seeking bass or trout, particularly at the Ferry Street location. 

Whereas boat black bass anglers favored smallmouth bass (see Section 3.1.3), 68.5% of shore black bass anglers were less specific and simply targeted “black bass” (Table 3.1.3-2).  Smallmouth bass were targeted by 24.1% of black bass shore anglers, compared to 7.5% of shore black bass anglers that targeted largemouth bass. The “generalist” nature of shore bass anglers conformed to that of most other shore anglers.

Examined monthly, yellow perch dominated targeted angling during April, May, October, and November (Table 3.1.5-2).  Black bass were the main species sought during June through September.  The largest proportion of northern pike anglers occurred in May.  Anglers without a species preference were fewest in November when most shore fishing focused on yellow perch.

Yellow perch alone among the six major species or groups was targeted by shore anglers at each access site (Table 3.1.5-3).  Most yellow perch angling occurred at Squaw Island followed by Ontario Street, Beaver Island State Park marina, and Ferry Street (Broderick Park).  Northern pike anglers were nearly as ubiquitous, occurring at 14 sites.  The only site where northern pike were not targeted was Ferry Street, the most heavily used shore site.  Northern pike fishing was most prevalent at Squaw Island followed by Fisherman’s Park and Niawanda and Gratwick Parks. In general, northern pike anglers were more evenly distributed among sites than other angler types.

Black bass were sought at all access sites except Griffon Park and Beaver Island State Park marina (Table 3.1.5-3).  Bass anglers were most abundant at Ferry Street followed by Fisherman’s Park and Niawanda Park, and fewest at Riverside Park and along West River Parkway on Grand Island.  Bass anglers along West River Parkway, however, represented 50% of all anglers interviewed at this site, many of them fly fishers.  Rock bass angling occurred at 12 sites, with the exceptions of all three sites on Grand Island. Squaw Island and Griffon Park supported the most rock bass anglers.

Trout and, especially, white bass represented upper Niagara River species with a more focused spatial component to their respective fisheries.  Trout were sought at eight access sites, but relatively few trout anglers were interviewed at locations other than Ferry Street, Squaw Island, and Bird Island Pier (Table 3.1.5-3).  All three sites are just downstream from the Niagara River transition from Lake Erie.  The focus of white bass angling also was at Ferry Street, the location where 82% of all white bass anglers were interviewed (Table 3.1.5-3).

Brown bullhead, included among the “other species” in Table 3.1.5-3, was sought by few anglers.  However, all brown bullhead anglers interviewed fished at the Beaver Island State Park marina in spring.

3.2         Angling Effort Estimates

3.2.1        Boat Survey

Estimated total boat angling effort on the upper Niagara River during 2003 was 65,050 angler hours or 16,741 trips (Table 3.2.1-1).  Effort during summer accounted for 55.9% of angler hours and 54.3% of trips.  More angler hours were expended during fall on fewer trips than occurred in spring due to the additional length of fall fishing trips (Table 3.1.2-8).

More boat fishing trips (6,880) occurred in the East Channel than in other river sections (Table 3.2.1-1), based on the fishing locations of boats counted during overflights (Table 3.1.1-2).  However, boat anglers were mobile and nearly 20% of the US anglers interviewed said they fished in more than one river section during a trip (Table 3.1.2-6).

Boat anglers expended more effort targeting black bass than any other species (Table 3.2.1-2).  Total effort for black bass was nearly five times that of muskellunge, the next most targeted species.  The amount of effort targeting northern pike was highest in spring. 

3.2.2        Shore Survey

Shore anglers expended 91,530 angler hours fishing the upper Niagara River in 2003 (Table 3.2.2-1).  Calculated SE was 9.4% of the total estimate indicating good precision.  The sum of seasonal angler-hours was slightly less than the sum of monthly angler hours due to calculation methods.  The estimated number of angler trips, based on seasonally estimated hours, was 44,854.  Angler trips were calculated only by season to enhance the sample size of completed trips (see Table 3.1.2-8).

Angler effort in hours and trips was highest in the summer (Table 3.2.2-1).  However, effort in angler hours was highest during the period May through August.  These four months accounted for 78.0% of the total angler-hour estimate, and monthly effort during May through August ranged from 16,067-19,820 angler hours. Shore effort was substantially less during October and November, combined accounting for 5.1% of the total.

Total targeted effort for black bass was higher than for all other species pursued from shore, but most of the effort occurred in summer (Table 3.2.2-2).  During spring and fall, the targeted effort was greatest for yellow perch, but anglers in spring also expended effort for northern pike, rock bass, and trout as well as black bass.

3.3         Catch and Harvest Estimates

The observed (raw) total fish catch and harvest for the interviewed boat and shore fisheries are listed separately in Appendix Table C-2.  The various temporal catch and harvest estimates for all fish were based on the raw data summarized in Appendix Table C-2.  Additionally, interviewed shore anglers caught 14 mudpuppies not listed in Appendix Table C-2 that were omitted from catch and harvest estimates.  Most mudpuppies were caught at the Squaw Island site near the Black Rock Canal entrance.

3.3.1        Boat Survey

Boat anglers caught an estimated 71,126 fish of at least 20 species (Table 3.3.1-1).  Smallmouth bass and largemouth bass combined accounted for 63.4% of the total catch.  Yellow perch and northern pike ranked next in the boat angler catch, and these four species totaled more than 85% of all fish caught.  Yellow perch and smallmouth bass dominated the harvest of 9,457 fish, with yellow perch contributing 51.2% of all fish harvested by boat anglers.  Most of the remainder of fish harvested were black crappie and round goby. However, most round goby not returned to the water were intentionally killed due to their status as an invasive species, and not kept for personal use.

Estimated muskellunge catch totaled 1,191 but no harvest was documented (Table 3.3.1-1).  Similarly, the harvest of northern pike, sunfish, rock bass, and freshwater drum was small compared to the number caught.  In contrast, yellow perch, walleye, and lake trout represented the only species where anglers retained the majority of fish caught. Overall, boat anglers kept 13.3% of their catch.

