Guest Blog from John Anderson of Ottawa River Musky Factory
Extensive research strongly suggests that the survival rate of YOY (young of the year) muskellunge in much of the St. Lawrence River is close to zero. This situation may have existed for three or five or more years already. Muskies live to full life in the St. Lawrence River which is 30 years. Do the math.
I have been disturbed since I read the winter edition of the Muskies Canada Release Journal. Peter Levick‘s sensational final issue as editor was dedicated to all the great things that have been accomplished in the musky world in Canada through research and how it has benefited musky populations everywhere and every single musky angler who hunts. It also featured several articles involving current research on the St. Lawrence River.
The research involved teams of experienced biologists from NY, Ontario, and Quebec surveying approximately 200 traditional spawning sites from the start of the river near Kingston to past Montreal over many years. This stretch is home to the greatest musky fisheries of all time, period. It is a fishery based on natural reproduction and the research strongly suggests this is no longer viable. Thousands of net pulls up and down the river are failing to find any muskellunge surviving the egg and fry stage of the spawn.
Why? A series of man-caused interventions on the system has changed it greatly:
- The construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway in the 1950s began man managing water levels on the system for freighter traffic. This meant lower water levels in the spring to allow for higher water levels during the summer. The result was a slow degradation of traditional musky spawning areas that had existed for centuries.
- VHS – Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia, a European salmonid virus, was introduced into the system by foreign freighter traffic. In the spring of 2006 it killed hundreds of primary giant female muskies in the upper and middle sections of the river and the population crashed. Numbers never recovered in the river from this point on.
- In 2008 spawning site surveys searching for YOY muskellunge had high numbers of round gobies beginning to appear. The following years saw their population grow exponentially. Renown giant hunter Bill Barber told me recently that on his trips into the traditional spawning bays he has made in the spring over the last number of years ‘the bottom moves’. Gobies cover the bottom of the St. Lawrence River from 5 to 60 feet in most sections but the conditions in the Thousand Island region are especially well-suited to gobies who have been captured up to a foot long. Billy also tells me he catches muskies that regurgitate gobies.
- A combination of other factors have contributed to get us to where we are now including allowing cormorant populations to grow grossly out of control. This occurred after the water in the Larry was filtered clear by zebra mussels when they were introduced, again by European freighters, in 1989. Two flocks in the Kingston area were measured at numbers well over 10,000 birds last year and each adult bird eats a pound of fish per day.
- Although most anglers have learned to handle and release muskellunge much more successfully on the Upper St. Lawrence River, the traditional and preferred type of angling – long-line trolling with planer boards or very long line trolling with mono-filament line (which still exists in surprising volume out of the Clayton NY area) has contributed. The type of boats necessary to navigate these big waters makes it more difficult to handle and release these fish after substantially long fight times. Many responsible anglers have moved to on board live well systems in the modern day.
- The weed structures that support YOY fish of all species have been greatly effected through all of this change as well and this is the base necessary to support most young fish. The pike population in the system crashed at the same time as the musky population, or even slightly before and is a shadow of what it was. It is probably reasonable to say that any fish that spawns on the St. Lawrence River proper is in trouble.
It is hard to find good news stories about the musky population on the Larry. It appears the further one travels down river from the Thousand Island section the less severe the situation may be. Lake St. Francis on down has a slightly lower population of gobies at present and there is more diverse spawning opportunities for muskies, especially in the form of tributary waters. Muskies often travel into smaller rivers and streams to spawn and gobies don’t like certain water. The Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence merge but there are very few gobies in the tannin filled waters of the O because it doesn’t have what they need.
There is some hope that the ‘zero’ score for YOY captures up and down the river in the last three years is partially the result of scientists inability to catch YOY on traditional spawning areas because the fish moved somewhere else to spawn due to high water conditions and cold spring water temperatures. This was found to be the case on Georgian Bay and after their high water years the musky population thrived and YOY captures were again normalized. We all hope this is the case, however, the omnipresent gobies issue did not exist in GB. Only time and more research will tell us if somehow this high water time for the Larry is helping muskies survive.
These are tough times and people are more important than fish. We will defeat Covid and life will return to something more normal again. Unfortunately the fuse was lit on this time bomb a while ago and we are all watching it burn year by year. There will be little money from the government for research or stocking intelligently to bypass the egg and fry stage and maintain the greatest musky genetics in the world. It will have to come from the musky community and others who care about species at risk.
More research is necessary immediately. Action is required very soon. People and money are the only thing that will make these happen.
Dr. John Farrell from Syracuse University has studied muskies for decades on the St. Lawrence River. He began a stocking program last year and placed 6000 juvenile fish in the river. You can listen to a recent interview with Dr. Farrell talking about the goby population and its’ effects on St. Lawrence muskies on Lawrence Gunther’s Blue Fish Canada radio show:
My friends Frank and Chris from Ugly Pike Podcast released a great episode last week featuring Dr. John Paul Leblanc who has spent a decade studying early life ecology of muskellunge in Georgian Bay, the St. Lawrence River, and Lake Huron. You can listen to it at:
So where do we go from here? That’s up to you and me.
Got a couple of extra dollars? Not now maybe but down the road hopefully we all will….. Got time to contribute? There are facilities available to rear muskellunge for stocking in Canada but it requires labour and regular attention. Can you create awareness of this problem? To the community, to politicians, to anglers, to anyone and everyone.
The fish in the pic is one of the last real 60-inch muskies caught in the world. It is from the St. Lawrence River and was caught by Muskies Canada Hall of Fame member Jim Hutchings and guide Greg Reynolds.
