Monday , 2 August 2021
Winter fish kill at the Vermilion Reservoir, February 24.

Winter fish kill at Vermilion Reservoir a “natural” process

Locals spotted a fish kill at an open spot of the Vermilion Reservoir last week.

Both local fishermen and authorities eased concerns assuring that it is a natural, biological process that often occurs this time of year.

“Winter kills are somewhat common in eutrophic [nutrient-rich] lakes within the region, which often feature shallower waters in warmer, drier climates in areas with heavier land use,” said Jason Penner, Communications Advisor for Alberta Environment & Parks.

“Nutrient rich lakes, including Vermilion Reservoir, support abundant plant growth. As plants decompose, oxygen levels are reduced. Early freeze-up and snow cover are often contributing factors.”

Fortunately, he said winter kills are seldom as bad as they appear, and the fish will most likely replenish themselves. Penner said the Vermilion Reservoir contains populations of White Sucker, Fathead Minnows, and Brook Stickleback.

If you are looking for more information on summer or winter fish kills, you can visit My Wild Alberta.

“The province does not remove the fish in these cases. Sometimes municipalities choose to but in most cases, they’re left to Mother Nature. Birds tend to be very efficient in cleaning up fish along shorelines,” said Penner.

New ice fishing regulations

Being ice fishing season, district Fish & Wildlife Officer Mitch Visser, described some new regulations this year. Legislation surrounding the shacks set up on lakes for ice fishing has changed.

If shacks are set up and left for longer than a 24-hour period, they have to be marked with the fisher’s name and phone number or Wildlife Identification Number. Ice fishing shacks in the Lakeland area will have to be removed from the lake prior to March 31.

“We’re still educating people on this because it is the first winter for it. Southern Alberta’s deadline will be March 15,” said Visser.

The date variance shows that as they warm up, southern lakes have the potential to become hazardous sooner.

New sport fishing regulations will also be announced April 1.

Visser has worked in the industry for over 20 years, and continues to love the diversity and flexibility of the job.

He attributes a large portion of his choice of work to his parents, having grown up with a lot of outdoor activities including hunting and fishing. They also hooked him up with a local fish & wildlife officer for ride-a-longs to see what the job was all about.

For the past five years he has been working out of Vermilion covering an area from the south side of Fishing Lake Metis Settlement and Frog Lake First Nation to Edgerton, Chauvin, and CFB Wainwright and from Kinsella and Innisfree east to the Saskatchewan border. The parkland region is located on the edge of the Boreal forest and prairies offering a mixture of both.

“Every place is different. It’s beautiful with rolling hills, prairie, bush, the North Saskatchewan River valley – a bit of everything,” said Visser.

He said he’s had a great career and wouldn’t change a thing.

“My job is about protecting the resources, making sure they are there for the next generations to come.”


About Angela Mouly

Angela comes to Lakeland Connect after leaving traditional newspaper where she spent the past four years reporting on community events. Her repertoire includes writing about history, politics, agriculture, sports, entertainment and art. She was the third place recipient of an AWNA General Excellence Award for “Best Front Page” during their 2016 Better Newspaper Competition. Angela has lived in rural Alberta all her life and in Vermilion for the past 15 years. She looks forward to continuing to serve and inform the Lakeland community by joining in people's many adventures and sharing their stories.