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Monday, February 25, 2008

Trout Unlimited opposes plans to stock brown trout

Mark Lamb -- Wed, Feb/13/08

By Don Crosby
Owen Sound Sun-Times

The Markdale chapter of Trout Unlimited is opposed to a proposal to stock the Saugeen River between Durham and Hanover with brown trout.

A proposal from the Big River Group and the Upper Saugeen Habitat Restoration Association - local volunteer angling and conservation groups - is being screened under the class environmental assessment process and Ministry of Natural Resources is seeking public input before proceeding further.

Grey Highlands councillors gave the project their approval without discussion during Monday's regular council meeting.

According to a covering letter sent council, stocking that part of the Saugeen River would increase angling opportunities and other benefits which are part of the management objectives of the regional Owen Sound Fisheries Management Plan.

"We're opposed to it. We're highly in favour of restoring the (native) brown trout in the area," said Bob James, head of the Markdale chapter of Trout Unlimited during an interview Monday.

James said introducing 20,000 brown trout a year for five years from stock taken from the upper Sydenham River won't produce truly wild trout and could adversely affect the trout that currently inhabit that part of the Saugeen River.

Since 1998, the Upper Saugeen Habitat Restoration Association (USHRA) has been involved in a very localized brown trout enhancement project on the Saugeen River near a campground near Hanover. The project involves collecting eggs from brown trout in the upper Sydenham River and raising them in incubating boxes in the Saugeen near the campground. The strain was chosen because it most closely resembles those found in that part of the Saugeen River.

USHRA and The Big River Group want to expand the project to a larger area of the Saugeen River between Durham and Hanover.

Because of the dams at Durham and Hanover, it's believed the fish would remain in that part of the river. The groups plan to use six-month-old fingerlings or yearlings instead of those raised in egg incubators.

James said introducing that many trout with such a narrow genetic strain is akin to inbreeding. His group supports measures that would build up the local population of brown trout, which has a broader genetic pool.

"We should do what it takes to revive the wild population. They survive better," James said.

He recommends reducing the catch limit on brown trout in that area of the Saugeen or implementing a catch and release policy until the existing population builds up. He would also like to see work done to restore habitat, such as efforts to cool the waters in that section of the river during the summer.

"We would like to get a discussion going with the two groups. We think there are more effective ways of restoring the population," said James, who thinks that within three years the local fish population could begin to rebound with the measures he outlined.

The MNR has a 30-day comment period for the project, which ends March 7. If the ministry decides the project requires additional consultation, notices will be issued.

For more information call Andy McKee, fish and wildlife biologist at the Owen Sound office of MNR, at 519-371-8471, fax 519-372-3305 or e-mail andy.mckee@ontario.ca.


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