| May 10, 2007


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Feature Article - May 10, 2007

COFAback in the hatchery business

by Jeff Green

Volunteers from the Conservationists of Frontenac Addington (COFA) spent about $20,000 ten years ago, with the encouragement of the Bancroft Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) Office, building a facility capable of hatching 3.3 million walleye fry to help increase the Walleye population in local lakes.

However, over the years the local MNR has changed their attitude towards Walleye fry stocking, saying that only when fry are brought to the fingerling stage in controlled ponds will there really be an impact on fish populations in the lakes.

COFA operates two ponds, but the ponds are only large enough for 100,000 Walleye, leaving them with an excess capacity of 3.2 million.

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Each year the MNR quota for COFA decreased, until last year when the quota dropped to 200,000. With the COFA ponds needing rehabilitation, they decided not to operate the hatchery at all.

“It amounted to Bancroft saying, if we can’t have steak, we don’t want to eat,” said COFA member J.P. Pare from the fish hatchery this week

“This year they upped the quota to 330,000, and we’ve got the ponds back in shape, so we decided to run the hatchery again,” added COFA President Ron Pethick.

So, a couple of weeks ago, with MNR staff on hand, COFA members netted several Walleye from Skootamatta Lake, harvesting eggs from females and fertilising the eggs by milking male fish.

The eggs were transferred to the hatchery where the water is oxygenated and the temperature is strictly controlled. Over a period of 10 days the water temperature has been brought up from 45 degrees Fahrenheit to 51 degrees, and most of the yellow eggs have now “eyed up” and turned dark brown. In about a week they will begin to hatch and will make their way into a small pool.

Most of the fry will be returned to Skootamatta and some other lakes in the vicinity, and the remainder will go to the ponds to grow on until late July when they will also go in the lakes.

In the past, Walleye eggs were gathered from the Bay of Quinte for the hatchery. Because of concerns about mixing of populations and the potential impact on local Walleye populations and the fungus currently infecting lake Ontario fish, local Walleye are now being used.

“Over the years we’ve run the hatchery, we’ve had a success rate of over 75%, and that’s only because one year we had a very low rate. Normally, 80% of the eggs hatch for us. And this year is looking very good so far,” said Ron Pethick.

COFA is also active in rehabilitating spawning beds for Walleye, moving tons of rock into place along shorelines in the region.

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