Summary of SVSFE’s 2020 Field Work
2020 was a challenging year for many, but thankfully SVSFE was able to complete several activities throughout the open water season. Theses activities were funded through the Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Fund (FWEF), Canada Summer Jobs grant and locally raised dollars. With uncertainties and ever-changing regulations put in place by the government, SVSFE decided it would be in the best interest of the organization and the community to postpone the 2020 Youth Angling Programs planned within the project. Listed below are some of the initiatives SVSFE completed and are pleased to share with the angling community. Detailed reports on each activity will be shared in the near future on the research page but this summary will provide a great preview of the 2020 year.
Early Zebra Mussel Detection Program: Since 2016, SVSFE has been assisting Fisheries Branch in the early detection of Zebra Mussels through an efficient and cost-effective system called the “Early Zebra Mussel Detection Program”. Essentially, substrate samplers are deployed in select waterbodies each spring and retrieved each fall and sent to Winnipeg for analysis. In 2020, SVSFE deployed 15 samplers in the Duck Mountains, and 3 in the Porcupines Mountains which have all been retrieved and sent for analysis. SVSFE is grateful to assist the Provincial AIS program and helping aid in early detection to prevent further spread of these invaders.
Bathymetric Surveys: Depth sounding and having readily accessible bathymetric data (or depth data) for the angling community has been a work in progress over the past decade. In recent years, SVSFE has sounded and distributed data online for almost all the popular fisheries in the Duck and Porcupine Mountains. In 2020, SVSFE sounded South Steeprock Lake and Snail Lake within the Porcupine Mountains and Chain Lakes in the Duck Mountains. At current, anglers can access all SVSFE’s depth data online for 71 different high traffic and backcountry fisheries in multiple georeferenced and aesthetic formats.
Dissolved Oxygen Testing: In early 2020, SVSFE conducted late winter dissolved oxygen testing on two fisheries where winterkill is a concern. In West Watjask, annual monitoring is critical while establishing this muskellunge fishery. In Black Beaver, results assisted provincial fisheries staff with an effective trout stocking strategy for 2020.
Glad Lake Trout Maintenance: Over the past six years, SVSFE has taken on trout maintenance programs as an effort to increase trout stocking success through the manual removal of competitor/predator species. In Glad Lake research determined native species have been negatively affecting the provincial trout stocking regime. In 2020, SVSFE removed 64 northern pike from Glad Lake for an accumulative total of 1,329 removed since 2015. This program is intended to facilitate the successful introduction arctic char to the Duck Mountains. The removal efforts are designed to be as efficient and cost-effective as possible by targeting predator species during spawning congregations. SVSFE continues to monitor the success of this program and plans to continue with Glad Lake pike removals in the future.
Wellman Lake Recruitment Surveys: Wellman Lake has a rich history and has been of special interest since the walleye fishery collapsed in the late 1980’s. Over the past three decades, SVSFE in collaboration with Fisheries Branch have initiated many different management techniques and have been closely monitoring walleye populations, harvest, and natural recruitment success. In 2020, objectives included a post-spawn survey by egg-guzzling, and a recruitment assessment for year-two of a three-year OTC study. Guzzling results found the highest CPUE since 1994 with 18.2 eggs/minute on the enhanced spawning reef. At the time of writing this summary the OTC lab analysis had not yet been received. SVSFE is happy to present 2020 results to Fisheries Branch and development of a long-term strategy to help manage and monitor Wellman Lake for future generations.
Whitefish Lake Tributary Assessment: Whitefish Lake is arguably the most popular walleye fishery in the Swan Valley area. This lake is reliant on natural reproduction and does not receive supplemental stocking. In 2009, AAE Tech Services documented spawning habitat in Whitefish Lake’s two primary inflowing tributaries – North Creek and Lagoon Creek. AAE’s results found that much of the best walleye spawning habitat was inaccessible due to natural barriers (beaver dams) and recommended management strategies to deal with the barrier issues. Since 2010, SVSFE has been actively removing beaver dams prior to spring migrations and monitoring success. After each removal, technicians monitor the effectiveness of the program by documenting walleye movements and areas of utilization in both spawning tributaries. In 2020, SVSFE staff monitored walleye movement and utilization to the database which aids in the effectiveness of the program for years to come.
