Muskies Canada Inc.

O.F.A.H. Zone “E” membership has been a large supporter of the Lake Simcoe Muskellunge Reintroduction Project in the last thirteen  (13) years. Below is the hotlink to the Muskies Canada Inc. website :

www.muskiescanada.ca

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June 19th 2018   –  –   Item

The latest report we received forwarded from “Muskies Canada”.

Unlike some groups who shout and obtain sympathetic ears and then do nothing “…we are part of conservation”.

Subject: LSMRP UPDATE #4

Hello Muskies Canada and Orillia Fish and Game club members,

Just a short update ending our fourth and final week when a muskie egg collection was a possibility. It’s now official- we will have to rely on that one good egg collection we conducted on May 16th during our 2nd week with the UGLMU Crew on Georgian Bay. With water temperatures this week spiking dramatically from a low of I6C to a high of 22 C – it is now beyond the range for a productive egg collection.

Kristin Dougherty from the UPGLMU reported early in the week that water temps were spiking. As a result, some of their nets were loaded with long nosed gar who seek those much warmer waters for their spawning activities.  As reported in our 2nd update, these prehistoric fish are cool in small quantities but when nets are loaded with them – it’s nothing but a royal pain.

So … just like last year – one good egg collection can still yield a decent number of muskie fall fingerlings to stock (~1,000 in 2017) into Lake Simcoe  “The fry are still looking good right now. Feed training will make or break us but 10 years of experience on this project has prepared me for this moment,” said Mark Newell. He did add that it is highly unlikely there will be enough surplus fry for Harwood this summer unless everything goes way beyond their expectations .

As we progress with the fry stage at the hatchery we may provide the occasional LSMRP update, but for now that will be it for a while.

Hope you all enjoyed reading these.

Thanks you,

Wil Wegman

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June 04th 2018   –  –   Item

Today we received the latest report forwarded from “Muskies Canada”. It is fascinating and we see why “…we are part of conservation”.

O.F.A.H. Zone “E” members and their support helped the following work happen.

Hello Muskie Canada and Orillia Fish and Game club members.  There was simply no time to prepare this for you yesterday (and my mind was mushJ) so here it is the first day of our long wknd.

For those of you who missed the 1st update from week one … it’s below this one.

Best to view this in full screen; share with your members if you like

 

LSMRP

Trapnetting/Egg Collection Update

Week Two – Monday May 14 – Friday May 18, 2018

Georgian Bay – Port Severn, ON

By: Wil Wegman

Day 6, Monday, May 14

Crew: Brent Shirley-Midhurst District, Melanie Shapiera and Wil Wegman – Aurora District, Kristin Dougherty- Upper Great Lakes Management Unit (UGLMU) Arunas Liskauskas-UGLMU.

The beginning of our last week teaming up with UPGLMU staff was met with high expectations.  Our first set was not far from Port Severn, in G Bay where our tagged (in 2005) male muskie was caught in week one after he made its way from Gloucester Pool to Georgian Bay. A big first for the program.  Today we met another first … and we hoped would be a last.

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This mass of unidentified intestines was lodged within the gap of our first trap net near Port Severn. This area is where the wings meet the funnel or entrance way to the house where the fish are retained before we sample and live release them. The crew was very perplexed how it ended up there, but took it all in stride.

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Brown bullhead catfish are a dominant catch within many trap net sets across southern and central Ontario, and here on Georgian Bay it was no exception. Big waters typically produce big fish, regardless if the species is the mighty elusive muskie (world record 65 pounder came from Georgian Bay) or lowly bountiful bullhead. Here biologist Melanie Shapiera shows off one of the many larger ‘bullies’ caught in our nets.

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      How many fish species can you see and ID in this photo?

 

Some trap net sets would have more than a dozen different fish species in them. With our former trapnetting program on Gloucester Pool we only identified and counted each species – with exception of walleye which we sampled and tagged. Our primary purpose there was to collect muskie eggs and all the 13 years’ worth of species composition was a definite bonus to help us better understand that fish community.  Here on Georgian Bay, the UGLMU staff have a much more intensive sampling program where every species is not only identified and counted, but also measured and recorded. Walleye are also tagged and weighed.