The largest seasonal catch total occurred in summer and was comprised mostly (65.3%) of smallmouth bass (Table 3.3.1-2).  The largest total harvest occurred in fall.  The 3,898 yellow perch harvested in fall represented 80.5% of the total boat angler harvest of yellow perch, and 72.9% of the total fish harvest in fall.  Among other fisheries, the catch of black crappie and brown bullhead was entirely in the spring.  Most northern pike were caught in the spring and very few in the fall.  More muskellunge were caught in summer than other seasons.  However, the muskellunge fishery yielded as many fish pre-season (muskellunge season opened June 21, the same day as black bass) in spring as during the fall (Table 3.3.1-1) although the fall supported most of the targeted muskellunge angling (Table 3.1.3-1).  In addition to yellow perch, largemouth bass represented another species where the largest catch occurred in the fall.

The spring fisheries for smallmouth bass and largemouth bass were substantial (Table 3.3.1-2).  Although New York State Fishing Regulations state that harvest of any black bass pre-season was prohibited in the upper Niagara River, the catch of each species in spring ranked second relative to the season when the largest catch occurred.

3.3.2        Shore Survey

The total catch by shore anglers was 185,637 fish of at least 24 species (Tables 3.3.2-1 and 3.3.2-2), plus at least five species of baitfish (see Section 3.7.2).  Yellow perch, round goby, rock bass, and smallmouth bass dominated and formed 84.5% of all fish caught.  The harvest comprised 21 species plus baitfish.  The non-native round goby formed 51.7% of 79,040 fish harvested.  However, to our knowledge round goby were never harvested for consumption, but uniformly discarded on land at the fishing site, or, rarely, used for bait.  Yellow perch (18,645) and rock bass (9,429) combined equaled 35.5% of fish harvested, and ranked first and second among fish harvested by shore anglers for personal use.  Muskellunge, adult golden shiner, and bowfin were the only species caught but not harvested by shore anglers, although smaller golden shiners were included among harvested baitfish.  Additional fish caught but rarely kept included freshwater drum, largemouth bass, and walleye.

The “catfish” group (Table 3.3.2-2) included some identified channel catfish but anglers were reluctant to permit examination of some fish, and also were usually not specific about channel catfish or brown bullheads released.  The sunfish caught (Table 3.3.2-1) included bluegill and pumpkinseed.  Among harvested sunfish identified to species by the technicians, the proportion was 77% pumpkinseed and 23% bluegill.

Shore anglers caught and harvested three species of trout (Table 3.3.2-2). Rainbow trout/steelhead was the most commonly caught.  In addition, one interviewed angler reported the catch of an “unidentified salmonid” that may have been a coho salmon (Table 3.3.2-2).  The angler reported catching a “silver” (coho) but would not permit examination of the angler harvested fish.  Stray coho in the upper Niagara River are possibly the result of Lake Erie stocking by the State of Pennsylvania, as they are common in the Lake Erie-New York open water fishery (Culligan et al. 2003).

The largest catch and/or harvest of yellow perch, rock bass, freshwater drum (catch only), white bass, northern pike, and brown bullhead occurred in the spring (Table 3.3.2-3).  Although a few more drum may have been harvested in summer, drum were harvested overall at a very low rate compared to most other fish.  Among the six species with the highest catches in spring, yellow perch uniquely contributed the second highest catch and harvest in the fall.  Among other species, the largest catches of round goby, smallmouth bass, minnows/baitfish, sunfish, largemouth bass and white perch occurred in the summer. Most “minor” species were also caught primarily during spring or summer (Table 3.3.2-4).  The exceptions were walleye and adult golden shiner that contributed most of their total catch in the fall.

Monthly catch and harvest patterns revealed that for most species peak catches and/or harvest occurred during the period of maximum shore effort from May through August (Table 3.3.2-5).  Within this period yellow perch, white bass, northern pike, brown bullhead, and baitfish catches were highest in May, rock bass and freshwater drum catches peaked in June, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and white perch catches peaked in July, and round goby and sunfish catches were highest in August.

The baitfish catches were somewhat unusual and temporally reflected shore anglers’ pursuit of northern pike in May and black bass during August and September.  Shore anglers frequently fished one rod for bait while another rod was baited for either pike or bass.  This practice was especially prevalent at Fisherman’s Park in North Tonawanda. 

Yellow perch, brown bullhead, and largemouth bass represented species with high catches and/or harvest during months when overall effort was low or declining.  Yellow perch and brown bullhead harvest was each higher in April than any month other than May although effort was substantially less.  Following the April through June period of maximum yellow perch catch and harvest, the July catch and harvest declined sharply, then recovered to a relatively consistent level that was maintained from August through November.  Brown bullhead catches subsided after May.  The largemouth bass catch in September was equivalent to July although effort had begun to decline during the fall.

Among fishes less common in the shore angler catch, rainbow trout/steelhead catches were highest in May and June and brown trout in April (Table 3.3.2-6).  Lake trout were only caught in April and June.  Muskellunge were infrequently caught by shore anglers, occurring primarily during April through July.  Walleye were caught during each month except November, but the catch in September was substantially higher than in other months.

3.4         Catch and Harvest Rates

Both general and targeted rates are discussed in this section. General catch and harvest rates are calculated for all anglers and are those utilized in catch and harvest calculations.  General catch and harvest rates are also particularly useful when describing the overall upper Niagara River shore fishery since the majority of shore anglers were generalists and less than 30% of shore anglers interviewed targeted a particular species. By comparison, approximately 75% of boat anglers targeted a species during their trips, so targeted catch and harvest rates are the most useful when discussing the boat fishery.

