Bobcaygeon spawning bed during spawning —completely out of the water!

The ecosystem is a low priority. Walleye have paid the price.

SAVE THE WALLEYE CAMPAIGN SUMMARY

The problem in a nutshell

by Mark Bonokoski | Outdoor Journal April 21 2018 | 2:00

EMAIL THE DECISION MAKERS

Tell the Ministers of Environment (fed) and Natural Resources and Forestry (prov) what is going on.

*Add your opinon, or simply your email address as support. Your email will also go to MNRF Peterborough, Trent-Severn Waterway headquarters, and MP Jamie Schmale (who is a strong advocate of our campaign).

SAVE THE WALLEYE IS CHAMPIONED BY MP JAMIE SCHMALE

Jamie Schmale, MP

Goal #1:

Convince the TSW to maintain a higher winter water level

Goal #2:

Convince the TSW to use friendly log dams to manage water, not destructive hydraulic dams

How did this happen?

In a nutshell:

The TSW manages water badly: There’s not enough water in winter and a severe lack of water in spring during spawning season. 

Walleye (and frogs, caddis flies, etc.) need basic natural conditions to survive; namely, water.

The fall draw down goes too far and that’s hurt life struggling under the waterline for decades.

Beyond cruelty, the sport of fishing—a beloved pastime in the Kawarthas—is fading away because the fish are too hard to catch. They’re gone.

The TSW kills the fishery, and the MNRF watches them do it.

 

The TSW argues tooth and nail they must prepare for POTENTIAL spring flooding by emptying the lakes in the fall.

We say no.

Over-preparation for an event that might not happen at the expense of our ecosystem is unbalanced and unacceptable.

And so are excuses like climate change, over-fishing & invasive species.

We have an opportunity to make real, meaningful, measurable adjustments to water management. But the TSW won’t do it. We’ve pleaded for a decade, but the destructive operations stay the same.

How the TSW failed the fishery:

PROBLEM: Boat traffic revenue trumps the environment in fall so the drawdown is delayed.

SOLUTION: Start drawing down lake levels earlier. Manage flows year round with consistent, gradual volume changes—stop drastic on/off (huge volume/no volume) management

PROBLEM: Lakes too low in winter. The feds pull the plug to catastrophic low levels in winter anticipating high spring freshet levels that may not happen.

SOLUTION: Don’t drain so much water off for winter. Maintain a higher minimum water level year round for the health of the ecosystem.

PROBLEM: Fish kills! Without enough water, ecologically important bays drain down to the bedrock. Fish suffocate in shallow areas and other aquatic life freezes where the water drains to the lake bottom. And it’s not just fish: draining water down too far affects beaver, muskrat, frogs, snails, turtles, shad flies…

SOLUTION: Prioritize conserving all life under the waterline. Focus less on navigation and hydro revenues.

PROBLEM: In spring, walleye can’t spawn because their historic beds are above water. Water is diverted to the wrong side of the river. 

SOLUTION: Pull some logs. Use stop log dams for larger volume calculations and only use harmful hydraulic (push button) dams for fine-tune adjustments. Provide fish-friendly water levels and flows during spawning season (March/April) over the log gates where they’re needed the most. Stop forcing all water through one hydraulic gate on the far side of the river. Eggs that do hatch die when the water drops during the spawn. Newly hatched walleye are pulled into the high-velocity current from the hydraulic gates where they die. They don’t have a chance.

PROBLEM: Parks Canada spent $3 billion over 5 years on marine conservation across Canada, but not a single cent was allocated to conserving walleye in the Kawarthas.

SOLUTION: Stop asking the public to come up with funds to study the harm your agency is doing. Use your taxbase to fix the harm you’ve done. Water levels are guesswork without gauges, so get some gauges—in the right spots!—on the spawning beds! Repair and amend the historic beds beneath the dams. 

PROBLEM: Beds are in disrepair. Spawning fish don’t have proper rubble or current breaks on the smooth, scoured beds—high-velocity, bottom-opening hydraulic dams scour bedrock. High areas end up exposed, and current breaks aren’t provided (for spawning fish to rest behind)

SOLUTION: Add rubble beside the beds, clear the rubble off the too-high-already shelf, and add in current breaks (large armour stones). This was suggested by an environmental biologist but government red tape got in the way.

PROBLEM: Marshes silted and lakes overgrown with weeds

SOLUTION: Use ecologically-important flood plains! That’s why they exist. Nature doesn’t care about human habitat  constructed in areas that are meant to wash with water. Without a natural spring freshet, marshes over-silt and fill in with weeds.

How the MNRF failed the fishery:

PROBLEM: The MNRF’s 2009 Fisheries Management Plan was never executed. This is a good plan that pulls in players from government, private, and public consultation. But… nothing. 

SOLUTION: Follow your own plan! It’s collected dust for 15 years!

