The Bruce Peninsula Sportsmen’s Association has fin clipped about 35,000 rainbow trout that the club raised so they can be released to Ontario lakes and streams.
The BPSA operates a hatchery in Wiarton where they raise fish to help replenish the peninsula fishery. Club members volunteered their time to fin clip young rainbow trout on April 27.
“We clip the adipose fin which is on the back, the last one before the tail fin. This does not affect the fish and is for identification purposes,” said club member Kevin Harders.
“It is a ministry requirement,” explained Alan Sutter, BPSA hatchery manager. “Any fish raised in an Ontario hatchery for more than 12 months must be fin clipped.”
This requirement is set by the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry. Fin clipping allows researchers and sportsmen to identify whether a fish began its life in a hatchery or spent its first year in the wild.
The BPSA operates it hatchery on an annual budget of only $12,000. Half of this is provided by the Ontario Community Hatchery Program, which supports qualifying hatcheries across Ontario. The majority of the work performed by the club is done by members who volunteer their time.
“We are assisting sustainable recreational and sports fishing,” said Sutter.
According to veteran club member Ray Marklevitz, the last ministry survey identified 63 per cent of all fish in Ontario as fin clipped, but fish that spend less than 12 months in a hatchery are not necessarily clipped. The impact of clubs like BPSA could be even greater.
The Wiarton hatchery started as little more than an outdoor tank, fed by one stream, and partially protected by a roof. Marklevitz, a former hatchery manager for the club, has been a member since 1964. He helped the club transform the hatchery into what it is today.
The hatchery now has several tanks, fully protected inside a building, with room to incubate eggs, raise tiny fish called fry and allow fry to mature into healthy yearlings. With permission from the ministry, the BPSA has accessed three more nearby streams. They also created a lagoon behind the hatchery. Protected by a fence and licensed by the ministry, the lagoon acts as a treatment system for water leaving the hatchery.
“We make sure oxygen is coming in and waste is going out,” explained Marklevitz.
Marklevitz worked as a health inspector for many years. When he first moved to Wiarton, over 60 years ago, he volunteered his time helping provincial employees stock Colpoy’s Bay with fish. Marklevitz learned how to safely and gently remove eggs and sperm from fish, which is then taken to hatcheries. He still does most of the egg collecting for the BPSA.
Egg collecting happens under direction from the ministry. Clubs receive a call when spawning fish arrive at a ministry check point, like Denny’s Dam near Southampton. Club members answer the call, rain or shine. This year the call came on Easter Sunday. Marklevitz and other BPSA members collected eggs alongside the Ontario Steelheaders club who also operate a hatchery.
“We do not take all the eggs,” said Marklevitz, who estimates they only take about 50 per cent.
Things have changed a lot since Marklevitz began hatchery work in the 1960’s. “I remember utilizing a natural nursery above the escarpment.”
This naturally protected area was a great place for eggs to mature into fry. Marklevitz recalls seeing mature trout fight hard to return to this same location to spawn. In those days, fish were placed in wooden crates along the river. These upwelling boxes provided a chance for Marklevitz and others to collect some eggs before releasing the fish.
Modern methods have greatly increased the number of viable eggs. Indoor hatcheries offer protection from weather and predators.
This year the BPSA collected approximately 144,000 eggs. From that about 120,000 will be viable. It takes about 30 days before viable eggs show a small eyeball, telling the World they will soon become baby fish. The club keeps around 40,000 eyed eggs and returns the rest to the same location, in this case Denny’s Dam.
The BPSA are proud of the work they do.
“A lot of people come to this area to fish,” said Sutter. “Anybody who wants a hatchery tour can contact us.”
For more information and to contact the club, visit bpsportsmen.com.