Friday, January 29, 2016

This is one incredible lake trout!

Kenny Bock of Iowa caught and released this lake trout while ice fishing on Gullrock
Iowa angler Kenny Bock was ice fishing at Wright's Wilderness Lodge on Gullrock Lake this winter when he caught and released what has got to be Red Lake-Gullrock's most-amazing lake trout.
It was Good Old RL02-4178, that is, it had been tagged by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests and its tag number was RL02-4178. It was a female and she is well known to MNRF fish and wildlife personnel.

Red Lake biologist Toby Braithwaite said they have been tracking the movements of  Number 4178 since 2012 when she and 24 other lake trout had sonic tags surgically implanted in them.

Although lake trout have always been caught by winter fishermen on Gullrock, it was generally  believed that they moved upstream to the deeper waters of Red Lake as soon as the water began to warm in the spring.
Number 4178's sonic tag has shown that she spends most of the summer in Gullrock and only begins to head west in late July. Finally, in October, she makes a sprint to Pipestone Bay to spawn and then zooms back to Gullrock covering more than 31 miles in a single day!
Red Lake trout at Dorion hatchery.
When she was tagged in 2012 she was 33.8 inches in length. Her age was also determined. Today she is over 44 years old! That is the oldest fish I have ever heard about coming from Red Lake.
 Biologist Braithwaite notes fishes' ages are determined by taking a ray from a pectoral fin (one of the fins on the side near the head) and examining it through a microscope. The ray shows rings like a tree.
Back in 2002 it was determined that Red Lake's lake trout were in jeopardy and a program was begun to restock the lake using its own fish.
Each fall the MNRF stays at Bow Narrows Camp while lake trout are caught and their eggs and milt taken before the fish are returned back to the lake. These eggs are taken to the MNRF fish hatchery in Dorion and are brought back as fingerlings 18 months later. More than 500,000 fish have now been stocked in this fashion.
There will be 85,000 yearlings and 50,000 fry released this year.
The 2015 egg collection was the largest ever and the fish researchers hope to release 178,000 yearlings in 2017.
Adult fish that are caught by the MNRF during the fall spawning project have little yellow tags attached to them, just like Number 4178. If you catch a fish with such a tag, write down the number or take a photo of it before releasing the fish.  Fishing regulations require that all lake trout must be released on the spot.
In addition, however, make a careful inspection of the fins of the fish. All of the stocked fish will be missing a fin since the hatchery personnel clip a different fin each year. You should report tag numbers either to the MNRF or to us at camp who can relay the information to Braithwaite and his fellow researchers. A report of a trout with a clipped fin would also be welcomed since it signals that the stocked fish are surviving. If you could also get a length on the fish, that would be helpful because when combined with the information on which fin was clipped, it would tell the researchers when the fish was stocked.
Braithwaite says the latest assessments show lake trout are now spawning in the Potato Island basin and the Trout Bay areas in greater abundance but seem to still be declining in Pipestone Bay.
Hatchery personnel clip fins of anesthetized trout. Toby Braithwaite photos

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Ray G said...

Dan : Any thoughts on what is happening in Pipestone with the trout. We fished out by the ledge last year with no results, and moved to the potato Island area and caught three in a fairly short period of time.

Dan Baughman said...

The short answer is no, we still don't understand what is happening in Pipestone. The fish can live there just fine, but their eggs don't develop after spawning. Obviously there is some substance on the bottom that kills the eggs. It does not seem to be anything man created so that just leaves natural substances like manganese and iron and other naturally occurring elements. We don't know for sure that trout eggs ever made it there. We only know the fish spawned because we could see them. It isn't impossible that trout that had come from eggs that had been spawned elsewhere eventually had moved to Pipestone because the food supply was so good.
Back in the 1990s there was a grotesque overharvest of trout on Red Lake. The problem was the fishing was too good. Smelt had gotten into the lake in the '80s and when trout fed on these highly nutritious fish they grew rapidly. During the '90s anglers could catch a dozen or more enormous lake trout in a day. This drew fishermen from all over -- all the camps on Red Lake, all the residents of Red Lake, all the camps on Gullrock Lake, even camps from down Red Lake Road all the way to Vermilion Bay. I suspect that in just a few short years, most of the fish were caught and taken away. None of these anglers practised catch-and-release. When the big crash came, about 2000, almost the only trout left in the lake were those in Pipestone. That was because it was the farthest bay on the lake and just didn't get fished as hard. So we had a bay with a lot of trout but none of them could reproduce there. Not long after 2000 trout season was closed to angling and the spawning-stocking program began. Fifteen years later we are seeing the positive results with quite a few trout coming from Potato Island basin in particular. They are spawning there as well as Trout Bay, both places where they are successful.
Meanwhile the trout left in Pipestone are dying from old age and there are no new ones coming from eggs although some adults may still be coming from Potato and Trout Bay areas.
That is just an educated guess on my part but there are only three actual facts known about the trout situation: 1. smelt played a role 2. harvest in the 1990s was ridiculous 3. eggs don't develop in Pipestone.