Parks Canada is trying out a new tactic to help control an invasive species in Clear Lake: spearfishing.
It’s part of an effort to clear out an invasive species, the smallmouth bass, which isn’t usually found in Manitoba.
“They’re a top predator fish, and they can do a lot of damage to lakes, because they eat a lot of other fish, which can reduce the populations,” said Parks Canada aquatic ecologist Michele Nicholson.
“They’re also competing for resources. That’s a big concern for us, because local Indigenous people have fishing rights for Clear Lake, but also Clear Lake is a very popular spot for anglers and tourists.”
Nicholson said some Parks Canada staff are taking a spearfishing course as part of the research into the method, as are partners from the Coalition of First Nations with interest in Riding Mountain National Park.
“We are the first people to try spearfishing to control invasive smallmouth bass so it’s really, really exciting and it’s a project we’re doing together to protect Clear Lake,” she said.
“It takes a lot of practice and skill — they’re putting in a lot of time to hone their skill with spearfishing, and they’re getting really good at it.”
The spearfishing research is intended to run until August, with the potential to continue in future if it’s successful. Nicholson said the invasive fish are currently in their reproductive phase, so it’s a good time for the spearfishing trainees to head out on the lake.
“Male smallmouth bass are building their nests in shallow water, and when they do that, they stay in one spot, so we can use spearfishing to dive down and take them out.”