Watersheds Canada supporters lead fish conservation this winter.
As winter puts on a freeze on green action projects, Watersheds Canada is warming up for another lake stewardship initiative on the hardwater.
Loads of washed stone is set to be trekked across a frozen eastern Ontario lake this February, as volunteers will haul, shovel, and rake the natural material to create a bigger, better spawning bed for walleye. This in-water work is done with government approval and permits. However, the heavy lifting comes from community action and generous funding.
Watersheds Canada’s volunteers arrive with their snowmobiles, four-wheelers, utility trailers, and sleds, but most importantly, they provide their time, elbow grease, and enthusiasm. All of this cold, hard work falls into place as the April thaw brings open water followed by walleye spawning time.
“Some of our best fish habitat work happens on the ice, and it’s a great time of the year to connect again with our great donors and volunteers,” said Watersheds Canada’s Habitat and Stewardship Program Manager, Melissa Dakers, who is supported by Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry fisheries staff, lake association members, and local anglers on a variety of fish habitat projects.
An upcoming spawning bed on ice is Watersheds Canada’s twenty-seventh fish habitat enhancement initiative, all of which have rallied a grassroots determination for local lake and river stewardship. Watersheds Canada encourages the stewardship spirit with a fish habitat toolkit and webinars that share its fish habitat success stories including the deployment of in-water brush bundles (woody debris) and stream restoration work that helped save a native brook trout population.
Dakers stressed that her team’s winter spawning bed work for lake trout or walleye is preceded with months of site visits, volunteer monitoring, fisheries meetings, material ordering, and planning as well as a day of washing. Yes, washing.
“In October, a team from Watersheds Canada used a pressure washer and brooms to clean a traditional walleye spawning bed that has become significantly less productive for walleye reproduction as a result of a build up of silt on the rocks and gravel.”
Because walleye is a very sensitive fish species, siltation negatively affects their spawning beds. Silt covers the eggs, preventing them from being adequately oxygenated. This increases embryonic (early-stage development) walleye mortality.
“Thank you to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry district managers who help encourage our local conservation work that has been made possible in the past with support from Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, and most recently the Government of Canada, through the Environmental Damages Fund, as well as Honda Canada Foundation and the Ontario Wildlife Foundation,” adds Dakers.
This project was undertaken with financial support of the Government of Canada through the Environmental Damages Fund in addition to the Honda Canada Foundation and Ontario Wildlife Foundation.
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