Carp diem: Anglers work to seize, save fish stranded by receding water levels

A fishing association, ministry staff and local firefighters all worked to free the bottom-feeding fish from imminent death after the Quebec floods.

Fishermen, ministry staff, local firefighters all worked to free the bottom-feeding fish from imminent death

A man works to save a carp stuck in a soccer net in a park near the Lake of Two Mountains, which is part of the river delta widening of the Ottawa River where it meets the St. Lawrence River. The carp was displaced by severe flooding in Quebec. (Justin Taus)

To some, they're bottom feeders, dull-eyed and slimy.

But to Quebec's Carp Anglers Association, the large and hardy fish are to be respected, not least because their size and shape make them a worthy adversary for catch-and-release fishers.

That respect led members of the association to spend their weekend organizing rescue missions for dozens of fish trapped ashore in small ponds created by receding floodwater levels along the Lake of Two Mountains. It also led to two fines, which were later retracted, from the province's Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks.

"There's no life — a human life or an animal life —  that should be wasted. Even if it's not for a species you consider valuable, you have to do your best," said the association's founder and president, Simon Gosselin.

On Saturday, two members of the association noticed roughly 60 carp trapped in a field in Pointe-Calumet.

Using their nets, they worked to transport the fish back to the lake — but were stopped by ministry staff, who informed them what they were doing was illegal and told the fishermen they'd be fined.

Indeed, it is prohibited to fish with nets and to take live fish and reintroduce them to a body of water. Offenders face fines starting at $1,000.

Carp stuck in soccer nets 

On the same day, a concerned citizen called the association saying there was flooding in Central Park in the town of Deux-Montagnes, slightly inland from the lake.

Several carp swim in a puddle in a park near the Lake of Two Mountains. (Justin Taus)
The area near the lake, which is part of the delta of the Ottawa River where it meets the St. Lawrence River, has been subject to severe flooding.

At its peak, the water extended over the park's fence.

By then, the water had receded to the point the fish were no longer able to swim back into the lake. Some were already getting stuck in soccer nets. They would die without help, said Gosselin.

But once again, they were told wardens needed to help them remove the fish, and that anyone doing so on their own could face fines.

Despite these roadblocks, Gosselin was undeterred in his mission to save the fish.

He called the ministry to work something out. Other anglers engaged local firefighters in Deux-Montagnes to help reintegrate the fish trapped in Central Park back into the lake.

Friends of carp are friends of the ministry

Finally, on Monday, the ministry confirmed it would drop the fines against the two anglers involved

More carp swim inside a park near the Lake of Two Mountains. The fish were displaced by flooding, but as water levels receded, they got stuck. (Justin Taus)
Ministry spokesperson Jacques Nadeau told CBC News "any people who take effective actions to help wildlife are friends" of his department.

He said because the fishermen were well-equipped to help reintegrate the fish to their natural ecosystem, they would not be fined.

Nadeau did add that anyone else in similar situations should call the ministry for help before trying to reintegrate an animal into an ecosystem.

Gosselin said he expects that in the next few days, there will be more rescue efforts to save carp in places such as Oka, Laval, and Montreal North as water levels continue to recede. The group, comprised of about 260 people, is organizing.

"We should save every fish we can find," said Gosselin.

With files from CBC's Silvet Ali