In announcing the change on the its Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) website, the ministry stated that its decision took into account advice from the Fisheries Management Zone 17 council, input from the public and stakeholders, and the best science available. The closure goes into effect Jan. 1, 2016.
Back in 2009, the ministry developed a Fisheries Management Plan that identified challenges associated with the recreational fishery in the FMZ. “The observed declines in walleye abundance, and associated shifts in the structure of the fish community, have been identified as the highest priority fisheries management challenge in FMZ 17,” the ministry states.
According to the ministry, the walleye fishery in Lake Scugog, “was excellent in the 1970s and 1980s.” However, the population started to decline in the 1990s and continues to decline today.
“Since the 1990s, walleye abundance has continued to decline due to continued high fishing pressure and the additional factor of low annual recruitment (the number of small/young fish being added to the population each year due to natural reproduction).”
Fish community structure changes may also be impacting walleye abundance in Lake Scugog. According to the ministry, the fish community in Lake Scugog is now dominated by bluegill and black crappie. These fish species compete directly with young walleye for food and habitat.
Black crappie may also prey on young walleye. These factors, among others, may lead to a reduction in the number of walleye that survive to adulthood. “If the walleye fishery is to recover, harvest levels of the past can no longer be sustained.”
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) responded to the MNRF announcement this morning by stating it does not support the year-round closure of the walleye fishery in Lake Scugog based on the information that was used to make the decision.
“We did not feel that all potential management options were adequately assessed,” the OFAH stated. “Anglers are being singled out as the only cause for the decline in Walleye on Lake Scugog. It can’t be shown that angler harvest of Walleye is solely responsible for the declining populations in Lake Scugog. We do know that there are a series of issues still happening that will impact Walleye populations and without addressing these issues, there may be no recovery of the Walleye population even after the closure.”