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Where are the fish?

Brent Reaney
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 18/05) - Artificial stocking, a detailed population assessment, and a reduced catch limit are among the ideas put forward by anglers to help manage fish stocks along the Ingraham trail.

Kevin Glenn fills out a questionnaire asking anglers their opinion on the health of the fish stocks in lakes along the Ingraham Trail during an informal Dept. of Fisheries meeting, March 14. - Brent Reaney/NNSL photo

Starting with a public meeting on March 14, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is trying to decide what, if anything, should be done for the fish in the 50-some lakes adjacent to the trail.

At a December meeting with groups including the North Slave Metis Alliance and the Yellowknives Dene, DFO officials say they heard a number of concerns. Among them were Yellowknife's growing population, and how it is affecting fishing.

Through gathering questionnaires and a telephone poll of Yellowknife households, DFO wants to determine the level of sport and subsistence fishing on the trail's lakes.

"People are starting to ask questions, like 'how are those fish stocks doing?" said Julie Dahl, chief of habitat at DFO.

Studies the department has from a small number of lakes on the trail show it now takes longer for anglers to catch fish.

None of the meeting's 20 participants disputed that fish stocks are decreasing, but more than one person suggested other factors, such as contaminated water, could be the cause.

A full-scale stock study was not ruled out by Dahl, adding DFO is not yet talking about a reduction in the catch limits, just "scoping the issues."

Current daily limits on the Ingraham Trail are three lake trout, four pickerel - except during the spring spawn, three pike, and three grayling, with the exception of Baker Creek, which is closed to fishing.

Two people seemed to think the lakes had not been given a chance to recover from extensive commercial fishing done more than 20 years ago.

Ken Hall has owned a cabin on Prosperous Lake for 20 years.

More people are now going fishing on the lake in October, Hall said, and he would like to see the lake closed Sept. 1.

Others mentioned the need for fishing education prior to the distribution of licenses, or more DFO enforcement officers.

Make it mandatory

"It's mandatory for hunting, why not fishing?" asked one of the meeting's 20 participants.

Resident Kevin Glenn says he has seen one officer in 16 years of fishing the lakes surrounding the trail.

DFO officials said they plan to increase from one to three the number of officers in Yellowknife this coming season.

The goal is to hold a conservation workshop in April involving people affected.