The walleye spawning bed in Bobcaygeon, April 2018 (spawning time)—completely out of the water! 

DOES THE TSW HARM THE FISHERY AND OUR ECOSYSTEM? HAVE YOUR SAY!

OUR MISSION: Bring back the walleye to healthy numbers by using stop log dams (TSW), fixing the spawning beds (TSW), and getting more MNRF action.

THE PROBLEM: The federal Trent-Severn Waterway (TSW) controls the water. The provincial Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) controls the fishery. That division of powers is a problem. The walleye fishery thrived in the 1960s. Today, the fishery is decimated. Water levels are too low, flows aren’t fish-friendly (hydraulic dams), spawning beds are out of the water during spawning season, and the MNRF does far too little with our licence revenues. 

The TSW won’t change how water flows to protect and conserve walleye. The MNRF has failed the walleye fishery on many fronts.

Moose Country Minute

by Mark Bonokoski | Outdoor Journal April 21 2018 | 2:00

2018 Interview: Save the Walleye

by Angelo Viola | Outdoor Journal RADIO | 14:41

2017 Interview: Save the Walleye

by Angelo Viola | Outdoor Journal RADIO | 12:40

Hydraulic dams have hurt our ecosystem for 50 years, contributing to tragic walleye decline.

  • Winter water levels are kept too low for fish to survive.
  • Fish that do survive can’t get to historic prime spawning beds beneath the dams in spring.
  • The eggs of any fish that do manage to spawn don’t have proper rubble or current breaks on the spawning beds—we need to repair the base.
  • Eggs that do hatch are fragile. They die when the water drops too soon or the high-velocity current from the hydraulic dams sucks them in.

Pulling some stop logs might help turn around walleye decline. But the TSW pushes back. Why?

walleye once thrived. Fishing lodges overflowed in towns like Bobcaygeon and Lindsay. Now the walleye have disappeared and the tourists have gone.

Supporters

If you care about the walleye that are trying to survive in our lakes, add your support in the form below.




Your name will be added to a list of concerned citizens who care about our lakes and the walleye that are failing to survive in them. This list will go to the Honourable John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources & Forestry along with a letter that demands the Ministry fulfill its own mandate to protect and sustainably manage our walleye.

HELP US PUT PRESSURE WHERE IT’S NEEDED. it’s time the mnrf ACT ON THEIR 2009 PLAN TO IMPROVE WALLEYE HABITAT. IT’S TIME THE TSW USED STOP LOGS TO PROTECT AND CONSERVE WALLEYE IN THE KAWARTHA LAKES.

Remember this?

When was the last time you saw a kid walking down the road with a fishin’ pole?

Fishing got too hard. People gave up. And now, an entire generation has lost the thrill of “goin’ fishin’.”

It’s time to bring it back!

Remember this?

When was the last time you saw a kid walking down the road with a fishin’ pole?

Fishing got too hard. People gave up. And now, an entire generation has lost the thrill of “goin’ fishin’.” It’s time to bring it back!

Our goal: Move topwater at the Bobcaygeon dam to improve walleye reproduction and water quality. To test this, we need the TSW to manage water with the stop log dams. We know this small change will make a big difference to walleye conservation.

But after five years, the TSW hasn’t used stop logs. 
The TSW continues to manage water with the hydraulic gates.

Researchers from the University of Ottawa, Carleton, and Sherbrooke are looking for (anonymous) public opinions on how well the Trent-Severn Waterway manages water as it relates to the environment. Have your say! Help us put pressure on the TSW to do better with walleye conservation. “This research is being conducted by engineers, biologists, and sociologists, to identify opportunities for improving environmental conditions and adapting to environmental change. By considering ecosystems, human systems, and engineering together, this project will provide important insights and recommendations for maintaining and improving these remarkable systems.”

stories

A LACK OF CARE AT BOTH LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT

(and share your own)

The Kawartha Lakes walleye fishery is COLLAPSING on two fronts (federal and provincial): 

The Trent-Severn Waterway over-controls water to the detriment of the walleye fishery.

  • fish struggle to survive in winter (so do other species: frogs, snails,turtles,shad flies…)

  • Important bays drain down too far (in some places to the lake bottom).

