Around 350 people packed Lac Bellevue Hall to address zero catch limit on walleye at local lakes
It was a full house on Wednesday evening as just under 350 people attending a meeting to address the catch & release policy on walleye at local lakes. Along with avid fisherman, there were many local politicians in the room to hear the issue; including, MLAs Dave Hanson (Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills), Scott Cyr (Bonnyville-Cold Lake) and Todd Loewan (Grand Prairie); as well as Mayor of Cold Lake Craig Copeland. Mayor of Lac La Biche County, Omer Moghrabi and Reeve for the County of St. Paul Steve Upham. The meeting was spearheaded in part by local volunteer and former regional director for the Alberta Government & past present of Alberta Fish & Game, fish biologist Ray Makowecki.
“The issue has been that there are several lakes in Northeast Alberta here have remained closed to taking walleye, as a fish that [fishers] can take and consume. That has been the issue and been in existence, for some lakes 20 years,” Makowecki says the issue was discussed at length and from discussions there were three unanimous statements that came from the meeting:
- The zero catch limit on walleye is unacceptable
- The tag system is unacceptable
- One fish per angler should be the minimum
“This was a real show, from all of these people, of what people really think. There’s a high concern and in some cases there’s even anger to change things out here.” Is the existing limit of zero catch limit on walleye acceptable, “clearly, unanimously, the room said it was totally unacceptable.”
“There’s so many walleye. The room talked about how many walleye you catch, it’s over 100. As people came up to the mic they spoke on 15-20 different lakes and all of them spoke of abundant numbers of walleye and they couldn’t keep any.” Makowecki explains the public felt there was an imbalance of fish and that there could be adverse affects on other fish and walleye due to the overpopulation of walleye. “There’s certainly some value in using fish, especially from an ecological sense. The came down to the reason, for the government, to close these lakes, the science behind it.”
Once a lake is closed to keeping fish, by the government, it is considered collapsed. The government uses a gill-netting system to determine whether or not a lake is collapsed. “The collapsed conditions (set by the government) on these lakes is contradictory to that of what the anglers are seeing. The anglers are saying there’s lots and lots of fish, so there’s a contradiction.” explains Makowecki. There are around 50 lakes that are collapsed; including Cold Lake and Lac La Biche Lake.
An important issue addressed was the tag system and would people be willing to go to a tag system, says Makowecki. “The tag system is when you apply to the government and you might be drawn. If you are drawn you can apply for tags. Then you have a certain amount of tags that you can fish certain lakes.” The question was asked, “do you favour the tag-draw system and unanimously the people said they do not want the tag system.”
“From that, the discussion went, then what can we do,” Makowecki said that the room was very favourable to the statement that in any lake there should be one fish they should be able to keep. “One would be the limit. At least one fish per angler.” There was a lot of debate from there on the size and weight of the fish, whether there should be requirements set on those standards. “The length of the season was also discussed, you could limit it to one day or a certain week.” There needs to be a healthy balance where anglers can keep fish, but the fish population remains healthy.
I’m a resident here, an avid fisherman. I’m getting old & I’d like to be able to keep some fish! – Ray Makowecki
Makowecki and fellow organizers, Clancy Makowecki and Ray Danyluk gathered information from the meeting; including forms that they had asked the public to fill out with their feedback. From there the organizers will compile next steps; that will include how to get this feedback to the Provincial government. There has also been discussions of organizing a group to help get the message to the government and continue the efforts.
Makowecki says overall the meeting gave the group some excellent feedback and gave them a clearer picture of the thoughts of the local anglers. A big thank you to the Lac Bellevue Recreation &Ag Society for hosting the event, “that group was very instrumental in making the event possible.” The St. Paul Ag Society, St. Paul Fish & Game, and the Beaver River Fish & Game were co-sponsors of the meeting. If you would like to contribute your feedback contact Ray Makowecki at 780 918-5527