Changes proposed to Lake of the Woods walleye regs

by Editorial Staff | December 7, 2022
walleye on a green lure

Proposed changes to walleye regulations for Lake of the Woods would reduce catch and possession limits and change daily catch and retain sizes in order to lessen annual angler harvest and fishing pressure on the lake’s walleye population.

The changes, detailed on the Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO), are open to public comment until Jan. 9, 2023, at 11:59 p.m.

According to the posting, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) monitoring data indicates that the lake’s walleye population is vulnerable to continued high-levels of harvest to the point where the current harvest, along with other factors, poses a risk to the quality of this important walleye fishery.

To address this concern, the MNRF formed the Lake of the Woods Fisheries Advisory Council in 2021, with representatives from several local Indigenous communities, tourism operators, municipal government, and recreational users. The council developed the Lake of the Woods Draft Recreational Walleye Plan, which aims to improve available biomass and age structure of the walleye population. It is hoped this will improve angling quality without negatively impacting the local tourism economy.

To read the plan and proposed regulatory changes in detail, click here

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Comments

  1. Al Smith wrote: ubject: final draft Walleye regulation changes Happy Holidays Mr. MNRF Biologist, I have been a fishing and hunting guide on Lake of the Woods for over 50 years. My father bought our property in 1970 and we built our resort on the northeast corner of the lake from the ground up. I learned the art of cooking shorelunch in the late 60's and did my first guided fishing trip with shore lunch at 12 years old. I am now 63 years old and still guiding fishermen to keep our nine cabins filled. My guests eat usually 3-4 smaller fillets out on a wilderness Island and they can take two fish home to share with their families. That guarantees return customers year after year. By reducing the walleye/pickerel limit so that taxpayers can no longer catch and keep enough pickerel to have a fish fry for their family is a very clear indication that MNRF has failed to manage the pickerel/walleye stock in Lake of the Woods as a self sustaining fishery. Also, as soon as you tell people they cannot keep enough fish to feed their families in a one day outing folks will just do it anyway, which will force them to break the law just to feed their family. We have lived through the very embarrassing walleye wars of the 90's between Ontario and Minnesota (October 1999) and it's once again pitiful to hear the same basic nonsense and misinformed opinions coming out of some of the mouths of those on the current MNRF advisory committee. Most do not have the experience or the knowledge required to make suggestions on such an economically important subject. I was honored to be asked by the current MNRF District Manager, Brian (a great guy) to sit on the advisory committee. I declined because I could not afford to dedicate the time, especially knowing the Bio's really do not want my advice, they just want me to agree with what they have already decided to do. First thing I would like to say is, the walleye/pickerel,( pickerel is a more appetizing name used by the commercial fishing industry) is not only a recreational fishery but is also an important food fishery. I say that because the walleye/pickerel is about the only fish that the majority of taxpaying Canadians and non resident tourists are willing to eat. The reduced limit on this popular fish will severely impact the sales of high priced non resident sport fishing licenses, which in turn impacts the entire region as the non residents will find other fisheries with more 6-8 fish limits, taking their tourism dollars out of Ontario. Crappie, perch, whitefish, lake trout, burbot, and some pike also fit into the fish for food category, but do not draw the tourism dollars that the ever so popular walleye does. The recreational fish species in Lake of the Woods I consider to be musky, bass and great northern pike, lake trout, burbot and sturgeon. Tax paying Canadians are no longer allowed to fish for sturgeon in Lake of the Woods because they are protected and not managed, even though the sturgeon hatchery on Rainy River is very successful the last time we visited. The anglers are definitely not responsible for depleting the large walleye biomass on the lake. Most anglers in the last 20 years followed the length limits as they were reduced and have accepted and gotten comfortable releasing walleye over 18" and the one over 18" allows an angler to to keep a larger walleye fatally injured in the release process. and if a 30" 10 pound walleye dies during the release process and the customer would like to get that fish mounted the current law allows them to. Plus a taxidermy fish is the best and longest lasting marketing tool a resort operator can have. Also if an angler were to release a walleye in a protected slot knowing it was going to die from torn gills, dropping on floor of boat or one of the many injuries that can occur, that angler would be breaking Ontario law for allowing fish flesh suitable for human consumption to spoil. I have been a buyer of Lake of the Woods commercial fish for over 30 years. I do believe Lake of the Woods can sustain a commercial fishery. However the days of the gill net must come to an end. The commercial fishers must make the switch to modern trap style gear similar to what they traditionally used before the modern gill nets. With the current day gill nets there are far to many mature spawning non target species being killed and wasted. Many indigenous fishers are not concerned about the waste because the birds, dogs and fur-bearing animals usually eat the fish that are perfectly suitable for human consumption. But few will buy. The MNRF biologists should be responsible for learning and then teaching the new methods of harvesting target species without the enormous waste that happens with gillnets. Then continuing the education with Merwin traps fishers can strip enough mature walleyes for the roe and milt and put them in the much needed hatchery that can be incorporated into clean water drinking system upgrade the many indigenous communities are asking for. Even though the biologists over the years have said stocking walleye in our lake would do no good, I totally disagree because we need a walleye hatchery in Kenora for the education to continue. And I believe it would show that someone cares. Right few seem to care about the resource or the fishing industry. If they did care we would not be having this conversation. Last year I had the Minister of Natural Resources (who is a close long time friend) witnessing the commercial fish coming in. If I did not accept that fish most of it would have frozen in the tubs and gone to the dump. It happens. Now that Ive told my story here are my recommendations: 1. save some reprint money and leave the walleye regulations as they are,instead of confusing people and taking the fun out of fishing by levying fines for ridiculous laws and changes that people don't even know exist. Current regulations are accepted, and for the most part understood and followed by the majority of tax paying anglers, resident and non-resident alike. 2. Four walleye/ sauger combination with only 1 over 18" should stay the same. 3. No actual slot limit is necessary. 4. Remove the walleye party fishing regulation which is insanely ridiculous. Few even know that is a law and it is never followed. In closing my dear friend is currently our MPP and we have spent many hours together on the land and on the international water that is Lake of the Woods and he shares my views 100% Al Smith