  • The spawning beds are exposed or barely covered.

  • Marshes aren’t washed by the natural spring freshet so they’re over-silted and filling in with weeds.

How the TSW can better protect walleye:

 
  • use stop log dams more and harmful hydraulic (push button) dams less.
  • Use stop logs for larger volume calculations and hydraulic dams for fine-tune adjustments.
  • provide fish-friendly water levels and flows during spawning season (March/April).
  • make conserving the fishery more of a priority.
  • maintain a higher minimum water levels year round for the health of the ecosystem.
  • use a small portion of the $285 million in infrastructure money given to the TSW in 2015 (or hydro generation revenues) to pay for the permits and impact studies required to restore the spawning beds.
  • Parks Canada is spending $3 billion dollars over 5 years on marine conservation across Canada. But not a single cent has been given to conserve walleye in the Kawarthas.

The MNRF fails to protect or conserve the walleye fishery. Walleye are not a priority.

  • fishing regulations aren’t adequately enforced.

  • the public doesn’t know what slot sizes apply to what lakes (lack of education)

  • winter fishing remains open in Zone 17, collecting licensing money that should fund conservation efforts.

  • no habitat restoration in over 50 years.

  • no signs at launches, no billboards.

How the MNRF can better protect walleye:

 
  • put pressure on the TSW to protect aquatic life.
  • enforce MNRF regulations.
  • educate with signs and literature.
  • support river spawning bed enhancements (our pilot projects in Bobcaygeon and Lindsay)
  • do something about the exploding pan fishery
  • close the winter “pan fishery.”Anglers aren’t just fishing panfish in winter! Winter fishing creates a rampant unenforced season of walleye poaching. Winter fishing is destroying what’s left of the walleye population—winter fishing must close in Zone 17!
  • act on the MNRF 2009 fisheries management plan, created by the MNRF, but followed. 
  • Use fishing licence revenues to repair spawning beds, enforce regulations, help Kawartha Conservation conduct research, and stock walleye fingerlings.

We aren’t just losing walleye. We’re losing the culture of fishing in the Kawarthas.

Article by Alana Mitchell about how good it used to be to go fishing—something kids don’t do anymore—and how bad things are now.

“But it’s not just numbers of fish that are changing. In Canada, the number of anglers is waning. More than one in five Canadians was fishing for sport in 1975, according to the federal survey. By 2010, the number was less than one in 10 …That’s despite the fact that the country’s population had grown by nearly half over those same three and a half decades.”

“The MNRF cannot substantiate that spawning habitat is a limiting factor for the walleye population in Sturgeon Lake/Pigeon Lake.”

—Peterborough MNRF

Not a limiting factor? When fish can’t get to their spawning habitat, reproduction fails. When reproduction fails, the population declines. 

Walleye have declined dramatically since the 1960s when the Trent-Severn Waterway installed hydraulic dams. But the TSW won’t use stop logs to protect what’s left of the walleye population.

WALLEYE HAVE SUFFERED:

  • habitat loss
  • low winter water levels (suffocation)
  • worn out spawning beds
  • unenforced summer fishery
  • unenforced winter fishery 
  • poaching
  • invasive species
  • exploding panfish numbers (bluegill)
  • exposed spawning beds during spring spawning
  • unsuccessful slot-size regulations
  • THE DETRIMENTAL EFFECTS OF HIGH-VELOCITY, BOTTOM-OPENING HYDRAULIC DAMS

The Trent-Severn Waterway keeps water too low for fish to survive in winter, diverts water away from spawning beds in spring, and relies solely on hydraulic dams during spawning season when stop logs are needed most. MNRF says “not our fault” while cutting back on signage, skimping on slot-size pamphlets and rulers, and keeping winter fishing open without adequate enforcement.

That button will jump you to a 2020 survey where you can tell researchers that the TSW could do a better job protecting the aquatic life if the stop log dams were used to give walleye more water in winter and enough water in spring to support spawning. Hydraulic dams have been destructive without balance for too long.

