Kagawong Lake in consideration for fish hatchery pilot project

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

KAGAWONG—The United Fish and Game Clubs of Manitoulin (UFGCM), in partnership with the Northern Ontario Aquaculture Association (NOAA) are applying to the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) for assistance in launching launch a pilot project in Kagawong Lake, using the same fish-raising technology currently in use at an underground fish hatchery project at Vale Creighton Mine near Sudbury.

“The MNR seems to be interested in supporting projects of this size that are community based, and there is a need on Manitoulin and a good opportunity through this project to work cooperatively to improve fishing on the island,” Jim Sloss, chair of the UFGCM, said following a meeting last week.

Mr. Sloss told the meeting a walleye committee had been formed to request permission from the MNR for the project. The UFGCM had originally considered Lake Mindemoya for its request, but through consultation with the MNR, decided there would be more support for undertaking the project on lakes the MNR has already stocked walleye, such as Kagawong, Silver Lake and Tobacco Lake.

As reported previously, the NOAA has partnered with Vale in the development of a pilot project—an underground fish hatchery, the first of its kind in the world––which will benefit the fish ecosystem in Sudbury-area lakes. The system design and technology being used for the Vale project could potentially be used to develop small community fish hatcheries on Manitoulin Island

The process would include fish being raised in two six feet in diameter troughs. The fish are then transferred to nets in area lakes, prior to being let go. The process could also be used for small community hatcheries, with the fish raised in the troughs before being transferred to one or two small cages to grow to stocking size and then released in the lake they were raised in.

“If (the MNR) are in favour of another lake being looked at, then I say let’s go with it,” John Seabrook said.

“Kagawong Lake has numerous good places for the fish to be raised, with good shoals and deep water,” Ches Witty added. “I agree if we want to get this project going and be successful this lake would be a good one to go with.”

Mike Meeker, a fish farmer from Evansville, said this project’s methods have shown in other areas to provide very good survival rates for fish. The fish, once they are put in the nets on the lake, would be large enough that there would be more food sources available to them.

“And the next year these fish will be catchable,” he noted. “The key is getting them to the advanced fingerling stage when there is more food available to them.”

The UFGCM is looking to raise 5,000 walleye for this first project.

“All we would need is the eggs from one female fish,” said Mr. Meeker, who said he was encouraged by Brian Riche, Espanola District Supervisor for the MNR for the group to apply to the Community Fisheries Improvement Program (CFIP) program by February 1.

Mr. Meeker pointed out at least “six to eight similar fish and game clubs in Toronto area are doing the same thing as we are proposing, with salmon. So the precedent has been set. And a representative of the MNR told me the program has been really successful.”

“I think raising the fish in Kagawong would be a good idea,” Mr. Meeker said.

Mr. Sloss pointed out, “at every stage of the process there has to be a strong commitment made by volunteers of our group to help out. There is a lot at stake here and if our application is accepted, we have to put in whatever work it takes to make it a success.”

The UFGCM passed a motion to make an application to the MNR under the CFIP program for the pilot project. Fish would be raised in troughs at a location in Kagawong before being transferred to nets to be put in Long Bay, where they would grow to the advanced fingerling stage and be set free.

When contacted after the UFGCM meeting, Brian Riche told the Recorder, “we’re awaiting the application from the UFGCM for the CFIP program. Yes, we have encouraged them making an application. I think this is a good project, but it first has to go through the necessary approvals process. We receive a lot of CFIP applications, and we put them on a list and outline which is a priority and how much money can be provided. Rehabilitation projects are always the first on the list.”