With over 100,00 lakes in Manitoba, angling for trout is a popular pastime, but some regions are more abundant than others. UWinnipeg biologist and Chancellor’s Research Chair Dr. Caleb Hasler would like to know why.
Hasler is has partnered with Derek Kroeker and Eric Mullen at Province of Manitoba’s Agriculture and Resource Development division, Ryan Suffron at Travel Manitoba, Dr. Kenneth Jeffries at University of Manitoba and Dr. Steve Cooke at Carleton University to investigate how recreational fishing activities influence lake trout populations in Manitoba.
“The northern populations are doing very well and there are many opportunities to catch trophy lake trout,” he said. “In the southeast, the populations are less productive and recreational angling opportunities may be suffering. Generally, the fish are smaller, and more fishing effort is needed to capture lake trout.”
Their study, Quantifying consequences of recreational angling on lake trout and developing best practices to promote survival, recently received an NSERC Alliance Grant which allows the research team to investigate more lakes and explore more biomarkers to understand how recreational angling activities are impacting lake trout populations. This project is also supported by a Fisheries and Wildlife Enhancement Fund administered by the Government of Manitoba’s Agriculture and Resource Development division.
Research aims to improve fishing opportunities
Master of Science in Bioscience, Technology, and Public Policy students Bradley Howell and Giulio Navarroli will be working with Hasler, conducting lake trout population surveys across Manitoba.
Navarroli is excited for the opportunity to work with Hasler, who he calls a “superstar professor sensation”.
“If we can understand what is happening in these southeastern lakes, we will be able to support management decisions to improve fishing opportunities,” said Navarroli.
Hasler is thrilled to have Navarroli and Howell on his team.
“The priority for the project is to train graduate and undergraduate students to gain the necessary skills to become fisheries biologists,” said Hasler. “The questions they will answer will be used by provincial fisheries biologists to support sustainable lake trout populations in Manitoba.”
Social media campaign educates fish anglers
Hasler and his research team are performing stock assessment on eight Manitoba lakes. They will also be studying the trout’s physiological and behavioural responses to catch and release angling. At the same time, Tourism Manitoba is developing social media content to highlight best practices and educate anglers on how their behaviour impacts fish health.
“Tourism Manitoba’s social media creators and influencers will be vital for delivering our suggestions for better handling of recreationally caught lake trout,” said Hasler. “Communication is key with these sorts of projects, and having people involved that are experts on this is so important.”
While Hasler hopes these efforts will increase awareness of the importance of preserving trout population in Manitoba, what that will look like is still being determined.
“It is difficult to say what the consequences are if anglers don’t change their behaviours because we don’t know what behaviours are key for lake trout health in Manitoba,” said Hasler. “Based on previous work, we can say that it likely involves minimizing fight times, reducing air exposure, and getting fish back into the water as quick as possible.”
Hasler doesn’t get out fishing as often as he’d like but he looks forward to the day when his son is old enough to take ice fishing. He hopes that continued conservation efforts will protect Manitoba’s trout population and ensure future generations can enjoy Manitoba’s world-class fishing.