We would like to study how using the stop log dams to move water naturally from the lake surface would improve the health of the walleye fishery and the overall health of the ecosystem. We would like to test whether oxygen levels are better when water spills over the stop log dams instead of being forced under the hydraulic dams (which open from the bottom). We would like to see if blue-green algae, toxic algae blooms, and e-coli is less of an issue if surface water moves downstream. We would like to study if water quality improves in the Kawartha Lakes when stop logs are used more and hydraulic gates used less.

Fisheries are collapsing across Canada, but we can save our walleye fishery (and the species in the ecosystem suffering the same harm)! It’s time to repair the spawning beds, get water over them, and start using the stop logs to manage water. Help me save the walleye!

Calling on all concerned anglers, ecologists, conservationists, environmentalists, hydrologists, and the fed up public!

TSW — The health of our fishery and environment is tied to water management. Nature should matter.

MNRF — Shameful inaction, no enforcement, and winter fishing has destroyed the fishery. 

TRENT-SEVERN WATERWAY (fed)

Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for Canada (MOE)

JON WILKINSON
Jonathan.Wilkinson@parl.gc.ca

310 Esplanade E
Suite 201
North Vancouver, British Columbia
V7L 1A4

Telephone: 613-995-1225
Fax: 613-992-7319

 


Trent-Severn Waterway Headquarters in Peterborough

DAVE BRITTON
Ont.Trentsevern@pc.gc.ca

2155 Ashburnham Dr.,
Peterborough, ON K9J6Z6

Telephone: 705-750-4900

MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES (prov)

Provincial Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF)

JOHN YAKABUSKI  john.yakabuskico@pc.ola.org

84 Isabella Street, Unit 6
Pembroke, Ontario
K8A 5S5

Phone: (613) 735-6627
Toll-Free: 1-800-267-2515
Fax: (613) 735-6692


Peterborough Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry 

TREVOR GRIFFIN
Trevor.Griffin@Ontario.ca

300 Water St. Peterborough, ON K9J3C7

Telephone: 705-755-3363

MNRF feedback form
MNRF TIPS: 1-877-847-7667

TSW — The health of our fishery and our environment is tied to water management. Nature should matter more. 

Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for Canada (MOE)

JON WILKINSON
Jonathan.Wilkinson@parl.gc.ca

310 Esplanade E
Suite 201
North Vancouver, British Columbia
V7L 1A4

Telephone: 613-995-1225
Fax: 613-992-7319

 


Trent-Severn Waterway Headquarters in Peterborough

DAVE BRITTON
Ont.Trentsevern@pc.gc.ca

2155 Ashburnham Dr.,
Peterborough, ON K9J6Z6

Telephone: 705-750-4900

 

MNRF — Shameful inaction has harmed the fishery. 

The new Provincial Minister of Natural Resources and Foresty (MNRF)

JOHN YAKABUSKI  john.yakabuskico@pc.ola.org

84 Isabella Street, Unit 6
Pembroke, Ontario
K8A 5S5

Phone: (613) 735-6627
Toll-Free: 1-800-267-2515
Fax: (613) 735-6692


Peterborough Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry 

TREVOR GRIFFIN
Trevor.Griffin@Ontario.ca

300 Water St. Peterborough, ON K9J3C7

Telephone: 705-755-3363

MNRF feedback form
MNRF TIPS: 1-877-847-7667

Let the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry (provincial) and the Minister of Environment (federal) know that the walleye fishery needs immediate attention!

Give them a fighting chance.

“It would not be feasible to determine if the proposed activity [more water and lower spawning beds] had any substantive effect on walleye spawning and recruitment.”

—Peterborough MNRF   

Not feasible? If the walleye count is higher 5 years from now than it is today, the proposed activity can be measured as having had a substantive effect on walleye spawning and recruitment. 

Walleye once thrived. Fishing lodges overflowed in towns like Bobcaygeon and Lindsay. Now the walleye have disappeared and the tourists have gone (along with that injection of tourist revenue). It’s time to turn things around!

Straightforward and affordable. But the TSW and MNRF drag their feet.

“The MNRF cannot support the proposed changes to the flow regime at the Bobcaygeon dam [enough water to cover the beds] as there is no evidence to suggest that this action would provide positive benefits to the recruitment of walleye.”

