Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A letter sent to fisheries...

I just wanted to post a copy of a letter I recently sent to the Fisheries Management --Conservation and Planning staff in Alberta.  Not sure if it's to the right folks, but hopefully someone useful gets it.  If I don't hear back, it'll be phone calls.  It's high time logic and forward thinking reigned in the fisheries management sector of Alberta's government.  Instead it's a refusal to change from the past, regardless of how ineffective the actions and poor the results.  The only alterations to anything are of the budget cutting variety, and we can all guess whether the results will be better or worse after those changes...

Trev with an SRD trophy of 12 inches.  The typical result of poorly managed, over-stocked lakes. 

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to you today regarding the current trout stocking policies of the many public pothole lakes in the Edmonton Region.  To start off, I would like to say that I am an advocate of "Quality" trout lakes in the Province of Alberta, such as Ironside, Fiesta, Police Outpost, Lower Kananaskis, and Muir to name a few, that have seasonal and gear restrictions allowing these waters to offer high quality rainbow trout fishing opportunities not available at most lakes in out province.  I take my fly fishing quite passionately, and care deeply about the future of our waters.  That being said, I am often forced to travel to BC, Saskatchewan, or at a minimum other areas of Alberta to experience much quality stillwater trout fishing.  I do believe we can have more diversified fishing near Edmonton, however, and it would not need to cost more money in the form of additional trout stocked, aerators, etc.

I also want to state that I am not writing to you to advocate the creation of more "Quality" lakes, though I would like to see more.  My correspondence with you is regarding the species of trout stocking and distribution of these fish.  I'm a realist; I am aware that "alternate" trout species (read any trout species other than rainbows) are more expensive to hatch, rear, and stock, and with today's realities of budget issues and tough decisions, I appreciate that ideas of adding additional high-cost species to stocking lists would not make it far past the "anglers writing in letters of suggestion" stage.

That being said, it is very noticeable to anglers in the Edmonton region that we have what we would consider to be ZERO alternatives to rainbow trout in our lakes (as far as trout are concerned).  I am saying zero even though records will obviously show that brook trout are routinely planted (about 4000 per year) in Chickakoo Lake near Stony Plain.  I have not given this alternate species credit in this location as a viable option as a species alternative for trout anglers, because this lake suffers either a winter or summer-kill, or both, nearly (if not every) year.  When someone does catch a brook trout in this lake, it is nearly always the recently stocked fish (of only 16-20cm), hardly what any fisherman would consider a good return for the investment, when we take into account the high costs associated with planting this species of trout.

Considering the high (nearly 100% each year, most likely from a lack of oxygen) mortality rates, would it not be more beneficial to plant that allocation (the 4000 per year) of brook trout into lakes that offer a high survival rate of the planted trout, which can in turn offer several years of angler return on each stocking, rather than a single year of only partial return on small trout?  I am aware of the "kick-back" reaction that would happen from local anglers if all of a sudden they could not catch brook trout, albeit small ones, from Chickakoo, but why not split the difference; stocking 2000 brook trout and 9000 rainbows (an increase of 2000 rainbows, to counter the drop in brook trout numbers) each year would allow 2000 brook trout to be available for other water bodies in the area that will overwinter trout, while allowing others to continue catching some at Chickakoo.  Muir Lake, for example, would not only allow successful overwintering, but a high angler yield due to the low mortality rate (because of the bait-ban and 50cm minimum size limit, and closed winter seson).  Star Lake, though on your list of potential winterkill lakes, has only suffered one partial kill in recent memory (even lakes with aerators partially killed that year), and would make another viable alternative for a brook trout planting site. 

Those lakes would be extremely acceptable as they are within the same vicinity (only a few minutes drive apart) as Chickakoo Lake, so anglers could still reasonably access these same trout, minimizing disturbing anglers through travel time issues, distance from Edmonton, Stony Plain, or other towns.  There are many lakes that overwinter to the north or east of Edmonton as well and could use variety.

I ask you to please consider the concerns and points I have raised with this letter.  The Edmonton region is standing alone as a trout fishing region --we are the only large region to offer such as poor variety of trout fishing opportunities.  In addition to rainbow trout, Edson has 3 lakes in the immediate vicinity with brown trout, plus more with brook trout, and even more yet if you drive 80km towards Hinton.  There are numerous brook trout lakes in the Swan Hills-Whitecourt region, and Red Deer-Rocky Mountain House has several brook trout lakes and even a couple brown trout ones (in addition to all the brown trout/brook trout creeks).  Those regions listed above also have the advantage of offering stream fishing opportunities for trout, yet they also seem to get the best of trout stockings.  Trout lakes are no longer merely places people can go and keep trout so that it relieves pressure on our other fisheries.  Fishermen, lots of us, want to have high quality trout fishing on lakes, and Edmonton, of all highly populated regions, should see this taken into account, as we only have trout available to us in lakes and ponds. 

I do feel that splitting the stocking of 4000 brook trout (usually doomed to winterkill in Chickakoo) into more lakes in the Edmonton area will improve the satisfaction of trout anglers.  The lower natural mortality rate of trout will give anglers a higher catch rate, while lowering the overall cost of fish stocking to maintain population levels.  A variety of fish species being planted into more lakes will provide more enjoyment, in the form of much needed variety, to anglers.

I would appreciate feedback to the concerns I have addressed. 

Thank you very much for your time, and I appreciate your continued efforts.


Nick Sliwkanich

Edmonton, AB

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