DEC Announces Reductions in 2020 Oneida Lake Walleye Egg Take

Oneida's Walleye Population is at Highest Levels in More Than 30 Years and Expected to Thrive

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced that in order to help further limit the community spread of COVID-19, DEC will be adhering to social distancing restrictions to protect staff and the state's essential hatchery operations. As a result, DEC is reducing this spring's walleye egg take on Oneida Lake and will not stock walleye fry into Oneida Lake in 2020.

"Oneida Lake's walleye population is booming, providing great fishing opportunities for New York's anglers and increasing tourism," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "The health of this fishery and the necessary precautions we are taking to protect staff and our hatcheries will ensure DEC maintains our walleye stocking programs well into the future."

Traditionally, DEC staff from fish hatcheries across the state assemble at the Oneida Hatchery to assist with a massive, weeklong effort that involves the netting and spawning of thousands of fish. To reduce virus transmission risks, the number of staff participating in the egg take will be reduced this year. Egg collection efforts will be primarily for fingerling production needs, reducing the number of eggs needed. Any eggs collected in excess of those needs will be used to provide fry for direct stocking in some waters that annually receive them.

While Oneida Lake is typically stocked with 150 million fry, the lake will not receive fry this year. The lack of stocking should not impact the Oneida Lake walleye fishery, as the adult population is abundant and at numbers higher than in more than three decades. This, coupled with a strong year class will enter the fishery in 2020, should provide walleye fishing this year and for the immediate future.

Randy Jackson, Cornell University research associate at the Cornell Biological Field Station on Oneida Lake, said, "Given the current population size and likely additions from upcoming year classes, there is no compelling reason to believe that missing a single year of fry stocking will present a threat to the sustainability of the walleye fishery."

William Girvan, President of the Oneida Lake Association (OLA), said, "This is a prudent and necessary action that DEC must take to protect the hatchery, and OLA stands by the Commissioner's decision to curtail the egg take and safeguard staff at the hatchery, who we consider are part of our lake community."

The reduced egg take operations will begin once the water temperature rises and walleyes begin running Scriba Creek to spawn. To protect both staff and the general public, all DEC hatcheries, including the Oneida Hatchery, are temporarily closed to visitors.

While enjoying the outdoors, please continue to follow the CDC/New York State Department of Health guidelines for preventing the spread of colds, flu, and COVID-19:

  • Try to keep at least six (6) feet of distance between you and others.

  • Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, and kissing.

  • Wash hands often or use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.

  • Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs, handrails, and playground equipment.

Response to COVID-19: A Message to Fishing Charters, Guides and Anglers

Fishing Safely This Season

New York State is open for fishing and DEC encourages anglers to recreate locally at a nearby waterbody. New York's lakes and streams offer great opportunities for fishing in a wide array of settings across the state. Even during the current COVID-19 public health crisis, getting outdoors and connecting with nature while angling in New York's waters is a great way to help maintain mental and physical health.

Please continue to follow the CDC/New York State Department of Health guidelines for preventing the spread of colds, flu, and COVID-19:

  • Try to keep at least six feet of distance between you and others.

  • Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands.

  • Wash hands often or use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.

  • Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs, handrails, and playground equipment.

When fishing, DEC recommends avoiding busy waters and following the guidelines on DEC's website about fishing responsibly in New York State. If an angler arrives at a parking lot and there are several cars, they should consider going to another parking lot. If an angler is fishing upstream, they should fish downstream of the other angler or consider fishing another day. Anglers fishing from boats should always be able to maintain at least six feet of distance between one another. For more information about the benefits of being outdoors safely and responsibly, go to DEC's website. 

                  Charters and Guides

The "New York State on PAUSE" Executive Order, a 10-point policy to assure uniform safety for everyone during the COVID-19 response, includes a directive that all non-essential businesses statewide must close effective at 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 22, and temporarily bans all non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason.

At this time, fishing guides or charters of any size have been determined to be not essential and are subject to workforce reduction requirements of the Executive Order. The full and updated guidance on which types of businesses are determined essential and other designations associated with the order can be found online

      Freshwater Fishing and Boating Newsletter

  April 1 is the Opening of Trout Season

Getting out fishing is a great way to get fresh air, connect with nature, and have fun. During the public health crisis COVID-19, here are some helpful things to keep in mind when it comes to planning your next fishing trip. Get your fishing license With the closure of town clerks offices and many stores, you can purchase your fishing license online or over the phone, by calling 1-866-933-2257.

Know the Fishing Regulations  Yes, they still apply. Hardcopy requests will be delayed due to closures, but you can download a PDF version of the new 2020/2021 regulations guide from our website. To receive a hard copy, send an email to and provide your mailing address.  Be Safe  Practice safe social distancing (at least six feet from another person), stay local and avoid crowded fishing spots.

           Fish Hatchery Updates

  • As a reminder, to help limit the spread of COVID-19, DEC’s Fish Hatcheries are currently closed to visitors. This includes visiting the Oneida Fish Hatchery in Constantia to observe the annual walleye egg take, which will begin tomorrow.

  • To reduce transmission risks of COVID-19 to DEC Fish Hatchery staff, the annual Oneida Lake walleye egg take will be scaled back this year. The Oneida Lake walleye population, currently at a 30-year high, will not receive its annual allocation of 150 million fry this year. Priority will be given to collecting enough eggs for maintaining the walleye fingerling stocking program, with any collected in excess of this going to fulfill other fry stocking policies. You can find further details in DEC’s recent press release.

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