The Brewer Pond radio tracking project

The portion of the Rideau River that flows through Ottawa, Ontario, supports a recreational fishery for muskellunge (Esox masquinongy). These muskellunge are a globally unique population due to their successful propagation within a large urban centre. There is also a healthy northern pike (Esox lucius) population. To ensure the persistence of these esocid populations and the fisheries they support it is important to maintain existing spawning and nursery habitat and, where possible, remediate historical habitat. Brewer Pond was created by reclaiming land from the floodplain of the Rideau River. It became a popular recreational swimming destination in the 1960s but was closed due to water quality concerns in the 1970s. Currently, the pond is an important feature in this popular residential park. With support from a variety of stakeholders, there is collectively interest in reconnecting the pond to the Rideau River and naturalizing it to provide fish habitat. Construction is slated to break ground in late summer of 2014. Using radio tracking, our primary goal was to evaluate the use of the proposed backwater area at Brewers Pond by adult esocids for foraging, spawning and nursery habitat. In addition, we will attempt to identify other key spawning, nursery, foraging and over-wintering habitats along this stretch of river. In the summer and fall of 2013, 20 adult muskellunge and 20 adult northern pike were captured and radio-tagged in the region around Brewer Park Pond. These individuals have been tracked on a bi-monthly basis (including during the winter) with daily tracking during the spawning period. Preliminary results suggest that there is considerable activity by both species in the Brewer Park Pond area. In addition, key aggregation areas during the winter and during the spawning period have been identified. Results from this study will provide an important pre-construction baseline and allow us to determine the effectiveness of habitat restoration activities once complete.