In addition, we noted proportional differences in angler preference for either black bass species among participants in the boat or shore fisheries, including numerous anglers classified only as “black bass” anglers (see Section 3.1).  Although more anglers targeted smallmouth bass than largemouth bass, there were sufficient anglers who targeted “black bass” to warrant calculating targeted CPUE and HPUE for each species and also for these species among “all black bass anglers” as a group.  Particularly for the boat fishery, few anglers specifically targeted largemouth bass but we estimated more than 11,000 were caught.  Thus, most largemouth bass were likely caught by anglers not targeting largemouth bass. Calculating CPUE and HPUE for largemouth bass by enlarging the sample to “all bass anglers” presents a more realistic catch rate estimate (larger sample size) as well as a better comparison to smallmouth bass catch rates.  As a result, we calculated catch and harvest rates for smallmouth bass and largemouth bass separately for any angler seeking black bass, in addition to calculating targeted rates for only that species by anglers targeting that species (i.e., the traditional directed rate).  These comparisons are reported separately in Section 3.4.5.  Further, several anglers were unable to provide the species of black bass caught and released.  Their catch data were recorded as “black bass” but were not included in any directed rates calculations.

Most shore fishing data represented incomplete trips.  Since only incomplete trips ³0.5 h were used in catch and harvest rate calculations (Section 2.7.2), 600 party interviews with trip lengths <0.5 h were omitted from rate calculations.

3.4.1        Overall Rates for Boat Anglers

Boat angler total (entire survey) CPUE and HPUE were 1.08 and 0.13 fish/h, respectively (Table 3.4.1-1).  Spring CPUE for all boat anglers (1.78 fish/h) was highest overall, and was especially high in April (2.86 fish/h), but also more variable as shown by the high SE.  Boat CPUE was lower during June through September but relatively consistent among months as well as within months (low SE).  The boat angler HPUE was highest in November when comparatively few anglers fished due to frequently poor weather.

The CPUE and HPUE values by species for all anglers seasonally and monthly are listed in Appendix Tables C-3 and C-4 but are not discussed herein.  The highly focused nature of most boat anglers makes directed rates the most appropriate for discussion.

3.4.2        Targeted Rates for Boat Anglers

Smallmouth bass was the species most targeted by boat anglers, and the targeted CPUE for smallmouth bass for the entire survey was 0.84 fish/h (Table 3.4.2-1).  The total smallmouth bass HPUE was 0.07 fish/h as most anglers released their fish.  The targeted CPUE for largemouth bass was 1.52 fish/h, and HPUE was 0.0 fish/h, although these data are based on a small sample of nine anglers.  Seasonally, smallmouth bass CPUE was highest during the spring (2.20 fish/h), although comparatively few anglers who targeted smallmouth bass pursued them in spring (Table 3.1.3-1).  The targeted CPUE and HPUE for smallmouth bass during the primary fishery (in terms of targeted effort and catch) in summer was 0.81 and 0.09 fish/h.

Boat anglers seeking yellow perch and black crappie exhibited the highest targeted CPUE and HPUE among targeted species (Table 3.4.2-1), although the sample size for each species was small (for black crappie, a single party of three anglers).  The CPUE for each species exceeded 4.0 fish/h and HPUE exceeded 2.0 fish/h.  The targeted CPUE for each species was highest in the spring, whereas the HPUE for yellow perch was higher in the fall. Neither species was targeted during the summer, nor was black crappie targeted in fall.

Comparatively few boat anglers also sought trout or walleye.  Total directed CPUE for trout and walleye was 0.29 and 0.11 fish/h (Table 3.4.2-1).  Anglers kept most trout and all walleye caught, and the targeted HPUE was 0.15 and 0.11 fish/h, respectively.  Boat anglers targeting walleye and trout were only successful during the summer and fall, respectively.

Sample sizes were deemed too small (see Table 3.1.3-3) to calculate meaningful monthly directed CPUE and HPUE for species other than northern pike, muskellunge, and smallmouth bass (Table 3.4.2-2).  Northern pike were sought each month but boat anglers were successful during only five of eight months.  The highest northern pike CPUE occurred in June (0.64 fish/h).  The northern pike CPUE for May, July, and October ranged from 0.38-0.40 fish/h. Northern pike were only harvested in May at 0.01 fish/h.

Boat anglers targeted muskellunge beginning in May, and were most successful in September (CPUE = 0.11 fish/h), followed by June and July (CPUE = 0.10 fish/h each month; Table 3.4.2-2).  The CPUE was lower in October and November when most boat anglers targeted muskellunge (see Section 3.1).  No muskellunge were harvested by interviewed anglers, consequently the HPUE was zero.

Monthly smallmouth bass CPUE was highest pre-bass season during May (2.80 fish/h).  During June through August CPUE ranged from 0.75-0.88 fish/h, then declined to 0.46 fish/h in September.  The highest monthly HPUE of 0.14 fish/h was attained in August.

The success (CPUE) of boat anglers targeting smallmouth bass, muskellunge, and northern pike was examined by general fishing location (Table 3.4.2-3).  Smallmouth bass and muskellunge anglers were each more successful in the East Channel.  Northern pike anglers were substantially more successful in the mainstem river than elsewhere. Success of all angler types was lowest in the West Channel.

3.4.3        Overall Rates for Shore Anglers

The total CPUE and HPUE for the upper Niagara River shore fishery were 2.10 and 0.90 fish/h (Table 3.4.3-1).  The CPUE and HPUE were highest in the fall, particularly during October and November.  Total CPUE was also 2.20 fish/h or higher during May and June.

The general catch and harvest rates for all species caught by all shore anglers are listed by season and month in Appendix Tables C-5 and C-6.  Since so many (>70%) of the upper Niagara River shore anglers did not specifically target a species, especially in summer when most angling occurred (Table 3.1.5-1), general catch and harvest rates were largely representative of the overall shore angler population.  As a result, the general CPUE and HPUE for the four species prominent in the harvest are shown by season and month in Tables 3.4.3-2 and 3.4.3-3.  Smallmouth bass and yellow perch were each sought by about 10% of the shore anglers, whereas rock bass and round goby represent species caught commonly by shore anglers but targeted by few (rock bass) or not at all.  Round goby were widely regarded as a nuisance by shore anglers.

The overall CPUE of yellow perch (0.65 fish/h) was highest among all species caught from shore (Table 3.4.3-2).  The round goby overall CPUE of 0.46 fish/h ranked second, but the HPUE (0.42 fish/h) was higher than for any other species.  Virtually all “harvested” round goby were allowed to suffocate on the bank at the fishing site, as most anglers were aware that gobies are regarded as an invasive species not to be returned to the water alive.  Seasonally, the CPUE for smallmouth bass and yellow perch was highest in the fall, and rock bass CPUE was highest in the spring (Table 3.4.3-2).  Round goby CPUE was similar during summer and fall, and in summer was higher than for any other species.

