I had a chance to be out on Lake Winnipeg recently as part of the SnoBear Migration, which brings more than 200 American anglers up to fish our trophy greenback walleye. While the Lakeview Hotel in Gimli was full because of the event, it might be the last year.
Only a few had caught a Master Angler walleye during their three day stay and all participating were concerned about the state of Lake Winnipeg. With the downturn in fishing trophy greenbacks through the ice, many said they would be looking elsewhere.
A number of the American anglers asked me about the article we had published in Hooked Magazine written by University of Winnipeg ecologist Scott Forbes, which predicted a possible collapse of the fishery in two years. The article also repeated earlier criticism by SeaChoice, a consumer watchdog group, calling the Lake Winnipeg commercial fishery the worst managed in the world.
I had a chance to speak to the Walleye Anglers Association of Manitoba this past month. Guess what the hot topic was? Lake Winnipeg of course. WAAM President, Mark Klimchuk, has written a letter on behalf of the club stating their concerns about the possible collapse of this incredible resource. This was also the hot topic last weekend when WAAM and the FM Walleye Group out of Fargo got together at South Beach Casino for a weekend of fishing and friendship. There was over in 200 anglers in attendance, 160 of those Americans.
Adam Rinas of Glacier Lake SnoBear from Sisseton, South Dakota fished with Mark and stated that he and many others would only come up here for big fish, they can catch eaters all day south of the border.
Adam Rinas of Glacier Lake SnoBear from Sisseton, South Dakota fished with Mark and stated that he and many others would only come up here for big fish, they can catch eaters all day south of the border. Klimchuk said there were a lot of disappointed anglers that caught one fish or a couple small ones.
They also couldn’t believe all the commercial nets and wasted fish on the ice.
WAAM invited Progressive Conservative MLA Alan Lagimodiere to come out and represent the province and say a few words. Klimchuk says the MLA stayed to talk to anglers and hear their concerns.
In response to Mark’s letter, he has had a number of politicians ask him for a meeting, including the federal Liberal party. Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Dominic Leblanc, has asked the Manitoba caucus to consult with stakeholders in Manitoba about the fishing industry in light of the province’s decision to withdraw from the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation. Local Member of Parliament for St. Boniface, Dan Vandal, has been asked to take a lead in those consultations. Klimchuk is still waiting for an official response from the Minister of Sustainable Development, Cathy Cox, though he says they acknowledged receipt of his email.
On another note: I recently posted a story about the Whiteshell Fish Hatchery and the current staffing issues it suffers. It quickly went viral and was a shock to many anglers in this province. Why? Because it supplied hard facts that are absolutely scary. Last month there were only two staff members at the hatchery and if one was to get injured or sick, all the fish at the hatchery would be at risk. As it stands right now, staff are severely limited in what they can accomplish in stocking this year. To function effectively there needs to be at least six staff at the hatchery. As a result of this post, Fisheries immediately assigned two more staff to the hatchery and plans are being implemented to fill those vacant positions as soon as possible. Still, the effects are already being felt, as there will be no walleye stocking in the eastern portion of Manitoba this year.
If you are an angler who cares, speak or write to your MLA about your concerns.
These are two of a number of major issues facing the future of our fisheries in Manitoba. Stakeholder groups are now realizing they have to become involved in helping government understand the importance of this resource to our economy and quality of life in the province. If you are an angler who cares, speak or write to your MLA about your concerns. Some good news, the Manitoba Wildlife Federation has agreed to lead the charge in a bid to save the Lake Winnipeg walleye fishery, if it is not too late already.