MNR provides positive response to fish and game clubs’ pilot project

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

GORE BAY—The concept of a fish hatchery-cage pilot project has received a positive response from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).

A productive meeting was held at the Gore Bay Legion on Monday, February 27, concerning the rearing of walleye for planting in Lake Kagawong.

“It was a good, positive meeting,” stated Brian Riche, area manager with the MNR, after the meeting. He, along with Wayne Selinger, area biologist; Paul Methner, operation coordinator and Paul Vieira, manager of the MNR Tarentorus and Blue Jay hatcheries in Sault Ste. Marie and Sandfield, respectively, attended the meeting with members of the Gore Bay and United Fish and Game Clubs.

“We think (the pilot project proposal) is worth trying out,” said Mr. Riche. “I’m not a biologist. I’m learning about this process as well, but we felt it was worth a try and we’ll see how it works out.” He noted the MNR is “still looking for comments from the Ministry of Environment on the project.”

Jim Sloss, chair of the United Fish and Game Clubs of Manitoulin (UFGCM) said, “it was a pretty positive meeting. The ministry is willing to look at moving the project forward depending on approval from the MOE. But everything has gone so far.”

He added, “we will certainly need volunteers to help out when this project gets going.”

The Gore Bay Fish and Game Club (GBFGC), in conjunction with the UFGCM, is proposing to rear walleye in a fish cage in Lake Kagawong this summer with a fall release of 100 to 200 gram (approximately four- to five-inch long) sized fish.

Raising walleye on artificial fish food has its challenges, it was revealed at the meeting, but if you can get walleye to eat the feed, they will grow very fast. Generally, the larger the size of the fish released to the wild, the greater their overall survival, a GBFGC press release stated.

Paul Methner, MNR operations coordinator at the Blue Jay Hatchery, has successfully raised many walleye to this larger size within a hatchery setting. He noted some of the potential pitfalls and shared some advice on what to do and not to do in this venture, the press release added.

The use of cages to rear the young walleye will be experimental but, if successful, may lead to a better local fishery in the future, the GBFGC press release notes. The Espanola MNR office committed to provide the clubs with 100,000 fertilized walleye eggs around May 1 to start the process, pending final approval. The application to conduct this work is currently awaiting approval by the Ministry of the Environment.

Evansville’s aquaculture expert, Mike Meeker, has pledged his support and will provide some hands-on assistance to get this exciting venture off the ground, the release further revealed.

As reported previously, the clubs formed a walleye committee and have requested permission from the MNR for the project. The process would include fish being raised in two troughs. The fish are then transferred into nets—cages in a lake—prior to being let go.

Mr. Meeker has said that 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.

At a meeting in January, the UFGCM had passed a motion to make an application to the MNR under the Community Fisheries Improvement 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 would be set free.

Jim Sloss, chair of the UFGCM and Chris Robinson, president of the GBFGC, both expressed their sincere thanks to the MNR personnel present at the meeting on Monday. “Working together in a co-operative manner is the key to our fisheries future,” added Mr. Robinson.