Smallmouth Bass/Fisheries Operations
Riding Mountain National Park
*** Spring 2022 Update ***
In June 2021, Resource Conservation staff and Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nation conducted collaborative fisheries work on Clear Lake. This work aimed to gather information about the smallmouth bass invasion and monitor the health of fish populations in Clear Lake.
Research has shown that invasive smallmouth bass has an incredible potential to impact the fish and other creatures that are important to healthy lake ecosystems. Smallmouth bass prey on crayfish and small fish, meaning they may compete with other fish like walleye for resources. It is important to understand the effects of the invasion and limit the establishment of smallmouth bass to protect Clear Lake’s species and ecosystem processes.
One of the methods used in 2021 was electrofishing. Electrofishing is a common, scientific method of collecting fish without harming them. It involves using an electrical current to momentarily stun fish in the water, so they can be scooped up in a net. Then researchers can collect measurements and data from the fish. After measurement, the fish can be returned to the waterbody unharmed. Parks Canada uses electrofishing in Clear Lake so native fish can be monitored safely while smallmouth bass is permanently removed and euthanized.
In Clear Lake, electrofishing has been most efficient for capturing young bass. A total of 354 smallmouth bass were removed during the 2021 fisheries work, the majority being juveniles. Similar to fisheries operations conducted last year, electrofishing will occur this June to remove smallmouth bass from the shallow areas of Clear Lake.
Research has shown that it is also important to remove adult smallmouth bass, so there will be fewer spawners to increase the population. An exciting new project this summer will be exploring a potential smallmouth bass control technique - spearfishing! How does this work? Adult male smallmouth bass construct nests for their eggs, and guard these nests from predators. When adult males are guarding their nests, they stay in one place, which makes them a good candidate for a technique like spearfishing.
Spearfishing has been used to control invasive fish in the ocean, but has rarely been used in freshwater ecosystems like Clear Lake. Freshwater lakes tend to be murkier, making it harder to use a technique like spearfishing where you need to see what you’re doing! But luckily for us, Clear Lake is just that–clear! No one has ever studied how well spearfishing works for smallmouth bass though, so this is cutting-edge research that will help us to decide if spearfishing works well for controlling smallmouth bass. Only bass will be targeted using this technique, not any native species.
On certain days in June and July 2022, spearfishing will be conducted by trained personnel snorkelling in the water. To ensure the safety of those working on this project, there will be temporary area closures. Unlike electrofishing, these closures will occur during the day but will be scheduled on weekdays to minimize impacts to visitors. Closure notices will be posted at information kiosks and on social media.
Change to Fishing Regulations
Starting in 2022, smallmouth bass is no longer subject to the Aggregate Daily Catch and Possession Limit for game fish in RMNP. As a result, anglers who possess a valid fishing licence are authorized to catch and possess as many smallmouth bass as they like. All other National Parks of Canada Fishing Regulations still apply. The aggregate limit (5) still applies for all other game fish species.
|Pike (only 1 may exceed 76 cm)||3|
|Smallmouth Bass||NO LIMIT|
Anglers are asked to retain and euthanize all smallmouth bass, then report their catch and submit smallmouth bass samples to the AIS inspection staff at the Boat Cove. There, Parks Canada staff will measure the fish and collect information about where and when it was caught. Afterwards, anglers can choose to keep the fish or donate it for further research on population characteristics like age, health, and diet.
In August of 2020, park staff were notified that anglers had caught and observed smallmouth bass in Clear Lake. This was a concern because smallmouth bass is not native to Riding Mountain National Park and are considered an invasive species in Clear Lake. Smallmouth bass are very aggressive predators that may impact native populations by predation or competition for food and habitat resources. Smallmouth bass prey on crayfish and other fish species.
How did they get here?
We cannot say for sure. It may have been an intentional introduction, where someone illegally transferred smallmouth bass from another waterbody in hopes of creating a new recreational fishing opportunity. It also could have been an accidental introduction, where someone illegally used or dumped live bait in Clear Lake. Possession and use of leeches, minnows, and other fish parts as bait are prohibited in RMNP.
Parks Canada does not currently stock fish species in any National Park waterbodies, except in the case of restoring a population of a Species at Risk.
If you have information about unlawful use of live bait or the introduction of smallmouth bass, please contact the park wardens through Parks Canada Dispatch at 1-877-852-3100.
How can you help?
Ensure that you are following Riding Mountain National Park fishing regulations.
Starting in 2022, smallmouth bass is no longer subject to the game fish Catch and Possession Limit in RMNP. As a result, anglers who possess a valid fishing licence are authorized to catch and possess as many smallmouth bass as they like. If you catch a smallmouth bass, retain it, euthanize it, and take it to the AIS inspection station at the Boat Cove. There, Parks Canada staff will measure the fish and collect information about where and when the fish was caught. Afterwards, you can choose to keep the fish or donate it for further research on population characteristics like age, health, and diet.
Thank you for doing your part to protect the ecological integrity of Clear Lake!
Walleye were also introduced. Why are they not considered an invasive species in Clear Lake too?
Walleye were introduced through federal stocking programs from the 1920s through the 1960s, ceasing in 1968. Over the last 60 years, Parks Canada’s perspective on stocking non-native fish species has evolved. Introducing non-native species can have unintended consequences for aquatic ecosystems, such as impacts to community dynamics like competition for food or habitat resources and spreading disease.
While the ecosystem impacts of the walleye introduction are unknown, they have been naturally reproducing and co-existing with Clear Lake’s native fish species for nearly a century and can be considered naturalized, meaning that they do not disrupt the native ecosystem.
Learn more about aquatic invasive species (AIS): Facts and FAQs about AIS
For more information, please contact RMNP’s AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species) Team at email@example.com
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