In addition to the sport fish species identified in previous chapters of the FMZ 18 Fisheries Management Plan, there are a number of other species or groups of species that provide important recreational, commercial or ecological functions. Included are those species that are forage fish (food for piscivorous sport fish, including species legally used as baitfish); coarse fish (or non-traditional sport fish) which are targeted by recreational anglers, but to a much lesser extent; and species at risk (endangered, threatened, or of special concern) formally designated under federal or provincial legislation.

It should however be noted that several fish species may be categorized under two groups of species.

In most cases, with the exception of species at risk, forage and coarse fish species are not specifically regulated for recreational fishing (i.e. no closed season; no catch or size limits).

Forage fish

There are approximately 545 baitfish harvesters, 640 baitfish dealers and 5800 bait harvest areas (BHA) within Ontario, 141 of the latter are entirely or partially located within FMZ 18. It is also conservatively estimated that the total retail value of bait in the province is $23 million (OMNR, 2014).

Historical MNRF fisheries assessment programs are largely ineffective in sampling forage fish species and communities, although non-standardized methods have been used in the past. Small-bodied fishes (less than 10 cm) provide critical forage for many predatory fish species. These populations are not vulnerable to most historical index netting techniques or have not been a priority component of the survey objectives. Alternative means of sampling are often used to target this segment of the fish community.

The species, size and abundance of forage fish that have been historically, and now more recently sampled through BsM, suggest that potential forage for top predators are available in each lake, although in some instances available forage may not be optimal species. Although most fish species are opportunistic predators, spiny rayed, gibbose species (e.g. sunfish and bass) are generally not preferred forage due to low capture efficiencies and nutrient value relative to other species (e.g. white sucker (Catostomus commersonii), cisco (Lake Herring) (Coregonus artedii), and large cyprinids (minnows)) (OMNR, 2009b). The forage requirements on a population level need to be identified before it can be determined if forage availability is a limiting factor for predator fishes.

Coarse fish

Most MNRF fisheries assessment programs have not been specifically designed to target coarse fish species and communities, although a number of specimens have been sampled using these techniques in the past.

Common carp (Cyprinus carpio), although not native to Ontario, are present in FMZ 18. However they may be relatively uncommon in FMZ 18 lakes as few have been detected in recent netting surveys. Common carp have the potential to grow quite large with fish being capable of exceeding 80 cm (31 in.) and fish exceeding 10 kg (22 lbs) are reasonably common. Other FMZs have reported an emerging fishery that is mainly shore-based, however it is currently unclear as to whether a common carp fishery is emerging in FMZ 18.

Brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus), a member of the catfish family, are one of the most widely distributed fish species in FMZ 18. Present in a very high number of lakes and rivers, they support a relatively low intensity recreational fishery. Local residents have identified a dramatic decline in brown bullhead abundance in some waterbodies within the zone. Current index netting is either ineffective at sampling bullheads or their ‘clumped’ distribution makes meaningful data interpretation difficult.

Rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris) are also well distributed and established across FMZ 18. They occupy a similar niche to bluegill, pumpkinseed and black crappie, but they are not harvested nearly as intensively as other species of panfish, even though they make suitable table fare and are easily caught. Rock bass can influence the composition of fish communities and may be a significant predator of the early life history stages of various sport fish species.

Longnose gar (Lepisosteus osseus) are present in parts of FMZ 18, in particular in the tributaries of Lake Ontario/St. Lawrence River (FMZ 20) and the Ottawa River (FMZ 12). Very little information exists about the status of these populations.

Burbot (Lota lota), also known as ling or ling cod, are a member of the cod family and can be found throughout FMZ 18. Little information exists on the abundance of burbot within the zone, however they appear to be caught frequently during the ice fishing season in FMZ 18. Although sometimes viewed as a coarse fish species, they do make adequate table fare.

Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) are found in the tributaries of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers, within FMZ 18, and where present, they usually occur in high densities. This species is an excellent food fish (although some people find its flavor too rich and strong), a commercial fish of some importance, and a formidable sport fish (Scott and Crossman, 1998).

Species at risk fish

In Ontario, species at risk are protected under both federal and provincial legislation. The federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) provides protection to species considered at risk on a national scale. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assesses species status for listing under SARA. Species listed under Schedule 1 of SARA are afforded protection. Provincially, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) 2007, replaced the previous legislation that was written in 1971. Under the ESA 2007, species thought to be at risk are assessed by The Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO). Once species are classified “at risk”, they are added to the Species at Risk in Ontario (SARO) list in one of four categories. Endangered, threatened and extirpated species on this list automatically receive legal protection under the ESA 2007. The final category is of special concern, and includes species with characteristics that make them sensitive to human activities or natural events. The act in which a species is listed determines which piece of legislation affords its protection, and if the species is listed in both acts, the one that offers the highest protection is used. In FMZ 18, nine fishes that are formally listed under SARA or the ESA have been identified. These species and their associated designation status are provided in Table 8.

Table 8: species at risk fish in FMZ 18.

