Stocking program to save LSL walleye?

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

The future of the walleye fishery in Lesser Slave Lake is in jeopardy, said councillor Brad Pearson at the M.D. of Lesser Slave River council meeting on Jan. 11. If Lesser Slave goes the way of some other Alberta Lakes (including Fawcett), it would be a hard blow to the local economy.

Pearson’s idea is to promote a walleye stocking program.

“It’s big business for our area,” he said. “I think we need to collaborate with First Nations and other municipalities to lobby the province to allow us a sustainable future going forward.”

A sustainable future, in Pearson’s view, would be a healthy walleye population – kept that way by adding hatchery-spawned fishies.

To that end, Pearson said he had been talking to the fellow who runs the provincial hatchery in Cold Lake.

“They do have the capacity,” he, Pearson, said. “But the government won’t provide the manpower.”

What it would apparently take is a program of collecting fish eggs and sperm and handing these over to the hatchery. It would also likely take some municipal funding and volunteers.

Lots is at stake, Pearson said.

If the fish run out, “people won’t travel to camp here, because they’re coming to fish, let’s face it.”

Councillor Darren Fulmore agreed.

“The impact on Fawcett Lake was enormous,” he said, characterizing the government campground (which the M.D. now looks after) as “a ghost town,” since Fawcett went to catch-and-release only a few years ago.

The stakes are that much bigger for Lesser Slave.

“I think if we do nothing….” Pearson began.

“They’ll shut ‘er down,” said reeve Murray Kerik, finishing Pearson’s thought.

Pearson said he’s willing to champion the cause, and encouraged his colleagues to get in the game. First, the matter will be brought up at the next meeting of the Lesser Slave Lake Watershed Council.

Get it on the Regional Tri-Council agenda as well, said councillor Lana Spencer.

Pearson suggested numbers could be collected from campgrounds around the lake as to what the impact might be if Lesser Slave Lake was forced to go to catch-and-release only. Information like that is what the government needs to see and might respond to, he said.

But Pearson’s main point, based on his conversation with the fish hatchery manager, was that a stocking program can be mounted without the government having to do the work.

“He said you’ve got to do your homework first,” Pearson said. “Get friends in your corner, and buy-in.”

Pearson said the main focus of the provincial hatchery program is trout “for the reservoirs down south.” However he was assured that if there is an obstacle in producing walleye, it doesn’t lie in the capacity of the Cold Lake facility.

“He said you’ve got to do your homework first,” Pearson said.

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