Honoway Fishway Monitoring: In 2010, the Swan Lake Watershed District (SLWD) acquired funding through FEF to construct a fishway at the Honoway Ford Crossing along the Swan River, as it was determined to be a barrier to migrating fish each spring. Monitoring has been executed and multiple upgrades have occurred as an effort to make the fishway operate efficiently on an annual basis. One upgrade was the installation of a water control structure in the upstream section of the fishway in 2017. In 2020, SVSFE closely monitored weather parameters, water parameters, mechanical parameters and hydraulic parameters within the fishway to document conditions fish were faced with while passing through the fishway. Fish utilization was monitored through live release trap netting upstream of the fishway. Results for 2020 monitoring has provided the SLWD with the necessary information to jointly monitor, maintain and manage the fishway efficiently for years to come.
Vini Lake Stock Assessment: Vini Lake is one of the most popular stocked trout destinations in the Porcupine Provincial Forest. The lake was known as a trophy rainbow destination however stocking was ceased due to pike encroachment at some point around 2014. Today, anglers on Vini Lake primarily target lake trout and northern pike. SVSFE and Fisheries Branch decided an assessment on Vini Lake was warranted to assess the lake trout population. In early spring SVSFE set out to assess the trout stocking regime through a non-lethal method called Spring Littoral Index Netting (SLIN). Data gathered provided valuable information on current salmonid populations (arctic char & lake trout) and data summaries have been sent off to the regional fisheries manager. SVSFE is eager to work with regional fisheries staff using the data collected to ensure that Vini Lake is managed effectively in the years to come.
Fishing, Pickerel, and Cross Lakes: These three waterbodies are frequented backcountry walleye fisheries in the Porcupine Provincial Forest. In 2020, SVSFE conducted tributary surveys and population assessments through non-lethal trap netting in the fall. Trap netting on Pickerel Lake was not completed due to deteriorating access conditions. Population and growth information in both Cross and Fishing Lake were found to be satisfactory, and additional information to confirm tributary utilization would be beneficial. SVSFE is happy to report the results to Fisheries Branch, which may result in updated management strategies for both Cross and Fishing Lakes.
Voluntary Angler Surveys: Since 2015, SVSFE has been active in quantifying the opinion of the angling community and monitoring trends and opinions in the Parkland Area. The Voluntary Angler Surveys are cheap and cost effective as they only require online boosts monthly and one week of data analysis each fall. Over the past few years, SVSFE has partnered with other organizations in the Parkland Area to provide incentive prices for participation. Data collected is invaluable and SVSFE intends to continue with this inexpensive program to quantify angling quality, angler opinion, amongst many other valuable pieces of information.
The Swan River Fishing Package: The Swan River was recognized as one of the most underutilized walleye fisheries in the Swan Valley Area. In 2020, SVSFE technicians first began by conducting qualitative interviews with many local anglers to learn as much as possible about the fishery as possible. Secondly, technicians were able to depth sound the river system from the Saskatchewan Border to Swan Lake (~165km). Once all data was acquired, the creation of the Fishing Package began. The package was designed to provide as much valuable information as possible to promote the fishery and increase angler success/experience. The package also includes a 34-page Mapbook which outlines depth data, fishing holes, crossings, public access areas, historic areas, etc. As of today, the Fishing Package has been promoted and published and is online for public use. Thus far, SVSFE has received tremendous support for this promotional package.
Trout Steam Investigations and Fishing Packages: The Parkland escarpments of Manitoba provide multiple cold-water stream habitats that are known to support stocked trout populations. Many of these systems have also shown evidence of naturalized salmonid populations. As an effort to expand trout steam opportunities in the Parkland Region, SVSFE set out to investigate four trout streams in 2020. The objective was to conduct presence/absence surveys, document up-to-date access information, and conduct interviews with folks who frequent the fisheries to create promotional Fishing Packages. The four trout streams investigated included the Steeprock River, the Bowsman River, the North Duck River, and the South Duck River. Fishing packages were created for both the Steeprock River and Bowsman Rivers, while information collected for the Duck Rivers determined promotion was not warranted. SVSFE is proud of the informational packages created and is eager to further promote them in the spring of 2021.