How do you know if a lake has old fish?
Find out if they have to release big ones.
Even the most stable and prolific Trophy Fishery is no match for man. An ecosystem that evolved for thousands of years can be devastated in the blink of an eye by thoughtless or careless fisherman. After the biggest fish have been systematically removed from the ecosystem, it is a monumental task to repair the damage. When possible, it takes a minimum of several generations of careful management.
Compounding the problem is the fact that as you travel further and further North, the growing season becomes shorter, it takes longer for a fish to grow to trophy size, and the ecosystems become increasingly fragile. A North country fishing resort boasting a Trophy fishery will certainly not have one for long unless they aggressively conserve all of the big fish that they catch. This information is not new. Unfortunately, the nature of the business caused hundreds of excellent fisheries to be seriously depleted, especially those that were closer to civilization.
Historically, if a conscientious camp operator decided to enforce camp rules restricting the size and number of big fish that could be taken to preserve the fishery, he would effectively cut the throat of his business. His customers would turn to his competitor across the lake who allowed uneducated fisherman to catch and kill as they pleased, and the competition would then reap the financial windfall of increased volume. The irony is that the practice of unrestricted catch and kill policies of the biggest fish in the system resulted in the demise of the fishery and the eventual failure of the camp. A vicious “slash and burn” cycle then perpetuated itself to make the business profitable. The “successful” operator set up camp on a body of water, fished it hard, depleted the fishery, and moved on to the next one, pushing further and further North.
Thankfully, a new generation of anglers, provincial fisheries resource managers, and camp operators evolved who understood that the future health of Trophy Fisheries and angling tourism were intrinsically tied to conservation and careful catch and release of the biggest fish. Today, the informed fisherman looking for a chance to catch a trophy, won’t even consider a trip to a Canadian camp unless they strongly promote catch and release. Lac Seul is one of the most studied fisheries in Northwest Ontario and was one of the first to have progressive Trophy Fishery Management policies implemented. I view these policies as essential tools to make sure that other anglers on Lac Seul operate under the same conservation policies that I have preached and supported for years.
How do you know if a resort actually has a trophy fishery?
Find out if their fish Live Long and Eat Well!
As you sort through that mountain of brochures, take note of the faded dockside photographs of dead trophy fish, pay less attention to the “claims of 8 LB walleye and 40 inch pike” and more to the camp’s conservation policy, and keep in mind that big fish don’t live in little ponds. “The Lac Seul Difference” can be described in print, but to fully appreciate it, you have to fish it. Once you do, I’m confident you’ll become one more of our guests that return year after year.