Blue Fish News – November 26, 2020

In this November 26, 2020 issue of the Blue Fish Canada News we begin with a Feature-focus on the great lakes’ $8-billion annual recreational fishery in transition, including the latest analysis, research and local knowledge. As always, the news includes a curated list of links to timely fishing, fish health, water quality and other news, and we end with a bonus resource selected to inform and inspire the hardiest of our readers.

Photo of Editor Lawrence Gunther aboard his Blind Fishing Boat with his new CNIB guide dog Lewis and a Northern Pike

This Week’s Feature:

The November Blue Fish News follows up on our October News feature and Blue Fish Radio interview with International Joint Commission (IJC) scientist Dr. Joe DePinto and the IJC report documenting the changing off-shore Great Lakes ecosystems and the impacts on the $8-billion annual recreational fisheries. Our investigation continues with an in-depth interview with a Great Lakes Fisheries Commission scientist. Dr. John Dettmers who recently released a paper “Whether to Manage for Economics or the Ecosystem?” Dr. Dettmers suggests the Great Lakes recreational fisheries of the 1980s and 1990s are now in transition due to veracious non-native pacific salmon and rainbow trout being in decline along with their preferred non-native prey fish (alewife and smelt). Dr. Dettmers points out the importance of maintaining and rebuilding native Great Lakes fish and prey fish species that once thrived in the pristine pre-industrial Great Lakes. Link below to hear my conversation with Dr. Dettmers on “The Blue Fish Radio Show” podcast:

We reached out to the U.S. Great Lakes Science Centre (GLSC) and received the below confirmation that the Great Lakes are indeed in transition. Dr. David Bunnell, a research fisheries biologist with the GLSC, reports that, “Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Ontario have undergone declines in productivity (e.g., nutrients, algae, zooplankton) over the past several decades which limits the overall biomass of prey fish that can be supported. At the same time, prey fish biomass is also influenced by levels of predator stocking. Determining the relative importance of resource limitation and predation remains an important research topic for fisheries scientists in these lakes. Similarly, discerning which species are best suited to thrive in these less productive systems is complicated and no consensus has been reached among the scientists.” Dr. Bunnell goes on to say that both Alewife and Rainbow smelt abundance is declining across most of the Great Lakes basin, and that cisco, once a key constituents of all five Great Lakes, “remain widespread and abundant only in Lake Superior, and have small but perhaps growing populations in Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Ontario”. Dr. Bunnell warns that, “even in Lake Superior, cisco abundance has declined since the 1990s, and the factors underlying its uneven annual production of offspring remains a research priority”.

Understanding the causes behind these seismic shifts in the Great Lakes has elicited calls from the International Joint Commission for a more holistic approach to researching Great Lake issues. In the recent IJC report “A Stressful Interaction: Some Ecosystem Stressors Have Greater Influence When Combined”, the IJC Science Advisory Board underscores the need to broaden the scope of their research to encompass a wider variety of issues impacting the Great Lake ecosystems, and to gain greater understanding of the impacts that result from the synergy of two or more of these issues. The IJC report concludes, “We need to recognize that managing environmental stressors in independent ‘silos’ may not always be the best approach. We’re more likely to succeed when we focus on the big picture and manage problems as they interact with each other. We’re moving in that direction but managing for multiple stressors in a holistic manner needs to be more widely practiced.”

The good news is Canada recently invested $5.1 million in Great Lakes protection. The federal funding will go towards supporting 46 new projects to protect and restore the Great Lakes. The “Great Lakes Protection Initiative” supports projects that address key Great Lakes priorities such as restoring areas of concern, preventing toxic and nuisance algae, reducing releases of harmful chemicals, engaging Indigenous Peoples on Great Lakes issues, and increasing public engagement through citizen science. All necessary priorities for sure, and Blue Fish Canada will be there to make sure citizen science public engagement includes the voice of recreational anglers.

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Water Quality News


Ranger Boats pro angler Jason Przekurat wins the National Walleye Tour — National Professional Anglers Association
The National Professional Angler Association presented the Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s National Walleye Tour Championship event on Lake Erie, October 16. The win marks the first-time a pro angler (Jason Przekurat) has won the NWT championship twice.

