THUNDER BAY – With the start of the walleye season on the Victoria Day long weekend, the Ministry of Natural Resources are requesting some assistance from anglers. MNR is asking anglers to share important information about the fish they catch on the Kaministiquia River, in an effort to protect the fishery.
Ministry staff will be surveying anglers on the Kaministiquia River in Thunder Bay throughout the summer. The survey began this past weekend to correspond with the opening of walleye fishing season. The most popular fish to catch on the river is walleye – the common name for pickerel – a large, elongated fish with an olive-green or brown back and pale sides flecked with yellow.
Creel surveys are one of several tools used to gather information on our fisheries. These surveys include interviewing individual anglers and have long been used by the ministry to collect data on major sport fish populations. “Creel” refers to the woven hand basket anglers historically carried their fish in. The name has stuck and now refers to information collected on fishing activities.
“These surveys help the ministry assess the status of the sport fishery,” says Natural Resources Minister Michael Gravelle. “The information we collect helps us to set population management objectives that will ensure the fishery is sustainable over time.”
Ministry crews will be counting fishing boats and interviewing anglers to learn more about their fishing activities, including the kind of fish they are catching. Crews may also ask to measure and weigh fish and collect tissue samples, which can be examined later to find out information about the fish’s genetic makeup, age and health.
Before the late 1980s, fishing on the lower Kaministiquia River was very poor, primarily due to industrial pollution. As a result, in 1987, the river was included as part of the Thunder Bay Area of Concern.
To improve the environmental conditions for fish, a Remedial Action Plan – a partnership between the federal and provincial governments with cooperation from a public advisory committee – was implemented. Secondary water treatment facilities installed in the early 1990s at the nearby pulp and paper mill, now called Resolute Forest Products, gradually helped to improve fish populations by improving the river’s water quality. Thanks to these efforts, the Kaministiquia River is once again a popular sport fishery for walleye.
In addition to the creel survey, the MNR tracks fish populations and seasonal migration patterns by implanting adult walleye with radio transmitters. These transmitters allow scientists to track individual fish over a longer period of time – usually at least one year. Walleye can live well into their twenties.
Anglers who catch a walleye with the telltale 20 centimetre (8 inch) antenna protruding from the fish’s abdomen are asked to release it immediately. Anglers may also come across fish which have a green or orange plastic tag. The ministry asks anglers to note and report the tag number to the MNR’s Upper Great Lakes Management Unit office in Thunder Bay at (807) 475-1213, and also indicate whether the fish was released or not.
Photo courtesy of Ministry of Natural Resources.