By Wayne Selinger,
Ministry of Natural Resources Biologist
A five-year project designed to protect and enhance lake trout populations in northeastern Ontario is yielding results as it enters the analysis and reporting phase.
The Northeastern Lake Trout Enhancement Project promises to expand lake trout angling opportunities by rehabilitating acid damaged lakes as well as to ensure the long-term health of a priceless resource.
Ontario boasts nearly 25% of the world’s lake trout lakes. There is a concentration of 1000 of these special lakes in northeastern Ontario along the height of land from Wawa to the Quebec border, representing nearly one half of Ontario’s lake trout waters. Unfortunately, 100 lake trout lakes in the northeast have been severely damaged through acidification by industrial smelter emissions and surface water runoff. On a more positive note, there is some good news. Our lakes are slowly recovering! Of the 100 industrially damaged lakes in the northeast, 50 have recovered to a point that will allow for lake trout survival and reproduction. Lake trout populations in 15 of these lakes are recovering naturally, while 30 lakes are currently being restocked.
Work is also underway to evaluate the health of the other 900 lake trout lakes in the region. Over-exploitation and the impact of introduced species are two significant issues facing the resource. Fishing pressure and angler distribution patterns have been investigated through aerial surveys of 700 lakes within 10 northeast watersheds. Index netting has also been completed on 80 randomly selected lakes in order to evaluate lake trout abundance and age class structure as well as to document the spread of unwanted fish species (e.g. rock bass) between lakes. Compilation of this data will provide a picture of the status of lake trout populations in northeastern Ontario and will allow the team to forecast trends and risks to the resource using computer simulation models.
Over the next year or two, the Northeastern Lake Trout Enhancement Project team will continue restocking damaged lakes and begin to evaluate the success of our initial restoration efforts. The project team will also report to the public regarding the overall health and future of the northeastern lake trout resource and will ultimately explore/implement management actions to ensure long-term resource sustainability. Some changes to current fish regulations may be required.
The success of the project to date has been largely dependant on the involvement of key partners including NOTO, OFAH, Laurentian University, Sault College, INCO, Falconbridge, Domtar, Tembec, Sudbury Aviation, NORAIR Ltd., Ontario Parks, and the Ontario Ministry of Environment.
For more information on the Northeastern Lake Trout Enhancement Project, contact Wayne Selinger - Project Lead and MNR Biologist at (705) 869-6488.
This article was taken from page 12 of NOTO's "The Outfitter" publication, Summer 2004 Issue