Stream Tender     Magazine

February  2016 Issue

“Over Harvest of Lake Whitefish on Ghost Lake”

    What happened on Ghost Village Bay, on Ghost Reservoir, can be compared to a similar situation on Gull Lake, near Lacombe, Alberta.

    Years ago, many ice fisher’s, including myself, would travel to the Bentley Bay on Gull Lake, to catch a few of the plentiful large Lake Whitefish that inhabited the bay. There were lots of fish to be caught back then.

    I can recall seeing 60 or so ice fishing shacks in the bay at that time. Over the following years, with a daily limit of 10 Lake Whitefish, the fishery eventually collapsed.

    As a result of this collapse, Fish & Wildlife reduced the harvest limit from 10 to 5 in the year 1999. Over the next few years, the fishery did not recover, so in a few years the limit of Lake Whitefish was once again reduced to 3 Lake Whitefish per day.

    Presently, this new regulation is in place on Gull Lake, and we can probably thank a number of local anglers that pushed to make this change. However, I have not heard any great news on the recovery of the Whitefish populations recently.

    Unfortunately, Fish & Wildlife did not learn an important lesson from the collapse on Gull Lake, and a result was the same thing happening on Ghost Village Bay.

    On November 29th, 2010, I wrote a letter to two regional Alberta biologists and their boss about the situation on Ghost Village Bay and the ongoing over harvest of Lake Whitefish.

    In that letter, I recommended that the daily limit be reduced to one fish, but I expected that they may

allow two or three, if a regulation was made. The three regional biologists did not respond to my letter of concern.

    It is really too bad that we have to experience a total collapse of a particular sport fishery before any good management practices are untaken.

    In the case of the Ghost Village and Ghost Lake Whitefish fishery, I don’t know if Fish & Wildlife really considers the issue of the lake’s fishery of any major importance. I am sure that they have their own priorities.

    Do they consider these other matters of more importance?

    The Ghost Lake Fishery has potential to provide a lot of recreation for many anglers. After all, it is located so close to major population centres such as Calgary and Cochrane. It is important to area anglers.

“ Memories of a Once Great Fishery on Ghost Village Bay”

Above: Cochrane Scout Troop member Jarred Boot holds up his first Lake Whitefish that he caught while ice fishing on Ghost Village Bay.

    In 2011, the Cochrane Scout Troop planned an ice fishing expedition on Ghost Lake, in the Village Bay. Thanks to the help of some local regulars that fished the bay and had ice fishing shacks, an event was organized.

    The volunteers that provided the ice fishing shacks helped coach the kids on how to capture the large, but wary, Lake Whitefish that resided in the shallow water of the bay.

    The exciting part of the experience was being able to fish inside an ice fishing shack. This allowed the angler to actually see the fish swimming near the bottom weed cover and hopefully witness when the fish would bite on the jigs or lures.

    It didn’t take long before some of the kids were able to spot some cruising fish in the clear water beneath the ice. Only one Lake Whitefish was captured, but the other kids had some close calls with large whitefish that morning.

    As is always the case with a crew of young people in the outdoors, there were some mighty appetites to deal with, come lunch time. Fortunately, a few of the shacks have heating stoves that also provide a cook top for hot dogs and other outdoor delicacies.

    One of the volunteers was my brother Craig Woods, and he had brought a special prop to add some interest to the outing. The prop was a stuffed

Lake trout mount that was used for a few photo sessions, when the fish stopped biting.

    The stuffed Lake trout was a big hit with the kids. I am sure that the photos were used to fool a few buddies back home, including some of the fellow scouts that decided not to come along for the day. It was good fun for all.

    By the end of the morning and when everyone was packed up and ready to head home, I knew that some of the kids would return to the bay with their  parents in tow, at some point in time in the future. A few new anglers were created on that great

 day of fishing on the ice.

    The good fishing for Lake Whitefish on Ghost Village Bay only lasted for a few years, from 2009 until 2014. This year, in 2016, some of the regulars reported seeing only a few Lake Whitefish swim underneath their holes in the ice.