SpeciesProvincial designationFederal designation
American eel (Anguilla rostrata)EndangeredNot Designated
Channel darter (Percina copelandi)ThreatenedThreatened
Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens)
Great Lakes-Upper St. Lawrence population
ThreatenedNot Designated
Cutlip minnow (Exoglossum maxillingua)ThreatenedSpecial Concern
Silver lamprey (Ichthyomyzon unicuspis)
Great Lakes-Upper St. Lawrence population
Special ConcernNot Designated
Northern brook lamprey (Ichthyomyzon fossor)Special ConcernSpecial Concern
Bridle shiner (Notropis bifrenatus)Special ConcernSpecial Concern
Grass pickerel (Esox americanus vermiculatus)Special ConcernSpecial Concern
River redhorse (Moxostoma carinatum)Special ConcernSpecial Concern

Forage and coarse fish management in FMZ 18

FMZ 18 supports abundant populations of forage and coarse fish, although the lack of assessment data has been recognized as a potential concern in the fisheries management plan. MNRF and the Advisory Council identified a number of challenges to assessing and potentially identifying the need to manage certain forage (including baitfish) and/or coarse species populations in FMZ 18.

Challenges:

  • reduction in numbers of forage fish (e.g. pelagic forage base in certain coldwater lakes)
  • under-utilization of coarse fish species as recreational fishing opportunities
  • public awareness (species promotion) / education, increasing these species’ recreational value
  • loss of habitat, especially headwater streams, through urban development
  • habitat destruction caused by shoreline development; increased nutrient levels from faulty septic systems or shoreline erosion
  • lack of an effective, standardized assessment protocol for assessing many of the forage fish populations in smaller lacustrine and riverine systems
  • water level and flow fluctuations in the spring causing recruitment failure
  • changes in the fish and fish habitat protection provisions of the recently updated federal Fisheries Act, especially as it pertains to headwater and other streams that have only forage fish populations, waterbodies which are often impacted by urban development
  • quantifying waterbody specific baitfish harvest

The MNRF with the advice of the Advisory Council developed objectives and strategies to address the challenges and help reach the following forage and coarse fish species goal.

Goal: 

To maintain forage and coarse fish populations supported by naturally reproducing populations to provide an adequate forage base and sustainable recreational and commercial harvest.

Objective 1:

Maintain forage and coarse fish abundance.

Although there is no trend through time population data, MNRF and the Advisory Council identified the need to monitor our forage fish populations in FMZ 18, given the direct link this segment of the fish community has to, and the extent to which it can influence the more targeted sport fish segment. The key management challenge facing this objective is that we currently do not have a standardized protocol which can effectively assess forage fish populations in smaller lakes and small, narrow non- wadeable rivers and streams.

Strategies to address the objective include:

  • monitor populations through the BsM program and partner data (e.g. conservation authorities)
  • where possible, include monitoring and assessment of these species in on-going assessment surveys
  • explore opportunities with baitfish harvesters to determine species abundance and distribution within FMZ 18
  • explore or support the development of new index netting methods for non- wadeable streams and small rivers

Objective 2:

Maintain or increase forage and coarse fish recruitment.

Forage and coarse fish concentrate at specific sites to spawn each spring or fall, in either, shallow bays, littoral zones, wetland areas, or fast flowing sections (rapids) of, lakes, rivers, streams. It is important to identify, enhance, protect and provide access to these sites to ensure sustainable forage and coarse fish populations. Some forage fish spawning habitat can be impacted by fluctuating water levels and flows. It is important to maintain consistent water levels and flows during the spawning/incubation/hatching period of forage and coarse fish. If the water levels are lowered during this time period, eggs may be killed if they are exposed to air. There are numerous dams and hydropower facilities in FMZ 18 that control flows and levels that could impact forage and coarse fish spawning success.

Strategies to address the objective include:

  • protect all waterbodies that have only forage fish populations, especially head water streams, wetlands and ponds
  • reduce impacts of water level management by reviewing and providing input to water management plans

Objective 3:

Maintain and promote recreational angling opportunities for coarse fish species.

MNRF’s Provincial Fish Strategy and the Advisory Council places priority on naturally reproducing, self-sustaining populations. A number of strategies are outlined in this document which will continue to provide or indirectly increase coarse fish species abundance and continue to provide angling opportunities.

In other jurisdictions, some of these coarse fish species are more highly sought by anglers as both a quality sport fishing experience, and a desirable harvest opportunity. Ontario resident anglers largely disregard the harvest opportunity offered by some of these species.

One component of MNRF’s mandate is to provide fishing opportunities within the sustainable use of the fisheries resource. The relative abundance of most coarse fish species can support a significant level of harvest. Currently, these liberal angling opportunities for coarse species are being significantly under-utilized on all waterbodies, within FMZ 18.

Strategies to address the objective include:

  • maintain liberal angling regulations associated with these species to encourage angling and harvest where appropriate
  • develop a marketing strategy to promote available angling opportunities to non- traditional markets (e.g. European anglers and the common carp fishery)

The goal, objectives and strategies have been summarized in Table 9.