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Here Kristin uses an electronic device called an Allegro Data Logger” that is used to tally up in real time all the data collected each day at each trap net site. She records fork and total lengths, any lamprey marks, fish ID Codes and details on each site as we call them out for each fish. The data later gets converted into a program called Access where it can be analyzed. Back in G Pool – all of our data was recorded on paper, by hand … but at least we bought that fancy “Write-In-Rain” paper that would provide us the magical luxury of recording data during a rainstorm.  Our batteries never ran out either … just sayin’ J

Some gorgeous smallmouth bass were caught out of almost every net set the crew visited each and every day … From the south part of Port Severn near the 400 Hwy all the way up to Beausoleil Island … there was no shortage of gorgeous smallmouth like this one Wil is holding.

 

The northern stinkpot turtle that Mel is holding is listed as a Species of

Special Concern in Ontario. It is also known as a Musk Turtle – and both names reveal why.  It has four musk glands located below its carapace that secrete a smelly musk when they are annoyed. Stinkpot turtles are nocturnal and are rarely seen during the daytime. They spend most of the time in areas of slow moving water or buried in the mud. They dehydrate quickly so unlike the northern map turtles we see up on rocks in G Bay or G Pool, they are rarely seen basking in the sun. Oddly enough; even though they spend most of the time in water, these turtles cannot move or swim quickly. Female Stinkpot turtles become sexually mature at the age of 9 to 11 years, however, the male becomes sexually mature within 4 years of age. They mate underwater during spring after a long winter of hibernation. They build their nest near the water under rotten leaves or shoreline debris. Several females share a similar spot during nesting. They lay 2 to 8 eggs during summer or early fall. The eggs are elliptical with a thick shell. They have 65 to 86 days of incubation depending on temperature which also determines the sex of the hatchlings. Temperature below 25 degree Celsius produces males and above 28 degree Celsius produces females.

 

Stinkpots live for up to 30 years of age in the wild. Stinkpot turtles are the smallest of the eight species of turtles found in Canada and their small carapace (shell) can be coated with algae. They are distinguished by a yellow strip running down from the tip of their snout to the base of their neck. The adult males have longer and broader tail than the females. Stinkpot turtles are omnivorous, mainly feeding on small aquatic animals like fish, insects, snails, worms, leeches, tadpoles, earthworms, fish eggs, carrion and aquatic plants. Juvenile Stinkpot turtles, however, are mainly carnivores. They have a great sense of smell so usually feed on dead prey as opposed to catching fast moving targets. Although we have seldom seen aggressive stinkpots trying to bite whatever comes near them … this is apparently a characteristic trait of this little turt!

 

We ended the day on a high note but did not capture any muskie even though water temps in the 11-13 C range were quite acceptable.

 

Day 7, Tuesday, May 15

Crew: Brent Shirley-Midhurst District, Melanie Shapiera and Wil Wegman – Aurora District, Chris Jonson- Upper Great Lakes Management Unit (UGLMU) Arunas Liskauskas-UGLMU.

 

Today a new Crew lead joined us while Kristin took a 2 day electro-fishing course in Peterborough. Chris Johnson knew these Georgian Bay waters well, having conducted summer creel there before.

 

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Chris at the helm of the 20’ custom made work boat; made first and foremost with trapnetting in mind, powered by a 175 HP outboard, plus an auxiliary 9.9HP should something go wrong. The Midhurst and Aurora Crew members who have all spent many more days in their smaller jon boat trapnetting on G Pool appreciated the size, comfort, workability and power of this bigger boat!

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All trap netting crews customize their procedures to some degree by virtue of the boat they are using. Here Arunas gets ready to tighten the king anchor and pull the lead (the main 1 metre high net to shore) nice and tight to maximize efficiency. He secures the marker buoy base attached to the anchor and the boat powers back in reverse slowly tightening the whole net up nicely, then we would re-toss the buoy. In G Pool with our smaller boat, we have no such secure spot for the marker buoy so place the entire anchor securely on the deck of the boat, then pull it all back with the motor in reverse before tossing the anchor and buoy over the bow.

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Here Brent (right and Chris) display similar looking fish but Brent’s is a large redhorse sucker and Chris has a common carp.

 

Other than decent catches and several net moves, we only had one other bit of ‘excitement’ on Tuesday and it didn’t involve any muskie. Much to our disgust a new batch of intestines had appeared in our Port Severn net L.

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These too were in the exact same place as the day before. With over 65 years’ worth of combined experience on that trap netting boat … none of us had ever seen anything like it.  With no muskie captured, we decided to move that net … far, far away – all the way to Beausoleil – where it stayed and did its job well and unencumbered until the end of the week.

