Resource Management Technician
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Aurora District- 905-713-7730
May 13, 2016
Slowly but surely the 2016 trapnetting crews on Gloucester Pool are gaining confidence that they will reach their goals of capturing muskie and collecting 3 families worth of eggs for the hatcheries. This confidence however has not come easily, as crews have experienced a very trying season on the Pool thus far. As ardent muskie anglers love to say ‘This is the fish of a thousand casts’ … and so too are the crews on Gloucester now saying “this is the fish of a thousand net sets’…
To date we have maximized our efforts since Monday April 18 when we deployed 6 trap nets during a 23C heat wave, only to fish those same nets a week later when temps had fallen 23 degrees during a significant snow storm. We then experienced crazy formations of green filamentous algae that covered some of our nets, and made our jobs doubly difficult and messy.
This net above was our worst case scenario situated in a proven muskie spot we like to call ol stumpy. It and others have since been cleaned-up.
Most filamentous algae prefer stagnant, nutrient rich, warm waters. Spirogyra however, is one species that flourishes more in cooler spring and fall months. They are found to dominate the littoral zones where we put our nets (the shallow, near-shore area where sunlight can penetrate to the bottom allowing aquatic plants to grow). During other years, we seldom have more than a few days when water temps remained in the single digits but this year, we had almost two weeks’ worth … optimizing the conditions for this algae to flourish. Thankfully, during week four, as water temperatures finally began to rise – pushing 14 C, much of the algae began to die off, and crews spent extra time cleaning off the nets.
The beginning of week 4, began with Muskies Canada volunteer Terry Barrett who witnessed some tremendous channel cat catches like the one he holds here.
Week 4 began with Mel and Wil opening the nets on a chilly Sunday, followed by a day of low catches the following Monday. Muskies Canada volunteer Terry Barrett however sill enjoyed himself and witnessed some great channel cat catches in a couple of our nets. On Tuesday, we saw another (or the same individual as last week) bald eagle which we figured had to be a good omen and was, as the very next day we captured our very first muskie of the season – a ripe male.
This individual muskie was getting on in years and was one we had used for a muskie egg collection in 2006 when it was also sampled, tagged and released. Interestingly enough, it was originally caught at the site # 3 and was also recaptured at site # 3. In 2006 it measured 1050mm and weighed 11kg … but on Tuesday, 10 years later it measured 1090mm and weighed about 8.2kg (based on length girth formula). The fish was in good shape so he was held overnight in the hopes that on Thursday, our last day to collect eggs for the hatcheries this week, would supply a ripe female from one of our six nets. Alas … this was not to be, so the tagged muskie was set free to possibly contribute another day to our worthy cause.
This old male muskie was our first lunge of the 2016 trapnetting season. Pictured, Brent Shirley (Midhurst MNRF) left, Adam Chalice (Aurora MNRF) and Kate Gee (Midhurst)
This week we also saw our very first Musk … or ‘Stinkpot’ Turtle. We definitely don’t see as many of these “Species of Special Concern’ turtles as we do of the more common Northern Maps, so they are always cool to see … and even smell – as their musky odor does have a certain, shall we say ‘ Je ne sais quoi’ odor to them. It was only fitting that Aurora District biologist Carolyn Hann was on the muskie trapnetting boat the day the stinkpot was captured.
She has acquired a wealth of turtle knowledge in her career spending many years volunteering for Turtle S.H.E.L.L Tortue helping to rehabilitate injured turtles, install turtle crossing signs, and providing education and outreach on our native turtle populations and habitat. She has continued by working on various Species At Risk projects including Wood Turtle Research in Nova Scotia, and helping Biologist in Kejimkujik National Park with their Blanding’s Turtle Research.
Biologist Carolyn Hann with her special catch … A Stinkpot Turtle
So … to learn even more about this fascinating turtle, turtle aficionado Carolyn Hann provided us with the following:
Stinkpot Fun Facts
- Unlike many turtles the musk turtle rarely leaves the water except to lay eggs. This turtle is fairly secretive and spends a lot of its time resting on the soft lake bottom, foraging for food and basking in the sun under floating aquatic vegetation in shallow water.
- This species is generally a poor swimmer and will walk along the Lake Bottom rather than swim.
- This turtle has a great little defensive tactic in that when it is disturbed it will quickly emit a foul smelling odour from its musk glands giving it the famous name ‘stinkpot’. These little guys are also fairly aggressive and won’t hesitate to bite!
- Nest close to water and therefore are very vulnerable to changes in water levels.
- Lay 2 to 7 eggs that are elliptical in shape and vary in size. A little bigger than a quarter. Eggs are laid between May and early July with hatches anywhere from 60 to 90 days later.
- Diet: molluscs, plants, small fish, insects, and carrion
- The barbels on this turtle’s chin and throat are sensory organs which allow the turtle to feel for prey resting on the bottom of the water body.
Threats to the species:
- Habitat destruction
- Changes in water levels
- Heavy recreational boating
- Fisheries bycatch
The champion turtle crew, each with their own stinkpot- left to right: Kate, Mel Shapiera and Brent
Eva Bobak (MNRF Aurora) with one of her favorite species … the longnose gar. Brent in background collecting data.
Brent Armstrong (Midhurst) with a nice healthy pike
Moving on To Week Five:
Getting back to our piscatorial pursuits and all that is muskie, both Midhurst and Aurora District staff are confident that this coming week before the Victoria long weekend will more than make up for the cool waters and cool reception G Pool’s muskie have provided so far. We have however enacted extra measures not normally within scope of this program in order to maximize our chances for a successful egg collection next week.
First, as of yesterday (Thursday May 12)we left the nets open and will fish them for by-catch (not muskie) on Saturday. Come Monday, we will be out in full force, expecting to collect eggs. With the warm latter part of this week leading up to a stormy and cooler weekend, followed by warmer temps again next week … we finally believe all the stars are aligning perfectly to help guarantee success.
Stay tuned for next week’s report … and have a good pike opener for those of you chasing these toothy critters this weekend.