Table 9: forage and coarse species summary

Adapted from tabular format.

Forage and coarse management goal:

To maintain forage and coarse fish populations supported by naturally reproducing populations to provide an adequate forage base and sustainable recreational and commercial harvest.

Objective 1.

Maintain forage and coarse fish abundance

Strategies
  • Monitor population through the BsM program and partner data (e.g. conservation authorities).
  • Where possible, include monitoring and assessment of these species in on-going assessment surveys.
  • Explore opportunities with baitfish harvesters to determine species abundance and distribution within FMZ 18.
  • Explore or support the development of new index netting methods for non-wadeable streams and small rivers.
Progress reviewed by

BsM Cycle 3

IndicatorBenchmarkTarget
Median area weighted forage and coarse fish species CUEW (all lakes combined from BsM)Current kg/netCurrent kg/net
Objective 2.

Maintain or increase forage and coarse fish recruitment.

Strategies
  • Protect all waterbodies that have only forage fish populations, especially head water streams, wetlands and ponds.
  • Reduce impacts of water level management by reviewing and providing input to water management plans.
Progress reviewed by

BsM Cycle 3

IndicatorBenchmarkTarget
Current BsM Mean # of Young of the Year (YOY) fish
  • Current BsM Mean # of Young of the Year (YOY) fish
  • Current BsM Mean # of juvenile fish
  • Maintain or > Current BsM Mean # of Young of the Year (YOY) fish
  • Maintain or > Current BsM Mean # of juvenile fish
Current BsM Mean # of juvenile fishN/AN/A
Objective 3.

Maintain and promote recreational angling opportunities for coarse fish species.

Strategies
  • Maintain liberal angling regulations associated with these species to encourage angling and harvest where appropriate.
  • Develop a marketing strategy to promote available angling opportunities to non-traditional markets (e.g. European anglers and the common carp fishery).
Progress reviewed by

BsM Cycle 4

IndicatorBenchmarkTarget
Maintain current length of the coarse fish season (i.e. open all year).N/AN/A

Species at risk fish management in FMZ 18

FMZ 18 supports relatively low populations of species at risk fish, although the lack of assessment data does make it challenging to determine the status of various species. This has been recognized as a potential concern in the fisheries management plan. MNRF and the Advisory Council identified a number of challenges to assessing and potentially identifying the need to manage certain species at risk populations in FMZ 18.

Challenges:

  • reduction in species at risk fish population abundance
  • loss of habitat, limited micro-habitats in some cases
  • difficulty in monitoring populations at relatively low densities and lack of an effective, standardized assessment protocol for assessing many of the species at risk fish populations
  • water level and flow fluctuations in the spring causing recruitment failure
  • need to better educate the public on the identification of species at risk fish

The MNRF with the advice of the Advisory Council developed objectives and strategies to address the challenges and help reach the following species at risk goal.

Goal:

To support the recovery and future sustainability of species at risk fish populations.

Objective 1:

Maintain or possibly increase species at risk fish abundance.

MNRF and the Advisory Council identified the need to monitor our species at risk fish populations in FMZ 18, given their critical state. The key management challenge facing this objective is that these species’ life processes and the associated habitat they use is not well understood; and we also currently do not have standardized protocols which can effectively assess these various populations.

Strategies to address the objective include:

  • monitor populations through the BsM and/or NSCIN program and partner/scientific fish collector licensee data
  • where possible, include monitoring and assessment of these species in on-going assessment surveys
  • explore or support the development of species specific assessment methodologies
  • participate in recovery planning teams and implement recommendations of recovery plans
  • protect all waterbodies that have only forage fish (potentially including species at risk fish) populations, especially head water streams, wetlands and ponds
  • reduce impacts of water level management by reviewing and providing input to water management plans
  • engage stakeholders to increase awareness, promote and undertake rehabilitation to enable natural shorelines

The goal, objectives and strategies have been summarized in Table 10.

Table 10: species at risk summary

Adapted from tabular format.

Species at risk management goal:

To support the recovery and future sustainability of species at risk (SAR) fish populations.

Objective 1.

Maintain or possibly increase SAR fish abundance.

Strategies
  • Monitor populations through the BsM and/or NSCIN program and through partner/scientific fish collector licensee data.
  • Where possible, include monitoring and assessment of these species in on-going assessment surveys.
  • Explore or support the development of species-specific assessment methodologies.
  • Participate in species recovery planning teams and implement recommendations of recovery plans.
  • Protect all waterbodies that have only forage fish (potentially including SAR fish) populations, especially head water streams, wetlands and ponds.
  • Reduce impacts of water level management by reviewing and providing input to water management plans.
  • Engage stakeholders to increase awareness, promote and undertake rehabilitation to enable natural shorelines.
Progress reviewed by

BsM Cycle 3

IndicatorBenchmarkTarget
# of habitat targeted SAR fish/netCurrent # of habitat targeted SAR fish/net> Current # of habitat targeted SAR fish/net