‘They’re killing the fish’: New regulations don’t bite some fishermen

“It seems that anglers and fishermen are being ignored and we are the ones paying the license fees and taxes”: Regulations issued by the Ministry regarding anglers’ clubs and lake trout fishermen leave the fishing area disappointed

Recent amendments to the department’s hunting regulations in Sault Ste. Marie and the surrounding communities are leaving some fishermen frustrated, SooToday to learn.

John Calio, president of the Ontario Outdoor Recreation Association (OntORA), disagrees with the rulings regarding walleye and lake trout for Fisheries Management Zone 10 (FMZ 10).

This area overlooks the lakes and rivers extending from Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury, with some parts falling within the boundaries of the Timmins, Wawa, Kirkland Lake and Chapleau areas.

Since 2008, anglers in FMZ 10 have been allowed to catch four walleye, one of which is more than 18 inches long.

But changes to the area’s management plan effective Jan. 1, 2024, now insist that all four walleye must be less than 18 inches long — a restriction that Kallio feared would take effect when he last spoke to him. SooToday In November 2022.

“Most fishermen are very upset about this,” Calio said. “Fishermen will tell you there’s no reason not to let fish over 18 inches out anymore. You’re doing the fish a disservice by putting them back. We can advise and educate people about how important it is to leave those six- and eight-pound guys out. They don’t taste as good anyway.”

In an email message sent to SooTodayMinistry of Natural Resources and Forestry spokeswoman Sarah Figg noted that walleye are the second most targeted sport fish species in winter and claimed their numbers in the area remain stressed.

“Regional monitoring results show that walleye populations in FMZ 10 are among the lowest levels of the northern free zones, and especially the abundance of adult walleye is below levels considered sustainable,” she wrote. “The changes will help ensure sustainable fishery management, while helping to protect, conserve and restore walleye populations.”

“There are well-established indicators (from studies/literature) about the ‘health’ of fish populations (e.g., low abundance, high growth rates, small number of age classes, low recruitment age),” she continued. “These indicators were calculated from large-scale monitoring (BSM) data and compared to standards and at the regional level.”

Before unveiling the updated management plan for Zone 10, Calio also informed the ministry, as well as his counterparts on the FMZ Zone 10 Advisory Board, that the limit of two lake trout should be any size.

A ruling from 2010 allows anglers to catch lake trout longer than 40 cm, and one below.

OntORA’s president was disappointed to discover that the regulation remained unchanged for 2024.

“In the winter, you fish some lakes, and you can’t catch them under them,” Calio said. “So, if a fish gets stuck really bad, you just push it into the hole so you can keep fishing and be legal. That’s what we tried to explain to the ministry and tell them, put them in two fish of any size and educate the public on how to release the big fish. They’re killing the fish the way they They do that to her.”

“Anything over two or three pounds isn’t worth keeping because it doesn’t taste good,” he added. “Give the fishermen some credit. We’re not asking them to bring the limit back to three.”

The Department says lake trout populations have not returned to desired levels of abundance or age structure according to its management plan, which was supported by strong support from the FMZ 10 Advisory Board.

But the current regulation may not be permanently fixed.

“The Department and Advisory Board have committed to reviewing the status of lake trout in FMZ 10 and re-evaluating the success of the regulation in 2024,” Figure wrote. “In response to concerns raised in the public consultation, the Advisory Board is also exploring options to help reduce the impact of catch and release mortality on lake trout.”

According to Calio, the concerns he and other anglers share aren’t just about lake trout.

“Some people are no longer interested in fishing for lake trout because they get too frustrated, so they go to other lakes,” he explained. “They fish lake trout, and then they fish more lake (walleye). And in the end what is (the department) going to come back and say? The lake trout and rainbow trout in the river are now at risk, and we have to lower that limit as well.”

In a recent press release, Kallio noted that hunters are not well represented on the FMZ 10 Advisory Council as they make up five of the 26 groups.

In addition to hunter clubs, the council includes First Nation and Métis communities, nature clubs, retail businesses, tournament organizers and lodge owners.

Kallio said SooToday The only council members who voted “no” to the walleye and lake trout regulations were representatives of angler groups.

While the majority ruling by FTA Council No. 10 is not the only deciding factor for updating plans for its management areas, the ministry says, “all available options are subject to broad public consultation” and takes into account “all views before making a decision.”

“We have no chance of getting the vote,” Calio said. “For some reason, hunters and anglers seem to be overlooked and we are the ones paying the license fees and taxes. It is time for Ontario’s hunters and anglers to have a stronger voice, and this can only be done if hunters and anglers vote strategically together.”

The ministry still insists that it “strives to achieve a balance between protecting resources and providing fishing opportunities.”

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