CMPS Fish Club releases Chinook salmon into Kagawong River

Samantha Mackenzie and Ava Corbiere set free their fingerlings.

MINDEMOYA—The second annual partnership between the Gore Bay Fish and Game Club’s (GBFGC) microhatchery project and the Central Manitoulin Public School’s Fish Club was an improved success. 

This past fall the GBFGC, with a permit from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), netted male and female Chinook salmon in the Kagawong River. After harvesting the eggs and milt from the fresh-run fish, club members quickly made their way to Mindemoya to demonstrate how the eggs are most successfully fertilized with a large feather and perfect water temperatures. 

In nature, salmon success rates are extremely low from egg to fingerling-size fish. Even with successfully fertilized eggs, very few actually hatched and fewer made it out of the alevin stage when they are “sitting ducks” to all predators, unable to swim as they live off their huge egg-sack bellies. When these lucky ones started on their downhill trek to Lake Huron they are easy prey to herons, gulls, fishers, kingfishers, weasels, etc. 

The Christmas break is always tough on the delicate hatch era of this project’s fish. It seems to be right in the middle of the hatch that can include eggs that hatch and don’t actually drop out of their Scotty Box into the general population. There is also a problem at this time with eggs that do not hatch and start to contaminate the water. These extra nutrients, unfortunately, caused a bacterial growth that clogged the filter that declined the water quality that resulted in the loss of a few fish.

However, thanks to an amazing CMPS Fish Club personnel from this season, the miserly, viable percentage that made it from egg to creek was almost 50 percent! When one considers that even fertilized eggs have less than a five percent chance of making it out to the big water, the CMPS Fish Club released 96 salmon out of 200 eggs harvested. Their success was largely a result of huge weekly water volume exchanges and tank cleanings that resulted in crystal clear water. As a byproduct, Principal David Wiwchar’s avocado tree has flourished with what the club has termed “poop water.”

The CMPS Fish Club once again teamed up with Lakeview School for a great salmon stocking experience that saw the fish released into the amazing Manitoulin Streams-rehabilitated M’Chigeeng creek. Many thanks to Grade 5 teacher Ramona Ense, Math Lead Meagan Middleton and Language teacher Eria Bebonang for facilitating the special cooperation. The creek was surprisingly warmer than one might expect with our winter and the tiny salmon needed little acclimatization time before dipping into their cooler climate.

Carson Stewart and Adeline Gray are all smiles as they get ready to release their charges into Kagawong River. photos by Andre Leblanc

The success of these Chinooks’ reintroduction into the North Channel could not have happened without a lot of help many people. First, the CMPS Fish Club had several strong weekly workers and others that filled in when help was needed. Thanks to: Lily Mack, Mya Balfe, Carson Stewart, Alison Hallett, Samantha McKenzie, Ava Corbiere, Scarlet Mohr, Rylan Carrick, Erin Spry and Adeline Gray.

Of course this endeavor would not have got to this stage without the tireless work of the GBFGC and the folks that assisted in the Chinook salmon egg collection, including: Ian Anderson, Chess Witty and Brian Barker of the Gore Bay Fish and Game as well as Brad Claridge and Ken Clark of Kagawong.

Mr. Anderson would also like to acknowledge the assistance of Dale Jordison of the Blue Jay hatchery for a donation of fish food and Wayne Selinger of the MNRF Sudbury office for their support of this project with a permit to take eggs and plant the fish.