Jim Saric Musky Hunter TV
Ashley Rae – shelovestofish.com
Chaos Tackle Company
Big Jim McLaughlin
Just Fishing with “Big” Jim McLaughlin
Shimano North America Fishing
Bob Izumi’s Real Fishing
Blue Fish News is brought to you by Blue Fish Canada, and includes timely news items of relevance to water quality, fish health and the future of recreational fishing. Tracking Covid-19 closures to public access fishing locations or changes to seasonal fishing openings are being managed at local and provincial levels, so our coverage on this topic focusses mainly on policy implications raised by Canadian stakeholders and what’s taking place south of the border. Also included is a series of Blue Fish Radio podcasts that concern Atlantic Salmon, Smallmouth and Stripe Bass on the Miramichi River in New Brunswick that, collectively, tell and interesting story about the river’s ecosystem and it’s important connection to the socio-economic stability of the region.
Blue fish Canada’s President Lawrence Gunther on:
What it means to be an Angler
Canada is similar to many other countries in that we are currently divided between those who carry out essential services, and those who depend on these brave soles in order to isolate safely in place, or if that fales, to receive vital medical services. Regardless to which of these two groups you belong, many millions of us look forward to the day that we can once again cast off from shore and de-tatch from the world we have shaped to meet our needs, but which now seems to have become a source of so much distress. In good times and bad, angling is the way we revive our spirits. To survail the edges where water meets land, and to invisage the hidden underwater worlds that, in our minds, hold so much promise. To return at the end-of-the-day to our families with or without a fish, either intentionally or in spite of our best efforts. To once again be reminded that we have never been and never will be masters of our environments, but a meer holder of a small amout of space in a much larger and infinitely more powerful network of forces that somehow manage to maintain a sufficient balance that allows all manner of life to thrive. While the vast majority of us have stopped being fishers many generations back, we now angle as a sport to honour this ancient practice of human survival. Angling is now an activity that connects us with nature no matter what form our angling takes and regardless of our mastery of the art. Like you, I dream of the day that I can once again feel the wind and sun on my face, the motion of my boat beneath my feet, the ssmell of the life that lives in water, and the thrill of finding and grappling with fish at the end of my line.
Fishing Has Stopped. Will Fish Recover? – Smithsonian Magazine
The COVID-19 pandemic has left many boats unable to leave harbor, creating a window for fish populations to rebound.
What if there’s no salmon fishery? How covid-19 could affect salmon populations – National Fisherman
The covid-19 public health crisis spreading across the globe is causing economic turmoil in most industries, including fisheries.
The COVID-19 closure question – Outdoor Canada
While provinces such as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I have delayed the opening of the recreational fishing season, Ontario still plans on the April 25 trout opener going ahead. The editor of Outdoor Canada Magazine Patrick Watson shares his thoughts on what all this could mean and presents a path forward.
Is Fishing Okay During The Pandemic? Fish’n Canada
“The world is a crazy place right now. With the Covid19 virus running rampant across the entire planet, everyone is essentially in panic mode; and for good reason.” And now Angelo Viola, co-host of TV’s Fish’n Canada, says the Ontario fishing season should be delayed and has launched a petition
Covid-19 and Fishing as an Essential Service – Keep Canada Fishing
“I believe we need to support the war against COVID-19 and abide by our governments’ and health officials’ instructions to “Stay Home” in order to flatten the curve.”
B.C. ministry announces new fishing and hunting protocol – Trail Daily Times
“If you cannot fish and hunt safely, do not go fishing or hunting. If you cannot meet all the Covid19 orders, guidance, and remain at least 2 meters (6 feet) apart, please defer your plans to fish or hunt.”
We have to make huge changes in our fishing plans starting now – Campbell River Mirror
“With the coronavirus situation and dealing with self isolation, the idea of planning for the next family fishing trip is on hold.”
Why time outdoors is crucial to your health, even during the coronavirus pandemic – University of Chicago News
“Coronavirus outbreak show why urban cities need to invest in green spaces”, University of Chicago psychologist Marc Berman says.
Canadian Fishing Network:
Scottie Martin continues to keep thousands of isolating and essential anglers entertained and engaged with his daily challenges and Facebook Live sessions each Monday night beginning at 7: EST featuring numerous angling specialists across Canada including Blue Fish Canada’s own Lawrence Gunther.
Don’t Blow This for the Rest of Us: How We Keep Hunting and Fishing in New York State During the Pandemic – MeatEater Conservation
Raritan Bay is a 70,000-acre water body that’s flanked by North Jersey and Staten Island. The Manhattan skyline at the mouth of the Hudson River paints the bay’s northern backdrop. Every spring, Raritan gives releaf to cabin fever, but what about now?
Mixed Signals on Fishing Possibilities in COVID-19 Crisis
Is fishing still possible under the “stay at home” and “shelter in place” orders issued by local and state governments all across the United States in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Adapting to coronavirus: how B.C. First Nations balance food security and conservation – The Narwhal
“Indigenous communities, among Canada’s most food-insecure, navigate unique challenges when it comes to traditional harvesting practices during the COVID-19 lockdown — especially in areas affected by climate change, industrial development and declining wildlife populations.”
Covid-19 and recreational water quality – Swim Guide
“As of March 2020, there is not enough research to say for certain whether or not the virus that causes Covid-19 can be transmitted through water, through contact with feces that contain the virus, or through sewage.”
Canadian Freshwater Alliance
Every Wednesday evening at 7: EST the Canadian Freshwater Alliance hosts a freshwater trivia challenge open to anyone – gather the whole family. Also, follow their work on tracking untreated sewage releases and what it means for the health of Canada’s fish and ecosystems.
Canadian Tire helps medics and communities fight COVID-19
Canada’s biggest supplier of fishing tackle has launched a C$5m funding initiative to help fellow countrymen and communities respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The C$5 Million Canadian Tire COVID-19 Response Fund is comprised of two donations of C$1m each to the country’s Red Cross and United Way Centraide, an organisation that supports the vulnerable, and a $3m donation of products to support frontline medical workers.
Fuji Announces New Sustainability Initiative
Fuji Industrial Co., Ltd., known globally as Fuji Rod Components, has announced its support of a worldwide ecological initiative called The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The plan, adopted by a United Nations Summit in 2015, targets 17 environmental goals and outlines 169 specific efforts to reach those goals.
