Just because you can does not mean you should

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Those who have been fishing our lakes for a long time have probably noticed the changes in the type and quantity of the fish being caught.

Years ago Walleye, Pike and Smallmouth Bass were caught in much larger numbers than they are today.

As the lake ages the fish that can live with the changes thrive and the ones that don’t slowly disappear. Walleye need rocky shores and rivers to spawn and Pike need the deeper cooler water in the summer. Both these are slowly decreasing in numbers in our lakes.

Forty years ago the river from Horseshoe Lake out towards Bull Lake was rocky with gravel and sand. Now it is just one big weed bed. This has cut away a lot of the prime spawning for the Walleye. As everyone has probably noticed the water is much warmer in the summer now making it not as tolerable for large Pike. This has cut the numbers of these fish drastically. Even Smallmouth Bass, Rock Bass and Perch, which prefer rocky and/or deeper water have declined in numbers. These fish, which were numerous years ago are becoming fewer and farther between now.

One up side to this is that Largemouth Bass, which thrive in warm shallow weedy water, have expanded their numbers and range. Introduced Crappie along with Sunfish have also filled in a gap left by Pike and Walleye and are doing well without these top predators.

However, I and many of the other cottagers I am talking to are noticing a steady decline in the amount and size of fish being caught. Overfishing is becoming a problem in our lakes. We have a beautiful fertile lake system but unfortunately it is really not that large and it cannot handle the fishing pressure we are putting on it.

Ministry regulations for a Conservation License is the maximum Possession of two of each Bass, Walleye and Pike per person per license. This includes what you have at the cottage in the fridge and have caught in the boat. The Ministry has even put limits on Sunfish, Crappie and Perch.

Yes, like most others I love a meal of fresh caught fish, however these meals need to limited to keep our fisheries stable. The Ministry has put more strict limits on the amount of fish that can be harvested in the last few years. Let’s protect our fisheries before the Ministry puts in even more strict limits or shuts it down completely as they have done in other areas.

Things that we all can do to protect our fishery:

Ensure you are fishing in season: Bass and Walleye spawn in the shallows in the early to late spring. Stay away from their spawning areas until the season opens. The 2020 Regulation Summary can be found here: https://www.ontario.ca/document/ontario-fishing-regulations-summary

Release the “Trophy” sized fish: Take a picture and put them back if you can. A large fish lays substantially more eggs than many smaller ones.

Keep the average sized fish: Give the small ones chance to mature and spawn. The Ministry, in some areas, has even put size and slot limits on many lakes to protect the fisheries.

Try a meal of Sunfish, Crappie or Catfish instead. They are tasty and much more plentiful.

Inform: Encourage renters and friends using your cottage to limit what they keep

Report: If you see someone abusing the limits call the Ministry 1-877-847-7667. Do not confront them

yourself.

Just because you can catch and keep a limit every weekend does not mean you should. It is up to all of us to ensure we have a sustainable fishery in the years to come.

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