Monthly, round goby CPUE ranged between 0.52 and 0.69 fish/h from July though November (Table 3.4.3-3).  Yellow perch CPUE and HPUE were highest in October, November, and April, and lowest in July.  Rock bass CPUE and HPUE peaked during May and June.  Smallmouth bass CPUE was highest in September.  The monthly succession of good fishing (high CPUE) for yellow perch in early spring, rock bass in late spring, smallmouth bass in summer, and yellow perch again in the fall assure largely unselective shore anglers of relatively high success throughout most of the good weather season.

3.4.4        Targeted Rates for Shore Anglers

Targeted CPUE and HPUE for the species most often targeted by shore anglers (Table 3.1.5-1) is shown in Table 3.4.4-1.  Targeted rates for all other species, pursued overall by 25 or fewer shore anglers, are listed in Appendix Tables C-7 and C-8.

The total CPUE and HPUE of shore anglers targeting yellow perch were 3.16 and 1.29 fish/h (Table 3.4.4-1).  Seasonally, both CPUE and HPUE were highest in the fall at 4.30 and 2.00 fish/h.  Shore angler CPUE for yellow perch increased to a peak in June (3.67 fish/h), declined sharply in July, and increased steadily thereafter to the highest monthly CPUE in November (4.84 fish/h) (Table 3.4.4-2).  The monthly HPUE was also highest in November (2.37 fish/h), and ranged from 1.12 to 1.77 fish/h during May, September, and October.

Targeted smallmouth bass CPUE for shore anglers was 0.55 fish/h (Table 3.4.4-1).  The targeted smallmouth bass HPUE was 0.03 fish/h, less than one-half the HPUE by boat anglers.  The seasonal smallmouth bass CPUE was highest during spring (pre-season), but during bass season was higher in fall (0.57 fish/h) than in summer (0.42 fish/h). Monthly, angler success (CPUE) during the open bass season was highest in September (0.60 fish/h; Table 3.4.4-2).  However, anglers targeting smallmouth bass in May were more than twice as successful (CPUE=1.25 fish/h).

The directed CPUE for northern pike was 0.16 fish/h, and shore anglers harvested pike at a rate of 0.03 fish/h (Table 3.4.4-1).  Northern pike CPUE was comparable in spring and fall although the most consistent effort for pike occurred during spring.  The highest monthly CPUE for northern pike anglers (0.44 fish/h) occurred when pike harvest was prohibited in April (Table 3.4.4-2).  Northern pike anglers harvested pike from shore only in May (0.07 fish/h).

The number of shore anglers targeting yellow perch was sufficient to examine entire survey directed catch and harvest rates at five shore fishing sites (Table 3.4.4-3).  At all other sites six or fewer anglers targeted yellow perch, too few for meaningful analysis.  Most yellow perch fishing occurred at Squaw Island (canal entrance) or at Ontario Street, where CPUE and HPUE were highest and virtually identical.  The lowest angler success for yellow perch among these sites was estimated at Beaver Island State Park marina.  However, the rates at Beaver Island largely reflect spring angling.  Few anglers fished at Beaver Island in the fall when yellow perch directed CPUE tended to be highest (Table 3.4.4-1).

3.4.5        Targeted Rates for Bass Species by Black Bass Anglers

The total targeted boat catch rate for the limited number (9) of largemouth bass anglers was substantially higher than that for the larger sample (295) of smallmouth bass anglers (Table 3.4.5-1).  No doubt good catches of largemouth bass are possible by knowledgeable anglers, but the high CPUE likely does not accurately reflect the relationship between their respective catch rates.  However, when calculated for all black bass anglers, the CPUE for smallmouth bass (0.85 fish/h) was more than three times that of largemouth bass (0.27 fish/h), yielding a more realistic comparison.

More largemouth bass anglers (39) were interviewed during shore surveys.  The targeted CPUE (0.36 fish/h) was higher than the CPUE calculated for all bass anglers (0.14 fish/h).  However, both catch rates reflected the greater likelihood of catching a smallmouth bass from shore.

3.5         Angler Demographics

Residents of Erie and Niagara counties, plus small portions of five immediately adjacent counties (collectively “local residents”), formed more than 95% of anglers interviewed in either sport fishery (Tables 3.5-1 and 3.5-2).  Further, there was little seasonal variation in residence patterns for either fishery. Non-local residents were primarily from out-of-state, as opposed to other New York counties.  Non-NY residents from 24 states and Puerto Rico participated in the shore fishery, compared to 10 states recorded from the boat fishery (see listings in tables).  Canadian anglers were few. 

3.6         Biological Data

3.6.1        Fish Total Lengths

Total length (TL) data for harvested species are shown in Tables 3.6.1-1 (boat fishery) and 3.6.1-2 (shore fishery). Most length data were obtained from smallmouth bass and yellow perch.  No anglers indicated they harvested legal muskellunge.  However, a technician observed a single eviscerated muskellunge along shore at Fisherman’s Park that exceeded 50 inches on June 23 following the opening weekend for legal harvest.

The mean lengths of harvested smallmouth bass by boat and shore anglers were 386.4 mm and 357.1 mm, respectively.  The modal length group of smallmouth bass harvested by boat anglers was 356-381 mm.  In comparison, the modal length group harvested by shore anglers was 280-304 mm.  Shore anglers also harvested large, legal smallmouth bass up to 545 mm TL.

Anglers that were queried whether smallmouth bass they released were legal or sub-legal reported contrasting ratios between the shore and boat fisheries.  Boat anglers released predominantly legal fish (64.2% of 260 released smallmouth bass), whereas shore anglers released mostly sub-legal fish (65.8% of 584 released smallmouth bass).

