Quesnel Lake study nets award

A five-year study examining the effects of angling pressures on resident rainbow, bull and lake trout in Quesnel Lake has netted local ministry staff a prestigious provincial award.

The Quesnel Lake fish tagging program, which was launched in 2013 in response to requests to review restrictive fishing regulations, won the Silver Award from the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund recently.

Lee Williston, study leader and senior fisheries biologist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, said he couldn’t be happier with the results of the study and is humbled by the award.

“The knowledge we have gained over the last three years has really exceeded all our expectations,” Williston said.

The study has shed some light on critical questions surrounding the different species, such as mortality rates, use of habitat and sensitivity to angling pressures and will be used to help guide future angling regulations.

To date, about 600 rainbow, bull and lake trout have been equipped with high-reward floy tags and released back into the lake where Williston’s team has placed 30 acoustic receivers at various locations in the 100 kilometre-long, 525-metre deep lake. Of those fish, 250 have also been implanted with acoustic tags.

When an acoustic-tagged fish travels within approximately 700 metres of a receiver, the unique identification number, date, time, location and depth of the fish is recorded.

HCTF CEO Brian Springinotic said Williston’s proposal was well thought out with clearly stated objectives and garnered community involvement.

“He’s done a great job in reaching out to the community to explain what work is being done out there and that’s really important,” Springinotic said, noting HCTF recognized the project’s value early on.

“Quesnel Lake is this iconic lake in B.C. – it’s very large, very deep and it has a collection of very large, important species of fish. It’s just a really vibrant ecosystem and we didn’t know enough about it,” he said of why HCTF backed the five year, $300,000 study.

Springinotic said it was purely serendipitous that the study commenced before the 2014 Mount Polley tailings breach, giving scientists some important baseline information pre-spill.

“Had nobody been studying this area we would have been largely in the dark as to what impact this event might have on the fish.”

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