KAWARTHA LAKES – “It’s time to save the walleye-Demand the MNFR do its job” are the words that jump out from the page of a new website launched by Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Jamie Schmale.
Over the past 30 years, there has been a general declining trend in walleye abundance on the lakes routinely sampled by the Kawartha Lakes Fisheries Assessment Unit. (KLFAU)
Schmale says he has tried to get the Peterborough branch of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) to do something about the dwindling walleye fishery particularly in Bobcaygeon and Lindsay for the last two years.
“Walleye once thrived here! Fishing lodges overflowed in towns like Bobcaygeon and Lindsay. But as the walleye population diminished, so did fishing tourism,” said Schmale. “It’s time to fix the spawning beds and get our fish the water they need to survive.”
Fish need water to survive but there’s not enough water according to the Save the Walleye website.
The theory is that the natural high water we used to have in the spring covered the spawning beds, and provided enough water for the hatch to survive. The spring freshet also cleaned the lakes and swamps, flushing out debris and silt. When dams were built in the late 60s to control the water, things changed for the worse for our aquatic life according to Schmale.
Spawn can die in spring without water, mature fish suffocate to death in shallow areas that deplete of oxygen or freeze to the bottom, fish who suffer low-oxygen stress can die when their metabolisms rise in spring.
Some feel all of these things contribute to the walleye decline. Schmale thinks small changes could make a big difference for the Walleye population but he says his pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
Schmale says the walleye fishery suffered habitat loss, stressful low winter water levels, suffocation and high-and-dry spawning beds during crucial spring spawning. The introduction of invasive species, the detrimental effects of bottom-scrubbing hydraulic dams and an unsuccessful slot-size regulation have all contributed to a decline in the population.
“I would like to see the worn out spawning beds dug deeper in Bobcaygeon and Lindsay—they are over-silted, too smooth, and too high,” said Schmale. “I also think water should be managed in a way that is more walleye-friendly. If we used the top-loading stop log dams throughout the year, it would improve the health of not only the walleye population but of the whole ecosystem. In April, higher water levels are needed if we hope to protect the life under the water line.”
According to Schmale the MNFR aren’t even following their own plan.
“I am disappointed that after 8 years the Peterborough Ministry office has not accomplished any of the items outlined in their own Fisheries Management Zone 17 plan from 2009,” said Schmale. “MNRF Peterborough is not fulfilling its mandate to protect and sustainably manage our walleye. There is an opportunity for both levels of government (the provincial MNRF and the federal Trent-Severn Waterway) to sit down and discuss meaningful change at the local level. But that discussion has been declined by the Peterborough MNRF. That’s why I’m turning to the public.
The website (JamieSchmale.ca/walleye) highlights the current problems faced by walleye and outlines what can be done to address those problems.
There is also a petition attached to the website. All names collected by September 1, 2017 will be attached to a letter that will go to the Honourable Kathryn McGarry, Minister of Natural Resources & Forestry demanding the Ministry fulfill its own mandate to protect and sustainably manage walleye in our lakes.
“It’s time to put pressure where it’s needed to spark action where it’s needed,” said Schmale. “Let’s give the walleye a fighting chance!”
Concerned constituents can add their name to the form on jamieschmale.ca/walleye.