Cami Armendariz/Staff Writer

The Cornell Fisheries Club led a group of enthused fish observers to Salmon Creek, where they studied the migration patterns and behaviors of local fish.

April 30, 2023

Cornell’s Fisheries Club Investigates Spawning Season at Salmon Creek

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Established in 1870, the American Fisheries Society is the world’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to the advancement of fisheries science — the study of freshwater, marine and estuarine aquatic systems that involves human interaction. The organization aims to strengthen the fisheries profession and the conservation of fisheries resources and promotes that they have helped shape fisheries policy and management practices, both in the United States and around the globe.

On Sunday, April 23, the Cornell subunit of the New York chapter of the American Fisheries Society, otherwise known as Fisheries Club, led a group of enthused fish observers and anglers to Salmon Creek, a major tributary of Cayuga Lake, to study the migration patterns and behaviors of local fish.

“Fisheries can be a difficult field to crack into if you don’t know the right people or have the right equipment,” said Fisheries Club President Ava Ciaccia ’23. “We hope to provide experiences for students interested in the field for work or for fun.”

During the spring season, fish species — including rainbow trout and white suckers — migrate up tributary streams to spawn. Spawning, which is the process of how fish mate and reproduce, plays a significant role in maintaining the health and diversity of aquatic ecosystems. 

“White suckers are a type of freshwater fish that spawn in the spring, usually from March to May,” said Rhys Healy ’25, the Fisheries Club fishing officer. “During spawning, you can see the white suckers jumping out of the water or splashing near the surface because they are gathering in large groups to mate.” 

Fish species have evolved to spawn at specific times of the year, based on environmental cues such as temperature and day length. This synchronization of spawning ensures that the new generation of fish hatch at the optimal time — when food sources are most abundant and conditions are most favorable for their growth and survival. This yearly phenomenon attracts fish enthusiasts and nature lovers alike, who relish the opportunity to witness the sight of thousands of fish swimming upstream.

The Fisheries Club’s excursion to Salmon Creek offered participants a unique opportunity to gain insights into fish migratory patterns and spawning behaviors. 

Healy caught white suckers for the group to observe the fish up close and learn about their ecology.

“The white suckers have a unique mouth shape which allows the species to feed heavily off of the bottom of these streams to obtain enough energy during their spawning run,” Healy said.  

The event allowed participants to bask in the picturesque scenery and the company of like-minded individuals who share a passion for fish and conservation. It is through such events that the Fisheries Club and the American Fisheries Society strive to promote awareness and understanding of the vital role that fish play in our ecosystem and the importance of their conservation, according to Healy.

“It was super neat to see so many fish in their natural habitat and witness their life cycle patterns and behaviors,” said Azra Twombly Ellis ’25. “I have seen multiple trout in tanks or preserved in classrooms, but this experience really reminded me of the importance of conservation of our natural resources.”