This Ontario angler thought he had a big bass. He was off by about 200 pounds — Outdoor Canada
Coel Forsyth and his girlfriend, Emily Enns, were fishing for largemouth bass on Lake of the Woods when he flipped a Senko into a patch of reeds in roughly three feet of water. The 23-year-old fishing guide from Kenora, Ontario, reeled in the incidental catch of a lifetime: a 200-pound lake sturgeon.

Bass Tournament Organizer Fined $9,000 — Ontario Newsroom
On July 15, 2019, conservation officers responded to several tips about a bass fishing tournament that had been held on the St. Lawrence River near Gananoque. An investigation discovered 195 dead bass, including 188 dead bass in plastic bags found in the garbage. The tournament organizer was fined $9,000 and had his recreational fishing license suspended for five years.

FishDonkey partners with the National Professional Anglers Association — National Professional Anglers Association
The National Professional Anglers Association understands that the future of the industry relies on conserving our resources, and one piece of that puzzle is making catch and release tournaments the way of the future. FishDonkey is a mobile app that gives you the tools to create, manage, and join fishing tournaments. Each catch is documented through the app with anti-cheating technology applied to photos and a release video, and then fish are immediately released back into the water. Photos and standings are updated in real time throughout the day on live leaderboards. The app reinforces fishing conservation by reducing delayed mortality rate of tournament fish and legitimizing catch and release.

Glenn Hughes: why 2020 is the year of the angler — Angling International
Each industry sector plays a role in the process, but none of us can do everything. The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation’s (RBFF) website and Get On Board campaign are information portals to help new and returning anglers and boaters create a great day on and around the water and, just as importantly, come back again. The RBFF’s job is to do the heavy lifting when it comes to fishing and boating awareness and getting people excited to take the journey to becoming a life-long angler.

N.S. Moves Rec Fish Meetings Online — Atlantic Salmon Federation
Nova Scotia’s Inland Fisheries team, which holds annual advisory meetings with anglers around the province, is going online this year. Topics will include an overview of the 2020 sportfishing season, review of proposed regulatory changes, project updates, and a description of some new initiatives meant to grow the recreational fishery.

Fish Health:

Unique B.C. trout population suffers 93 per cent crash downstream of Teck’s Elk Valley coal mines — The Narwhal
Environment Canada was told that selenium pollution emanating from a string of coal mines in B.C.’s southeast corner could lead to reproductive failure and ‘a total population collapse’ of sensitive species like the westslope cutthroat trout. The adult population of genetically unique westslope cutthroat trout in the Kootenay region dropped by 93 per cent this past fall compared with 2017 levels, according to a monitoring report from Teck Resources.

Aluminum concentrations in Nova Scotia rivers too high for fish health — The Chronicle Herald
Aluminum concentrations in Nova Scotia rivers are too high to sustain healthy aquatic life, according to a study published recently by a Dalhousie University professor and a team of researchers.

Letters Support Eradication of Smallmouth Bass from Miramichi Watershed — New Brunswick Salmon Council
More than 1,260 people have responded to a letter writing campaign in support of smallmouth bass eradication in New Brunswick’s Miramichi watershed.

Nova Scotia targets invasive Smallmouth bass — Atlantic Salmon Federation
A team from Nova Scotia’s Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture has taken decisive action against illegally introduced smallmouth bass in the St. Mary’s River watershed. Early indications are that the operation was a success.

Why so glum, chum? Scientists perplexed by this year’s low chum salmon numbers in Yukon River — CBC News
A new count of chum salmon in the Yukon river is giving scientists a sinking feeling. The latest estimates aren’t just bad, they’re “absolutely dismal,” says one researcher.

Cod Predation by Spiny Dogfish in Atlantic — Fishing Wire
As dogfish populations recover from overfishing, questions remain about how much Atlantic cod they are eating and its impact on the struggling cod population. Innovative genetic techniques help shed some light on the situation.

