by Alicia McCutcheon
PROVIDENCE BAY—Lake Huron Chinook salmon in Providence Bay waters have more of a reproductive chance this spawning season thanks to the joint efforts of Manitoulin Streams, Central Manitoulin, Ministry of Natural Resources and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Every year the mouth of the Mindemoya River in Providence Bay becomes obstructed by a large sand bar, created by coastal wave action and a lack of water coming downstream, explained Marcus Mohr, Manitoulin Streams coordinator.
“The loss of water during the summer dry season and into the fall reduces the velocity of the river that results in the water taking a path parellel with the beach, eventually making a shallow trickle out into Lake Huron,” Mr. Mohr explained in an email. “This shallow mouth is approximately three inches deep and cannot accommodate the spawning salmon which often die on the resulting sand bar while trying to access the critical upstream habitat.”
The coordinator noted that his organization worked closely with the MNR and DFO to create a plan to get the salmon into the river to spawn while considering dunes and vegetation.
“Realizing the immense economic and social benefits, the municipality of Central Manitoulin donated the use of a backhoe and operator for the project,” Mr. Mohr continued.
A passageway measuring two metres wide, 12 metres long and a half-metre deep was dug directly in line with the river “to take advantage of the river’s existing velocity,” he said.
Mr. Mohr noted that this project was originally scheduled to take place in the fall of 2010, but heavy rains allowed for the mouth of the river to be cleared out enough for the salmon to swim upstream.
“So far, this year’s channel has stayed open for over a week-and-a-half, allowing hundreds of salmon into the river to spawn,” the coordinator explained. “Later in the fall, cohos are expected to come to the Mindemoya River to spawn, at which time we hope to have enough rain to help keep the mouth open without having to create a passageway.”
He said a more permanent fix would be great, but “this is a good temporary solution in the meantime.”
Jack Hicks is an avid Providence Bay fisherman and was pleased with the work of Manitoulin Streams.
“The river has been that way (clogged with sand) for the past 30 years, but this is the first year we got all the right permits to do the work and it’s worked wonders,” he said, noting that in past years there could be anywhere from 10-14 dead salmon, stranded in shallow waters, each night.
“This has been the biggest salmon run we’ve had in Prov in 10 years and most are spawning well in the sanctuary,” Mr. Hicks added. “I’m very impressed with what Manitoulin Streams has been able to do and getting all the appropriate permits.”
He explained that very night the fish began their journey upstream.
The fisherman said he’s noticed the hit the decline in the salmon population has taken on the economic situation of Providence Bay in the diminishing numbers of fisherman, but added that this summer had been the best for fishing in some time with plenty of big salmon being brought off the boats. “And this is all natural reproduction.”
“I’m very, very pleased and looking forward to what happens in the next four years—we should have a fantastic reproduction rate,” Mr. Hicks said. “I hope this will become an annual event.”
“In the long term, this will help to draw tourism to Providence Bay, filling boat slips at the marina,” said Mr. Mohr. “The people that come to Manitoulin to fish, these people are spending money, they respect the environment and they’re the kind of people we want on Manitoulin.”