Where’s walleye? These cottagers know

walleye fish underwater Photo by RLS Photo/ Shutterstock

“I’ve seen the decline with my own eyes,” says Margie Manthey, a cottager near Westport, Ont., and the fishing director for the Wolfe Lake Association. She’s talking about the walleye population in the lake, one of many in the province to have collapsed because of habitat loss, warming waters due to climate change, and overfishing.

To help the fish stocks recover, the government imposed a walleye slot size restriction (anglers can only keep fish between 40 and 50 cm in length). “We wanted to add on to that,” Margie says. So she conferred with Don Goodfellow of the Westport Area Outdoors Association and came up with a plan to rehabilitate Scanlan Creek, which feeds into the lake. The problem? Spring runoff through two culverts in a roadway that crosses the creek  was creating too much turbulence in the water for the walleye to reach their natural spawning grounds upstream. The solution? Create a new place downstream for the walleye to spawn.

What do we need to consider before fixing our shoreline?

Jennifer Lamoureux, a biologist with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, helped with obtaining grants and government permits; then, late last summer, about two dozen volunteers spent two days spreading tonnes of smooth river rocks of various sizes in the creek to make a suitable environment for walleye egg-laying. “We had youngsters, middle-agers, and seniors. There was something for everyone to do,” Margie says. 

Time will tell if the walleyes take to their new spawning grounds. “But we’re hopeful they will, now that we’ve made it sexy for them.”

This story was originally published as part of the collection “Better Together” in the June/July 2020 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

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