Spring is finally upon us here on Lac Kipawa. While Two Moon Point seems to have missed the blackfly season entirely, a “healthy hatch” of mosquitoes have arrived in its place. These pesky buzzers feed our birds and fish, but if not for the maligned mosquito, everyone would want to live here.
Insect life is a key indicator of the health of an ecosystem. Our blueberry bushes are in full bloom, so are the dandelions. People like blueberries, lawncare lovers hate dandelions. Kinda like walleye and bass. To some, a fish is a fish; to others, there is only one species that matters. Go back fifteen years, and no one here was catching smallmouth bass. Yet this year, more than ever, the smallies seem to have moved into the same places where walleye once did their post-spawn feeding.
There are a number of camp-chair theories for this: illegal stocking, minnow bucket or bilge spillage, climate change. Fact is, the bass are here and based on the size and numbers we have been unintentionally catching during the past two weeks, they seem to be doing quite well. Word is that bass are making their way further south on the lake each year.
I am not convinced that this is necessarily a bad thing for the walleye, or for the lake. During the bass spawning season in June it may seem like the bass are taking over the lake, yet walleye catch numbers during the summer and fall are stronger than ever. I believe the lake is changing, and the fish are adapting to these changes, maybe faster than the angler who goes back to the same spot and fishes the same way they have for the past thirty years. While the guys fishing this week caught more and bigger bass than they ever have, some fantastic walleye also were caught and released. Many walleye were taken while trolling islands and openings of bays, in deeper water than usual, or after sunset, when the nest-guarding bass go to sleep and the marble-eyed walleye feed best.
Lake Kipawa is a freshwater marine environment, and like all ecosystems, it is in a constant state of change. These changes may not always be positive, but they are not all necessarily bad. From a fisherman’s point of view, it might require new locations or strategies to get the species they are targeting. From a stakeholder’s point of view, it means vigilant monitoring of the environment to flag changes that might not be positive. That is why, every second week, I’ll be out in Loon Bay taking measurements of water clarity, conductivity, pH and temperature, uploading these to shared databases where the information is used to monitor environmental changes and for resource management decisions. It’s one thing to theorize what is going on with the fishing over a few Molsons on the deck; having hard data to identify the changes is another.
My advice to the dandelion-haters: Google up some healthy and tasty recipes for the yellow weeds. They make a great side dish with fresh bass fillets. Just an idea–bass season is open next week!