Greg Taylor on B.C.’s 2020 Salmon Returns — Watershed Watch Salmon Society
Greg’s overview provides explanation of this year’s steep declines. “This year, throughout the province, we’ve seen a dramatic and widespread reduction in the number of spawning salmon” – Greg goes on to say, “there is no more time for status quo fishery management, for further habitat destruction, or for industrial salmon hatcheries whose genetically inferior fish compete with wild salmon for limited food supplies”.

Alewife Recovery Continues on St. Croix River Breaking Records — International Joint Commission
Alewives continue to return to the St. Croix River in greater numbers, with a 2020 fish count exceeding 2019’s by more than 25 percent and the highest totals since 1996. The fish count ran from April through July 2020 and recorded 611,907 alewives passing through the Milltown Dam fishway, located near the mouth of the St. Croix River between the communities of St. Stephen, New Brunswick and Calais Maine.

Canada’s Government Sets up a Parks Canada Salmon Research Chair — Atlantic Salmon Federation
A research chair has been funded at the University of New Brunswick that will focus on aquatic restoration. Dr. Kurt Samways has been chosen as the first to hold this chair.


Ottawa plans to move from open-net fish pens to ‘sustainable technology’ in B.C. — The Globe and Mail
The federal government says it has a game plan to transition away from open-net fish farming on British Columbia’s coast.

Poor Cousins? DFO in B.C. pledges to get net pens out, but crickets in Atlantic Canada — Atlantic Salmon Federation
A perspective on the odd and unfair situation unfolding with open net pen salmon aquaculture in Canada. How can DFO act one way in the Pacific and not the Atlantic when they are responsible for wild fish health and the coastal environment nation-wide?

The Atlantic salmon doesn’t require tweaking — The Guardian
That’s the opinion of a senior adviser with Nature Canada who is lauding a recent U.S. court ruling that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) violated core environmental laws when it approved the genetic modification of Atlantic salmon in Canada.

Public asked to weigh in on the treatment of farmed salmon — Maple Ridge News
First-ever animal welfare code for farmed fish enters public input phase. The National Farm Animal Care Council’s public comment period opened Nov. 2 and closes Jan. 7, 2021.

Canadians Petition to modernize Part 6 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act — Parliament of Canada
The Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) regulates genetically engineered animals, such as the salmon-like-fish now being grown in PEI. The Canadian Government recently committed to modernizing CEPA which hasn’t been updated in 20 years. A parliamentary petition urging legislators to use the opportunity to beef up safeguards against genetic pollution from modified organisms is now open.

Water Quality:

Environment & Climate Change Canada Wants Your Input on Lake of the Woods Phosphorus Objectives — Lake of the Woods
For over a decade the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation has been advocating for a plan for Lake of the Woods that identifies water quality objectives and reduction targets, particularly for phosphorus, the primary nutrient stimulating algal blooms. The Foundation wants to connect with members of the public who are interested in participating in upcoming public consultations with the federal Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Climate Change.

Federal government tells Teck to improve water quality from 2 B.C. coal operations — CBC News
Teck Resources Ltd. says it has been ordered by Environment and Climate Change Canada to improve the quality of water affected by two of its coal mining operations in B.C.’s Elk Valley.

Input needed on Canada Water Agency! — Environment and Climate Change Canada
Environment and Climate Change Canada is inviting your input on priorities for establishment of a Canada Water Agency. Contribute to the consultations and let government know that we can’t have healthy sustainable recreational fisheries without clean water, contiguous watersheds and vibrant shoreline wetlands.


For a More Sustainable Way to Catch Halibut, Look to the Čibu-D Hook· — Hakai Magazine
The Makah refined the čibu·d over thousands of years. Even today, when compared with modern paired circle hooks, the halibut-specific hook offers a way to reduce by-catch without lowering the catch rate for Pacific halibut.

