By Monica Seidel
A momentous first step was taken to restore a historic lake trout spawning bed in Ontario’s Madawaska Valley region. Diamond Lake, located two hours west of Ottawa, is one of only 12 trout lakes in Renfrew County.
For many years the trout population has been experiencing struggles on the lake, with the once productive spawning bed being recently damaged by siltation.
The Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s Outdoor Fund donated critical funds to launch the restoration process of the trout spawning bed, with project completion scheduled for spring 2022.
The washed bed will be further enhanced in winter 2022 when more rocks are placed over the bed on the frozen ice. As the ice melts in the spring, the rocks will fall into place.
This project is possible because of Diamond Lake property owners and volunteers, the Madawaska Fish and Game Club, Watersheds Canada, Bathurst Burgess Drummond and Elmsley Fire/Rescue Station, the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (MNDMNRF) Pembroke, and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) – Zone F who gave an in-kind donation and lent their power washer for the project.
This project has been in the works since 2015 when Kirby Punt, now retired MNDMNRF biologist, observed the noticeable decline in the trout population and poor quality of the historic spawning bed. Kirby approached Watersheds Canada’s habitat and stewardship program manager, Melissa Dakers, to see if there was anything that could be done.
Thanks to the dedication and hard work of 12 community members and Watersheds Canada staff, critical fish habitat was enhanced on Sept. 16, as volunteers swept silt off the shoal and power washed the bed. Removing this silt was necessary because trout are a very sensitive species, with silt negatively affecting their spawning beds. Silt covers the eggs, preventing them from being adequately oxygenated. This increases embryotic (early-stage development) trout mortality. Some reasons increased siltation may be observed on a lake can include increased flooding, alterations are made to a stream or culvert, or there is an increase in urbanization and nearby development. Silt curtains were placed during the project to minimize impacts on the system.
Local community support and leadership is fundamental to the success of Watersheds Canada’s fish habitat restoration projects. This lake trout spawning bed restoration project was spearheaded in part by local residents Blake and Kathy Smith who visit Diamond Lake year-round. Blake is an avid hunter and fisherman and retired biologist who wanted to see the bed restored so future generations can fish on the lake. Many other volunteers who helped wash the bed have lived on the lake for generations and have a deep connection with nature and fishing.
The project on Diamond Lake is Watersheds Canada’s first trout bed restoration project. In partnership with grassroots organizations and local volunteers, Watersheds Canada has completed many fish habitat restoration projects across Eastern and Central Ontario over the past seven years, including walleye spawning bed enhancements, cold-water creek enhancements, and in-water habitat enhancements through the deployment of brush bundles (woody debris). This knowledge has recently been compiled in a free Fish Habitat Enhancement Toolkit that provides grassroots organizations and community groups with project guides, updated protocols, and accompanying videos to identify suitable sites and successfully enhance various types of fish habitat projects. Access the free Toolkit on our website: watersheds.ca/our-work/habitat-programs/fish-toolkit
Monica Seidel is Communications & Fundraising Coordinator for Watersheds Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Watersheds Canada
Watersheds Canada is a national non-profit charitable organization that works with landowners, communities, and organizations to enhance and protect lakes and rivers through developing effective and transferable long-term solutions. Watersheds Canada envisions people caring for their waters, resulting in clean, healthy lakes and rivers to support humans and wildlife for years to come. Learn more at watersheds.ca.
About the Bass Pro Shops
& Cabela’s Outdoor Fund
Under the visionary leadership of founder Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s is leading North America’s largest conservation movement. Together with their partners in conservation, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s is positively shaping the future of the outdoors through donations, grant-making and advocacy.