New pike regulations will help
Negotiation will be required
By Clive Schaupmeyer
It's no secret that pike populations in many of the more popular pike
lakes in Alberta have crashed in the past two decades. The number of angler
days on the resort lakes has increased dramatically in the past few years
and daily bag limits have stayed at ten pike per day. And it's a fact that
there are a lot of folks out there that are still of the old school. They
want to kill their limit instead of limit their kill.
Fortunately the pike fishing is great in many waters that are off the
beaten path and they are easy to find by those willing to investigate.
According to the department of Environmental Protection the harvest
of northern pike in Alberta has declined dramatically from 2.8 million
in 1980 to only 890,000 in 1995. And the decline is not a result of less
people fishing, it's simply a fact that the pike numbers have declined.
Last year, in response to this reduction, Alberta Environmental Protection
set up the Northern Pike Public Advisory Committee in partnership with
the Alberta Conservation Association and the Alberta Commercial Fishermen's
Association. Their recommendations, included in a recently completed report,
have lead to the introduction of new regulations aimed at northern pike
Following are some of the highlights of the proposed changes as we now
know them. Details of the proposal still need to be worked out. Many of
us have concerns about some of the blanket proposals and plan to discuss
these with fisheries staff who will have the power to set local regulations.
Starting in April 1999, the new general angling limit for pike will
be 3 pike over 63 cm (25 inches) total length. The use of bows and spears
for catching pike will be prohibited, and a maximum of two fishing lines
will be allowed when ice fishing. Additional regulation changes concerning
spring sportfishing closures, catch and size limits, bait bans and special
licences will be phased in over the following two years.
Catch limits and sizes will vary. The limit at each water body will
range from zero to three pike, with a size limit of 63, 70 or 100
cm total length depending on fishing pressures and the health of the pike
population. Coupled with appropriate size limits, a reduced daily limit
will result in more spawners and subsequently result in an increase in
the production of young fish. Minimum-size limits are designed to protect
young pike until they spawn for two years, but at some lakes, larger minimum-size
limits would be set to provide quality fishing for larger pike.
From a selfish point of view, local fly anglers are concerned about
one blanket proposal for the Parkland-Prairie Zone starting in the year
2000. It is currently proposed that all waters containing pike be closed
during the spawn to protect pike populations. At least the new regs allow
for total closure. Without question this is required on many waters.
Our local (and ) popular Lake Newell has been fished out in recent years.
Bait angling fish killers line up along some of the long, narrow spawning
bays for days at a time--some camp there--with the sole purpose of catching
and killing large spawning females. It is obscene. No wonder the pike populations
in Lake Newell have crashed.
However, in my humble opinion, the entire lake does not have to be closed
in April and May. It would be quite simple to set the limit at zero, ban
fishing in the well-defined spawning bays and ban bait for a couple of
months each spring.
What concerns us with the legislation (as we understand it) is that
there are many lakes around here with ample numbers of pike. Perhaps too
many, and some harvest would likely help the quality of fishing. Many lesser-known
lakes near town have high populations of pike and closures are simply unwarranted.
Last May and June on three or four afternoons, I was able to catch 20 to
25 pike in three or four hours in my pontoon boat. In one four-hour stretch,
Ken Zorn, Jeff Fields and I landed approximately 80, two- to five-pound
pike. Certainly no need for closures here.
Fortunately the proposals leave room for negotiations at the local
level and exceptions may occur. When I first read the report I called Hugh
Norris, who chaired the review committee, and he assured me that the changes
will be applied only as required to specific lakes in each region.
He said that it will up to regional fisheries biologists and local fisheries
technicians to set specific regulations on individual lakes based on need.
Hugh also said that the blanket regulations were set to enable to the specialists
to set strict laws when required to protect waters where pike numbers have
Our local fly-fishing club has invited area fisheries technician, Cam
Wallman, to our March meeting to discuss the application of the new regulations
to area lakes. ~ Clive Schaupmeyer
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