PROBLEM: The ministry in charge of protecting the fishery says “Not our fault!” because the province doesn’t run the water.

SOLUTION: Shoulder up responsibility. Put way more pressure on the Trent-Severn Waterway to respect your ministry’s mandate. Aquatic life should be first, navigation and power generation second. Don’t wash your hands of responsibility just because the problem straddles multiple levels of government. We need more water in winter and a natural spring freshet to mitigate silt build-up and weeds along the system.

PROBLEM: Education is missing. There’s inadequate signage on roadways and launches, and nearly enough pamphlets or rulers to accompany licences. The public doesn’t know what the slot sizes are or when it’s legal to fish. 

SOLUTION: Put signs at boat launches, and give every angler who purchases a licence the regulations and a ruler. Educate, then ENFORCE THOSE REGS!

PROBLEM: The winter fishery 

SOLUTION: Close it down until the lakes can sustain it. Winter fishing creates another opportunity to poach walleye. Spawning-size walleye are pulled from the ice. We need to protect reproduction, not give people another season to do harm—compounded by ZERO reinforcement.

PROBLEM: The pan fishery. The balance has tipped and hundreds of thousands of crappie and bluegill eat walleye eggs.

SOLUTION: Do something about the exploding pan fishery—ain’t winter fishing ain’t it. The exploding pan fishery has tipped the balance. Invasive species like zebra mussels and pike aren’t helping either.

PROBLEM: Fund allocation 

SOLUTION: Support river spawning bed enhancements (our pilot projects in Bobcaygeon and Lindsay) and help pay for them! Support/partner with Kawartha Conservation to conduct baseline research and annual subsequent research to measure walleye decline or improvement

PROBLEM: No stocking

SOLUTION: Use fishing licence revenues to stock fingerlings, then enforce regulations so the base grows. 

We need help from the public

The TSW makes money from boat traffic and the MNRF makes money from an unenforced fishery at the expense of aquatic life and the ecosystem.

     

    2011 aecom study

    The TSW has known since 2011 that the current water management regime hurts the ecosystem

    Here’s what AECOM advised Parks Canada:

    Change the drawdown

    • A gradual draw down starting in September would be better for the environment. Waiting until October gives boat traffic a longer season, but hurts the ecosystem.

    Winter water too low, summer water too high

    • Winter water levels are far below recommended minimums. A higher winter water level would respect natural levels and protect a range of aquatic species.
    • Navigation-level waters in summer are too high for shoreline nesting birds in May and June.

    Change the drawdown

    • A gradual draw down starting in September would be better for the environment. Waiting until October gives boat traffic a longer season, but hurts the ecosystem.

    Winter water too low, summer water too high

    • Winter water levels are far below recommended minimums. A higher winter water level would respect natural levels and protect a range of aquatic species.
    • Navigation-level waters in summer are too high for shoreline nesting birds in May and June.

    But Parks Canada didn’t listen to the study they commissioned

    (see graph below).

    AECOM study of water mismanagement

    The takeaway

    The natural environment isn’t the priority. Water is unnaturally high in summer and unnaturally low the rest of the year. The timing of the drawdown is off, and flow changes are drastic.

    The CONSEQUENCES

    Species under the waterline freeze and suffocate with too little water in winter. This includes fish, frogs, turtles, snails, and caddisflies. Beavers and muskrat are also affected. Species fail to reproduce because water doesn’t support them.

    At the very least, this ecological destruction is inhumane and irresponsible. At worst, it’s negligent.

    SOME GOOD NEWS

    Kawartha Conservation has volunteered to test:

    • if using stop log dams to move water naturally from the lake surface will improve the health of the walleye fishery and the overall health of the ecosystem

    • if oxygen levels are better when water spills over the stop log dams instead of being forced under the hydraulic dams (which open from the bottom).

    • if water quality improves in the Kawartha Lakes when stop logs are used more and hydraulic gates used less.

    stories

    A LACK OF CARE AT BOTH LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT

    (and share your own)

    Moose Country Minute

    by Mark Bonokoski | Outdoor Journal April 21 2018 | 2:00

    Interview with MP Jamie Schmale

    by Angelo Viola | Outdoor Journal RADIO | 14:41

    Interview with MP Jamie Schmale

    by Angelo Viola | Outdoor Journal RADIO | 12:40

    it’s not fishing pressure

    Fishing pressure is 80% less than it was 40 years ago

    fishing abundance

    Bluegill numbers have increased 468% in 20 years

    The takeaway

    Walleye are disappearing and panfish are exploding. The MNRF opened a winter panfishery to deal with panfish, but walleye poaching has made the problem worse.

    These are the people in charge:

    TSW — The health of our fishery and environment is tied to water management. Nature should matter.
    MNRF — Inaction, no enforcement, and winter fishing has destroyed the fishery. 