The Ontario Government suspends environmental oversight rules, saying they could hinder its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The alberta Government has suspended environmental reporting requirements for industry, during the COVID-19 pandemic saying that forcing companies to fully comply would cause hardship.”
Blue Fish Radio on the Miramichi River Watershed:
Atlantic Salmon are in trouble along the New Brunswick coastline. Listen to how the Miramichi Atlantic Salmon Federation wants to reduce the number of native Striped Bass, as well as cull the newly invasive Smallmouth Bass both Striped and Smallmouth Bass are being accused of feeding on Salmon smolz.
And then listen to why anglers are behind one of Canada’s largest fishing tournaments the Striper Cup, and why they are concerned over the Salmon Federation’s proposal to reduce Striped Bass to levels that would put them dangerously close to be considered at risk.
Blue Fish Canada is a registered Canadian charity and depends on your volunteer support and donations to deliver programs directly on the water and through various electronic media – please donate if you can.
Blue Fish News Includes:
Links to a recent Blue Fish Radio podcast on West coast salmon fishing and background Covid-19 documentation, an on-line Blue Fish Steward quiz that’s guaranteed to test your knowledge of emerging sustainable recreational fishing developments, and a Blue Fish Radio episode that explores why Pacific salmon are entering the Arctic Ocean in record numbers.
Instead of offering up-dates on Covid-19 fisheries related closures and advisories, we will instead bring you first-hand perspectives of what’s being tried across Canada. With so many diverse regions and fisheries no one boot fits all, which is why solutions can range widely. Please keep in mind two things, one, this is all new territory for everyone involved so there’s no guarantees that the strategies being proposed will work, and two, what’s being tried today as the pandemic continues to spread will likely differ once we get through the worst of it and begin the next phase of containing flair-ups. The goal in all this will be to draw on science to formulate strategies for safely participating in recreational fisheries, and to share best practices to mitigate the health impacts on as many anglers and their communities as quickly as possible.
Blue Fish Radio on West Coast Salmon Fishing and Covid-19:
As Canadians everywhere take shelter and avoid as much as possible contact with others, there are regions in Canada where recreational fishing continues in ways that have been determined to be both beneficial and relatively safe. It’s what many of us dream of but aren’t now doing because of the advice of experts familiar with our own unique: regional fisheries, demographics, fishing infrastructure, medical capacity, styles of fishing, etc. At the same time, as we do all we can to: stay safe, prevent the spread of the virus, look after our families and communities, and find ways to continue to contribute meaningfully to society, we can’t help but wonder when and how life will return to some sort of new normal. Until there’s a vaccine or sufficient herd immunity, how we went about fishing last year likely isn’t going to work. We will need to re-learn how to go about fishing, not the actual fishing techniques, but all the related pre and post fishing trip activities.
Link here for a perspective shared by a B.C. recreational salmon and steelhead angler recorded for Blue Fish Radio April 9th.
Link here for a list of recreational fishing Covid-19 precautions issued by the B.C. government.
Blue Fish Steward Quiz:
Tests are fun right, well, not really, but knowing this Blue Fish advisors have been careful in their development of our Blue Fish Steward quizzes. We began focus testing the quizzes at outdoor shows for their likability in February 2020.
Link here to a Blue Fish Steward quiz that focusses on emerging sustainable recreational fishing techniques and equipment – good luck!
Blue Fish Radio on Pacific Salmon in the Arctic:
Salmon traditionally found in the Pacific ocean, such as Sockeye, Pink and Chum, (less-so Coho and Chinook), are now entering the Arctic Ocean in greater numbers than ever before. It’s got to the point that Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans is now working with Arctic coastal communities to collect both research samples, and locally inspired recipes to be featured in a cookbook being distributed to Arctic residents.
Link here to listen to DFO researcher Dr. Karen Dunmall in conversation with Lawrence Gunther about their findings and hypotheses on why salmon are heading north on this episode of Blue Fish Radio.
Link here for more about the Arctic Salmon research project and the cookbook.
More Blue Fish Radio interviews with regional fishing experts on what’s happening in their region of Canada, more science-based best practices on what anglers in these different regions are doing to avoid Covid-19, A Blue Fish Radio podcast that while interesting, has nothing to do with the pandemic, and another quiz to test and strengthen your Blue Fish Steward knowledge.
Blue Fish Canada is a registered Canadian charity and depends on your volunteer support and donations to deliver programs directly on the water and through various electronic media – please donate if you can.
Stay safe, stay well.
Blue Fish Canada is tracking Covid-19 impacts on recreational anglers, indigenous fishers, water quality and fish health, as well as those in the business of recreational fishing. The information we gather will assist in identifying immediate and longer term supports necessary to secure and enhance the resilience and recovery of Canada’s non-commercial fisheries. We invite stakeholders interested in sharing information on the effects of COVID-19 to submit information to Blue Fish Canada at: BlueFishCan@gmail.com. Here’s what we know now:
Closures: To reduce the risk of the virus being spread among anglers at popular shoreline fishing areas and boat launches, provinces such as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec have postponed the April opening of trout fishing season. Ontario has implemented a variety of closures and restrictions to their parks and conservation areas that include many municipalities closing boat launches. Similarly, Parks Canada has temporarily suspended all public motor vehicle access to all national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas. Gatineau Park located in West Quebec has also been closed, as have the St. Lawrence Thousand Island parks.
International: Similar closures are occurring in the U.S. prompting the American Sportfishing Association to write to 50 US governors asking them to keep fishing opportunities and businesses open where possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. They acknowledge that in no way do they want to stand in the way of the efforts of states to limit the spread of COVID-19, and they recognise that in certain cases fishing access restrictions are warranted. They go on to say that given that recreational fishing provides health and benefits associated with being outdoors, and a source of food for many individuals, “recreational fishing should be promoted as a safe outdoors activity compatible with physical distancing guidelines”.
