Most of you know that my sought-after specie of fish on Lake Ontario has to be the mighty Chinook Salmon. They are beasts- strong and challenging. But most of you that have shared time on the boat with me know that Rainbow Trout (Steelhead) are the most numerous in our catch tally for the day. Without Rainbow Trout our days would be a little less eventful.This Rainbow Trout caught by Stuart last summer (2012) was the largest we caught on the boat. 16 1/2 lbs and it was released unscathed and growing even bigger and ready to be caught again.
New for 2013 the Ministry of Natural Resourses announced a regulation change that would reduce the number of Rainbow Trout that can be kept by an angler. This change was spurred on, not just by a need to preserve the Rainbow Trout stocks in the Lake Ontario, but also to answer to an already conservation ethic shared by the majority of anglers on the lake. Creel census by MNR technicians at the various boat ramps around the lake, show that most anglers already keep 2 or less Rainbow Trout.
How will this change effect your 2013 charter, fishing with me? It will not! The total allowable "aggregated limit" of trout and salmon still remains 5 fish. Of those five fish, 2 can be Rainbow Trout the other 3 have to be salmon or another type of trout- like Brown Trout. I consider myself a sportsmen first, and I will continue to angle in a manor that takes this regulation change seriously.
Some adaptive techniques that I already have been using will be made common protocal this year. Things like suggesting we keep rainbow trout that are injured (lowest survival chance if released), release the healthy ones as quickly as possible Catch/Photo/Release, target locations, depths, tackle and techniques to add a salmon mix to our catch tally, and when the rainbow trout bit is hot and heavy, I will look to reduce long lines and reduce rod counts so we can get those rainbows to the boat faster and release them faster and stress free.To read more about the regulation change see this link http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/stdprodconsume/groups/lr/@mnr/@letsfish/documents/factsheet/stdprod_101639.pdf
As an alternate on the Fisheries Management Zone 20 Council, my comments I added to the record are copied below...
In favour of steelhead reduction from 5 to 2, not because of science, but because of the social acceptance of Lake Ontario Anglers reducing the numbers. Largely Lake Ontario anglers have expressed that harvesting five steelhead per person is not sought after and regarded excessive. Practice of selective harvest has been an unspoken rule amoungst fellow anglers and although the creel limit is at 5, rarely anglers will bring home 5 (steelhead or salmon) even if they caught more then 5 in a day. There is a social change with the vast majority of Lake Ontario Anglers. The purpose for why anglers fish, is less about keeping fish, and more about valuable time enjoying fishing. Priorities have changed with respect to the reason why fisherman fish.
In Ontario, steelhead are more so an accidental catch while targeting Chinook salmon in the near-inshore fishery. Limits with an aggregated 5 salmon and Trout total would still provide opportunity for those anglers seeking to keep 5 fish while they continue to target salmon. 2 of the five can be rainbow trout, still leaving 3 fish that can be salmon. The aggregated total will allow anglers to keep fishing (potentially change tactics to strictly target Salmon) without having to stop fishing once 2 rainbow trout are put in the cooler. Longer time on the water and a change of focus to salmon can have positive economic spin-offs.
The regulation will help the social and economics of fishing Lake Ontario. There may also be science that will prove that the change was successful in future years, currently supporting evidence through science is not sufficient enough on it's own. In policy decision making, all aspects surrounding an issue need not be overlooked. In local governments all policies decisions are questioned on three criteria Environmental (in this case it's the science of the fishery), Social and Economic. If decisions are made using only one of these criterion, then it is considered bias. I feel that the Social and Economic benefits to the proposal to reduce rainbow trout limits, are enough to support the change.