Protecting Lake Trout and preserving sport fishing on Kingsmere Lake

Lake Trout is unique to North America and is the largest species in the family of fish called Char. Lake trout are sensitive to changes in their environment, making them great indicators of water quality and the health of a lake. Of the over 1,500 lakes and ponds in Prince Albert National Park, only Kingsmere, Crean, and Wassegam lakes contain natural Lake Trout populations. Lake Trout populations are monitored on Kingsmere and Wassegam lakes as they are similar aquatic ecosystems that have different levels of use and fishing pressures.

Summer profundal index netting (SPIN) is a rapid assessment method with a low mortality rate that is used to collect information about Lake Trout. Nets that are 64 m in length with eight panels of eight different mesh sizes are set at random locations across four different depths. Length and species of each fish caught in the net is recorded and the fish is then released. Length, weight, sex, age and stomach contents are recorded from fish that die during netting.

Age and growth rates are based on looking at the otoliths, ear bones of fish, much like the way trees rings are used to age trees. Otoliths, are hard calcium carbonate bones that grow a new layer each year. These bones are removed from fish that die during the netting process for all species, and sent to Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources for aging.

SPIN was conducted on Kingsmere Lake in 2009, 2015 and 2017. In 2018, Wassegam Lake was sampled. Wassegam Lake (where there is limited angling pressure) will help indicate if the changes to the trout population is isolated to Kingsmere Lake or indicates broader regional causes, such as climate. Further study of the lake ecosystem’s water quality, aquatic habitat and spawning grounds, as well as improved tracking of recreational fishing, will increase understanding of the population and potential actions that may be required to sustain viable population.

If you’d like more information on SPIN results, contact the Visitor Centre for more information.

A park employee takes a water sample from Kingsmere Lake.
A park employee takes a water sample from Kingsmere Lake. Results will help determine potential causes or contributing factors in the decline of Lake Trout.
A park employee looks at a fish caught in a net.
Left: A park employee looks at a fish caught in a net. Right: A boat with buckets of nets is ready to be launched onto Wassegam Lake.
Summer profundal index netting is a protocol known as SPIN that helps determine the health, age and total numbers of the Lake Trout population in remote Wassegam Lake.

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