The mean TL of harvested yellow perch by shore anglers was 203.2 mm, with a range of 130-341 mm.  The modal TL group harvested in the yellow perch shore fishery was 178-203 mm.  The mean length of yellow perch harvested by boat anglers (242.7 mm) was larger than for shore anglers, although the sample size was comparatively small.

Little variation was evident in the sizes of yellow perch harvested monthly except during November (Table 3.6.1-3).  The modal TL group in November was 204-228 mm, larger than in any other month.

Northern pike harvested by shore anglers averaged 620.3 mm, and ranged from 455-775 mm. Northern pike < 559 mm (22 inches) formed 22.7% of those measured.  Only one northern pike (795 mm) harvested by boat anglers was available for measurement.

Although harvested muskellunge were not encountered during interviews, upper Niagara River anglers released a broad size range of muskellunge, including legal-size fish (Table 3.6.1-4).  Angler-estimated TL of 48 released muskellunge (shore and boat fisheries combined) ranged 4-52 inches.  The mean lengths of released muskellunge were 31 inches and 35 inches for the boat and shore fisheries, respectively.  Four muskellunge were estimated to be legal length (³48 inches).  The largest muskellunge reported (52 inches) was caught and released by a shore angler, whereas a boat angler reported releasing a 4-inch juvenile muskellunge.

Three anglers each reported releasing a tiger muskellunge.  Tiger muskellunge are hybrids of muskellunge and northern pike that are typically stocked as top predators by fisheries management agencies.  However, none are known to be stocked in the upper Niagara River or Lake Erie based on stocking data available on NYSDEC’s website.

Occasionally, anglers also provided estimated lengths of other fish species released.  These data are provided in Appendix Tables C-9 (boat) and C-10 (shore).

3.6.2        Fish Tags and Fin Clips

Tags from five fish were detected during the angler survey, four from associated Niagara Project relicensing studies and one from a Lake Erie multi-agency cooperative program.  All tag data were reported to NYPA for appropriate follow up.

Two yellow perch marked with coded wire tags (CWT) as part of a separate Niagara Power Project relicensing issue (Determine the effectiveness of Buckhorn Marsh Restoration Project for enhancing northern pike reproduction) (NYPA and Gomez and Sullivan 2005) were detected.  One 223-mm perch was harvested April 14 at the Squaw Island site, and the other (221 mm) was harvested at the Ontario Street site on June 13.  The latter perch was also marked with a right pectoral fin clip.

Passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags were detected in two largemouth bass caught at the mouth of Wood’s Creek on Grand Island.  One largemouth bass 375 mm TL was harvested June 29, the other (414 mm TL) was caught and released on August 16. 

A 470 mm TL walleye tagged (metal jaw tag) in Lake Erie near Dunkirk, NY by NYSDEC was harvested from the mainstem upper Niagara River on July 16.  The walleye had been at-large for 77 days.

Additionally, a 545 mm TL steelhead marked with a right pectoral clip was caught in the mainstem upper Niagara River on September 6.

3.7         Ancillary Data and Observations

3.7.1        Fishing Tournaments

At least 20 fishing tournaments associated with the upper Niagara River were identified during 2003 (Table 3.7.1-1).  Most events were held at or emanated from upper Niagara River access sites.  However, at least four tournaments that included upper Niagara River fishing utilized launch sites outside the investigation area (e.g., Buffalo Small Boat Harbor just south of the Peace Bridge on Lake Erie). Eight events involved “river-only” fishing.  Most of these were small shore-only tournaments held at either Niawanda Park, Ontario Street access, or Sheridan Drive access (Aqua Lane Park).  However, two were boat fishing events held by local clubs.

Most of the tournaments identified during 2003 permitted fishing in either the upper Niagara River or Lake Erie.  These events ranged in scope from those sponsored by a single local business attracting local anglers (e.g., Big Catch Bait and Tackle, Buffalo) to the CITGO Bassmasters Northern Open that was supported by a national fishing organization (ESPN/B.A.S.S.) and attracted 350 entrants, including many professional anglers from outside the region.  Another large event was the NY Bass Federation state tournament with 115 anglers.

A unique local event held annually in mid-summer is The Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey (NYPA is one of multiple sponsors).  Fishing was permitted from shore and by boat in all waterways of Erie and Niagara counties, including the upper Niagara River.  Cash and merchandise prizes were awarded for fish in six categories, including black bass, walleye, rainbow trout, salmon, lake trout, and “sheepshead” (freshwater drum).  In addition to prizes for competitors, proceeds were distributed to charitable organizations.  A 2-day team bass fishing tournament associated with the Fish Odyssey that incorporated one day each on the upper and Lower Niagara River was cancelled by organizers.

3.7.2        Bait Collection

Collection of baitfish for commercial sale and personal use occurred throughout the upper Niagara River.  Commercial bait operations utilized square dip nets and favored, in particular, a site along the bulkhead at Ferry Street access (Broderick Park).  However, commercial netting was observed within Beaver Island State Park marina, Griffon Park, and Fisherman’s Park.  Smaller nets and traps were also used to collect baitfish for personal use.

Upper Niagara River anglers also caught baitfish by hook-and-line.  This practice was especially prevalent at Fisherman’s Park, where anglers baited very small hooks with bread to catch a variety of baitfish when seeking primarily black bass or northern pike.  Identified species caught for bait by this method included emerald shiner, spottail shiner, common shiner, golden shiner, and bluntnose minnow.  Local anglers referred to such baitfish variously during interviews as either “shiners”, “chubs”, or “stonerollers”.

3.7.3        Angling Outside the Study Design

Although the study design included 15 defined shore fishing sites that, in aggregate, likely represented all aspects of Niagara River shore fishing, other fishing sites were used and noted by creel technicians. An annotated list of such sites follows, including the seasons when angling was observed.

·         Black Rock Canal—Angling was noted at two locations: within Broderick Park at the foot of Ferry St. (summer and fall), and at the railroad bridge crossing to Squaw Island (fall).

·         Squaw Island mitigation ponds—Both ponds proximal to the Black Rock Canal entrance lock at the main Squaw Island fishing site were utilized in summer.

