Separated from the larger, northern lobe of what was once one lake by construction of the Rideau Canal, picturesque Upper Rideau Lake marks the height of the watershed. The lake is known for its smallmouth and largemouth bass fishing, though lake trout, pike, yellow perch and walleye are also plentiful. Pan fish are also present, including crappie, pumpkinseed, bluegill and lots of rock bass. https://www.anglersatlas.com/place/102515/upper-rideau-lake
Upper Rideau Lake is a shallow meso-eutrophic lake that supports a diversity of mainly warm water and cool water fish communities. The lake is currently managed primarily for Walleye, a fish species which is not native to Upper Rideau Lake.
The objective of this study was twofold: to assess the status of the lake’s Walleye, Yellow Perch and Northern Pike populations using the standardized Fall Walleye Index Netting (FWIN) methodology (Morgan, 2002); and to determine Walleye recruitment rates, which had been presumed as being low based on the lack of smaller-sized mature fish showing up at the main spawning sites in Westport, over the last several years (Westport and Area Outdoor Association Spawning Observation/Collection Reports 2013 Upper Rideau Lake Walleye FWIN Report Final (Aug. 2015)
Joff Cote from the Ministry of Natural Resources answere our questions about walleye
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has determined that there is very little, if any, Walleye (Pickerel) population recruitment occurring (i.e. no longer producing any new generations of fish) in Upper Rideau Lake. The main reason for this is probably due to competition/predation from large populations of bass, Yellow Perch and panfish (sunfish, Black Crappie, Rock Bass) which are eating the young Walleye before they have a chance to become adult. There are two options being proposed for this problem. One is to do nothing and allow the lake to remain a bass, Yellow Perch, panfish and Northern Pike fishery. The other is to try to rehabilitate the lake’s Walleye fishery as this species is what most sport fisherman want to catch. This would be accomplished by encouraging more recreational harvest of these competing fish species, as well as allowing the commercial fisherman to remove a proportion of the bass, and an increased proportion of the Yellow Perch and panfish from the lake over a number of years. The MNRF would then then stock the lake with Walleye fingerlings in the hope that they will be able to survive and grow to adulthood with their competitors/predators reduced.
- Has this second option ever been done in a lake in the past? What was the outcome?Not to my knowledge and definitely not locally. Commercial Fisheries are not too common in relatively small inland lakes (as opposed to the Great Lakes). Similar fish removal attempts have definitely been attempted, with somewhat limited results being reported. But these attempts were not sustained, mostly lead directly by the resource management agencies themselves, as opposed to a commercial fisher who’s already out fishing on a regular and sustained basis.
- How much fish will the commercial fisherman be taking out of our lake (eg how many nets will be out and for how long)? How long will it take him in days/weeks of netting per year for how many years?His existing annual quotas are the following (in Round Weights – i.e. whole fish): Rock Bass 820 lbs; Black Crappie 613 lbs; Sunfish (Pumpkinseed & Bluegill) 4000 lbs; and Yellow Perch 1500 lbs. These would be increased significantly for the first three years, the Yellow Perch would then be returned to the original quota, as the species being Walleye’s main forage base, but we would then review all the quotas. A temporary quota on bass would also need to be created and reviewed after a couple of years. The commercial fisher would be asked to net during the summer, which is currently a closed season from June 21 to Labour Day. He would usually set up to 20 hoop nets at a time but could technically set a lot more. However, in the spring, his main fishing efforts would be with a long seine net in shallow water. As far as how many days/weeks of netting per year, there would likely be an expectation that he’d be out there on a regular basis through the 3 open water seasons, for the first three years, then we would re-evaluate based on his catch rates and some of our own monitoring efforts. But I suspect that after three years, we may ask him to revert back to his regular commercial fishing season, but probably still with somewhat increased quotas.
- How long will it take for the fingerling Walleye to grow big enough to become “keepers” for a fisherman?We will likely want to protect (i.e. Moratorium on Walleye fishing in the lake) the first generation of Walleye, which will reach maturity at age 5 (for females), so if we manage for a self-sustaining, naturally-reproducing population (if we can get the particular stock we need from our hatchery), you’d be looking at ~ 8 years before fish could legally be harvested with the slot size limit of 40 – 50 cm. If we end up managing the lake’s Walleye population as a Put-Grow-Take (continuously stocked) fishery, should we not be able to get the above-mentioned stock we need, then the fish could potentially be legally harvested after 3-4 years, if we forego the Moratorium in this case, but I’m not sure if we would, so you’d likely be looking at the same ~ 8 year timeframe. But regardless of the final rehabilitation option selected, we would still need to deal with the predator/competitor fish species…otherwise, we’d only be feeding the latter with young stocked Walleye!
- Will our lake essentially be not a good lake for fishing for the sum of years from question 2 and 3?No, it will still be a good lake for fishing given the fish population levels, which are clearly not heavily targeted for harvest by recreational anglers. But we will still strongly encourage the recreational harvest of the predator/competitor species…and by the time these latter species are starting to be kept in check with declining numbers, the Walleye should start increasing in size and will be captured (although not be allowed to be harvested).
Fishing Rules, Regulations and Information
- 2017 Ontario Fishing Regulations
- Fish Ontario
- Ontario Federation of Anglers and Fishers
- Fisherman’s Toolbox website
When NOT to go walking in the woods – or when to go if you are a hunter in 2018
White tailed deer: Nov 5 to Nov 18, (Bows only: Dec 3 to Dec 9)
Turkeys: Oct 9 to Oct 21, (Bows only: Oct 1 to Oct 31)
Ontario hunting regulations summary This annual hunting guide summarizes the rules and regulations for hunting in Ontario. It provides information about hunting licences and fees, as well as up-to-date regulations and seasons for each game species. Upper Rideau Lake is in wildlife management area WMU 67.