May 7, 2019 11:38 am
Updated: May 8, 2019 11:23 am

Fishing changes coming to Lake Winnipeg to help restore fish population

Lake Winnipeg at Gimli.

Sam Thompson / Global News

The Manitoba government announced Monday that it hopes to restore Lake Winnipeg‘s supply of fish by implementing a number of new measures.

Sustainable development minister Rochelle Squires said the province will be introducing new minimum mesh sizes for commercial fishers’ nets, as well as new limits on the size of fish that can be kept by anglers.

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University of Winnipeg biologist Scott Forbes told 680 CJOB the announcement is a step in the right direction.

READ MORE: Walleye, sauger in danger of disappearing from Lake Winnipeg, says Manitoba Wildlife Federation

Forbes said the major concern on the lake is that overfishing has made the lake’s population unsustainable, and he’s hoping the new mesh sizes – as well as the province buying back almost $5.5 million in quotas from commercial fishers – will help to remedy that.

“They’re buying them out of the fishery. For each commercial fisher on Lake Winnipeg, to fish walleye, sauger or whitefish, has to hold an individual quota that they purchase. It’s been the view for some time that the lake quota for Lake Winnipeg has been too large,” said Forbes.

“Historically, they’ve targeted the most valuable species, which is walleye. The total lake quota, which is over 6.6 million kilograms, is anywhere from two to five times the sustainable harvest of walleye, so it just doesn’t work.”

Forbes said the overfishing means fishers on Lake Winnipeg are, basically, catching baby fish years before they reach maturity, and that’s not a sustainable policy.

READ MORE: Manitoba hands out almost $7,000 in fines for Americans’ filched fish

“We need to protect immature females and allow them to reach spawning age,” he said. “It reduces, in the short-term, their harvest, but in the longer term, these fish will be bigger and fatter.”

The changes for anglers mean that as of April 2020, a walleye or sauger from Lake Winnipeg must be a minimum length of 35 cm if they’re to be kept.

The changes, the province hopes, will allow more of the smaller fish to grow to spawning size and naturally increase the population quantities on the lake.

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