Calgary

Restocking Alberta's lakes with walleye could promote economy, says province

The creation of a walleye restocking program could promote the economy and tourism, says Alberta Environment and Parks.

Environment and Parks has been holding consultations with anglers across Alberta

Alberta lakes and reservoirs may be stocked with more fish, specifically walleye, which is the largest member of the perch family. (Lisa Roper)

The creation of a walleye restocking program could promote the economy and tourism, says Alberta Environment and Parks.

The idea — which was proposed by the Environment minister — is meant to create stock for anglers participating in recreational fishing. 

The province has held eight out of 12 planned community consultations with anglers across Alberta to ask if its lakes and reservoirs should be stocked annually with walleye and other fish.

Travis Ripley, the executive director of fish and wildlife policy for the government, told the Calgary Eyeopener that it's better to stock the lakes with fish and maintain that each year rather than dump them in all at once.

"What we'd like some angler feedback on is perhaps putting in place a more ongoing, long-term, walleye stocking program. That's what we call a 'put, grow and take,'" he said. 

Ripley explains that in order to execute the plan, they need to have a "donor lake."

Once that is in order, the process would involve taking the walleye out of the donor lake and bringing them to a hatchery so they can create offspring. They would then put the young fish into a new lake and allow them to grow so anglers can harvest. 

"But we won't just do it once or twice. We'll do it every year to try to keep the population running fully," he said.

Why walleye?

Ripley says walleye — also known as yellow pike — is one of Alberta's top three fish that anglers like to catch. Rainbow trout and northern pike also make the list.

"I think we're looking at walleye now because it's a species that we have grown in our fish hatcheries and we're capable of reproducing them in hatcheries.… We just know a little bit more about them," he said.

Travis Ripley says walleye, also known as yellow pike, are delicious to eat. (Emily Rendell-Watson/CBC)

In the future, he says, they plan on continuing to grow Alberta's fisheries and will be looking at stocking other streams of fish as well.

"But right now, the focus is just going to be mostly on the walleye and the trout," he said.

'Great for the economy'

The executive director says getting people out fishing is great for the economy.

"We would really like to promote fishing in general," he said. 'It will attract a lot more people from maybe outside Alberta."

He adds that it could also drive local economies.

"We will be focusing on help and assistance from local clubs, fishing clubs, fishing game associations and those types of angler groups that are really interested in supporting us," he said

So far, consulting sessions have been held in Calgary, Lethbridge, Drumheller and other parts of southern Alberta. Ripley says they will now be meeting with anglers farther north, like Edmonton and Slave Lake.

"I think anglers are really excited about what the fishing potential has to offer in Alberta," he said.

"It's not just the stocking we're getting good feedback on. They're giving us ideas where they would like to see the fish, what types of fish they would like to see in those ponds."

Lisa Roper catches a 28.5 inch walleye on Lac La Biche Tuesday evening. 1:12

Other topics Ripley says have been discussed are the regulations of how many fish you can keep as well as potentially putting in slot limits.

"It's been really energized. The staff, the biologists as well as the anglers in terms of thinking about new and innovative ways we could do fisheries management in this province," he said.

If you're interested in giving feedback but can't make it to a session, Ripley says you can go online and share your opinion here.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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