Behind the Scenes of Manitoba’s World Class Trout Fisheries

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“When a vision is fostered by a passionate community, success is the end result.” It’s easy to assume that when trout are stocked in a body of water, nature’s process will instantly take control and organically sustain a population from within. Similarly assumed, is that all water bodies are created equal. Lakes are randomly picked, trout are stocked, and the rest is history. For those who are unaware of the selection and management process of trophy trout lakes, the previous assumptions can often be far from the truth.

In late-December, 2015, I had the privilege of accompanying the regional fisheries biologist from Manitoba’s Western Region and the dedicated technicians from the Swan Valley Sport Fishing Enhancement group. They were tasked with assessing monthly dissolved oxygen levels, until spring break up, on a newly developed trout lake on the western perimeter of the Duck Mountains. Tees Lake, the newest star on FLIPPR’s long list of esteemed trout fisheries, was the recent recipient of a “state of the art” aeration system and the chosen location for scheduled stocking of rainbow and brown trout in the spring of 2016.

Regional fisheries biologist, Bruno Bruederlin, recording DO levels.

Regional fisheries biologist, Bruno Bruederlin, recording DO levels.

A text book Parkland stillwater, Tees is complimented by good water clarity and favourable shoreline structure throughout the lake boundaries. Sunken trees, grass edges and a prominent point adjacent to the boat launch, were my first observations of substantial, fish holding structures. As we travelled to the pre-determined test sites, a quick probe through the ice showed main basin depths exceeding 20 feet. A comforting find and in my opinion, a necessary requirement for trout to successfully stage in favourable water temperatures during the heat of the summer.

But the real eye opener was revealed when the dissolved oxygen meters probed the depths and various water columns. This moment unveiled a clear connection to the importance of high dissolved oxygen concentrations and the essential role that aeration plays in sustaining required levels during the winter months.

Simply put, Manitoba winters can be long and harsh. Thick ice on lakes, limits the oxygen input from the air and substantial snow cover adds a barrier to the natural process of photosynthesis. In the end, dissolved oxygen levels can be depleted, which can cause high fish mortality or the ugly word of “winter kill”. A lake’s entire ecosystem is dependent on sustainable levels of dissolved oxygen. When concentrations become low, anoxic conditions can develop, decreasing the ability of a water body to support various forms of life. Including aerobic bacteria, various plants, forages and of course, the trout, in all shapes and sizes. But this is where the monitoring of dissolved oxygen levels and aeration saves the day.

Tees Lake aerators at full steam.

Tees Lake aerators at full steam.

In the case of Tees Lake, present dissolved oxygen tests revealed that levels were adequate throughout the majority of water columns, with one exception. The bottom water column showed signs of becoming anoxic, a crucial finding within the assessment, with a simple solution to correct the unbalance. At this point of lake development, aeration systems often require adjustments to ensure of maximum output and to fulfill dissolved oxygen requirements. In result of these adjustments, anoxic water columns would be replenished with optimum levels of dissolved oxygen. Findings like these are imperative to a sustainable fishery and one that would have gone unnoticed and uncorrected without the efforts of a dedicated management team.

For those that have fished the various trophy trout waters within the Parkland and for many of us who have made it a habit to frequent these waters at every opportunity, we must take a moment to recognized the efforts, investments and commitments from those who allow these world class trout fisheries to come to fruition. We may often take for granted or become oblivious to why or how our fisheries have become model examples and exemplary options for epic angling experiences. Its people, like our provincial fisheries staff and local conservation groups that take the time and initiative to develop, maintain and manage these fisheries. You can’t have one without the other.

With a scheduled stocking of rainbows and browns only months away, Tees Lake is on its way to becoming another world class trout fishery. Manitoba’s trout legacy has grown once again.

For more information on Parkland trout lakes, please visit the following web sites:
www.flippr.ca
www.swanvalleysportfishing.com

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