—Peterborough MNRF

No evidence? Why not use our pilot project to gather data? Let’s test whether this action would positively benefit the recruitment of walleye. Say yes to gathering evidence!

The Problem

Fish need water to survive—but there's not enough water!

 

The natural high water we used to have in the spring covered the spawning beds and provided enough water for the hatch to survive. The spring freshet also cleaned our lakes and swamps, flushing out debris and silt. When dams were built in the late 60s to control the water, things changed for the worse for our aquatic life. After 50 years of hydraulic dams and water that has been kept unnaturally low, the walleye have paid the price. But with small changes, we can turn things around.

 

Water is good for fish.

  • Spawn die in spring without water over the spawning beds. Exposed, the eggs become unviable.
  • Eggs get scrubbed off the rocks if too much water is let go from bottom-scrubbing hydraulic dams.
  • The hatch die if water drops too soon before they’ve had a chance to swim up.
  • Mature fish suffocate to death in shallow areas that deplete of oxygen—where ice touches the bottom.
  • Fish who suffer low-oxygen stress can die when their metabolisms rise in spring.

 

All of these things contribute to walleye decline. But we are one step closer to changing how we manage the walleye in our lakes. We can still save them. HELP US PUT PRESSURE WHERE IT’S NEEDED!

The MNRF is not protecting the fishery!

The MNRF has not followed its own Fisheries Management Zone Plan from 2009:

In 2009, the MNRF brought together biologists and the public to come up with a plan to save the walleye in our area lakes. The management strategy that came out of those meetings was a solid step in the right direction. But then…..nothing was done. 

The MNRF has not fulfilled its mandate to protect and sustainably manage our walleye! The Fisheries Management Zone 17 (FMZ17) plan could have improved the state of the walleye fishery, but after a full decade the MNRF has not:

  • reversed and rebuilt self-sustaining walleye populations.
  • studied how spring water level fluctuations cause recruitment failure.
  • maintained or enhanced critical habitats for walleye populations

Read the FMZ17 Fisheries Management report for yourself here. The results of this plan are due in 2019. What has the MNRF done? Nothing.

 

What are your taxes paying for?

The MNRF’s inaction and refusal to support local efforts to improve the walleye situation is unacceptable. In Zone 17, the MNRF does not enforce its own regulations, does not do walleye counts, and does not use data provided by volunteers (Lindsay Bassmasters). The MNRF rakes in millions of dollars from licences but does not provide a ruler and pamphlet of slot sizes and legal fishing practices with each of those licences, or print posters and billboards to educate the public. And the MNRF keeps a winter fishery open that causes gross harm through poaching.

In the 1980s, instead of digging down the spawning bed in Bobcaygeon, the MNRF dumped aggregate on top of it, making the bed too high. We want to fix the MNRF’s mistake and enhance the historic spawning bed below the Bobcaygeon dam. The MNRF does not support fixing the spawning area.

The Trent-Severn Waterway draws the lakes down too far!

The Trent-Severn Waterway controls the water. Each year, navigation, public safety, hydro generation, and ecosystem impact present different challenges to water management. The TSW tries to balance these competing needs.

The problem is that there hasn’t been enough weight put on protecting the aquatic life. The natural flow of water is modified and controlled too much, and the ecosystem has had to adjust to less water than nature would have given it—especially in the spring.

Aware that low-to-no water hurts the walleye spawn/hatch in spring, the TSW provides water “when possible,” admitting it’s not always possible to provide enough water to keep the spawning grounds covered until after the hatch. The problem is that every year the lakes get drawn down more and more. The TSW has a choice every fall/winter: let water go or hold some water back for spring spawning. The choice is always to let too much water go as a preemptive strike to the possibility of spring flooding. That unnecessary draw down year after year harms the fishery.

In 2018, we had an early melt. That was an opportunity! But instead of holding onto some of that water, it was let go—like every other year in recent memory. 6 feet around Sturgeon Lake was bare lakebed, and the bays were drained dry!  This cannot keep happening!

BOBCAYGEON: The TSW will consider repairing the spawning bed in Bobcaygeon. The Basic Environmental Impact Assessment that must be submitted before an in-water work permit can be issued is complex and expensive ($100-$150 000). The TSW will not cover the cost.
Update! In March of 2020, Kawartha Conservation has volunteered to help us fill out the BIA.

