Local conservation club efforts bear sportfishing fruit

While it’s disturbing to read in this week’s paper reports of randomized fish mortality this spring in Lake Manitou, the fact is that Manitoulin Island’s sports fishery is healthy and increasing and a great deal of this is due to the volunteer efforts of groups like the Little Current and District Fish and Game Club which last weekend celebrated 50 years of conservation service.

In a week’s time, the efforts of the Manitoulin Streams organization will also be extolled at the upcoming gala fundraising dinner this important organization is undertaking.

In Gore Bay, that community’s Fish and Game Club has long maintained a salmon hatchery and, in fact, was able to relocate this facility two years ago to town-owned property which not only gave the hatchery operation more stability but also allowed the club access to cooler water thanks to a water intake system already in place when this plant had served as the municipality’s water treatment plant.

The praise heaped on the Little Current and District Fish and Gamers by representatives of municipal, provincial and federal governments at Saturday evening’s anniversary celebration was a clear indication of the support this club’s efforts have earned thanks to its commitment to conservation, particularly to pickerel rearing and notably because each year the club involves Grade 4 classes from five Island schools in the process.

Likewise, this year the Gore Bay Fish and Game Club has established a small salmon rearing station in C.C. McLean Public School in Gore Bay where students observed the fish growing and assisted in their feeding and, recently, similar small hatcheries have been established at Assiginack Public School in Manitowaning and Shawanosowe School in Birch Island.

There is a commonality of purpose among these organizations: the fish and game clubs in Little Current and Gore Bay work cooperatively on projects and both also work with Manitoulin Streams on Island stream improvement that, in turn, makes the fishery for local anglers, both Manitoulin citizens and tourists, much more productive.

One of the speakers at the Little Current group’s golden anniversary celebrations made reference to projects begun 30 years ago that are paying off today in terms of improved angling.

Manitoulin Streams has not been around for that long but one of this organization’s signature projects, in cooperation with the Little Current club, has been the restoration of Bass Creek at Sheguiandah as a productive spawning habitat for pickerel and rainbow trout.

The agile mind of Mike Meeker, Manitoulin Island’s first aquaculture operator, has given the Gore Bay club ideas for unique pickerel rearing stations that have been utilized successfully. In Kagawong Lake the United Fish and Game Club of Manitoulin is pushing for its own pickerel hatchery near Mindemoya Lake and is presently awaiting provincial support and participation.

There is a lot of hard work, volunteer driven, going on all around Manitoulin. These efforts enjoy municipal support and that aspect of the local tourism industry that depends on angling for its success is reaping benefits from this work.

Kudos just now to the Little Current and District Fish and Game Club for five decades of dedication to conservation and to educating young people about the merits of being stewards of their local natural environment.

This club has had good and visionary leadership for 50 years as the list of accomplishments indicates.

The same can be said of the Gore Bay Fish and Game Club which prevailed in establishing its original salmon hatchery, sometimes against great odds, ultimately prevailing with a successful model.

Manitoulin Island can and must be proud of the work of the volunteers who have remained loyal to their club’s original purpose (some of them for more than 50 years) and have, in the process, made Manitoulin a healthier and more prosperous place in which to live, work and play.