Fish symposium

The overall fish population in Northwestern Ontario lakes is improving, but there still is at least one crisis area and several questions in another region that require immediate attention.
That summed up the fisheries conservation symposium, entitled “Managing for a Sustainable Harvest,” hosted by the North Western Ontario Tourism Association last Thursday at the Fort Frances Curling Club.
Ministry of Natural Resources staff from six districts provided an analysis of the current fish stocks in their specific region to an audience of district lodge owners and other business reps with ties to the tourism industry.
Reviewing the situation in Rainy Lake, local MNR biologist Darryl McLeod said walleye numbers are on the rebound in the three different basins but stressed there’s no room for complacency.
“We have to define our goals and management objectives,” said McLeod. “We have to establish a benchmark for our recovery. We have to determine at what point we can finally say it is recovered.”
Rainy Lake was the victim of commercial over-fishing that led to a collapse of the industry in the mid-1960s in the North Arm, with the South Arm and Redgut Bay also sustaining heavy stock declines.
McLeod estimated the annual harvest by anglers is half of what is was in 1992—aided by various regulations that have been introduced since 1994.
Some of those have included the gradual reduction of the allowable catch limit to four per day as well as the introduction of a daily angling validation tag program.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to the numbers for walleye we had before the mid-’60s,” said McLeod. “There’s a lot of new species in there taking up the space that walleye would have had before.
“That’s bad for the walleye, but good because there’s more diversity, which provides more opportunities for different fish to grow and prosper,” he added.
The tag program also is helping sustain the lake trout population in Clearwater Bay, said area spokesman Tom Mosindy.
“Since we brought the program in 1991, we’ve been able to maintain and even increase the trophy trout fishery,” he noted.
“In 1999, compared to nine years earlier, we’ve had twice as much angler pressure in the area with less than 10 percent of the harvest from that period.”
He added catch-and-possession limits also have helped the lake trout situation in Whitefish Bay.
“The harvest has been reduced
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