Original Published on Aug 10, 2022 at 16:20

By Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Observant anglers may have noticed that there have been a couple of changes in the Alberta sportfishing regulations for Lesser Slave Lake this year. One significant change is the move away from splitting the fishing season into two distinct periods with slightly different walleye catch limits. 

Slave lake is divided into two areas for the purposes of the sportfishing regulations; the portion of the lake west of a line drawn between Shaw Point to Little Grassy Point and the rest of the lake east of this line. The 2021 regulations outlined a catch limit of one walleye over 43 cm long from the beginning of the season until Oct. 31 and a limit of 2 walleye of the same size from Nov. 1 until the end of the season. For 2022, both areas of the lake have the same catch and size limits (1 walleye, 45 – 50 cm) for the entire season.

Myles Brown, Senior Fisheries Biologist with Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) out of Slave Lake, explains that before making changes to the regulations and objectives on Lesser Slave Lake, fisheries and communication staff engaged with Albertans to gather feedback on regulation options and opinions. They engaged with the public using several different platforms, including live webinars, recording an episode of Lets Go Outdoors with Michael Short, the AEP webpage, YouTube videos, social media accounts, and an online survey that yielded 1070 participants. The feedback from these public engagement efforts outlined that the respondents supported a one walleye catch limit. Most reported not using the second fish after Nov. 1.

The reasons for the walleye regulation changes included the fact that the previous regulation and catch limit provided limited protection for mature spawning fish and little resiliency against increased fishing in the lake. The previous size limit did not support AEP’s current management approach, so it was adjusted.

Another significant change in the 2022 regulations is the move to a zero retention limit for northern pike, down from 3 fish over 55 cm last year. Brown explains that this change is in response to a very low abundance of pike, corresponding to a high risk to the sustainability of their population. The temporary suspension of recreational northern pike harvesting will support efforts to increase the pike population to a moderate level of abundance. This is a necessary step for ensuring the long-term sustainability of the pike population in Slave lake. It will take time to increase the overall number of pike with the lake being so large, but these regulation changes are expected to reduce this recovery time to as short a period as possible.

Unfortunately, the northern pike population has been lower since the late 1990s. Previous fishery management approaches focused on providing maximum harvest, which led to a lowered abundance of pike. Several management strategies have been implemented since then, including spring spawning conservation closures and closing down the former commercial fishery, saving 18,000 kg of pike annually.

Slave Lake anglers will still be able to fish for pike, but for this season, they will have to be satisfied with catch and release fishing.

This item reprinted with permission from The Grizzly Gazette, Swan Hills, Alberta