Lessons from the Pond


Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec has once again completed its annual transition from a frozen wonderland to a stunning summer paradise and tourist destination. The air is hot and muggy, the Saint Lawrence River is flowing swiftly, and the trees are full and green. This is my last summer in Quebec as an MSc Candidate at McGill University, and I plan to make the most of it… that is, when I am not glued to the computer writing my thesis, which I imagine will occupy most of my hours this June and July.

Lab ice-fishing trip. Here I am using an auger to drill a hole in the ice.

Beginner’s curling lesson at the Royal Montreal Curling Club. Because when in Canada eh?

I heartily regret that it has been over two months since I last posted a blog. Graduate student life has proved extremely time-consuming of late. The harsh winter weather slowly yielded to spring, and spring brought my final thesis committee meeting, a final thesis presentation in front of the entire Department of Natural Resource Sciences, and a guest lecture for the Fisheries and Wildlife Seminar at Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks.

Guest lecture at Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks, New York.

I spent the past month finalizing and submitting the Follensby Pond Lake Trout manuscript and analyzing the Lake Trout spawning data that I collected last summer. In fact, I am still working on that analysis, which is slotted to become the second chapter of my thesis. My thesis, which focuses on Lake Trout management and how climate affects the timing of Lake Trout spawning, is due mid-August.

I feel as if now is a good time to wrap up what I learned from my Lake Trout management research, aside from the obvious lessons of wearing bug repellant and avoiding frostbite. The three big fishery lessons that I learned are:

    I. Restoration can be slow
Our research indicates that restoration of a very high quality recreational fishery from one that has been heavily fished could take as long as two to three decades in the absence of fishing or stocking for slow-growing fish species like Lake Trout. It’s good to remember here that Lake Trout are thought to be able to live up to 70 years, and typically start reproducing between the ages of 6 and 20 years.

To put that in some context, the marine fish Orange Roughy can live nearly 150 years while the Common Goldfish has been reported to live past 40 years. While I am on the topic, Seafood Watch recommends avoiding eating Orange Roughy due to the decline of commercial fisheries for this species.

    II. Limited entry could be the future
Fishery managers already limit angler effort in several different ways, such as seasonal restrictions (i.e. no ice fishing), size limits (i.e. no harvest of fish larger than 21”), and bag limits (i.e. maximum harvest of three fish per day per angler).

These tactics generally work pretty well, but some slow-growing species are particularly susceptible to fishing pressure and require additional stocking from fish hatcheries to maintain population size. Fish hatcheries are places dedicated to the artificial breeding and rearing of aquatic species; these facilities are often run by state governments in reference to regional fish stocking for recreational purposes. Although stocking can be a good way to increase angler catch, raising fish in hatcheries for stocking incurs its own set of problems, such negative environmental effects and the potential to spread fish disease.

Limited entry fisheries restrict the number of anglers allowed on the lake by using a lottery system or some other means. Our research suggests that limited entry systems might be another great way to maintain high abundance in a trophy fishery setting if fish are not being replaced by stocking.

Although limited entry lottery systems are commonly used in the distribution of hunting permits, they not often used in recreational fisheries management. Could limited entry be the future of recreational fisheries in North America?

    III. No one “best” management practice
Not all management practices are created equal, but they are also not created for the same purpose. Some work to maximize harvest, while others maximize the number of fish caught or the size of fish caught to create unique angling experiences. Personal opinions abound, but there is no one correct or right way to manage a fishery.

Attending the Canadian Society of Ecology and Evolution annual meeting in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. For my American readers, Saskatoon is located in the middle of Canada, north of Montana.

Saskatoon has been nicknamed the “City of Bridges” and “Paris of the Prairie”.

For more specific research details, you will just have to wait to read the manuscript once it has finished the review and publishing process. In the meantime, it’s back to thesis writing for me.

Looking for more? Check out the Solomon Lab YouTube video made in conjunction with McGill University’s Linking Action and Sustainability research series.

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