·         Private marina between Fisherman’s Park and Gratwick Park, North Tonawanda—Anglers were noted here during early spring and fall, likely seeking yellow perch among the dock pilings.

·         Breakwall and south bank of Big Sixmile Creek (Grand Island)—The short breakwall at the creek mouth on the West Channel, and the south creek bank from the breakwall to the public boat ramp, was frequently utilized for shore fishing during spring, summer, and fall, and also pre-survey in March.

·         Rock riprap north of Fisherman’s Park—only occasional use noted in summer.

The most consistent use occurred near the mouth of Big Sixmile Creek on Grand Island, a West Channel tributary. Instantaneous counts of up to 15-20 anglers were seen during scheduled shore and/or boat surveys.  Although some sites such as the Black Rock Canal and the Squaw Island mitigation ponds were not located directly on the upper Niagara River, anglers moved among fishing sites so commonly that fishing at one of these “alternate” sites could easily be (and was often) accommodated during a trip to a nearby Niagara River location within the survey design.

 

Table 3.1.1-1

Distribution of Boat Angler Count Flights between Daytypes and Time of Day, Upper Niagara River Angler Survey, 2003

Daytype/Time (h)*

Spring

Summer

Fall

Total

Weekend/holiday

6

6

6

18

Weekday

6

5

6

17

1100-1259

10

7

8

25

1300-1459

2

4

4

10

Total flights

12

11

12

35

* Allocation to time category based on flight start time.

 

 

Table 3.1.1-2

Seasonal Distribution of Active Fishing Boats in the Upper Niagara River during 2003

 

Percent of active fishing boats

Total boats

Mainstem river

East Channel

West Channel

Spring

40.9

38.0

21.3

150

Summer

25.9

51.0

23.1

259

Fall

39.5

28.8

31.7

167

Total

33.7

41.1

25.2

576

 

 

Table 3.1.2-1

Monthly Counts of Boat Anglers at Surveyed Boat Ramps, Upper Niagara River Angler Survey, 2003

 

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

Total

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

Ontario Street

1

4.0

4

4.0

28

14.8

38

20.5

11

4.8

16

15

3

5.7

4

9.5

105

11.3

Sheridan Drive

13

52.0

30

30.0

101

53.4

59

31.9

66

29.1

29

27.1

31

58.5

22

52.4

351

37.8

Isle View Park

1

4.0

26

26.0

9

4.8

0

0

48

21.1

3

2.8

1

1.9

10

23.8

98

10.6

Niawanda Park

4

16.0

9

9.0

4

2.1

13

7.0

11

4.8

2

1.9

3

5.7

0

0

46

5.0

Gratwick Riverside Park

0

0.0

8

8.0

8

4.2

7

3.8

23

10.1

10

9.3

0

0.0

0

0

56

6.0

Griffon Park

6

24.0

10

10.0

13

6.9

38

20.5

23

10.1

24

22.4

12

22.6

2

4.8

128

13.8

Big Sixmile Marina

closed

 

7

7.0

13

6.9

15

8.1

26

11.5

18

16.8

2

3.8

closed

 

81

8.7

Blue Water Marina

0

0.0

6

6.0

13

6.9

15

8.1

19

8.4

5

4.7

1

1.9

4

9.5

63

6.8

Total

25

 

100

 

189

 

185

 

227

 

107

 

53

 

42

 

928

 

 

 

Table 3.1.2-2

Seasonal Counts of Boat Anglers at Surveyed Boat Ramps, Upper Niagara River Angler Survey, 2003

 

Spring

Summer

Fall

Site totals

#
Anglers

%

#
Anglers

%

#
Anglers

%

#
Anglers

%

Ontario Street

20

11.2

62

11.1

23

12.0

105

11.3

Sheridan Drive

52

29.2

221

39.6

78

40.6

351

37.8

Isle View Park

29

16.3

55

9.9

14

7.3

98

10.6

Niawanda Park

14

7.9

27

4.8

5

2.6

46

5.0

Gratwick Riverside Park

8

4.5

38

6.8

10

5.2

56

6.0

Griffon Park

25

14.0

71

12.7

32

16.7

128

13.8

Big Sixmile Marina

16

9.0

45

8.1

20

10.4

81

8.7

Blue Water Marina

14

7.9

39

7.0

10

5.2

63

6.8

Seasonal totals

178

558

192

928

Seasonal %

19.2

60.1

20.7

 

 

 

Table 3.1.2-3

Boat Angler Usage among Surveyed Boat Ramps, Upper Niagara River Angler Survey, 2003

Boat Access Site

Boat
anglers

Total
surveys

Anglers
per
survey

Proportional
usage (%)

Ontario Street

105

67

1.57

11.7

Sheridan Drive

351

80

4.39

32.8

Isle View Park

98

70

1.40

10.5

Niawanda Park

46

64

0.72

5.4

Gratwick Riverside Park

56

64

0.88

6.5

Griffon Park

128

64

2.00

14.9

Big Sixmile Marina

81

51

1.59

11.9

Blue Water Marina

63

74

0.85

6.4

Total

928

534

 

100.0

 

 

Table 3.1.2-4

Seasonal Distribution of Boat Anglers Interviewed at each Access Site, Upper Niagara River Angler Survey, 2003

 

Ontario
Street

Sheridan
Drive

Isle
View
Park

Niawanda
Park

Gratwick
Riverside
Park

Griffon
Park

Big Sixmile
Marina

Bluewater
Marina

Season

Total

%

Spring

20

51

29

14

9

25

16

14

178

23.0

Summer

49

140

22

26

36

71

43

28

415

53.7

Fall

20

75

12

5

11

23

24

10

180

23.3

Site Total

89

266

63

45

56

119

83

52

773

 

%

11.5

34.4

8.2

5.8

7.2

15.4

10.7

6.7

 

 

 

 

Table 3.1.2-5

Number of Boat Anglers Interviewed Monthly at each Launch Ramp, Upper Niagara River Angler Survey, 2003

