Lake Mindemoya walleye stocking to be revisited

Central Manitoulin council members have provided support to a municipal employee to revisit the Lake Mindemoya fish stocking project. In photo is the pavilion building at the government dock in Mindemoya, which had been considered for a community fish hatchery by the United Fish and Game Clubs of Manitoulin in 2015.

MINDEMOYA – Members of Central Manitoulin council have given approval for a municipal employee to explore the possibility of a Lake Mindemoya fish stocking/community fish hatchery being developed.  

Marcus Mohr, community development/outreach co-ordinator of the municipality told the Recorder after a municipal finance and economic development committee meeting last week, “I’m excited about it. I am looking to collect the information that is missing from proposal that was made several years ago. I was requesting council’s approval to pursue all of this.”

At the FED committee meeting held last Thursday Mr. Mohr told the committee, “the original proposal was a fairly large undertaking,” pointing out it was a community group that had made the original proposal. “I am requesting council’s permission to pursue this, and look at why it (Lake Mindemoya stocking) and the community fish hatchery didn’t go ahead, and where the gaps are.” 

“And it did have municipal backing in principle previously,” said Councillor Derek Stephens. “There was a snag in the process through the ministry (natural resources). I was always in favour of the idea, and if Marcus can bring this back to life this would be great.” 

“Wasn’t the Gore Bay Fish Hatchery committee involved originally?” asked Councillor Stephens. 

“The UFGCM (United Fish and Game Clubs of Manitoulin) was the main party involved, bringing in their experience with the Kagawong hatchery. But the UFGCM no longer exists.” 

“I’d be happy to see Marcus revisit this and come back to the committee or council on his findings,” said Mayor Richard Stephens. 

“I was a supporter of the original concept-idea and am still in support of this,” said Councillor Al Tribinevicius.

Mr. Mohr, in a memo to the council explained, “back in 2015 there was a concerted effort from local residents, resort owners and UFGCM to actively contribute to the productiveness of the Lake Mindemoya fishery, specifically its walleye population by proposing a community fish hatchery at the pavilion building at the government dock. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) had agreed that stocking the lake was an option and that it could potentially be done by the OMNR out of Blue Jay Creek Fish Hatchery or by the community fish hatchery.”

“Layouts, designs, equipment selections, best practices, training, volunteers and council approval were lined up, but unfortunately the project stalled,” Mr. Mohr wrote. “Plans for a learning centre were also proposed where students, residents and tourists could visit and view aspects of the community fish hatchery.”

“There are two reasons why the project has stalled, the first is that OMNR biologists stated that there was a unique strain of walleye in Lake Mindemoya,” continued Mr. Mohr. “DNA samples were collected by Al Holroyd of Cedar Grove Cottage Resort. They were given to the OMNR and then sent away for analysis but according to the collectors of the DNA, a report was produced but was not released. The other reason the project stalled is because the main organization that provided supports, expertise and volunteers, UFGCM, is no longer operating.”

“The below motion request specifically does not mention walleye or the community fish hatchery because there is a possibility that they could be raised at the Blue Jay Creek Fish Hatchery. Also, in regards to a community fish hatchery other types of species could be raised in the future but the initial goal would be to raise walleye,” wrote Mr. Mohr.

“I would like to request a motion to revisit the Lake Mindemoya fish stocking project and to have permission to pursue, collect and present all the missing data and information necessary to get this project started again or come to a suitable conclusion on behalf of the municipality,” he wrote.

Mr. Mohr had also noted that “the well-known walleye population and fishing in general on Lake Mindemoya was a tremendous drawing card for tourism and its economic spin-offs in Central Manitoulin. From my understanding the sport fishery, specifically walleye in Lake Mindemoya, had a dramatic decline when the invasive species zebra mussel was introduced to the lake in the early 2000s and then rainbow smelt populations exploded in the lake between 2005 and 2009. Zebra mussels are filterers and they eat out the bottom of the food chain, while also clearing the water allowing light to permeate further into the lake, changing the lake’s ecosystem. Rainbow smelts compete with the young native fish species. Rainbow smelts are also claimed to be responsible for missing walleye age class data in Lake Mindemoya with one theory being that the walleye are growing and maturing faster because of the rich food source but also have stronger competition and succumb to predation early in their life cycle.”

“Lakes like Lake Mindemoya where fish are stocked are called ‘put and take’ lakes, they are major economic drivers for tourism and contribute to the overall qualify of life in areas,” wrote Mr. Mohr.

The committee, made up of almost all council members, passed a motion for Mr. Mohr to pursue investigating the proposal.
Mr. Mohr also told the Recorder after the meeting, “as I mentioned at the meeting I have not contacted the OMNR yet. Last night’s request was to get permission to gather the missing information and investigate the status and current reports that pertain to Lake Mindemoya.”