Foraging: Some northern Canadian community leaders are encouraging families to go out on to the land and practice self-sufficiency as a means of avoiding the virus and minimising the chance of its spread. Many of Canada’s rural, remote and northern communities have very limited or no access to doctors and the sorts of medical resources required to respond to outbreaks of COVID-19.
Tournaments: Organized fishing tournaments and other competitive fishing events are choosing to reconsider the timing of their event dates, or to cancel events altogether. Given the carefully orchestrated process event organizers undertake to select the timing and locations of events to maximize participation and minimize overlap, and uncertainty over the time it will take to flatten the transmission curve of the virus, few are promising their competitors a compressed schedule that includes all events.
Outdoor Shows: Most all outdoor and fishing shows were cancelled from mid-March forward, and closures to fishing related businesses have underscored the need to build and maintain strong on-line presence. Larger operations can afford costs associated with on-line commerce, which may mean sustaining smaller businesses may prove difficult.
Industry: Fishing industries and those businesses that depend on recreational angling and indigenous fishing are already being impacted by closures and self-isolating strategies. These businesses are often considered seasonal in Canada, which makes the timing of the pandemic especially problematic since most businesses had already placed and paid for their product orders for the year.
Tourism: Much of Canada’s fishing tourism / adventure related operations account for a large portion of the economic contribution to rural, remote and northern regions across Canada. These businesses are also often characterized as small businesses (20% have fewer than 20 employees and 80% are non-employer businesses). Their operations are also being impacted by border closures. These businesses will require focused government support to ensure they recover from these closures to ensure the socio-economic survival of Canada’s non-urban communities.
Self-Isolating: The commonly expressed view of anglers residing in more developed parts of Canada is to avoid leaving their homes unnecessarily to reduce incidents that may place additional strain on emergency responders and healthcare systems, and to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 itself. Many are counselling others to adhere to the advice of governments and scientists across Canada to leave home only for the purpose of carrying out essential activities, and to comply with the many prohibitions now in place.
Fishing Pressure: With an estimated 9-million recreational anglers across Canada, numerous indigenous communities with strong ties to fishing, and people who may ultimately take-up fishing for economic reasons or to address food insecurity, tracking the fishing efforts of recreational anglers, indigenous fishers and illegal harvesters may pose additional challenges. Monitoring fishing pressure on fish stocks across Canada is usually the role of government led creel surveys, which may now be suspended over health concerns for the summer students normally hired to conduct such surveys.
Research: Independent fisheries research conducted by universities and other conservation groups may also be suspended due to health concerns for their field researchers and a lack of fishing data normally provided by anglers and tournament organizers supporting such research through citizen science.
Enforcement: Postponing the opening of fishing seasons and placing off limits public access fishing areas and boat launches will reduce fishing pressure to levels far below the norm, which may generate strong 2020 fish class populations. However, tracking the numbers and impacts of those who choose to ignore closures could significantly impact current fish stocks, the totality of which could be quantified as long as sufficient government enforcement officers remain on the job.
Water Quality: The Great Lakes may be impacted following the United States of America suspending the enforcement of their Environmental Protection Agency monitoring and reporting obligations of American. companies. The EPA cites challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements. Water quality watch-dog organizations are concerned that companies may view the suspension as an opportunity to circumvent environmental safeguards without having to report why or to monitor for impacts.
Socio-Economic Impacts: Given that the economic contribution of most fishing related businesses and the involvement of those who fish have never been properly quantified across Canada, how they might be affected if fish stocks are impacted will be difficult to assess. Using artificial intelligence such as angler apps and the analysis of reports posted to social media sites may assist in monitoring fishing pressure levels and related socio-economic trends as the pandemic unfolds.
Timing: We all know about the need to reduce the peak demand that will soon be facing our health services. We are also being told that the world’s ability to defeat COVID-19 in the near term is unlikely as the development and distribution of an effective vaccination is still many months away. Once we get through the challenge of reducing the initial spread of COVID-19, experts speculate that we could be battling the virus for months afterwards through the identification and remediation of outbreaks as they emerge.
Conclusion: The new norm for the next while will entail all of us exercising due diligence as we move through peak outbreaks of the virus. Once we have surpassed the initial crisis, there will be time to figure out and apply science-based precautionary approaches to supporting our families, safeguarding our communities, and for pursuing our outdoor lifestyles. What fishing might entail in the medium term, once we are through the worst of the outbreak and before we can return to normal, will require all stakeholders working together. Blue Fish Canada will continue to stay engaged to ensure the voices of anglers, fishing communities, fish researchers, the fishing industry, and conservation groups are shared and heard. Until then, Blue Fish Canada will continue to work hard to gather and sort the information we need to ensure the future of fish and fishing. On the bright side, some speculate that postponements and closures to early season fishing will result in the 2020 year class of fish populations being some of the strongest Canada has experienced in years.
Donations: Blue fish Canada depends on volunteers across Canada and on your donations to coordinate and implement programs. Please consider making a charitable donation to support our continuing to ensure the future of fish and fishing across Canada:
Link here to donate: https://bluefishcanada.ca/donations/
To whom it may concern,
We are writing to provide feedback on the changes MNRF is proposing for the bass season in FMZ 20 – primarily Lake Ontario and the Upper St. Lawrence River.
Blue Fish Canada is a registered Canadian charity and federally incorporated non-profit entity. Our mandate includes water quality, fish health and the future of recreational fishing. Blue Fish Canada promotes both catch&release best practices, and the sustainable harvest of fish based on scientific research.
In preparation of this letter Blue fish Canada reached out to the angling community in several ways. Our consultations included producing and broadcasting a 28-minute podcast featuring Blue Fish Canada’s president in conversation with Dr. Bruce Tufts from Queen’s University.
The podcast was shared with over 100,000 Canadians by numerous podcast broadcasters, cable and satellite TV, home smart speakers, and the podcast website: www.BlueFishRadio.com.
We also presented the proposals and Dr. Tufts research to the over 10,000 members of the Canadian Fishing Network.
