Our Man In Canada
March 1st, 1999

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 conservation.

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 collapsed.

    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

    Our Man In Canada Archives
  • Bio on Our Man In Canada

    Clive Schaupmeyer is an outdoor writer and photographer. He is the author of The Essential Guide to Fly-Fishing, a 288-page book for novice and intermediate fly anglers. His photo of a boy fishing was judged the best outdoor picture of 1996 published by a member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada. He fly-fishes for trout in Alberta's foothill and mountain streams and for pike near his home in Brooks, Alberta. For information on where to find, or how to get a copy of Clive's book, Click here!

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