Dog Lake Cottage Association Fisheries Committee History
Frank Kirkpatrick was a founding member of the Dog Lake Cottagers Association and held the position of President for many years. He wrote this history in about 2005. It gives a good overview of the work of the water quality and fisheries committee, and some of the issues then and now.
When we started the Dog Lake Cottage Association our goal was to develop a method of addressing the growing problems that affected Dog Lake.
For years I worked with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), trying to improve the existing fisheries and the poor water quality of Dog Lake. I found, that despite my efforts, it was very difficult to generate any support for the concerns I had brought forth. I contacted a few people in the community and we decided to band together to form the Dog Lake Cottage Association. Of the original members of the Association, only myself (Frank Kirkpatrick), Randy VanKoughnett and John Rushton still sit on the Executive. I took the Fisheries Committee chairmanship position and remain in that position today.
These are the efforts our Association has made thus far:
Myself and Randy VanKoughnett met with the MNR. We developed a working relationship with the Regional Biologist Alex Palionis. We started taking fish creels to gain information to prove we had a problem. We attended workshops, seminars and meetings to develop a better understanding of the MNR policies and procedures.
Some of our main concerns were the declining Pike and Lake Trout fisheries and the protection of the Bass fisheries. I had noticed a large drop in these fisheries in the 1970s and 80s. The Lake Trout populations appeared to be non-existent at that time. It was then determined that the Trout fishery was basically dead. Over-fishing and illegal netting through the 40s and 50s lowered the creels excessively. Along with poor water quality and heavy weed growth on existing spawning shoals ruined successful spawning. Therefore Dog Lake was classified as a ‘put and take’ fishery.
In the early 1980s the Splake Stocking Program was introduced. Splake are a hybrid cross between Lake Trout and Speckled Trout. They cannot reproduce, although they do go through the spawning process. The first few years we stocked 3000 to 4000 Splake per year. When the program proved to be successful, we increased the amount of Splake to 16000 to 18000 per year. The fingerlings are anywere from 3 to 10 inches long when released and grow quickly. In approximately eight years time the Splake can reach up to fifteen pounds and provide a very good deep water fishery. We also tried to introduce Rainbow Trout the first two years the Splake program was implemented but this proved unsuccessful.
To support the failing Pike fisheries we worked on protecting the spawning areas and encouraged everyone to live release sport fish and made efforts to improve the water quality. In the mid 1980s our Association worked with the MNR to set up a program, to stock pond- reared pike into Dog Lake. This had worked well with Pickerel in other lakes. Unfortunately this never got off the ground with MNR.
To prove to MNR that the Pike creels were dropping and to check the status of Bass creels, we persuaded the MNR to hire students to spend the summer on Dog Lake. The students were to check boats and do a fish count and to take samples. Our Association was able to develop a better understanding of the concerns of the various Ministries and we were able to develop new programs with the help of Ken Wallin our Water Quality Committee Chair, and monthly meetings were held with representatives of MNR, Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Cataraquai Region Conservation Authority and Ministry of the Environment.
The Bass sanctuary signs were developed from these meetings and with MNR support. The signs inform fishermen and encourage protection of the Bass during the early Pike season and during spawning. Pike spawn when the ice leaves the shoreline and they do not guard the eggs or the fry. The season opens on the second Saturday in May every year. Pike stay shallow in May and early June and are therefore in bass spawning areas. Many Bass are caught during this time and during their spawning season which is late May/early June. The sanctuary signed areas protect the Bass and give the Pike the same protection. When the Bass are on the spawning beds they are very protective and try to protect eggs and young fry and they will bite at anything. If the Bass are pulled off the nests the pan fish, such as sunfish, rock-bass and perch with eat the eggs and fry before the Bass can return to the nests. Bass season opens the last Saturday of June every year.
It was also decided that because the sport fisheries on Dog Lake had been greatly reduced, the balance between sport fish and pan fish was disrupted. MNR recommends the removal of Sunfish, Rock-bass, small Perch, Crappies, Suckers, Dog fish and Carp to help restore the balance. Our Association encouraged everyone to take pan fish out and to live release Bass and Pike.
Through the Water Quality committee, water quality testing was started, and a septic system study was performed by students in the mid 1990s. Poor water quality destroys spawning beds and reduces oxygen content in the lakes. Also sores on Pike, referred to as ‘red spot’, increase. These sores are unsightly and can kill the Pike. The sores don’t affect the meat and can easily be cut out. Pike caught with large sores should be removed from the lake. More and more, sores are found on Large and Small-mouth Bass. It should be noted that a lot more dead fish have been found floating on the lake.
In the late 1990s, Queen’s University came to Dog Lake to see what kind of effect sanctuary signs were having. The Bass that were caught showed a large bruise where the hooks had entered them. Divers counted the number of Bass that had been hooked during the spawning season in the sanctuary signed bays, as compared to the unsigned bays. If I recall correctly, the number of fish in the signed bays was from 20% to 40% more than in the unsigned bays. The sanctuary signs are not law but an honour system. All members of the Association try to inform anyone in these bays about the program and try to prevent illegal fishing. Are these programs working? I cannot be 100% sure, but I am sure they won’t hurt.
The Pike fisheries improved and in the mid 1990s, peaked. The last four or five years have seen a steady drop in the Pike creels, while the bass creels have appeared to stay steady, other than the number of large size bass has declined.
Through studies with MNR and in the opinion of various fishermen on Dog Lake, here are some of the Dog lake fishery problems:
Fishing Derbies: There has been a huge increase in winter fishing pressure along with Pike fishing derbies in both the winter and the summer season. While many of the winter derbies support good causes (local fire departments, kids camps etc) little effort is being made to have ‘live release’ derbies. The Bass Tournament Associations have their derbies on Dog Lake, and then have their ‘weigh- ins’ on Cranberry Lake or Seeley’s Bay. Large Bass are usually the target of these derbies and when they are released it is in a different part of the Rideau system, not back into Dog Lake where they were taken from. After years of removing large Bass from Dog Lake, it now appears that fewer large sized Bass are being caught and this could affect future spawning success. The last couple of years has seen better effort by the Bass Clubs to return the Bass back to the lake from which they were caught, but more effort is needed. Removal of hundreds of three to six pound Bass from Dog Lake is going to hurt the future of the Bass fisheries.
Creel Limits: Currently fishermen are allowed to take six Bass and six Pike per day. Although it is illegal to have more than that limit, how is this monitored? What we would like to see is a reduction to three or four of each species. We would also like to see out of province fishermen having a Conservation License ONLY. That would allow only two of each species.
Guiding: Guiding puts pressure on Pike and Bass fisheries and usually targets smaller sized Pike and Bass to cook for shore dinners and for their clients to take home. 99% of the clients are American. The Guides work hard to promote live release. It would help the Guides if out of province fishermen would only be allowed a Conservation license. This would vastly reduce the amount of fish being taken from the lake. Currently we only have two Guides on Dog, who average fifty days per year, and five or six Guides who work from five to fifteen days per year. The Guides Association has worked hard for many years to protect and enhance the fisheries on Dog Lake by promoting live release and lower creels.
Illegal Fishing: This has a huge impact on the fisheries. Many Bass are taken all winter long and during the spawning season. If you see poachers on the lake, please call the MNR and report known offences.The Number of Fishermen: There has been a huge increase in the number of fishermen, with better equipment and knowledge. With better bait, fish finders, faster boats and educated fishermen it has put more pressure on the existing fisheries. As well, the proximity to the U.S border and the high demand for waterfront properties has increased fishing pressure.