Month

Ontario
Street

Sheridan
Drive

Isle View
Park

Niawanda
Park

Gratwick
Riverside Park

Griffon
Park

Big Sixmile
Marina

Blue
Water
Marina

Total

%

April

1

13

1

4

0

6

0

0

25

3.2

May

4

30

26

9

8

10

7

6

100

12.9

June

24

63

9

4

9

13

13

13

148

19.1

July

34

33

0

12

7

38

13

9

146

18.9

August

6

51

15

11

21

23

26

14

167

21.6

September

16

25

3

3

11

20

22

5

105

13.6

October

2

31

1

2

0

7

2

1

46

6.0

November

2

20

8

0

0

2

0

4

36

4.7

Total interviewed

89

266

63

45

56

119

83

52

773

 

Percent of total

11.5

34.4

8.2

5.8

7.2

15.4

10.7

6.7

 

 

 

 

Table 3.1.2-6

Seasonal Distribution of Boat Anglers as Determined from Interviews, Upper Niagara River Angler Survey, 2003

Fishing site

Spring

Summer

Fall

Total

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

East Channel

100

56.2

170

41.0

86

47.8

356

46.0

West Channel

11

6.2

55

13.3

11

6.1

77

10.0

Mainstem river

24

13.5

113

27.2

49

27.2

186

24.1

Multiple river locations

43

24.2

77

18.6

34

18.9

154

19.9

Season totals

178

415

180

773

%

23.0

53.7

23.3

 

 

 

Table 3.1.2-7

Mean Number of Anglers per Boat, Upper Niagara River Angler Survey, 2003

Season

Weekday

Weekend/holiday

Overall

No. parties

Anglers per boat (SE)

No. parties

Anglers per boat (SE)

No. parties

Anglers per boat (SE)

Spring

36

2.1

(0.18)

44

2.4

(0.13)

80

2.2

(0.11)

Summer

76

1.9

(0.10)

120

2.2

(0.08)

196

2.1

(0.06)

Fall

29

1.5

(0.12)

78

1.7

(0.08)

107

1.7

(0.04)

Overall

141

1.9

(0.08)

242

2.1

(0.05)

383

2.0

(0.04)

 

 

Table 3.1.2-8

Mean Completed Fishing Trip Length, Upper Niagara River Angler Survey, 2003

 

Spring

Summer

Fall

Total

No. trips

Mean trip length (h) (SE)

No. trips

Mean trip length (h) (SE)

No. trips

Mean trip length (h) (SE)

No. trips

Mean trip length (h) (SE)

Boat

80

3.3

(0.20)

196

4.0

(0.14)

107

4.3

(0.19)

383

3.9

(0.10)

Shore

89

2.0

(0.20)

55

2.0

(0.20)

32

2.2

(0.26)

176

2.0

(0.12)

 

 

Table 3.1.2-9

Upper Niagara River Charter Boat Trips Included in Angler Survey Data, 2003

Date

Boat ramp

Species targeted

31 May

Bluewater Marina

Smallmouth bass

31 May

Bluewater Marina

Smallmouth bass

9 August

Bluewater Marina

Smallmouth bass

22 November

Sheridan Drive

Muskellunge

 

 

Table 3.1.3-1

Species and species groups sought by Boat Anglers, Upper Niagara River Angler Survey, 2003

 

Spring

Summer

Fall

Grand total

No. anglers

%

No. anglers

%

No. anglers

%

No. anglers

%

Trout

3

1.7

0

0.0

7

3.9

10

1.3

Northern pike

51

28.7

17

4.1

5

2.8

73

9.4

Muskellunge

2

1.1

34

8.2

42

23.3

78

10.1

Black bass

29

16.3

248

59.8

99

55.0

376

48.6

Black crappie

3

1.7

0

0.0

0

0.0

3

0.4

Yellow perch

8

4.5

0

0.0

13

7.2

21

2.7

Walleye

4

2.2

11

2.7

1

0.6

16

2.1

Anything

78

43.8

105

25.3

13

7.2

196

25.4

Totals

178

 

415

 

180

 

773

 

 

 

Table 3.1.3-2

Species Preferences among Black Bass Anglers, Upper Niagara River Angler Survey, 2003

Species

Boat Anglers

Shore Anglers

No. interviewed

%

No. interviewed

%

Smallmouth bass

295

78.5

126

24.1

Largemouth bass

9

2.4

39

7.5

Black bass

72

19.1

358

68.5

Totals

376

 

523

 

 

 

Table 3.1.3-3

Species Sought Monthly (Percent) by Boat Anglers, Upper Niagara River Angler Survey, 2003

Species

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

Total

Interviewed

%

Trout

0.0

3.0

0

0

0

1.9

4.3

8.3

10

1.3

Northern pike

12.0

26.0

18.9

6.8

0.6

1.9

4.3

2.8

73

9.4

Muskellunge

0.0

2.0

10.1

5.5

6.6

6.7

21.7

69.4

78

10.1

Black bass

8.0

17.0

39.9

46.6

74.9

80.0

41.3

5.6

376

48.6

Black crappie

0.0

3.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

3

0.4

Yellow perch

12.0

4.0

0.7

0.0

0.0

0.0

17.4

13.9

21

2.7

Walleye

0.0

4.0

0.0

6.8

0.6

1.0

0.0

0.0

16

2.1

Anything

68.0

41.0

30.4

34.2

17.4

8.6

10.9

0.0

196

25.4

Total interviewed

25

100

148

146

167

105

46

36

773

 

 

 

Table 3.1.3-4

Species Sought Seasonally by Boat Anglers by Fishing Location, Upper Niagara River Angler Survey, 2003

Fishing site

Target species

Spring

Summer

Fall

Total

%

%

%

%

East channel

Rainbow trout

3.0

 

3.5

1.7

Northern pike

23.0

 

 

6.5

Muskellunge

2.0

7.1

15.1

7.6

Black bass

21.0

61.8

68.6

52.0

Black crappie

3.0

 

 

0.8

Yellow perch

3.0

 

4.7

2.0

Walleye

4.0

 

 

1.1

Anything

41.0

31.2

8.1

28.4

Number of interviews

 

100

170

86

356

West channel

Rainbow trout

 

 

 

 

Northern pike

27.3

 

 

3.9

Muskellunge

 

5.5

27.3

7.8

Black bass

27.3

65.5

72.7

61.0

Black crappie

 

 

 

 

Yellow perch

18.2

 

 

2.6

Walleye

 

 

 

 

Anything

27.3

29.1

 

24.7

Number of interviews

 

11

55

11

77

Mainstem river

Rainbow trout

 

 

8.2

2.2

Northern pike

58.3

6.2

10.2

14.0

Muskellunge

 

6.2

18.4

8.6

Black bass

 

60.2

34.7

45.7

Black crappie

 

 

 

 

Yellow perch

8.3

 

18.4

5.9

Walleye

 

9.7

2.0

6.5

Anything

33.3

17.7

8.2

17.2

Number of interviews

 

24

113

49

186

 

Table 3.1.3-4 (CONT.)