    TRENT-SEVERN WATERWAY (fed)

    Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for Canada (MOE)

    STEVEN GUILBEAULT

    Steven.Guilbeault@parl.gc.ca

    Telephone: 514-522-1339


    Trent-Severn Waterway Headquarters in Peterborough

    DAVE BRITTON
    Ont.Trentsevern@pc.gc.ca

    2155 Ashburnham Dr.,
    Peterborough, ON K9J6Z6

    Telephone: 705-750-4900

    MNRF (prov)

    Provincial Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF)


    HON GRAYDON SMITH | Parry Sound
    Graydon.Smith@pc.ola.org

    Phone: 705-746-4266
    Toll-Free: 1-888-701-1176
    Fax: 705-746-1578


    Peterborough Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry 

    TREVOR GRIFFIN
    Trevor.Griffin@Ontario.ca

    300 Water St. Peterborough, ON K9J3C7

    Telephone: 705-755-3363

    MNRF feedback form
    MNRF TIPS: 1-877-847-7667

    TSW — The health of our fishery and our environment is tied to water management. Nature should matter more. 

    TRENT-SEVERN WATERWAY (fed)

    Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for Canada (MOE)

    STEVEN GUILBEAULT

    Steven.Guilbeault@parl.gc.ca

    Telephone: 514-522-1339


    Trent-Severn Waterway Headquarters in Peterborough

    DAVE BRITTON
    Ont.Trentsevern@pc.gc.ca

    2155 Ashburnham Dr.,
    Peterborough, ON K9J6Z6

    Telephone: 705-750-4900

    MNRF — Inaction has harmed the fishery. 

    MNRF (prov)

    Provincial Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF)


    HON GRAYDON SMITH | Parry Sound
    Graydon.Smith@pc.ola.org

    Phone: 705-746-4266
    Toll-Free: 1-888-701-1176
    Fax: 705-746-1578


    Peterborough Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry 

    TREVOR GRIFFIN
    Trevor.Griffin@Ontario.ca

    300 Water St. Peterborough, ON K9J3C7

    Telephone: 705-755-3363

    MNRF feedback form
    MNRF TIPS: 1-877-847-7667

    Tell the Ministers of Environment (fed) and Natural Resources and Forestry (prov) what is going on.

    Have your say!

    *Add your opinon, or simply your email address as support. Your email will also go to MNRF Peterborough, Trent-Severn Waterway headquarters, and MP Jamie Schmale (who is a strong advocate of our campaign).

    The problem: The Trent-Severn Waterway over-controls water and the MNRF under-controls the fishery. 

     

    It’s been a decade since we started the Save The Walleye campaign, but the TSW continues to manage water 100% with hydraulic gates in Bobcaygeon.

    the old bobcaygeon dam

    Fishing lodges once overflowed in Bobcaygeon and Lindsay. Now the walleye are gone and so are the tourists who injected millions of dollars into our economy. 

    The walleye fishery thrived until the 1960s when high-velocity hydraulic dams went in along the system. The solution is easy: start using the stop log dams again.

    girl fishing on a dock
    girl fishing on a dock
    grandad and grandson fishin'

    MEDIA COVERAGE

    The fishery has dwindled for generations. Now, we’re losing the fishing culture in the Kawarthas.

    Article by Alana Mitchell about how good it used to be to go fishing—something kids don’t do anymore—and how bad things are now.

    “But it’s not just numbers of fish that are changing. In Canada, the number of anglers is waning. More than one in five Canadians was fishing for sport in 1975, according to the federal survey. By 2010, the number was less than one in 10 …That’s despite the fact that the country’s population had grown by nearly half over those same three and a half decades.”

    “The MNRF cannot substantiate that spawning habitat is a limiting factor for the walleye population in Sturgeon Lake/Pigeon Lake.”

    —Peterborough MNRF

    “It would not be feasible to determine if the proposed activity had any substantive effect on walleye spawning and recruitment.”

    —Peterborough MNRF

    “The MNRF cannot support the proposed changes to the flow regime at the Bobcaygeon dam [enough water to cover the beds] as there is no evidence to suggest that this action would provide positive benefits to the recruitment of walleye.”

    —Peterborough MNRF

    Give them a fighting chance.

    How important is a higher minimum water level to our ecosystem? Read Larry Jones’ report: “Where did all the walleye go?” It’s a great read!

    Larry

    How important is a higher minimum water level to our ecosystem? Read Larry Jones’ report: “Where did all the walleye go?” It’s a great read!

    “In the past several years neither my ministry nor TSW have received any substantial reports of fish kills in the Kawartha Lakes.”

    —Kathryn McGarry, then Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.

    Seriously? Does it really take a cottager picking up the phone to tell the MNRF what’s happening in our lakes?

    We must change how water flows on the Trent-Severn Waterway in order to protect and conserve our walleye fishery. 

    Questions?