Anglers hoping to catch walleye in Moose Lake this summer will need to apply for their special harvest license tags before April 22.
Moose Lake is one of several lakes in the Lakeland region to have a zero limit on walleye unless the person has tags. Other lakes with a zero limit for walleye include Angling Lake, Ethel Lake, Hilda Lake and Wolf Lake in the Bonnyville area, and Seibert Lake near Lac La Biche.
A full list of lakes in the NB1 zone and the catch limits for different species of fish is available on the Alberta Regulations website.
According to the Acting Regional Director of Fish and Wildlife Stewardship in the northeast region Jordan Walker, the special harvest licenses are modeled after the hunting draw process. Anglers wishing to receive tags can apply through the AlbertaRELM website, or at a license issuer.
“[The special harvest license] is to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishery and the benefits that we get from that in the long term, but it also balances the need for some harvest as well,” said Walker.
“So it allows for a limited harvest of walleye at water bodies where our regular size and bag limits wouldn’t be very sustainable,” said Walker.
He said the special harvest licenses apply only to recreational fishing, Indigenous and Metis people fishing with domestic fishing licenses have different harvest conditions. According to the table, Indigenous and Metis anglers may not harvest any walleye under 50 cm from Moose Lake.
According to Walker, fisheries staff assess the populations in different lakes using the fall index netting technique. Gill nets are set overnight in various locations of a lake and the number of fish captured, as well as the age of those fish tells biologists how many fish are in the lake and the health of the population.
“When the status of the fishery changes then we’re able to review and come to public and talk to the public as well about what are some options that we might have for managing going forward. Typically we survey Moose Lake about every three years, but sometimes it’s five,” said Walker.
Recreational anglers are also not permitted to keep northern pike caught in Moose Lake. Walker said at this time, northern pike are limited to catch and release “to try and raise the population levels and ensure its long term sustainability.”
Some lakes closed for the year
Fishers should be aware Goodfish Lake is closed to recreational fishing for the entire year. According to Senior Fisheries Biologist Stephen Spencer, the fish numbers in that lake are quite low.
“We are working with Whitefish First Nation on Goodfish Lake, and they were quite concerned about how low numbers were and the lake levels are way down there,” said Spencer.
“So we put in some really strict regulations, closing the recreational fishery to bring back the fish in that lake. Our plan is to assess it this fall and determine whether that worked or not or if we can open for more harvest or if more restrictions are required,” said Spencer.
The Snug Cove area of Pinehurst Lake, located in the Lakeland Provincial Recreation Area and Burnt Lake, north of Cold Lake are also closed to fishing this year.
Lac Bellevue to be stocked with walleye
In the St. Paul area, Lac Bellevue has a zero limit on northern pike, a one fish 45-50cm limit on walleye, and a ten fish limit on yellow perch. According to Spencer, Lac Bellevue is on the list of lakes to be stocked with walleye this year.
“That was supposed to start last year but we couldn’t do it because of COVID. So this year Lac Bellevue is on the list to receive some small walleyes and in four or five years those will be available for harvest,” said Spencer.
He said fisheries staff are very careful about which lakes they stock because they don’t want to mix up the genetics between wild fish and stock populations. He said the walleye in Lac Bellevue are descended from fish stocks put in the lake during the 1990s.
“They didn’t do very well for years and years and then they finally produced a bunch of young walleye and it took off to be one of the highest catch rates in the province,” said Spencer.
Good fish handling is key
The important thing for all anglers to keep in mind when enjoying the lakes this summer is to follow good handling techniques.
“Releasing the fish in the water is a great way to do that. There are handling cradles that people can use as well, minimizing the amount of time that we handle the fish is really good,” said Walker.
Other tips can be found on the My Wild Alberta website including videos about hook removal, reviving fish, and shallow water. It’s also recommended to fish early in the morning or in the evening when the water is cooler because warm water holds less oxygen and causes additional stress on the fish when it is being caught and released.