New York state will use water from the Erie Canal as part of a new pilot program aimed at enhancing fishing opportunities in Western New York.

Under the initiative, the New York State Canal Corporation will methodically release water from the Erie Canal into Lake Ontario tributaries, increasing the water levels and flows in streams and encouraging fish to travel farther upstream. In addition, the canal corporation will extend the annual draining of the canal in Western New York to create a longer season for anglers.

Originally announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo during his 2020 State of the State address, the program's goal is to encourage New Yorkers and visitors to experience the state canal system in a different way, while increasing tourism and bolstering small businesses in the region.

"This fall, New York is enhancing some of our world-class fisheries and expanding opportunities for anglers into December by creatively using water from the Erie Canal to bolster fishing conditions and to extend the season," Cuomo said in a Tuesday statement. "As a fisherman, I'm pleased to see our incredible Lake Ontario tributaries will be host to even better experiences for anglers. This innovative use of iconic infrastructure continues our strong tradition of ecotourism while supporting our small businesses."

Cuomo's office noted that this fall the Canal Corporation increased regulated water releases into premium streams in Orleans and Monroe counties: Oak Orchard Creek and Sandy Creek. In early November and early December, all other Lake Ontario tributaries -- Eighteenmile, Johnson, Oak Orchard, Sandy and Salmon creeks -- are set to see higher flows. State officials said the move will entice more brown trout, steelhead and Atlantic and Pacific salmon populations to run up the streams.

"Fishing on the Lake Ontario tributaries was already world-class and well known to experienced anglers," said New York State Canal Corp. Director Brian U. Stratton. "We're proud that our canal's infrastructure can be used to enhance the fishing experience for New Yorkers and be a catalyst for restarting the economy in Western New York."

Throughout the program, the canal and tributary waters will be monitored for quantity and quality to document the success of the pilot.

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