Sunday, October 19, 2008

Whew! What a month!

It's hard to believe a month has passed since my last posting.
Time seems to be flying by. Some of it is the season -- daylight hours are considerably fewer than 12 now -- and some of it is all the years I've been on the planet. Time speeds up as you get older. What once were hours are now minutes and weeks are now days.
Brenda and I have been totally occupied for the past three weeks with putting camp to bed for the winter and also with the Ministry of Natural Resources lake trout study and rehabilitation project.
Lake trout reproduction slowed to a trickle here about 20 years ago and to date, no one has a clue as to why.
A graduate biology student from the University of Manitoba may now hold the best promise for solving the riddle. Leslie Carroll and her advisors at the university have a number of experiments underway to figure out why the trout are not successfully spawning in Pipestone Bay.
She is working closely with MNR area biologist Nadine Thebeau who has been studying the problem for years and has eliminated all the likely possiblities.
In the meantime, while Leslie and Nadine continue exploring, the MNR is capturing wild lake trout from Pipestone Bay each fall, stripping them of eggs and milt and raising the eggs in a hatchery at Dorion, near Thunder Bay.
They are planting about 80,000 fingerlings back into Red Lake each year so that the population remains viable.
This year the MNR also did a lake trout assessment in which they netted, tagged and released as many trout as they could to get a population estimate. The same study has been done in the past. It was good to hear that many of the trout caught by the netters this year were untagged and that quite a lot of them were young fish. Only one might have been a stocked fish. Stocked fish have a clipped fin. The fin varies from year to year so it is easy to tell what year a fish was stocked. The fact that many young fish were caught indicates that the trout are reproducing somewhere. But the overall level of reproduction is still way below what it used to be.
Brenda and I play a support role in the study. We provide lodging and meals to the MNR staff who can number up to 12 during the several days it takes to gather the eggs (known as the "spawning") for the hatchery. I'm sure the general public would be surpised to see all the people involved in the spawning as well as the trout study. Besides Nadine and this year, Leslie, there are all sorts of MNR fish and wildlife techs, fire techs, conservation officers, supervisors and just about everybody else in the Red Lake office.
Their dedication to this task is truly impressive. They work in all sorts of weather, pulling heavy nets into their boats and, eventually, stripping the eggs and milt from the fish right here on the dock at camp.
They've pretty much got it down to a science now.
So that's what we've been doing and, oh yes, I also went moose hunting for a week. I have been hunting with my two brothers-in-law for about 25 years now. This year we got a spike bull moose which is about perfect for us. We don't look forward to carrying massive quarters of big moose any more. Besides, young moose "eat better."
Brenda and I will be pulling the plug on the season very shortly.
We're beat and we need a rest. It will be good to get home again.

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