Resource Management Technician
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Aurora District- 905-713-7730
Oh my! Another rather uneventful week on the Pool. Much to our dismay, the weather continues to play havoc with our efforts to not only collect muskie eggs, but to even capture any muskie in our nets. If you recall from Update 1, we began our program on a real high note Monday April 18th and set our six trap nets during a 23 C heat wave as water temperatures were on the rise. Jump forward just one week though, and our dedicated MNRF crew along with a real trooper – Jim Crocker of the Orillia Fish and Game club, checked nets in a cold and blustery snow storm that more or less set the stage for the rest of the week.
Here volunteer Jim Crocker makes a quick count of the fish he just scooped from the trap net before returning them to the lake. Some days this job means crews are challenged by what Mother Nature can throw at them, but invariably it’s a day well spent and one for the memory books.
On Tuesday we had strong winds forecasted, so had to cancel the day. We hoped a 48 hour set would increase our catch rates for Wednesday, but that really didn’t materialize except for an outstanding largemouth bass catch in one of our Little Lake sets that we affectionately call ‘stumpy’ . It is in an area is loaded with stumps and has accounted for many muskie over the last few years
Brianne Brothers (left) and Kate Gee show off some beautiful largemouth bass from our ol’ stumpy set
Brent with a nice smallmouth bass and Brianne with her largemouth
A net full of largemouth is never anything to be too upset about as long as they’re all released in great shape says Wil – the self- diagnosed bass-a holic from Aurora District. He is flanked from behind by Brent (left) and Steven Sucharzewski of Midhurst
Interestingly enough, despite the low single digit temperatures that prevailed for most of the week, water temps stayed in the 8C range all week. Other years we have caught muskie during these low temps, but the big difference those years was usually that the barometer was rising steadily, and so too were water and air temps.
One of the highlights for the current Muskie netting crew is having the chance to be re-acquainted with former members who were so instrumental in previous years. This was the case on Wednesday when Brent Shirley from Midhurst welcomed back Emily Funnell from Aurora District – who is now a biologist working on many Species At Risk Files for her district. Here Emily proudly hold a large Northern Map Turtle – A “Species of Special Concern” that was caught and released unharmed from one of our nets.
A familiar face for many Muskies Canada members … Aurora District’s own Gabby Gilchrist shows one of several small (spawned out) northern pike caught from the trap nets this week. “At least it’s an esocid” she said!
As we head into week three of this program the MNRF crews from Midhurst and Aurora had to discuss their plan of attack and contemplate what the weather forecast would mean for the week. To compound their efforts, a 3rd week of netting looks to be not much better than the first two weeks.
Planning for Week 3:
As you can see the lows at night are still predicted to be in the single digits and even the day time highs remain well below seasonal norm. The chances therefore that we begin to see water temps rise over and above single digits does not look great. With this in mind, for week three, Kate and Wil will be begin by opening the nets on Sunday as usual, however from there crews will only be checking nets every other day. This will not lessen our ability to catch as many muskie as we normally would with 24 hour sets, however will maximize our resources as we prepare for full out success the following week and … if need be, perhaps even consider the week after.
So with just two days on the water checking nets in week 3 (Tuesday and Thursday … Fridays we never fish nets as the Health Lab is unable to accept eggs for disease testing), I’m sure you can appreciate the challenges we’ve had juggling schedules – both with MNRF staff and the dedicated volunteers from Muskies Canada and Orillia Fish and Game. Right now, we’ve made some changes, contacted all the players and are set to go … still hoping that in Week 3 that the weatherman will be wrong and water temps begin to rise steadily so that those mighty G Pool muskellunge begin to grace our presence once again.
PS: A Muskie Related Highlight:
Just to end this somber update on a high note, on Thursday April 28th, we had our 2nd night of electro fishing the Holland River. On Wednesday, we saw the typical warm water species associated with this river. It was a long and very cold night – where landing nets actually froze to the metal guard rails when the crew was done at 2:00am. On Thursday things heated up – many more fish were seen, including one very nice looking muskie that was just out of reach of our anodes (that send the electrical current into the water) and subsequently did not entertain being captured by our landing nets. This muskie was in the meter long range and was clearly seen and identified by myself and two other crew mates. In the same general area another ‘possible-likely’ smaller muskie was seen, however our crew was not as confident as the first one. None the less, it was an exciting way to end the night and our week on the water.
Thanks everyone for your patience and stay tuned for another report this same time next week.
We sure don’t get many frogs in our nets, let alone big bubba’s like this seldom-seen brown phased bullfrog. Brent was tempted to give this one a big kiss in hopes that it would turn into the big beautiful muskie princess that he’s only been dreaming about.