Canada gives $1.4 million to support Nunavik Inuit’s management of Arqvilliit Indigenous Protected Area — The Narwhal
A federal partnership will aid Indigenous-led monitoring and research of 24,000 hectares of remote Arctic islands that provide critical habitat for polar bears and other species affected by the climate emergency. Protecting the islands, which are also known as the Ottawa Islands, dovetails with the Government of Canada’s national commitment to conserve 25 per cent of Canada’s land, inland waters and oceans by 2025.

A lost world returns — Maclean’s
“Human remains unearthed on Vancouver Island have resurfaced the tragic story of the Pentlatch people, who at one time were thought to operate the largest pre-colonial fish trap complex in North America.”


How Len Thompson Lures came to the aid of its community during COVID-19 — Angling International
When the owners of Canadian-based Len Thompson Lures realised the depth of the COVID-19 pandemic back in April, they wanted to do their part to help the community. “As with many businesses, we were very slow during the spring,” said company President Brad Pallister. “My sister, Jessica, and I wondered how we could keep people working, while also helping families struggling with the economic impacts of this unprecedented time,” he added. The siblings thought that their nationally distributed lures could generate interest across the country so they introduced six limited edition patterns in May, with half of the proceeds from the sales being donated to community food banks. The lures helped raise a total of $24,122, which Jessica Thompson-Pallister rounded up to $24,350 for the 29 community food banks that were supported.

Toronto Sportsmen’s Show Postponed to 2022 — Masters Promotion Ltd.
For over 70 years the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show has been a favourite for thousands of outdoor enthusiasts and welcomes hundreds of exhibitors annually. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we have decided to postpone next year’s show. For exhibitors who had booked and paid for the cancelled 2020 show with Canadian National Sportsmen Shows (CNSS), we will honor our original offer where you can reserve your space at a 50% discount in each of the next two shows.


BRP Moves Forward on Project Ghost, Project M Electric Technology — Fishing Wire
As announced last May with the discontinuation of the production of Evinrude E-TEC and E-TEC G2 outboard engines, our Sturtevant facility will be repurposed for new and existing projects such as the next generation of our engine technology, publicly known as Project Ghost and Project M,” BRP senior media relations advisor Elaine Arsenault said.

Protect Your Boat’s Fuel System During Winter Storage — Fishing Wire
Check out these tips for keeping your boat’s engines gunk-free and ready to go when the weather warms again next spring.


“Days of Rivers Past” by Robert Hooton — B.C. Fly Fishing Federation
In January – when warm and wet, is the time when the local rivers fill with the first runs of steelhead, followed by anglers fishing fly and float. Yet we have seen their steady decline for decades and today the once great rivers on the east coast of Vancouver Island and elsewhere are devoid of fish. How did this happen? In Robert Hooton’s book “Days of Rivers Past” he writes of the systemic destruction of steelhead runs in British Columbia through his intimate knowledge of watersheds, such as the Skeena, Gold and many other streams throughout the Province, gained as a lifelong angler and his 37-years working as a B.C. fisheries biologist.

Book review: Salmon by Mark Kurlansky — Watershed Sentinel
In Salmon, Kurlansky deals with changes in fishing technology and government mismanagement – similar to what happened with the East Coast cod fishery.

Special Feature: Be a Safe steelheader this Fall / Winter

Wherever you spend time steelheading on Canada’s rivers this fall and winter, veteran steelhead angler Jason Barnucz suggests you adopt the following tips to help you prepare and stay safe:

  • Familiarize yourself with the river you plan to fish in advance.
  • Make sure you have permission from landowners before venturing onto private property.
  • Let a family member or close friend know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  • Go with a group of people whenever possible, and practice social distancing.
  • Wear a PFD – inflatable PFDs are more compact and comfortable.
  • Know the depth of water before attempting to wade into any river or stream.
  • Use a staff and wear spiked shoes when wading.
  • Layer clothing with synthetic or wool based materials for maximum warmth and comfort.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia, which can occur in any month of the year.
  • Pack extra clothes, food and water.
  • River conditions often change suddenly causing unexpected new hazards.
  • Remember that cellphone signals can be unreliable in wild places and help from emergency responders can take time.
  • Bring a garbage bag and pick up litter you may find along the riverbank or at the access point.

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