Going Fishing? Get Your Fishing Facts Here
Many people still associate fishing with a leisurely day sitting at the edge of the dock or floating in a small boat with family and friends.
But the sport fishery is an aggressive industry that has probably done as much, or more, damage to the natural aquatic system of the Great Lakes than any other industry.
Please consider these facts before picking up your fishing rod.
Currently, Ontario produces 8 million fish (not including eggs or private hatcheries) for stocking in 1,200 lakes, rivers and streams. Many of these artificially raised fish are non-native and hybrids, that would never occur in nature, but which compete with native species. Fifty percent are used solely for stocking ‘Put-Grow-Take’ programs;
“Put-Grow-Take” artificially stock inland waters, turning our wilderness lakes and rivers into “holding tanks” for the sole purpose of maintaining and bolstering an over-exploited recreational fishery, and making a mockery out of the concept of 'sustainable use';
Non-native fish often out-compete native species for food and habitat, and diseases associated with captive-breeding of hatchery fish have shown up in our lakes;
Sport fish considered ‘at risk’ continue to be harvested to bolster local economies, jeopardizing the species’ long term survival. Several of these species have already reached economic or even biological extinction;
Native aquatic predators, such as colonial waterbirds, are targeted for control to protect prized but often non native sport fish such as pacific salmon or bait fish such as alewife. This represents a complete reversal in policy – killing a native species to protect an invasive species.
Non-native fish stocked by the Ontario Government:
Rainbow (steelhead) Trout - salmonid and native only to the pacific slope of North America. It is the most widely introduced fish species on a global basis;
Brown Trout – native to Europe and western Asia;
Chinook Salmon – native to the pacific slope of North America from northern California to the Bering Sea including the arctic waters of Canada and Russia (Chukchi Sea);
Coho Salmon - An aggressive predator whose traditional range extends to both sides of the North Pacific ocean, from Hokkaido, Japan to eastern Russia, around the Bering Sea to mainland Alaska, and south all the way to Monterey Bay, California;
Splake – hybrid between brook and lake trout. Splake does not naturally exist anywhere in the world. This hybrid fish is fertile and can cross breed, polluting natural gene pools. There are few studies assessing the impacts of splake on other fish or the overall Great Lakes ecology.
Stocked Native Fish Species
Aurora Trout – rare. Naturally found in only two lakes in northeastern Ontario. No angling is allowed in the original two lakes, however the aurora trout has been introduced into non native lakes in northern Ontario solely for creating sport fishing opportunities.
Lake Trout (lake char) - Has been severely damaged by hatchery stocking and over harvest. Pacific salmon directly compete with native lake trout for food and habitat.
Brook (speckled) Trout – cold water char. Widely distributed throughout Canada east of Manitoba. Sensitive to pollution especially acid lakes.
Walleye – Largest member of the perch family. Native to the freshwaters of North America. Lake Erie is renowned for its walleye sport fishery.
Lake Whitefish – commercially important. Native to the Great Lakes and prefers deep cold waters. The Lake Simcoe population is listed as a species at risk but is afforded no protection. Lake whitefish on Lake Simcoe is popular during ice fishing.
Muskellunge - muskie or musky. Large, relatively rare freshwater fish of North America. They are the largest member of the pike family and the largest freshwater fish in Canada next to sturgeons. Muskellunge are only found in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River water system, Hudson Bay and the Upper Mississippi Valley. They prefer cold, clear lakes and large rivers.
Fish Species At Risk
Often for political reasons, some commercially important species are not listed ‘at risk’ but are stocked such as the American Eel, Lake Trout, Lake Whitefish and the Aurora Trout.
The following fish species are listed ‘at risk’ in Ontario but are given no protection.
northern madtom; pugnose shiner; black redhorse; channel darter; deepwater sculpin; eastern sand darter; lake chubsucker; lake whitefish (lake simcoe pop.) redside dace; shortjaw cisco; spotted gar; bigmouth buffalo; black buffalo; blackstripe topminnow; bridle shiner; greenside darter; kiyi; northern black lamprey; orangespotted sunfish; pugnose minnow; river rednose; silver chub; silver shiner; spotted sucker, and warmouth. Click here to read more.
Main Source: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Fisheries and Oceans Canada