MANITOULIN—So far everything has gone well concerning the Lake Kagawong walleye fish hatchery pilot project, spearheaded by Mike Meeker, owner of Meeker’s Aquaculture in Evansville, and members of the Gore Bay Fish and Game Club (GBFGC) and United Fish and Game Clubs of Manitoulin (UFGCM).
“Everything is going great,” stated Mr. Meeker on Sunday evening. “We ended up getting walleye-pickerel eggs from Paul Methner and the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) at the shore of Lake Manitou, as they had taken eggs from female fish in the area, and this was done at the Sandfield docks. We were able to fill a tank-bottle with 1.2 litres of fish eggs, which would amount to approximately 130,000 walleye, from the MNR.”
“Paul was great with his help, and when we got the fish they went right back to the hatchery in Kagawong,” said Mr. Meeker. “We had asked Bill Strain for his help in setting up everything, he is as knowledgeable about raising pickerel as anyone on the Island, and I had asked him for help in showing the guys from the fish and game club to get the eggs in the jar and to make sure the water flows are right for the fish in the hatchery.”
“That part was great, and Al and Ken Clarke, Ches Witty, Bill Oldenburg and Barry Wall have all been doing a great job setting up the hatchery located in Kagawong,” continued Mr. Meeker. He had donated a chiller for the hatchery, and an incubator was installed in the hatchery building.
“On Saturday I met with the guys from the club to go over the process for treating the eggs,” said Mr. Meeker. “The most important thing for the eggs is maintaining the proper flow of water for them, and making sure they are constantly oxygenated.”
Also on Saturday morning, Mr. Meeker went through the process of instructing the fish and game club members as to treat the eggs. He said the biggest danger for the eggs is any fungus getting established because it will kill live eggs.
“We also need to put in a big plug for the community of Kagawong because they are allowing us to use the old hatchery building, and because of this there is a gravity feed water system that we are able to use, which means we don’t have to worry when there is a power outage,” said Mr. Meeker. “The second most important things for the successful raising of these fish eggs are not allowing the fungus to get out of hand before the eggs hatch, and we have a very dependable crew of guys that will be working on it. I think this is going to work really well. It is a fairly simple system, and it takes dependable committed people the same as we had for our project with Vale, and I think we have that and more with the guys involved in the program here in Kagawong. The biggest thing right now is to stay on top of the eggs and make sure they remain healthy.”
Mr. Meeker explained that once the walleye eggs hatch, the routine for raising them will be changed. “I would say it will be between two and a half to three weeks before they will hatch, and as soon as they do they will be put in one of the two holding tanks in the hatchery. The tanks are set up already, he said, pointing out, “it can be a little touchy getting the fish eating feed pellets. However, using the advice of everyone, Glen Hooper, Wade Leonard, Paul Methner, and other guys who have worked on similar projects in the south and are experts, we should be alright.”
The walleye eggs, once they go to the holding tanks, will be held there, “until the water temperatures in the lake warms up to at least 16 degrees,” said Mr. Meeker. “Then some of the fish will be put in the nursery nets in Lake Kagawong, while another portion of the fish will continue to be raised and grow in the tanks at the same time.”
“The main thing is to keep the fish healthy, and so far everything is looking good,” said Mr. Meeker. “Walleye are in such a high demand from fish anglers and there are none around these days. Everyone I’ve talked to, even guys in Michigan and Ohio, feel this type of hatchery is long overdue here and it was the MNR who was the springboard for this with the work and research they have already done in other places in southern Ontario. We are just building on the basic work the MNR has been doing on pickerel.”
Mr. Meeker said the next step would be transferring the fish to nursery nets in Lake Kagawong to be raised in nets at Long Bay. However, he added, at this time final approval for this has not been given by the Ministry of Natural Resources, as concerns have been raised by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE).
“I’m sure the approval will happen, we are waiting to see the final permit from the MNR,” said Mr. Meeker. “It is an absolutely great program there is no opportunity it won’t be a benefit. The MNR doesn’t have any problems with it, and neither does the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), and even the MOE has no problem with it in Toronto where similar projects are in place. For them not to let us do it up here, especially when there are other places that are doing it, would be terrible. Based on the research and studies that have been done for similar projects in the south and other areas, there is less than zero percent effect on the environment.”
“The projects in the south have set a precedent, using nursing net operations,” said Mr. Meeker. “The fact that this type of project is being carried out in Toronto and other places there shouldn’t be a problem here either.”