Pike are at high risk in Lesser Slave Lake. That’s one of the items shared at a public information session on fisheries management in Slave Lake on Jan. 17. However, no quick change of harvest regulations is being contemplated, said Fisheries Biologist Myles Brown, because the situation doesn’t seem all that dire.
That’s not to say the pike regs for Lesser Slave won’t change, but it would be after the next population survey, which comes up in 2019. No sense doing anything now, Brown said, because it looks as if the fishing pressure on pike isn’t that great at the moment.
That was one tidbit (actually conveyed in a side conversation) in a much broader presentation on how pike and walleye populations are assessed and rated. And Lesser Slave is not one of the lakes up for ‘consultation’ in the current process. Winagami Lake and Fawcett Lake are, along with other northern lakes such as Haig, Joker, Round, Muskwa and Utikuma.
Winagami actually looks pretty good for walleye and pike. Walleye is rated at low risk to sustainability and pike at moderate risk. In Utikuma, pike seem okay, but walleye are rated at high risk. A catch and release strategy is proposed.
In Fawcett Lake, both walleye and pike are considered at high risk to sustainability. For walleye, a tag system is proposed; for pike, catch and release.
Alberta Environment and Parks is urging people to fill out a survey online (at talkaep.alberta.ca) and indicate what sort of objectives they support as well as what sort of methods to achieve those objectives they would favour.
“What kind of fishery do you want?” said Brown at the meeting. “Really big trophy fish? If so, you’re not going to be eating fish. Bring smokies to the lake.”
The answers may differ, lake to lake, and management methods along with them. That’s the sort of thing the managers are trying to figure out through the surveys and meetings.
One thing they’ve heard so far, Brown continued, is that, “people want to get them back to sustainable fisheries.”
Another indication from surveys completed so far, said Dr. Stephen Spencer, is that “harvest is not the main reason to fish,” and that, “People want fast recovery actions.
On the bright side, Spencer said recovery measures have worked. Going to strictly catch and release in the 1990s helped several ‘collapsed’ lakes recover their pike and walleye populations. One thing that didn’t work was an experiment on Long Lake he said, where a short opening was allowed. So many people showed up to take advantage of it that it hurt rather than helped fish populations.
A tag system for fishing is one method that has shown “good success,” in some cases, he said.
“I heard the push is on for a tag system for Slave Lake,” said an audience member in the Q&A session.
Brown reminded him that Lesser Slave Lake is not among those being consulted on in this round and that a tag system for it is not being considered at this time. It’s an option, he said, but “after the next survey ask that.”
Another question from the audience was whether the closure of the commercial whitefish fishery has had a positive effect on pike and walleye populations. That has been seen in some lakes, Brown said. In others, “we haven’t seen it. It might take five years.”
“If a lake is dead,” said one questioner, “why not just close it for five years. It would recover a lot better than (with) catch and release.”
“It’s an option,” said Spencer. “But for the most part folks want to fish. And we get letters from cabin owners.”
The opportunity for doing online surveys ends Jan. 30. Besides Slave Lake, information sessions were held in Lac La Biche, Grande Prairie, Calgary and Edmonton.