Angler input sought for walleye 

Jordan Goddard, holds up a walleye during his Little Current Public School’s class trip to the Little Current Fish and Game’s hatchery in Sheguiandah.
A proposed change to walleye slot sizes, season and take is now available for comment.

NORTHERN ONTARIO—There is a difference of opinion, especially regarding one species of fish—walleye—on a provincial draft management proposal that the season for angling and the size of fish that can be taken would be reduced for Fisheries Management Zone (FMZ) 10 which includes Manitoulin Island, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie Districts.

“They are proposing to reduce the pickerel sizes and the season,” said Al Holroyd, of the Lake Mindemoya Stewardship committee. “There is not a whole lot more that can be done with lakes desperate for pickerel.”

“No, I don’t think the plan is all bad,” said Mr. Holroyd. “Our lakes are in trouble for pickerel, not just in Lake Mindemoya but in other areas as well. They have to start somewhere.”

Lou Shortt, president of the Little Current Fish and Game Club said, “from what I’ve read, it will not make any difference to myself or sport fishermen, if they take two weeks off the end of the walleye fishing season. By then everyone is usually into ice fishing on Zone 10 on the Island. They are talking about cutting the period of the season, and the size of fish being caught and have come up with three options.”

“However, the biggest problem we have as a club is that unless you control all the (FMZ) zones around us, so the same thing takes place for the North Channel, south and east of the swing bridge, if it doesn’t cover the entire area and all the people fishing in the big waters into the island you would almost have to prove to the ministry where you are fishing. The changes being looked at don’t address these problems.”

“It doesn’t help anyone if the sports fishery takes another hit,” said Mr. Shortt. “If they shorten the angling season in Zone 10, which includes the Island, and there is a longer season in FMZ 13 and 14 and they move into our area to fish, in reality they (MNRF) haven’t done anything.”

Mr. Shortt acknowledged currently, “the walleye fishery on the inland lakes on Manitoulin Island are not great. With our own club we got 120,000 eggs from the fish hatchery at Blue Jay Creek this year to stock in Bass and Pike Lakes. The ministry, to my knowledge, has not stocked inland lakes on Manitoulin for several years, instead they leave it to the clubs to do.”

“Unfortunately, a lot of eggs come out of Lake Manitou, but don’t get put into Island waters, they go to other areas,” Mr. Shortt continued.

“Over the past five years we have seen a major decline of the walleye fish coming into the creeks here.”

“Most of the eggs that are taken from fish in Lake Manitou are put in the North Shore and north of that,” said Mr. Shortt. “The eggs taken from Lake Manitou are being raised in Northwood.”

“In one way to me, it’s a whitewash, they (MNRF) don’t dig deep enough into what the real problems are to figure it out,” said Mr. Shortt.

“It’s comical, with the sport fishery on Manitoulin Island you would think they would try to make the Island a destination for tourism and that it would include fishing, but they call for a smaller quota and shorter season and at the same time the ministry is not putting fish back into the Island waters. Before they even started to look at all of this, it would have been nice if they had contacted fish and game clubs and maybe Manitoulin Streams to get their input before they put out any type of proposal.”

Al Douglas, a local member of the Fisheries Management Zone Advisory Council for Zone 10 that provided input and recommendations into the plan told The Expositor, “It is good to see that the draft management plan has finally been released. The process has been good, and this is a plan that we have been working on for a while now.”

“What gives me confidence about the plan and what is being recommended is one, the amount of science that has gone into the state of the fish population, for example,” said Mr. Douglas. “That is not to say there are not challenges and that more and monitoring isn’t needed into how a particular species is doing and make improvements so the populations can increase.”

Mr. Douglas pointed out the committee engaged all fish stakeholders including Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. “The best science is local knowledge and that is what we went to for information on this plan.”

“I have confidence in the plan because it is so solid in terms of science. The ministry did a great job in science in providing the information, data and the state of each species of fish in an area,” said Mr. Douglas.

“When you look at the changes, or non-changes being recommended, I think it will be good for the long-term health of the fishery on Manitoulin,” said Mr. Douglas. “As I mentioned, work will have to continue in terms of monitoring and how species are changing. I can’t say enough about what the local fish and game clubs are doing to help sustain the fishery and stocking.”

“I’m pleased to have been a representative for Manitoulin on the committee. I was one voice of many, but I can assure you the Manitoulin Island voice was well represented on the committee,” said Mr. Douglas.

“The plan outlines the status of fisheries, sets objectives and provides direction for the management of recreational fisheries and aquatic resources,” the MNRF notes. “Proposed changes will help to ensure sustainable fisheries management, while helping to protect, preserve and recover specific fish populations.”

“The draft fisheries management plan is being presented to the public for review and comment. The information collected during the consultation process will help guide future management decisions,” the plan continues.

The draft plan goes on to say, “in FMZ 10, walleye are the most targeted species among recreational anglers in summer and the second-most targeted species in winter. Fisheries surveys indicate that walleye populations are stressed, and that walleye abundance is among the lowest of the Northern fisheries management zones.” In terms of proposed regulation change for FMZ 10, “we are proposing a change to the FMZ 10 walleye regulations to increase the number of mature spawning walleye (350 millimetres and over), decrease mortality and increase biomass (meaning kilograms of fish in lake) in zone lakes and maintain the quantity and quality of angling opportunities.”

Three options were presented for walleye: one, to maintain the status quo on size limits with nor more than one greater than 46 centimetres, season open January 1 to March 31, and from the third Saturday in May to December 31, and sport licence four and conservation license two fish taken.

Option two would modify the season and catch and possession limits. This would include a size limit of none above 46 centimetres, with the season open January 1 to the third Sunday in March and third Saturday in May to December 31. It would include a sport licence limit of four and conservation licence two.

The third option would be to modify the season and catch and possession limits. This would include a size limit, with none no more than one greater than 60 centimetres, with the season to be open January 1 to the third Sunday in March and the third Saturday in May to December 31.

For the full report go online to ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-6024