Blue Fish Canada supports keeping opening season for Largemouth as the 3rd Saturday in June, and moving the opening day of Smallmouth to the first Saturday in July. We agree with keeping harvesting regulations the same for this summer / fall fishery.
Blue Fish Canada also supports a pre-spawn fishing season for both Largemouth and Smallmouth bass to begin in January and to end in early May. Further, we recommend that harvesting during the pre-spawn season be limited to either catch&release only, or the harvest of two fish based on a slot size to be scientifically determined. Both of these options for the spring pre-spawn fishery would help ensure large breeding fish remain close to their chosen nest sites leading up to and during the spawning season.
Thank you for your on-going commitment to further fine-tune the recreational bass fishery in FMZ 20 using the best available scientific research.
By Lawrence Gunther
President, Blue Fish Canada
Introduction: Many anglers strive to keep better track of where and when they go fishing, the conditions at the time, and what worked or didn’t. They do this in order to turn experience into knowledge for their own benefit and, if possible, to further research and enhance resource management of fisheries. Numerous angler apps keep appearing in the market that claim to do it all. But just as with fishing, expectations and reality don’t always align.
What Apps Do: Angler apps provide a convenient means for tracking real-time data about our fishing activity. Using smartphones and tablets, anglers are able to record, store, retrieve, and even transmit a wide variety of data. According to an authority on the research application of angler apps, Dr. Paul Venturelli Director of Environmental Sciences at Ball State University Indiana says that some angler apps now automatically record data such as date and time, weather, location, moon phase, and the GPS coordinates of the route travelled throughout the day. Additional data can be manually entered, such as fish species, number caught, size and condition, location of each capture, water temperature, depth and method of angling, a photo, and if the fish was harvested or released. According to Dr. Venturelli, data collected can make anglers more knowledgeable and effective, provide support to research initiatives, and might someday be used by regulators to manage fishing pressure and fish stocks.
What Apps don’t do: Anglers have made it abundantly clear that they won’t enter data that could give away location information that is specific to hard-earned prized fishing hotspots. They are reluctant to share this important information with other anglers. Researchers interested in studying a specific species of fish are often disappointed with the low number of anglers who submit relevant data for a specific water body or fish species. Regulators remain unconvinced that the data that is collected or reported by these apps accurately reflect the true experience of each angler. No doubt, there is still lots of room for app improvement, especially as more angler apps are released every year.
Privacy: All people who fish want to become better anglers. It’s why we are keenly interested in the success of others. And yet, we can’t help but brag about our own fishing successes even though we know our fellow anglers are more interested in deciphering where and how we caught the fish than they are in the specific fish we caught. For this reason, developers of angler apps are continuously searching for that perfect balance between sharing and privacy. And central to reaching this balance is ensuring anglers continue to have say over what information is shared and with whom.
Integration: Industry is capitalizing on the growing trend of anglers using apps to track their personal fishing efforts. Technologies are being integrated to offer anglers a seamless electronic data collection and display experience. For example, the Anglr app, Lowrance Sonar, and Abu Garcia fishing rod companies now offer anglers the ability to press a button built into the fishing rod itself to convey data to the smartphone app which, in turn, communicates with the sonar unit. The end-result is a wide range of data being collected, recorded and displayed through a variety of devices.
Resource Management: Governments are also beginning to pay attention to the growing popularity of angler apps. A recent report issued by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) states: “When electronic reporting is part of a probability-based sampling survey design, it has the potential to reduce data collection costs and improve the quality of reported information.” What NOAA is hoping is that at some point, sufficient data will be logged for use in expanding the findings of more traditional, and costly, creel surveys. The NOAA report goes on to say that for these apps to produce fish population level estimates based on electronically reported angler catch-data, a large number of anglers would have to use the apps consistently, and to report accurate information about their fishing trips.
The NOAA recommends that a “statistically valid probability-based sampling survey” would need to validate any self-reported data by eliminating any “outlier” data points that have little in common with the majority of reports. In addition, any survey would have to monitor reporting frequency and track the frequency of trips that are not being reported.
Qualitative or Quantitative: The NOAA report raises important questions about the validity of data that is collected by angler apps. It suggests this raw form of data is suitable only as a qualitative means of supporting citizen science research and is not reliable as quantitative data, essential for assessing and adjusting fishing rules and regulations. In a nutshell, there is an abundance of data being collected through angler apps, but there are surprisingly few instances where government researchers and policy makers use the information.
Bias: The NOAA study points out that when recreational catch estimates are produced using data collected through an opt-in website or mobile app, “the estimates are likely to be biased.” This means that anglers can’t always be counted on to accurately report the results of their day’s fishing. People may not think it’s relevant that they made, let’s say, 9,999 casts without catching a Muskie, or that the Muskie they did catch but didn’t bother reporting wasn’t anything close to their personal best. But knowing how much effort it took to achieve success is just as important as tracking the number of juvenile Muskies in a system, or the number of days fished without a single successful capture. None of this may be regarded by anglers as valuable data.
Creel Surveys: Governments conduct creel surveys to inform the creation of policies, regulations, and efforts to rebuild fish stocks. The data are collected by surveying anglers at boat launches and shore fishing locations. The data contain information on catch rates, species caught, numbers of fish harvested or returned, and the general area being fished over a set time period. The problem with creel surveys, according to Sean Simmons, CEO of Anglers Atlas and inventor of the MyCatch App, is that they can cost upwards of $25,000 to survey a single body of water. This makes them ineffective at monitoring overall fishing pressure and fish stock health.
Citizen Science: Fish researchers are highly dependent on anglers as citizen scientists to locate, capture, and report tagged fish. While anglers may be notoriously secretive about their fishing hot spots, researchers are achieving success in convincing them that reporting catch data is in the best interest of the sport and resource overall.
Research: Researchers are also turning to anglers to assist with targeted research initiatives that involve electronic reporting technology. These are time-limited research initiatives that often focus on fish species of mutual concern. Without the support of anglers, the research would not be possible at even four times the cost. Without this research, anglers would have no idea about whether their beloved sport fish species are imperilled or recovering. Unfortunately, maintaining the interest of anglers in longer-term research initiatives is proving difficult since apps may be good at collecting data, they are surprisingly weak at facilitating the two-way communication that is essential for maintaining longer term angler engagement.
