Jason Cooper, senior fisheries biologist in the Red Deer office of Alberta Environment and Parks, knows everything about the Sylvan Lake fishery. He catches, counts and reports on fish as part of the Fall Walleye Index Netting program to assess the number, size and age of species that live in the the lake.
Here’s how it’s done:
Sixty metre long nets with sections of differently sized openings are set for about a day to sample the population then the catch is evaluated.
Data are summarized in technical reports like this one for 2012. The following graphic from that source shows that the predator walleye have declined in number between 2008 and 2012 and that the FWI now falls in the red ‘Collapsed’ zone.
There are more fishery data in the Alberta Environment and Parks archives.
If fish could talk, what would they say about Sylvan Lake? Do they need a better food supply to remain healthy? More and better habitat for spawning and cover? Do they need less angling pressure in both summer and winter? Less urban development and fewer fishing boat access points? Should the ‘Take It Off’ fishing hut Spring clearance program actually be ‘Take A Hike?’ to restrict ice fishing?
The Fall Walleye Index data provides us with another Cumulative Effects indicator for lake management. Now we have to learn to apply that information to improve both the terrestrial and aquatic environments of Sylvan Lake.