Famous Spawning Run Was Put at Risk When Patrols Abruptly Pulled Last Year

State Senator Patty Ritchie today pressed the state’s top environmental officer over the need to protect a vital walleye spawning area from poachers, and was told the agency plans to restore its patrols to safeguard the vulnerable spot.

Senator Ritchie raised the issue of the walleye spawning run in the St. Lawrence County town of Rossie at a joint Senate-Assembly public hearing on the Governor’s budget proposal.

Last year, Senator Ritchie was alerted by sportsmen that the state Department of Environmental Conservation, in a break with a longstanding annual tradition, had pulled its intensive patrols at the scene of the sensitive spawning area, and brought those concerns to the attention of Commissioner Joe Martens.

“Do you feel that you will be able to patrol that this year?” Senator Ritchie asked.

“I do,” Commissioner Martens said. “You brought that to my attention last year. We do want to increase enforcement. We realize we had some vulnerability last year. We want to be responsive in that regard."

The Rossie spawn is critical to the ecosystem of the Oswegatchie River, Black Lake and Indian River water systems, Senator Ritchie said.

“Last year, I sounded the alarm when officers were pulled from their annual efforts to protect the spawning beds,” Senator Ritchie said.

“Hundreds of sportsmen, conservationists and environmental officers spent decades rebuilding the walleye population in a model of local and state, public and private cooperation to insure that future generations could enjoy this world class natural resource. I am very pleased that DEC’s top official says that he is looking at ways to protect one of the North Country’s environmental treasures,” Senator Ritchie said.

The walleye spawn usually occurs each April, and draws tourists from across Upstate New York to the Rossie site, where mature fish are plainly visible—and vulnerable to poaching—as they navigate the shoals and shallows leading to their traditional spawning area.