Spring fish stocking requires many dedicated volunteers

It’s Spring and, for the Lake Huron Fishing Club (LHFC) volunteers, it means re-stocking local rivers with young ‘fry’ Salmon and Trout.

More than 80,000 trout have already been released and, on Saturday, May 13th (2023), volunteers moved some 50,000 salmon fry to the Saugeen River for their Spring travel to Lake Huron, with another 50,000 to be moved on May 20th.

                                                        LHFC President Dave Myette and volunteers

For more than 30 years, the LHFC Hatchery in Port Elgin has raised and cared for hundreds of thousands of Salmon (fry) from eggs collected each fall from returning salmon.  Each year, the eggs are cared for in the Port Elgin Hatchery or the Kincardine Hatchery until they hatch and, several months later, are released into rivers that lead to Lake Huron.

The hatchery in Port Elgin is operated with two water supplies – the Town Pond, which is the hatchery’s preferred supply because of its natural spring water that continually bubbles up from the bottom. The other supply is from a well because it is warmer and, therefore, the ratio can be adjusted to give an optimal temperature of 9 to 10 degree water needed for the hatcheries’ fish tanks.

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Millions of fish have been re-stocked under the process that is licensed by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and is operated for the Province by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters under the Community Hatchery Program.

“We are highly regulated by the MNRF,” says LHFC President Dave Myette.  “We are licensed in three categories – for the number of eggs collected, aquaculture and stocking.  We are also required by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) to report taking and discharging any water in the event that we have to use any medicines to combat disease.”

LHFC has 25 club members who each take a day to volunteer, including three women – Jane Ann Smith, Gretchen Ball and Ruth Hawks.

While raising fish for restocking through the two hatcheries in Port Elgin and Kincardine, Club members are also involved with erosion control, reforestation and stream improvements.  The Club of volunteers has provided vital fish statistics to the MNRF over many years to help the Ministry keep up to date with knowledge about Lake Huron and its fish habitat and livelihood.

In Port Elgin (Saugeen Shores), the fish in the town’s ‘trout pond’ adjacent to the hatchery are also being fed daily by hatchery volunteers.  “The pond is an opportunity for youngsters and families to come out and learn how to fish and release,” says Myette.  “We only hope that people respect the purpose of the pond and that it is primarily for children to learn in a safe environment about what is involved in fishing.”