Tournaments: Electronic reporting of fish captures during fishing tournaments is already well underway. Many tournament organizers post tournament results in real time as the competition unfolds. Typically, this identifies the number of anglers, total hours fished, location and weather, and the number and size of fish caught. The recently launched Major League Fishing tournament series has taken catch reporting to the next level by requiring anglers to report the total number and size of all fish caught, instead of the competitors transporting their fish to the event weigh-in station. On-line fishing communities are also taking the next step and encouraging their members to report their individual fishing results, similar to the approach Muskie Canada initiated back in the 1970s with their catch log program.
Catch, Record, Release: Increasingly, fishing clubs are experimenting with electronic reporting apps to provide their members with both collective and real-time results. Many club events now use Facebook to record catches during club outings and competitive events. Individual posts include catch, measure, photograph, and release data. The problem with using Facebook to store such data is the inability of researchers to electronically “scrape” data from Facebook pages, making it necessary to manually transcribe what has been posted.
Bucket List Fishing: Even if governments continue to perceive data generated by catch reports by anglers using apps as unreliable, this doesn’t mean they won’t someday become the norm. Many young anglers are choosing to use apps to track their fishing effort and successes, and to share with others details about their fishing results. In short, a new generation of anglers seems less concerned with privacy and more interested in pursuing one-off bucket list fishing challenges, and then enthusiastically sharing their experiences with others.
Sustainable Management: If fishing rules, regulations, and stocking efforts are to respond efficiently to fishing pressure and other factors that impact fish stocks and fish health, then some sort of system will be required to track and report on angler fishing efforts that are specific to individual bodies of water. The alternative is for anglers to continue to self-regulate based on what retired fish biologist and Outdoor Canada Magazine fishing editor Gord Pyzer calls “pulse fishing.” More on that next.
Pulse Fishing: We all practice pulse fishing to one degree or another. We hear about an up-and-coming hot fishery through the grape vine and then check it out for ourselves. Word spreads, and before you know it the fishery is the new “community fishing hole.” This lasts for as long as the fishing remains relatively good. But as soon as it starts to drop off, we shift our fishing effort to the next reported hotspot, allowing the depleted location to enter a period of re-building. Since it’s seldom the case that all the fish were caught, these fish stocks will slowly rebound until the fishery, once again, is rediscovered. It may not be pretty, but it’s what happens now.
Self-Management: Until governments invest considerably more money in monitoring popular fishing locations, it may just be the case that fishing apps will become the go-to tool for anglers to soften the peaks and valleys experienced by popular fishing locations. Additionally, spreading out fishing pressure over more spots instead of huge numbers of anglers moving on massefrom one spot to another could mean less time and fuel spent chasing down false leads. And that’s good for the planet. Both anglers and the environment could be better served through the transparent sharing of accurate real-time fishing data.
Managing Angling Pressure: Whether we ever get to the point that individual fishing locations are managed based on real-time fishing pressure is difficult to say. Many of the commercial fisheries are now managed this way, so it may not be that far off before there’s a convergence between science-based fish management and the collection and accurate reporting of individual fishing effort. The challenge is how such mandatory reporting can be enforced. While not yet electronic, similar resource management practices are already being used in Wisconsin by anglers fishing for Lake Sturgeon.
Grass Roots Initiatives: It’s unlikely that government will adopt the approach of using self reporting data to manage fishing pressure any time soon. But we may not be that far away from changes at the lake or cottage association level. Look to them as they consider the adoption of new voluntary strategies for managing their shared resource. After all, it’s better to have informed local anglers, than people continuing to fish with the false expectation that the supply is infinite. Not knowing can lead to cottagers on a lake harvesting a limit of fish every weekend, or assuming that the number of fish in their lake has dropped to dangerous levels, resulting in calls to unnecessarily curtail or suspend angling altogether. It’s the lack of knowing that fuels ignorance and resentment.
The Future: Builders of angler apps are consulting with stakeholders (including anglers, tournament organizers, researchers, government biologists, etc.) to advance the use of their new apps. We are now witnessing the beginning of a shift in how we manage our fisheries collectively. Angler apps will become the norm, if not an essential component of the management of recreational fisheries and their oversight. It’s no longer a question of if, but when.
Link below to hear Dr. Venturelli discuss with the author the strengths, weaknesses and future of angler apps on the podcast “Blue Fish Radio”:
Link below to hear Sean Simmons discuss with the author how his MyCatch app is being used by anglers to support fisheries research on the podcast “Blue Fish Radio”:
Link below to hear Gord Pyzer discuss with the author the pros and cons of pulse fishing on the podcast “Blue Fish Radio”:
Blue Fish Canada was pleased to be able to take part in the World Wetlands Day celebrations in Akwesasne on February 2. Our volunteers distributed a range of fish health and water quality resources and our tips on sustainable fishing. We were part of a variety of interesting and diverse groups of exhibitors representing the scientific, conservation and youth engagement initiatives – all of which were well received by the Mohawk community and people from both sides of the Kaniatarowanenneh (St. Lawrence River).
The three Mohawk communities situated on the St. Lawrence have worked hard to protect and restore wetlands along the River. Heavy industrialisation during the first half of the 20th century and lax pollution control measures meant severe contamination of wetlands and the River that are still impacting the River to this day. Warnings and outright bans on consuming Walleye for health reasons remain in effect. Numerous areas of concern have yet to be addressed, but progress is being made.
In spite of remediation challenges, Efforts by the Mohawk Council to reconnect their youth to the River through fishing are underway. Youth and their families visiting our Blue Fish Canada exhibit Sunday demonstrates that these community initiatives are paying off, as made evident by the participation of the Mohawk nation in the Pan American Bass Fishing Tournament on the St. Lawrence River organized by Bob Izumi and the Canadian Sportfishing Association in 2019.
