Every year the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry conducts a spring egg collection in and around the Gloucester pool. Trap nets are set to capture ripe females and males to provide eggs and milt. The fertilized eggs then go to Fleming College and two Ministry hatcheries to provide the fingerlings that will be raised and released in October for the Lake Simcoe Muskie Restoration Project.
These mini-reports will give you an idea of how the work is progressing as well as a feel for what it’s like to work on the front lines with experienced MNRF staff.
Resource Management Technician
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Aurora District- 905-713-7730
Well week one is behind us and another exciting muskie trapnetting and hopefully another successful egg collection season is upon us. Also, back by popular demand, are these little end of week updates from our time on the water.
We deployed six trap nets on Monday April 18th 2016. This is a full week earlier than last year, when they were set Monday April 27th. With early ice out and incredibly warm temps for 4 full days prior to the 18th, we reckoned things could happen sooner than later so instead of taking any chances and missing an early opportunity at collecting eggs, we anxiously set the nets despite less than ideal water temps that were hovering just below the 7C mark.
That Monday though, air temps were 23C … and it was a hot sweaty deal for the crews from Midhurst and Aurora District as they made sure each net was perfect for fishing … and checking come Tuesday morning.Tuesday morning came … and despite the warm air temps the previous day, water temps remained cool. Ideally we’d like to see over 8 before we see much in the way of ripe muskie. We weren’t there yet … and neither were the muskie even present in our nets, let alone ripe. In fact, we saw extremely low catches all around in all of our nets that first day and subsequently the same could be said for the remainder of the week.
On Wednesday afternoon, after 2 days of zero catch at one particular set, the MNRF crew of Brent Shirley, Kate Gee and myself, elected to move that net 100 metres away to an area where last year’s pencil reeds would not impair the effectiveness of the main lead – which draws the fish into our nets. This decision was not taken lightly as during our first couple years for this program we caught A LOT of muskie here … and it has saved our bacon many times with successful egg collections. As Muskie anglers will appreciate though, lakes and conditions change and the amount of pencil reeds here has become so great, that proper net sets are just no longer feasible. We set the new ‘hot spot’ along the edge of this significant pencil reed bed … and have high hopes for success.
Thursday, we welcomed our first Muskies Canada volunteer … Dave Cunningham of Ajax who is with the Toronto chapter. He was a fine rep for MC and enthusiastically assisted the MNRF crew of Brent and Carolyn Hann. Our nets were slightly more productive than earlier in the week … and a good variety of species were caught, including largemouth and smallmouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, brown bullhead, northern pike, yellow perch, rock bass, black crappie and a few northern map turtles. After checking the nets, they were all closed off – so as to not fish Friday or Saturday (the health lab at Guelph University cannot accept samples for disease testing on Fridays). Encouraging news on Thursday afternoon was that water temps were beginning to rise as they pushed the 8.5C mark in several areas. This Sunday Kate and Brent from Midhurst will zip up to G Pool and snip open the funnels .. allowing them once again to fish – and hopefully catch muskie for week two.
On a side note, it was great to welcome long time MC member (and member of our Lake Simcoe Fisheries Stakeholder Committee) Jim Kelly to our electro fishing night on Wed April 20. Jim joined a couple of other volunteers from Ontario Streams and the Aurora Bassmasters as they helped MNRF staff electro-fish the Pefferlaw River. The primary goal of the evening was to monitor the walleye run … and of course to keep our eyes open for muskie. The mightiest of freshwater predator fish was not found, but we did capture 9 beautiful big walleye that were sampled, tagged and released. A couple of those were recaps from previous years … so that was interesting. Of interest to MC members as well no doubt, was an earlier in-the-week electro fishing exercise by MNRF and MOECC staff on the Talbot River when a total of 6 beautiful muskie were captured sampled and tagged. Five of those were ‘new’ fish, but one had a prior record … captured last year and tagged by our crew. As you may recall, those fish all turned out to have Kawartha strain genetics – not those of our stocked Georgian Bay Strain. We’ll see what DNA results say about the 2016 catch.
Unfortunately … early weather predictions for week two on G Pool are not the greatest … with even a touch of snow flurries forecast. We’ll cross our fingers though and hope for the best and we’ll happily report our findings to you a week from today. We’ll begin the week with MC volunteer Jim Crocker who will join MNRF staff Brent and Carloyn.
Have a great weekend everyone … and happy trout opener.
I’m sure I’ll see the usual friendly MC volunteers tomorrow at the annual Huck Finn Kids Fishing event in Uxbridge.
The Wednesday night electro fishing crew with an average sized walleye sampled tagged and released from the Pefferlaw River. From left to right: MNRF biologist Adam Challice, former MNRF biologist Scott McGill, MC member Jim Kelly and Aurora Bassmaster Des Barnes.
Northern Map Turtles of various sizes and ages are a common by catch … and are always found in great shape and happily released … but sometimes they do become the centre of attention and pose for a couple of photos first. Here Kate Gee (left) and Brent Shirley display these species of special concern on day two of the program.
Muskies Canada volunteer Dave Cunningham left holding a nice smallmouth bass, with MNRF biologists Carolyn Hann right and Brent Shirley in background.