STORIES FROM THE PUBLIC
I have lived in Fenelon Falls & Cameron area for over 50 years and I’ve watched the walleye population drop drastically over that time. In my youth I remember there being so many walleye in the area below the falls during spawning season that you couldn’t see the bottom of the river because it was so black with walleye. That is a true fact, not a fictional account of a younger man. That was back in the late 60s & early 70s.
I worked in the bait shop in Fenelon falls and was big into fishing the Fenelon river, along with Sturgeon and Cameron lakes. At that time, the economy in Fenelon Falls was strong and robust because many fisherman came here and brought their families and friends along with them.
When we went fishing in my youth, we usually had no problems going out and getting a couple or 3 decent fish for our dinner a couple times a week. Now, that is only a faded memory. I need to go out 2 or 3 times, just to hopefully catch one. As I grew older, the fish populations continued to drop drastically. It finally got to the point in the late 90s, when I gave up fishing for walleye, as there was a very good chance of fishing all day without getting a bite or any fish caught were within the slot size. Something I wasn’t use to in the Fenelon river and on Sturgeon lake.
So now here we all are wondering how we can save this one time great fishery? Has the Ontario Federation or Anglers & Hunters been contacted? (yes, the have!) They are a great source for help. They have many experts working for them, have a decent war-chest & have the backing of over 100,000 members. I have been a member for over 30 years. I think this group would help if they can & have fought this type of fight in other areas of the province. (In September of 2017, the OFAH held an all-levels meeting to try to get some forward motion. The OFAH is also seeing if they can help find us some money for spawning bed repairs)
If Laurie Scott is on board (she is), then she should hopefully be petitioning the Ontario Liberals and the MNR to look into working towards a solution that would help increase the fish stock to pre-80s levels. What about the fisherman themselves? Some of the professional walleye fisherman could help put some pressure on the MNR and the TSW by talking to media and government officials at their tournaments (they will in May at the Canada US Walleye Tournament!)
What about the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. Could they maybe help? (The Trent-Severn Waterway falls under the MOE. On June 4th, the TSW agreed to help us move forward with spawning bed repairs in Bobcaygeon… after three years of asking.)
The TSW is a Federal thing and if we are ever to get through this hurdle, we need our MP continually fighting hard on behave of the fishery. Slowing or closing the hydro electric dams and raising water levels during pre and post spawning times (March to June) is a must. If these levels are achieved & water flow is right, I think the river spawning areas in Fenelon, Bobcaygeon & Lindsay should slowly start to recover.
I would assume that the river below the Bobcageon dam would also be okay if water levels were maintained at an acceptable level.
Now, what are we to do locally? Are there any fundraisers/auction/raffles planned to help raise money to support this cause? Is there gov money available if you applied for it? Local donations? This is something that needs to be addressed, but it’ll take time & money to go forward.
When there was a great walleye fishery, our region was always busy from the opening of walleye season, until the end of Oct. In fact from opening day (1st Sat in May, through to the end of the May 24 weekend) the river’s edges were packed shoulder to shoulder with friends and families spending time together to enjoy one of our best past time, fishing. Businesses did well during that period, as many fisherman descended on the area and the hotels and lodges were all full. Restaurants were very busy and local businesses benefited with the influx of fisherman & tourists.
Since the early 80s, I’ve noticed that you don’t see that many fisherman along the fenelon river shore line anymore. As the fish populations dropped, so did the tourists. Fisherman and their families found other locations with better fishing & have since taken their business to other locations. Why should we (the Kawartha Lakes) lose out on all this because of poor management of our fish stocks?
I would like to see the local governments and maybe even businesses support the cause with cash donations for the installation of signs at each boat launch telling fisherman what the slot sizes are and what the fish limits are. I would also like to see this sign with the info translated into Chinese & French. Maybe even have a life-sized fish, with a ruler under it, showing the length in inches and centimeters. This info should also be posted in all bait & tackle stores within the area. I would also like to see a yearly stocking program to help bring the fish to previous levels.
Another thing, we could see an increase in MNR staff numbers on the lake, at boat launches, and at other fishing locations during the spawning period & 1st month of the opening season to help monitor the fish being harvested illegally. These staff members could rotate throughout the more popular fishing locations throughout the day to check for illegal fishing. If MNR staff won’t do it, then maybe you could start your own walleye club (WWKL) Walleye Watchman of the Kawartha Lakes. Webpages and links on walleye management, rules & slot sizes, fundraising events & more. You could have local volunteer fisherman keeping an eye open watching other fisherman. If they see an infraction, then contact the MNR & report their licence plate number & discription of car, truck or boat.
This is a great opportunity for all parties to come together in order to save our fish stocks. Last thing we need is another Lake Scugog disaster to happen to Balsam, Cameron, Sturgeon &/or Pigeon lakes. If we are to ever see a recovery in fish stocks & the economies of the small villages that make up the City of the Kawartha Lakes, then the local people will have to step up to make it happen.
If we wait until the MNR brings it forward, it’ll be too late. The walleye fishing will look like Lake Scugog’s walleye fishery. Closed for business. If this is ever to succeed it’s time to start now or the walleye in our lakes could go the way of the Dodo bird.
I would be interested in attending one of your local meetings, if time permits. Please send me info on your next meeting.