 

Although no muskie were captured, the day ended on an exciting note as Wil received a call from MNRF’s Communications Services Branch downtown giving the go-ahead for a media request from CTV Barrie. Some Muskies Canada and Orillia F & G members may recall Roger’s excellent coverage of our muskie stocking efforts last fall in Lake Simcoe.

 

Day 8, Wednesday, May 16

Crew: Brent, Wil, Chris and Arunas – plus special guest Roger Klein- award winning reporter with CTV News- Barrie

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Arunas (left) and Roger as we head to our first spot.   Shortly after this photo was taken, an eagle was spotted in Potato Channel.  As readers of these updates may recall from previous years … our trap netting crew has always looked upon an eagle sighting as a good luck omen – so with Roger on board, we made that point clear.

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Hmmm … I wonder what Brent could be looking at in our first net set?

 

Another superstition that some crew members have includes wearing of a lucky retro MNR hat kept in pristine condition and only used under very special circumstances. “Its beautiful bright green color is only retained because I minimize its exposure to the sun’s UV rays and am always careful not to touch it with my grimy fish-gloves. Of course I also have to match this winner ball cap with the coolest of retro-shades because with that combo we make muskie hunting and egg-collections happen baby!” said a confident Brent Shirley that morning.

 

Our first net was the one we had moved from Port Severn to Beausoleil Island and veteran muskie bio Arunas was the first to spot the big brute in our fish-filled net. A quick little happy dance, high fiving and letting Roger know he is at least partially responsible for our good fortune (eagles and hats took some credit too) ensued but we were anxious to pull that net and get to work For a new set, this had a good number of fish and turtles in it. Beside the boat, we deployed a beautiful portable livewell this crew had  and deposited the muskie in there. This was a recap, so Arunas read out the tag number and saw it was a male.  We extracted the milt into a syringe.  Transporting that fish way back down south in our oversized tub for any possible conventional egg collection would have added undue stress on it that we were not willing to take. The rest of the data – including a pit tag reading, was recorded and that fish was released in great shape. It was the 3rd muskie of this 10 day program  

 

We quickly processed the remainder of the fish – anxious to get to the rest of our nets. Roger caught all of the action on film … not wanting to miss anything despite only being allotted a 90 second segment on the news that night.

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Arunas is renowned in muskie circles for having the magic touch when it comes to extracting milt into a syringe … just like Brent does for stroking the milt out of males – whether into a syringe or as is more customary directly on eggs. Arunas gained his experience up on the Spanish River where this syringe technique worked well for that muskie restoration effort … and Brent had over a decade of extracting milt directly onto eggs on G Pool.

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What is it with Turtles anyway? Everyone always likes to have their picture taken with them … including Roger.  Here he has the magic touch to persuade both to stick out their necks for the camera.  The Midland painted (left) and a small northern map were released in great shape along with all the others caught that day.

 

Throughout the day we fished each of our 5 trapnets and one hoop net, with only the one muskie to show for it.  We had one hoop net to go.  No one aboard is overly thrilled with hoop nets … a smaller wanna-be version in some respects of a trapnet … but with fish swimming into a large series of hooped enclosures instead.  The beauty of these nets though is that they can be set in much shallower locations and that’s exactly where this last one was reset the day before. New spots always get the crew excited.

 

As we approached, we loosened the lead anchor to make the process easier on us and the fish.  We worked the hoops down, shaking fish thru the small funnels as we worked thru one hoop after another.  We finally got to the last one … when all of a sudden beneath all those ‘other’ fish … two beautiful muskie magically appeared before our eyes in the last one hoop house!

 

We were certain the largest one was a female, so we prepared for an egg collection.  We filled our large tub – pulled the two muskie out of the net and deposited them into the tub.  Both were tagged, both were ripe and best of all the big one was female and smaller a male.  The often-ridiculed hoop net had come thru in spades! The two muskie had already gotten to know one another up close and personal too, so we felt no need to play any soft romantic music while they waited in the large tub

Just like our fine Muskie angler friends, it’s not very often that either the Georgian Bay or former Gloucester Pool crews handle a Double Nickels (55+inches Muskie) but that’s what the hoop net caught for us and for Roger’s video camera that day.

