The long and Short of Conservation
When we were operating our first outfitting business near Chapleau, Ontario in the 1990, I was negotiating with an outfitter who was motivated to sell because he believed the MNR was putting him out of business. His reason: the walleye spawning inlet of the lake was to become a fish sanctuary. In his short-term view, guests would stop coming if they couldn’t yank big hens off their spawning beds each May. In my mind: here is a lake that might support a long-term walleye fishery. Twenty-five years later, it still does.
Fast forward to 2008. We are now starting operations at Two Moon Lodge. There is no slot-size limit on walleye and little incentive for catch and release angling. It seemed unbelievable that a resource as valuable as Lake Kipawa would not be protecting the prime breeding fish. Pressure from local interests may have played a role in resisting the imposition of a slot-size. Some outfitters on the lake opposed a slot-size limit arguing the lake could continue to support the pressure while others believed their guests were superior sportsmen who could decide for themselves which fish to release and which to keep.
But human nature is a pretty powerful force, and long-term vision doesn’t come easy when the biggest fish of the trip is on the line. It can be a tough decision to release that big boy back into the lake. Or when you only take one fishing trip North each year and want to bring home your limit. Regulations are imposed and enforced to keep human nature in check. Now, Lake Kipawa is a strictly managed fishery: a 14.5” to 20.75” keep slot for walleye, spawning sanctuaries, live bait restrictions, no winter fishing and stringent lake trout regulations.
We are beginning to see the results of these conservation measures. Catches of large walleye are become more frequent each year, the increase in the number of small walleye caught throughout the summer has been astounding. Now, guests who are accustom to live releasing fish are more inclined to put back a large lake trout, bass or pike. While a number of large,”keeper-sized” lake trout have been caught in front of our lodge this year, I am proud to say our guest have live-released every trout hooked.
Like the outfitter who sold us our first business in Ontario, those closest to the resource are often the ones who can be the most shortsighted. I know–I grew up fishing in this area when catch and release was unheard of and northern pike was fed to the dog. I saw the opposition to Opémican Park. Still today, some would like to develop cottage lots, allow ice fishing, build new access points, open up shoreline areas to logging.
Conservation is more than following the catch and keep limits on fish. It’s an overall attitude of environmental protection. It’s washing your boat hull before your trip. It’s about keeping the lake pure, the forests pristine, resisting development. It’s appreciating dark skies, clean water, silent afternoons and roadless wilderness.
That’s the short of it.