Species sought seasonally by boat anglers by fishing location, upper Niagara River Angler Survey, 2003

Fishing site

Target species

Spring

Summer

Fall

Total

%

%

%

%

Multiple river locations

Rainbow trout

 

 

 

 

Northern pike

25.6

13.0

 

13.6

Muskellunge

 

15.6

50.0

18.8

Black bass

11.6

50.6

44.1

38.3

Black crappie

 

 

 

 

Yellow perch

2.3

 

 

0.6

Walleye

 

 

 

 

Anything

60.5

20.8

5.9

28.6

Number of interviews

 

43

77

34

154

 

 

Table 3.1.4-1

Monthly Counts of Shore Anglers at Surveyed Access Points, Upper Niagara River Angler Survey, 2003

 

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

Site Usage

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

Bird Is

20

4.6

32

3.1

51

3.9

41

3.9

62

5.9

49

7.2

16

4.8

2

1.2

273

4.5

Ferry St

54

12.3

156

15.3

231

17.6

220

21.1

251

24.0

143

21.1

105

31.4

45

26.6

1,205

20.0

Squaw Is

129

29.5

227

22.3

193

14.7

121

11.6

146

13.9

81

12.0

96

28.7

66

39.1

1,059

17.5

Towpath Pk

9

2.1

71

7.0

75

5.7

44

4.2

47.5

4.5

29.5

4.4

20

6.0

4

2.4

300

5.0

Ontario St

39

8.9

154

15.2

239

18.2

214

20.5

197

18.8

121

17.9

43

12.9

21

12.4

1,028

17.0

Riverside Pk

27

6.2

52

5.1

62

4.7

46

4.4

26

2.5

7

1.0

8

2.4

12

7.1

240

4.0

Sheridan Dr

7

1.6

28

2.8

66.5

5.1

45

4.3

32

3.1

20.5

3.0

2.5

0.7

0

0.0

201.5

3.3

Buffalo sites subtotal

285

 

720

 

917.5

 

731

 

761.5

 

451

 

290.5

 

150

 

4,306.5

71.3

Isle View Pk

2

0.5

43

4.2

36

2.7

43

4.1

31

3.0

19

2.8

4

1.2

1

0.6

179

3.0

Niawanda Pk

16

3.7

23

2.3

117

8.9

98

9.4

84

8.0

77

11.4

11

3.3

4

2.4

430

7.1

Fisherman's Pk

9.5

2.2

49

4.8

104

7.9

100.5

9.6

124.5

11.9

88

13.0

19.5

5.8

2.5

1.5

497.5

8.2

Gratwick Rvrsd Pk

15

3.4

28

2.8

67

5.1

32

3.1

21

2.0

20

3.0

0

0.0

0

0.0

183

3.0

Griffon Pk

6

1.4

36

3.5

34.5

2.6

7.5

0.7

7.5

0.7

9.5

1.4

3

0.9

0

0.0

104

1.7

Wood's Crk

3

0.7

16

1.6

31.5

2.4

23.5

2.3

10

1.0

10.5

1.6

2

0.6

0

0.0

96.5

1.6

West Rvr Prkwy

2

0.5

8

0.8

6

0.5

6

0.6

8

0.8

2

0.3

0

0.0

0

0.0

32

0.5

 

Table 3.1.4-1 (Cont.)

Monthly counts of shore anglers at surveyed access points, upper Niagara River Angler Survey, 2003

 

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

Site Usage

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

Beaver Is St Pk

99

22.6

93.5

9.2

closed to all angling

 

0.0

4.5

1.3

11.5

6.8

208.5

3.5

Northern sites subtotal

152.5

 

296.5

 

396

 

310.5

 

286

 

226

 

44

 

19

 

1,730.5

28.7

Monthly totals

437.5

 

1,016.5

 

1,313.5

 

1,041.5

 

1,047.5

 

677

 

334.5

 

169

 

6,037

 

Monthly usage (%)

7.2

 

16.8

 

21.8

 

17.3

 

17.4

 

11.2

 

5.5

 

2.8

 

 

 

 

 

Table 3.1.4-2

Seasonal Counts of Shore Anglers Fishing at Surveyed Access Points, Upper Niagara River Angler Survey, 2003

 

Spring

Summer

Fall

Site Usage

# Anglers

%

# Anglers

%

# Anglers

%

# Anglers

%

Bird Island

81

3.5

131

5.0

61

5.4

273

4.5

Ferry Street

363

15.9

557

21.2

285

25.3

1,205

20.0

Squaw Island

503

22.0

321

12.2

235

20.8

1,059

17.5

Towpath Park

122.5

5.4

125

4.8

52.5

4.7

300

5.0

Ontario Street

340

14.9

512

19.5

176

15.6

1,028

17.0

Riverside Park

118

5.2

95

3.6

27

2.4

240

4.0

Sheridan Drive

81.5

3.6

97

3.7

23

2.0

201.5

3.3

Buffalo sites subtotal

1,609

 

1,838

 

859.5

 

4,306.5

71.3

Isle View Park

67

2.9

89

3.4

23

2.0

179

3.0

Niawanda Park

90

3.9

252

9.6

88

7.8

430

7.1

Fisherman's Park

112.5

4.9

289

11.0

96

8.5

497.5

8.2

Gratwick Riverside Park

89

3.9

76

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