Blue Fish Canada volunteers and our president Lawrence Gunther were humbled when they met the many Mohawk youth, their families and elders, and heard the passion in their voices for the St. Lawrence River. It comes from the thousands of years the Mohawk have lived along the River’s banks. It’s a connection that has been undermined by the mess heavy industries from early in the previous century left behind. “We all love the River”, says Lawrence Gunther, “and feel the pain of not knowing if Walleye caught can be safely eaten, or if it’s one of the heavily contaminated fish that make up two of every ten fish according to research underway”.
No one can deny the St. Lawrence is still a beautiful part of earth, and one that deserves celebrating and our respect, such as through this World Wetlands event hosted by the Mohawk Community of Akwesasne. ”
Link here for a first-hand account of the Mohawk people’s fight to restore the St. Lawrence River and to strengthen their connection to the River on Blue Fish Radio first aired in 2017.
Link Here for Bob Izumi’s post tournament summary and his reflections of Mohawk nation participation in the 2019 Pan American Bass tournament aired on Blue Fish Radio.
Last week Blue Fish Canada reported on 2019 Program Highlights geared to recreational anglers seeking to enhance their stewardship and citizen science skills. Today we want to draw your attention to our recently published Report: Fish Health in the Great Lakes and Upper St. Lawrence River.
The goal of the Report is to promote fish health research, increase angler involvement, and inform policy and programs essential to ensuring the future of fish and fishing.
Water quality issues are numerous, but understanding how these issues impact fish health and the people and communities who have a vested interest in fish, are often over-looked. Blue Fish Canada will work to ensure the 17 recommendations contained within the Fish Health report are implemented. But, we can’t do it without you. It takes a community of anglers to ensure the future of fish health and the communities whose socio-economic sustainability depend on healthy fish stocks.
Although Blue Fish Canada programs rely 100% on volunteers, there are still costs associated with delivering important initiatives such as representing the concerns and views of recreational anglers and their communities. Over 17-million Canadians have tried fishing, support recreational fishing, and have plans to go fishing again. Help Blue Fish Canada raise the status of fish health to maintain this important connection with nature through the stewardship and sustainability of wild fish.
Healthy fish stocks and our connection to nature are intrinsically linked. A path forward to connect fish health stakeholders is clearly articulated in the Fish Health Report, but implementing the Report’s 17 recommendations takes resources. This is your chance to pay it forward so Blue Fish Canada can begin implementing the recommendations needed to build a Fish Health Network.
The Fish Health Report represents the views of scientists, fishers, government, conservationists and business. While the focus of the Report is the Great Lakes Basin and Upper St. Lawrence River, the Report’s methodology sets out a framework that will be replicated as we engage stakeholders across Canada.
The time to dream and plan is now over. The path forward is well defined and includes broad stakeholder engagement. It’s time to take action and begin implementing the recommendations of the Fish Health Report.
Please lend your support by getting involved or by making a tax deductible donation as we launch this next phase of stakeholder engagement with the goal of ensuring fish health and the future of fishing. Don’t forget to sign up for our Blue Fish News Letter.
Lawrence Gunther Euteneier M.E.S. M.S.M.
President / Blue Fish Canada
Word from the President: As the Founder and president of Blue Fish Canada, and Canada’s only blind outdoor writer, podcaster, TV host and film maker, I’m continuously engaging with stakeholders to track and promote Canada’s water quality, fish health and recreational fishing. This includes partnering with local and national fishing and conservation organizations, experts and centres of expertise, and anglers engaged in citizen science. At the same time, Blue Fish volunteers are busy implementing programs and reporting back on successes and lessons learned. Here’s a summary of what we accomplished this year.
Sustainable Fishing Tips cover harvesting recommendations and catch-and-release best practices:
- Fact-checked by leading Blue Fish Science Advisors;
- Adopted by fishing and conservation groups across Canada;
- Regionally customized to include fish ID information and relevant fish handling best practices.
Blue Fish Sustainable engages partner organizations and recognizes their commitment:
- Partners feature and distribute Blue Fish Tips;
- Sustainable harvesting recommendations and catch-and-release best practices become partner policies;
- Public recognition and endorsement of partners for their stewardship commitments;
TV extends the reach of Blue Fish to mainstream audiences:
- Semi-weekly 12-minute outdoor environmental stories on “Live from Studio 5”;
- Monthly 5-minute outdoor conservation segments aired on “AMI This Week”;
- Streamed on the Web and aired on basic cable and satellite TV across Canada;
Stewardship Kits available to anglers and partner members at cost:
- Includes catch-and-release sustainable fishing tackle;
- Fish ID cards and regionally relevant tips inform new anglers on best practices;
Youth and Family Fishing events inform and inspire the next generation of conservation minded anglers:
- Sponsored two family ice fishing derbies and one shore fishing event on Family Fishing Weekends;
- Provided families with shoreline clean-up kits, EagleClaw circle hooks, tin weights and floats, fish ID cards and tips for handling fish;
- Events included the Harbour Harvest Ice Fishing Derby, the Ottawa Family Fishing Ice Derby, and the Remic Rapids Family Fishing Day;
Outdoor Magazine Publications include information about Blue Fish programs and stewardship strategies:
- Seven articles published in magazines such as Outdoor Canada, Muskie Release Journal, North-East Ontario Tourism, etc.
- Topics included anglers as citizen scientists, Muskie catch-and-release best practices and reporting on fish kills;
What Lies Below feature film introduces viewers to water quality and fish health issues across Canada:
- Ten water quality / Fish health stories told by anglers and fishers from across Canada;
- 79-minute Feature documentary airs on CBC television;
- In April 2020 will begin airing on YouTube;
- Funds raised through screenings go to Blue Fish Canada;
Blue Fish Tips for integration with 3rd-party audio content:
- 52 1-minute audio stewardship tips available for listening and downloading;
- Leading fishing podcast producers include Tips as PSA’s.
