A complete ban on recreational walleye fishing in the Bay of Quinte and eastern Lake Ontario is overkill, and there is a far more appropriate solution that can protect both walleye and the rights of non aboriginal and aboriginal anglers.
Protecting the walleye stocks is of primary importance, and we believe it can be done without taking away social and recreational opportunities for anglers, decimating businesses and eroding aboriginal rights,” says Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (O.F.A.H.) Executive Director Mike Reader.
Most certainly, enforcement of conservation laws is key to saving the walleye and, by implementing a size limit system that protects the larger breeding age fish, both walleye and walleye fishing can be saved in the Bay of Quinte, Reader states.
The recent decline in walleye in the Bay is due to many factors, the most significant of which is poor walleye reproduction through the late 1990s, O.F.A.H. biologist Dave Brown explains.
Brown says that, over a period of years, fish populations expand and decline. In recent years, the perch population has exploded and perch have fed heavily on young walleye. With fewer walleye reaching maturity and breeding, the population has declined at an alarming rate.
According to the M.N.R., the numbers of mature walleye have reached critically low levels. There are four fisheries operating in the Bay of Quinte; a recreational fishery, a commercial fishery, an aboriginal spear fishery and an aboriginal gillnet fishery.
M.N.R. reports that in 2000 the total harvest of walleye by these groups was between 120,000 and 130,000 fish. Recreational anglers harvested about 32,000 fish and a small commercial fishery takes about 3,500 fish. Of the total number of fish taken by recreational anglers, only about 13,000 would have been mature breeding stock.
“We have to stop the selective harvest of mature walleye by all groups,” says Brown who reiterates that a total closure is not appropriate when better alternatives such as size limits on all fisheries can be employed while the stock recovers.
If special size limits are put in place to protect spawning age walleye the fishery can recover. Brown notes that excellent research by the Ministry of Natural Resources at Glenora research station indicates clearly that the walleye population can rebound, but, unless the breeding stocks are protected at this point in time, disaster may lurk just around the corner.
We have solutions and the desire to make them work,