Thunder Bay

Walleye fishing at levels above sustainable levels in Lake of the Woods: MNRF

Trophy-sized walleye on Lake of the Woods keep anglers coming back, but the level of fish coming out of the lake, is no longer sustainable.

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to get recommendations to help walleye population

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry says recreational anglers are overharvesting walleye on Lake of the Woods. (photo: Gord Ellis/CBC)

Trophy-sized walleye on Lake of the Woods keep anglers coming back, but the level of fish coming out of the lake, is no longer sustainable.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) said the recreational walleye harvest is above sustainable levels on Lake of the Woods, noting commercial and subsistence harvest also takes place on the lake.

The ministry said it uses a netting technique, common across North America, along with creel survey results, which is information collected directly from anglers. 

"MNRF data indicates that the Ontario waters of Lake of the Woods receives a substantial amount of fishing pressure," the Ministry said in a statement.

"MNRF is currently working with the Lake of the Woods Fisheries Advisory Council to develop a recreational walleye management plan that will improve the status of the walleye population while at the same time recognizing the importance that the fishery plays socially and in the regional local economy."

The council has met five times this year, which is comprised of 21 members, including anglers, tourism operators and outfitters, Indigenous communities and other interested parties.

"No options have been decided upon yet, but, we are working to develop a recreational walleye management plan that will improve the status of the walleye population, but at the same time, recognize the importance that the fishery plays," said Jolanta Kowalski, a spokesperson for the MNRF.

Kowalski said the ministry recognizes how important the fishery is socially and economically to communities around Lake of the Woods.

Options to help improve the walleye population include regulatory actions, like new catch limits or changing the walleye season, as well as education, monitoring and research of the species.

The council will then create the Lake of the Woods Recreational Walleye Management Plan, which will be posted to the Environmental Registry of Ontario. The public will then be able to review and comment on the plan.

No date has been finalized as to when the plan will be made public.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources noted in its 2018 report on Lake of the Woods that the harvest for walleye on the U.S. side of the lake remains high.

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