    It is a real shame that what could have been an ongoing sport fishery, for all to enjoy, is now a major disappointment. This is true especially for those that experienced the great fishing that had lasted only a few years.

    I am a firm believer in pro-active fisheries management. If measures are taken to create a balance in the number of fish harvested, for a given population, the fishery can be sustainable into the future.

 

  Just Joking

 

Right Photo:

A stuffed Lake Trout is utilized for a photo session by a member of the Cochrane Scout Troop.

 

At least a few walked away with a good fish photo that day.

Sustainable Fisheries

    I have seen it happen one too many times in the past. A short lived fishing bonanza followed by a collapse in both fishing activity and the recreation that it provides.

    This can result in a few years of good fishing and then a number of years of no recreation, while the fishery recovers. It would be nice to find a good balance so that sport fish populations are stable enough to provide a consistent and reliable sport fishery.

    It is no surprise to me how deadly over harvest by anglers can be on a fishery, be it a stream or lake. The big problem lies in over harvest on lakes or streams where there is no stocking program, to compensate for the loss of sport fish.

    Over the years I have witnessed the angling impact on local wild trout and whitefish populations. The result has been that  generous fishing regulations have allowed an uncontrolled harvest of these fish, until they were on the brink of collapse.

    For conservation minded sport fisher’s, this can be a frustrating and painful thing to witness.

“ Barrier Reservoir Has Great Potential”

    For years now, Barrier Lake, located on the Kananaskis Highway, has provided little recreation for sport anglers.

    There are some small brown trout, a few cutthroat trout, bull trout and a lot of mountain whitefish.

    However, nothing of any abundance that would attract most sport anglers to the lake.

    It is a deep reservoir and I have taken a few depth readings of 70 feet, which is deeper than the average for Ghost Lake.

    I have often thought that stocking the Barrier Reservoir with lake trout would be a wise decision. The whitefish and other coarse fish, like suckers, would provide a good forage for any stocked lake trout.

The mighty Lake Trout

“March is the Last Month for an Ice Fishing Trip to the Lake”

    With the mild winter that we are experiencing in February, I expect the winter ice to disappear from the area lakes early this year.

    March is usually the last month for ice fishing on a normal winter’s plan, but who really knows these days for sure. As far as driving on the ice, early March is normally safe, but an ice fisher has to be really careful.

    There are always some locations where you can walk to a spot on the ice, especially if there is deep snow. For late March, this option is a wise choice.

    March is a good month for ice fishing. The longer daylight hours gets the aquatic life below the ice more active and the sunlight provides more oxygen in the water, due to photosynthesis.

    In the later part of March the ice will also start to rot. This is when the ice is noticeably easier to augur thru and there is more air in the underside of the ice cover.

    The shoreline ice will be the first to go, so be very careful when you access the frozen lake. This is where most vehicles go thru in the late part of the season.

“Some Area Ice Fishing Destinations”

    On the other hand, Kananaskis Lakes has been producing some good catches of cutthroat trout and bull trout. The upper lake seems to be the most popular spot to find lots of trout.

    I haven’t been pike fishing thru the ice for a number of years, but I suspect that McGreggor, Kehoe or Gull lake should still have good numbers of pike to catch.

    My bother fished Burntstick Lake this winter and caught a few pike, but the perch in the lake may provide more entertainment. Perch are small but fun to catch. If your lucky, you will find some walleye on the lake.

    During the later part of the winter, some of the smaller trout ponds and lakes are low in oxygen. This explains the drop in fishing productivity. It is better that you choice a larger body of water to try some ice fishing.

    In our area, besides the Ghost Reservoir, you can fish the Spray Lakes, Kananaskis Lakes or some of the pike lakes further to the east.

    Last I heard, the Spray was fishing slow this winter, but it could be that an angler might have to try a few different areas on the lake. Exploring new areas on the lake can sometimes pay off.