LINDSAY: The TSW is not against considering repairs to the Lindsay spawning area, but any work done in Lindsay will first require a contamination study as there are possible contaminants in the rockbed below the Lindsay dam. If this is the case, why hasn’t the Trent-Severn Waterway done these studies and fixed the problem if there are possible contaminants?

The model needs to change and stay that way for future generations.

The Plan—our pilot projects

Make the beds deeper and get more water coming over the top-draw dams!

1. Fix the spawning beds:

In recent years the spawning grounds below the Lindsay and Bobcaygeon dams have been high and dry during spawning season. The obvious solution to help the walleye is to save the spawn. Without a successful hatch, the walleye population will continue to decline. The spawning beds need to be deeper. The MNRF dumped rock on top of the spawning bed in Bobcaygeon 30 years ago, raising them up. We would like to fix that mistake, pushing the added rubble off the natural limestone shelf into deeper water. This will both enhance and enlarge the spawning area with little effort.

The TSW does not look at our plan to lower the spawning bed as restorative. Where we describe lowering the spawning bed and adding proper substrate as reparation and enhancement of non-functioning habitat, the TSW considers lowering the spawning bed “potentially destructive to functioning habitat.” If the habitat functioned, the Save the Walleye committee’s efforts would not be necessary. Turning the spawning into a useable area that’s covered by water in spring (from the stop log dams) with proper substrate will work. The TSW pushes back. 

 

2. Advocate for a walleye-friendly water management strategy going forward.

THERE ARE AN ARSENAL OF STUDIES THAT SHOW THE DAMAGE THE TSW IS DOING

  • Use the stop log dams that span the river, spilling water over the top, providing fish-friendly flows and high-oxygen water, especially during spawning season.
  • Maintain a suitable water level during spawning season until after the hatch swims up (the month of April).
  • Use the stop logs to counter-balance the ferocious current created by only using hydraulic dams. This will both stop the water from swirling in a circle and pulling fragile hatch into the fast current (where they die) and create a walleye-friendly flow for the hatch to gently move downstream (the high-velocity current of hydraulic dams is harmful to baby walleye).
  • Use the stop log dams all year for the health of the ecosystem: to move warm surface water downstream, help prevent blue-green algae, and to oxygenate the water better. See Larry Jones’ report, “Where did all the walleye go?”
  • Design new hydraulic dams to be top-loading (not opening near the bottom) in the same way as stop log dams (which supported a healthy fishery for 130 years before hydraulic dams went in, destroying the fishery ever since).
Background

In 2015 two concerned citizens, Larry Jones and Doug Coombs, came to my office. Lifetime anglers and stewards of the fish in our local lakes, they informed me how serious the walleye situation was and how the MNRF has done nothing to make things better. They told me that nothing from the Ministry’s own FMZ17 plan of 2009 had been done. That meeting was an eye-opener.

That was 5 years ago!

The walleye fishery has suffered habitat loss, low winter water levels, suffocation, high-and-dry spawning beds during crucial spring spawning, an unsuccessful slot-size regulation, an unenforced summer fishery, an unenforced winter fishery, poaching, the introduction of invasive species, and the detrimental effects of bottom-scrubbing hydraulic dams. The fishery has suffered lack of care and disregard.

I DECIDED TO HELP. FIVE YEARS LATER, IT’S FRUSTRATING HOW MANY WALLS ARE IN THE WAY OF PROGRESS. I NEED YOUR HELP.

How important is a higher minimum water level to our ecosystem? Read Larry Jones’ report: “Where did all the walleye go?” It’s a great read!

Larry

How important is a higher minimum water level to our ecosystem? Read Larry Jones’ report: “Where did all the walleye go?” It’s a great read!

“In the past several years neither my ministry nor TSW have received any substantial reports of fish kills in the Kawartha Lakes.”

—Kathryn McGarry, then Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.

How is this possible? Does it really take a cottager picking up the phone to tell the MNRF what is happening out there in our lakes?

We must fix the spawning beds and change how water flows on the Trent-Severn Waterway in order to protect and conserve our walleye fishery. 

Questions?