Feel the Bite Videos explain why we all need to be stewards:
- 12 viewable and downloadable 5minute video stewardship tips;
- Used by schools, outdoor shows and 3rd-party websites;
Urban Fishing Nodes create fishing access and fish habitat:
- Working with city officials and Indigenous leaders to build fishing access into shoreline development projects;
- Provides urban youth with low-cost outdoor experiences;
- venues for Blue Fish volunteers to mentor new recreational anglers;
Sustainable Fishing Seminars showcase Canada’s diverse and rich natural abundance and the stewardship roles anglers’ play:
- 17 seminars ranging from 30 to 60 minutes;
- Venues included: Ottawa Boat Show’s CSFL Super Tank, Toronto Sportsman Show’s Outdoor Seminar Stage, high schools and fishing / conservation clubs;
Mainstream Media coverage:
- Twice featured on Outdoor Journal Radio;
- Featured on podcasts including Tom Rowland, Ugly Pike and Fish Nerds;
- 4-minutes on CTV Morning news;
Outdoor Shows allow anglers to learn about Blue Fish programs and to provide feedback:
- Exhibited ten days at the Ottawa Boat Show, the Toronto Sportsman Show, and the Musky Odyssey;
- Distributed free shoreline clean-up kits, fish ID cards and stewardship tips;
- Over 150 original Posts shared with groups and influencers across Canada;
- Twitter and Facebook accounts include:
Conferences and Webinars provide venues to promote water quality, fish health and recreational fishing:
- Participated in 11 conferences, symposiums, stakeholder consultations, annual meetings and webinars;
- Representing angler issues over fish health and concerns regarding access;
Fish Health consultations and report directly links fish health concerns to issues such as water quality:
- Authored the consultation report “Fish Health in the Great Lakes Basin and Upper St. Lawrence River”;
- Stakeholders included recreational anglers, indigenous fishers, scientists, recreational fishing industry, and government;
Blue Fish Radio sponsorship of the podcast continues:
- 52 new Blue Fish Radio episodes aired by 18 podcast broadcasters;
- Reflections and advice on conservation by “giants” of the Canadian fishing industry (Bob Izumi, J.P. DeRose, Dave Mercer, Peter Bowman, Angelo Viola, Jeff Gustafson, and more);
- Expert guests covered everything from the Striped Bass / Atlantic Salmon controversy on Canada’s east coast, to the struggling salmon populations on the west, and everything in between including Walleye on Lake Winnipeg and fish kills on the Ottawa River;
- The podcast now ranks in top-30 fishing podcasts by Feedspot, and is the official podcast of Outdoor Canada Magazine;
Summary: Blue Fish Canada continues to serve an increasingly important role in the future of fish and recreational fishing across Canada thanks to dedicated volunteers and the funds provided by donors and foundations. Please think of Blue fish Canada the next time you want to show how much you love the tremendous fisheries Canada has to offer.
Blue Fish Canada
Tired of hearing about climate change and how it’s going to destroy the world as we know it? Well, try doing some of the following and let’s put a halt to climate change and all that bad news. These New Year’s resolutions have nothing to do with losing weight, and everything to do with the health and wellbeing of us all. The following are 12 actions experts recommend each of us can do to prevent further climate change:
- Measure Up: There’s some truth to the saying “What gets measured gets managed,” and quantification has become something of a cultural obsession. Oroeco, an app available on both Android and iOS, takes that zeal and applies it to tracking personal carbon emissions. Oroeco helps quantify the carbon emissions associated with purchases, investments, dietary choices and preferred modes of transport. It allows users to set goals, track performance and even compare their performance with friends.
- Reduce Consumption: Reuse everything possible, fix and repair items, recycle those items that can’t be used again.
- Conduct an Energy Efficiency Audit and develop an improvement plan: Weatherizing, using energy efficient appliances and light bulbs, and unplugging devices top the list for reducing your energy usage.
- Consider Solar: Take advantage of government programs or join a Solar Power Club to add the power of solar energy to your home or business. Whether it’s a solar heater to complement your regular water tank, or a solar panel to generate electricity, or simply using passive solar energy to heat your home, it will all help to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels.
- Switch Diets: By switching to a diet full of nuts, beans, fish and less meat, global warming could be reduced by up to 15 percent by 2050. By eating fish instead of steak, you’ll produce an eight-fold reduction in emissions, and switching to beans or lentils drops your footprint to almost zero.
- Waste Not: Worldwide, agriculture accounts for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. We can help slash emissions by simply wasting less food. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, about a third of the food produced worldwide never gets eaten. North American consumers and restaurants are some of the worst — throwing away almost 40 percent of the food they purchase.
- Compost: Whether you have a backyard bin, vermiculture (worm) bin, or utilize curbside pickup, composting benefits the environment. Food scraps and yard waste are typically about 30% of the waste going to landfills and incinerators. There is a two-fold climate benefit to composting by reducing the amount of methane gas released into the atmosphere.
- Install a Rain Garden: Climate change means more dramatic weather events, including flooding. Rain gardens are beautiful additions to any size yard and will relieve burdens on municipal water treatment systems, filter runoff pollutants, and protect local waterways.
- Plant a Tree: All residential communities should adopt the goal of 60% tree cover. Trees will clean the air, capture carbon and provide habitat and food for native wildlife.
- Use Transit: The transportation sector contributes over 1/3 of our carbon emissions. Use alternative transportation, such as biking, walking, taking the bus, and carpooling. Or, go electric. By committing to walk or bicycle distances under 1 km, about roughly 20% of car trips, you will eliminate 611 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer. That’s the equivalent of the weight of a football or a can of soup.
- Step it up: Talk to people about the unraveling Arctic, extreme weather, rising temperatures and oceans, and all the rest that adds up to climate change. Challenge people who still think it’s nothing more than another of nature’s phases, but be respectful when presenting the facts.
- Get Civically Involved: Find and join a local climate change or conservation group. Phone and email your government representatives. Ask questions of store managers when making purchases.