Let’s keep fishing alive in Haliburton County

March 24 2015

I read with interest and some nostalgia the article from the March7 1995 edition of The Echo which talks of closing 43 lake trout lakesto winter fishing and restricting fishing on 42 others. Twenty yearsago the outdoors association used the MNR’s own science and research to prove these new regulations were misguided.
We as an outdoorsassociation decided that we wanted to do our part and help determine the destiny of fishing in Haliburton County.
The Haliburton HighlandsOutdoor Association approached the Hon. Chris Hodgson Minister ofNatural Resources with the idea of gathering lake trout eggs locally;raising and stocking yearlings back into our local lake thus keepingthe genetics of our local fish intact. Chris put his support behind usand sped up the process of hiring an extension biologist to work withours and other organizations. David Flowers was hired to fill thatposition. Without Chris’s support and David’s mentoring we would nothave gotten to first base.
The new rules of 1995 came from studies oflakes five times larger than our local lakes. The slot sizes were notappropriate for our lakes simply because local trout don’t grow as bigin smaller lakes. Another part of the decision making process was theamount of summer and winter fishing pressure. Again using MNRinformation the only lakes that should fall within the new guidelineswere lakes along the Hwy. 35 corridor. Based on this the lakes not inthis highway corridor were excluded from the new rules.
Winter closuresto sport fishing on smaller lakes are still in effect. The science shows that winter fishing yields predominantly males whereas the last twomonths August and September are females. Only seven per cent of theyears catch is in this time frame; however eighty per cent are females.This far exceeds the number of females that would be caught through thewinter fishery. Over the past twenty years no changes have been made tothe small lake winter closures. Perhaps it is time to re-think theseregulations.
I have been a volunteer and supporter of the outdoorsassociation (fish hatchery) since its beginning in the mid-1990s. I have watched how our hatchery with 50 to 60 volunteers has helped to sustain the sport of fishing in our county. There has been a lot of talk aboutwhether stocking of our lakes has contributed to tourism. I don’t knowthat anyone has a good sense of what draws people to vacation inHaliburton but there are plenty of local folk and cottagers theessence of our economy that are out on our lakes with their kids andgrandkids trying to catch a fish. There are few communities that arewithin a three hour drive of a major urban centre that can offer thequality of fishing that we offer. This county is unique in what it canoffer and fishing is one of those things that make living here veryspecial.
Many of you may have hooked a rainbow trout or a brook trout.But in Haliburton County you are likely to catch a unique species oflake trout known as the Haliburton Gold. They don’t grow as big as someother types of trout but they are good fighters and a great tastingfish. Because they are small our lakes can support more fish eventhough they may not be trophy fish. The “Gold” reproduces two yearssooner than their northern cousins enabling a lake to recover sooner.The name comes from the colour of their eggs. Each year your local fish hatchery volunteers go on an egg hunt to Halls Lake or Redstone Lake to collect eggs from pregnant females that are ready to spawn. The females are returned to the lake after we have collected the eggs. The eggs are then fertilized and taken to the hatchery where in three months theyhatch. These baby fish are treated with tender loving care with theproper feed water temperature and cleaning to ensure that there isminimal opportunity for contamination. We adjust the size and quantityof feed as they grow. In 18 months they are about three to four inchesand are ready to be returned to the lakes. The Haliburton hatchery hasstocked more than a half million fish since the program began in thelate 1990s. In addition to the various species of lake trout thehatchery has stocked our local lakes with brook trout rainbow trout and pickerel (walleye).
Although it has been tougher to operate thehatchery with the cutbacks in government funding our community has been generous with its donations and support of our fund raising events.With the continued support of our volunteers and the community we hopeto keep sport fishing alive and well in Haliburton County for ourselvesand for future generations.

Larry Hewitt
Past president and volunteer at the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association