Arunas patiently waiting during the water hardening process.  This was the first egg collection any of the team had ever done with a product called “Tris”. Used with great confidence by muskie aquaculture facilities in Michigan and elsewhere, Tris is a buffer/milt extender that they claim increases fertility rates. The Aurora and Midhurst crews had researched this product extensively during their winter planning period and had a couple conference calls with their counterparts in Michigan to learn more about it and how they operate their egg collection programs there

 

Up until today, that text after a long day on the water to Mark Newell was a heartbreaking one to send … knowing all too well how anxious Mark was to get those muskie eggs. Two nights of electro fishing and 7 days of trap netting and finally a far more pleasant message could be sent.  We had split the eggs into two jars so as to not overcrowd them … and as usual upon delivery to Mark, had to stop every half hour to remove water from the egg jars and add fresh hatchery water … a chore that we gladly undertake to ensure the eggs stay healthy.  He was one happy but very busy hatchery manager that night.

 

We went back out to check our final net and left Roger on shore to edit a full day’s filming with several cameras into one 90 second clip. He was able to make his deadline and that evening at the 6 and 11 pm news his wonderful piece was shown.  It’s available here for those who missed it: https://barrie.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1396008

 

Day 9, Thursday, May 17

Crew: Brent, Wil, Kristin  and Arunas

Our wonderful original lead … Kristin returned from her e-fishing course … pumped and ready to continue building upon our good fortune from the day before. One commonality that we District staff did learn from the UGLMU crew, is that dedication to the work we do on the boat, does not end when you get off the water. Both crews find great pleasure in chatting or texting during the evening about game- plans for the next day. This even began last year between UGLMU crews on G Bay and our District crews on G Pool. We’d send each other pics of our best fish and tidbits of interesting things we saw or learned during the day. Just like anglers (almost always the crew members are avid anglers too) trap netters never stop learning when they are pursuing their quarry. So, for Kristin – time away for the course did not mean she was uniformed about our time on the water – she was fully up-to-speed.

 

Most of our nets were loaded with fish that day including ones UGLMU crews don’t see too often … or us in G Pool at all.  The quillback sucker is one example

The quillback gets its name from the long quill that is formed via the first several fin rays of the dorsal fin. Quillback are typically 15–20 inches on average, weighing between 1 and 4 pounds. However, they can grow up to 26 inches and weigh 10 pounds. The compressed body of the quillback shown here makes it look flattened when viewed from the side. Not commonly caught by anglers but often present, they prefer water that is clear, slow moving, highly productive and moderately deep. The quillback can commonly be found in the Hudson Bay, Mississippi River Basins, the Great Lakes, and drainages from the Delaware River, Apalachicola River, and the Pearl River.

A couple of nets were loaded with long nosed gar and one in particular had over 75 of them.  We admire individual gar and enjoy having a photo or two taken with them … but removing this many from one set is just plain hard, arduous work.  Their long snouts easily get tangled in the net twine so they can’t be removed with dip nets – long reaches over the gunnel to remove them one by one is the only way.

A trapnetting program without Brent playing the infamous “Air guitar with the spotted gar” would not be complete … so the UGLMU crew got to see this strange tradition unfold before their very eyes.

 

Walleye are always a treat to catch and each one is sampled with a few extra procedures … including a uniquely numbered Floy tag behind the dorsal fin.  This tag has the UPGLMU phone number on it, so should anglers catch a tagged walleye anywhere in Georgian Bay or surrounding rivers etc, they are asked to call the number with details on the fish. (Size, condition, date, location etc) Ideally tagged walleye are released by anglers, so they can continue to provide tracking information when other anglers or MNRF staff capture it.

Walleye are nowhere near as plentiful as large and smallmouth bass. Here Arunas displays two beauties that came from our nets.  He grew up fishing Georgian Bay … his grandparents in fact had a cottage he would visit regularly when he was a kid. Ironically we set a trap net not far from there, where these two beautiful bass came from.  Unfortunately for Arunas and Brent’s last day … no more muskie would show themselves.  There was just one more day to try to make it happen it again!

 

Day 10, Friday May 18

Crew: Kristin and Valerie Davey – UGLMU, Graham Findlay- Midhurst District, Eva Bobak and Wil-Aurora District

 

Today would be our last day … and as such all the nets would have to be removed, hauled into the boat and brought back to shore. Therefore an extra hand on deck was well warranted.  Today’s task would not be easy either as 35 k east winds were forecast and we got that and then some.  All in all though, the previous 5 days were spectacular and uncharacteristically calm for G Bay with only nominal winds to contend with late in the day yesterday.

