Let’s keep fishing alive in Haliburton County
March 24, 2015
I read with interest and some nostalgia the article from the March 7, 1995 edition of The Echo which talks of closing 43 lake trout lakes to winter fishing and restricting fishing on 42 others. Twenty years ago, the outdoors association used the MNR’s own science and research to prove these new regulations were misguided. We as an outdoors association decided that we wanted to do our part and help determine the destiny of fishing in Haliburton County. The Haliburton Highlands Outdoor Association approached the Hon. Chris Hodgson Minister of Natural Resources with the idea of gathering lake trout eggs locally; raising and stocking yearlings back into our local lake, thus keeping the genetics of our local fish intact. Chris put his support behind us and sped up the process of hiring an extension biologist to work with ours and other organizations. David Flowers was hired to fill that position. Without Chris’s support and David’s mentoring we would not have gotten to first base. The new rules of 1995 came from studies of lakes five times larger than our local lakes. The slot sizes were not appropriate for our lakes, simply because local trout don’t grow as big in smaller lakes. Another part of the decision making process was the amount of summer and winter fishing pressure. Again using MNR information the only lakes that should fall within the new guidelines were lakes along the Hwy. 35 corridor. Based on this the lakes not in this highway corridor were excluded from the new rules. Winter closures to sport fishing on smaller lakes are still in effect. The science shows that winter fishing yields predominantly males, whereas the last two months August and September are females. Only seven per cent of the years catch is in this time frame; however eighty per cent are females. This far exceeds the number of females that would be caught through the winter fishery. Over the past twenty years no changes have been made to the small lake winter closures. Perhaps it is time to re-think these regulations. I have been a volunteer and supporter of the outdoors association (fish hatchery) since its beginning in the mid-1990s. I have watched how our hatchery with 50 to 60 volunteers has helped to sustain the sport of fishing in our county. There has been a lot of talk about whether stocking of our lakes has contributed to tourism. I don’t know that anyone has a good sense of what draws people to vacation in Haliburton, but there are plenty of local folk and cottagers, the essence of our economy, that are out on our lakes with their kids and grandkids trying to catch a fish. There are few communities that are within a three hour drive of a major urban centre that can offer the quality of fishing that we offer. This county is unique in what it can offer and fishing is one of those things that make living here very special. Many of you may have hooked a rainbow trout or a brook trout. But in Haliburton County you are likely to catch a unique species of lake trout known as the Haliburton Gold. They don’t grow as big as some other types of trout but they are good fighters and a great tasting fish. Because they are small, our lakes can support more fish, even though they may not be trophy fish. The “Gold” reproduces two years sooner than their northern cousins enabling a lake to recover sooner. The name comes from the colour of their eggs. Each year, your local fish hatchery volunteers go on an egg hunt to Halls Lake or Redstone Lake to collect eggs from pregnant females that are ready to spawn. The females are returned to the lake after we have collected the eggs. The eggs are then fertilized and taken to the hatchery where in three months they hatch. These baby fish are treated with tender loving care with the proper feed, water temperature and cleaning to ensure that there is minimal opportunity for contamination. We adjust the size and quantity of feed as they grow. In 18 months they are about three to four inches and are ready to be returned to the lakes. The Haliburton hatchery has stocked more than a half million fish since the program began in the late 1990s. In addition to the various species of lake trout, the hatchery has stocked our local lakes with brook trout, rainbow trout and pickerel (walleye). Although it has been tougher to operate the hatchery with the cutbacks in government funding, our community has been generous with its donations and support of our fund raising events. With the continued support of our volunteers and the community, we hope to keep sport fishing alive and well in Haliburton County for ourselves and for future generations.
Past president and volunteer at the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association