Graham and Eva showing off various year classes/sizes of Northern Map Turtles

 

On our last day after fishing each net, we would lift it and make sure it was packed properly in the boat for the next crew. We began with our nets at Beausoleil Island and then picked up one more … no muskie captured as we headed in to offload the nets and make more room in the boat. Our oversized muskie spawning tub occupied as much space as a few trapnets … but the UGLMU Crew was more than accommodating and put up with the inconvenience and added trip to port.

 

We headed back out for our final two nets.  At the first one we had a strong side wind fully exposed to the big waters of the Bay. Some fine boat handling skills by Kristin made it look easy as we landed in a perfect spot to fish it and eventually remove it … but not before we dealt with the huge muskie that was waiting for us first. We were deliberating whether to keep her in the tub and see if there was a fresh male in the other net.  However before we did that, we wanted to determine if she was ripe.  She occupied almost the entire length of the tub which is 55 inches long. Two of us lifted her to make sure the head was well above the tail end … a little squeeze at first – nothing! Another squeeze – nothing! “Oh come on now girl- don’t be hard!” We put her back in the tub.  We tried one more time and suddenly I caught the faintest glimpse of milt … OMG – she was a he! The largest male muskie any of us had ever seen before! Without another drop of milt to offer from this old fella, we did whatever sampling we had to and then released him in fine shape.

The beat up, big old male that had us fooled for a minute or so.

 

This – like all the other muskie caught to date in 2017 (except for the immature barred one last Sunday) had previously been captured and tagged.

 

We headed to our last and final net just after 3pm.  This would be the worst net to fish and collect – with the full force of those 35k onshore east winds pounding the net.  Again Kristin maneuvered the boat like a pro and we positioned ourselves to work quickly and efficiently. Amongst only a few fish in this one, we saw a good sized muskie.  The crew was unceremoniously silent – if it was a male- we were done for sure. Female … and meh; we only had milt in the syringe from Wednesday – time stamped at 11 am. Word has it the milt was viable for ~24-48 hours. We were overdue the max by 4 hours!

 

We pulled the muskie aboard and checked – the size told us she should be female – but no one was willing to guess before eggs or milt proved us right or wrong. “It’s a girl!” came the unanimous chorus from the crew as they saw the eggs.

 

With so much on the line and only one of our 3 family’s collected, we opted to complete an egg collection and hope for the best.

We began to get all of our equipment ready – and when it came time to extracting the eggs into the bowl, she flowed beautifully for us.  Two ½ full jars of eggs were collected – a large family by any standards. We added the milt from the syringe and began mixing. Within a few minutes we could tell during the water hardening process that the liquid didn’t have the same milky color to it that we were used to. The milt was forming small clumpy droplets – not dissipating amongst the eggs. Not good at all! None the less, we followed the other steps – disinfecting them with Ovadine etc while Kristin and Val tagged and sampled the first new muskie of the 2018 program!  We then hurriedly pulled the net out and headed for shore.

 

Mark Newell was contacted; Eva dropped the eggs off to him and he worked most of the night before the long weekend babysitting them and the family from Wednesday. At time of writing (Saturday May 19) we are currently in a wait and see mode hoping against hope that perhaps a few eggs could be salvaged from that 2nd batch. The good news is though that Mark has already let me know that under the microscope in his lab, he placed a few eggs from the first batch and they are already beginning to eye up.  Full details and photos from Mark can be seen on his Fleming Facebook Page: Lake Simcoe Muskellunge Restoration Project Hatchery

Val and Wil with the female muskie that provided the last egg collection

What’s Up for the Rest of the Spring?

Beginning May 24th, Kristin and her crew will return to Georgian Bay and Severn Sound for their 17 day Spring Walleye Index Netting program. Occasionally they capture muskie and if water temperatures do not rise too much, occasionally they can still be ripe.  We left G Bay Friday with a temp of 16C.  Staff at the UPGLMU have consulted with one another and our District staff and have offered to do what they can to still help us still facilitate a muskie egg collection for the Fleming Hatchery.

 

Meanwhile, we will try to keep MC and OF&G members updated (with much shorter reportsJ) on progress in the hatchery and from Georgian Bay.

 

Thanks to all our partners for your support. A special thank you to all the amazing staff who spent long days aboard the trapnetting boat and all those back in the District’s and Management Unit who helped make it all happen.

 

Wil

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