• Nottawasaga Steelheaders

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    Greetings everyone! Allow me to introduce myself.

    I am currently the president of the Nottawasaga Steelheaders since 2001. We are an active group of conservation minded anglers and individuals, since 2001 and a member of the NS since 1996. We have been actively involved in efforts to preserve the integrity of the Nottawasaga River watershed with the support and partnerships of various communities, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority and various MNR departments in Ontario including Midhurst, Owen Sound and Thunder Bay.

    Receiving my Bachelor of Biology from York University in 1976, I have been employed in industry delivering instrumentation and reagents in clinical diagnostics, academic and DNA related research to hospital and university laboratories.

    I have been fishing the Nottawasaga River since 1967 and have fished for steelhead, rainbow and salmon across Canada and the US. My passion for many years has been for the Notty and to do something positive for the watershed and to ".put a little back" as the Nottawasaga Steelheaders motto says.

    One of our groupís key battles has been against a major quarry that has been proposed for the Melancthon/ Shelburne area. This 2400 acre quarry threatens agriculture and major aquifers feeding several key watersheds including the Nottawasaga and Grand Rivers.

    In addition The Nottawasaga Steelheaders are currently undertaking a 4 year study to assess the health of Nottawasaga steelhead.

    Thank you, Dave, for capturing the salient points of the issue of stocking. I think we all agree that the eventual point of arrival is a healthy and self-sustaining fishery for all as well as balanced program of rehabilitation that allows for a healthy ecosystem. I am sure you will all also agree that the species in the watershed need to be protected as there is a complex interactive biodiversity that can be very delicate and subject to all sorts of adversities. Tipping this balance can happen quickly and be long lasting as we have seen with the unexpected and rapid decline of walleye in the Notty. Notty walleye are one of two strains of walleye in North America that are swamp spawners and low water levels combined with global warming basically destroyed their spawning shallows in and about the Minesing Swamp.

    As we mention in our note about stocking, serious problems occur with intermixing and supplementation of stocked fish with established wild populations. This has been documented in many papers. The most recent by Christie et al in Heredity, 2012 on the Hood River ,Oregon.

    Though the fishing at the Saugeen can be quite exciting (and I will be the first to say so from experience) the situation of numbers of fish that are caught is artificially created and sustained by dams including Dennyís Dam. Dennyís Dam was created in the 1970ís by the Saugeen River Conservation Authority as a flood/water control and lamprey control.

    If the dams were not there, the fish, unrestricted, would literally shoot up the river to their rightful spawning grounds. So to compare the Saugeen to the Notty is not simply one of taking the Saugeen model as one to copy elsewhere. One has to appreciate and fully understand the complex biodiversity of the Nottawasaga River before introducing something that is not natural or unacceptable to the eco-balance in the watershed.

    Notty steelhead can run up 70 kms to Nicholston dam in 3-4 days and we are seeing chrome steelhead in the upper waters indicating rapid ascent. The same would likely occur in the Saugeen if the dams were not there. And this would be very helpful to the steelhead. Steelhead are very adaptive to changes in their environment, perhaps one of the most adaptive of all migratory salmonids. Our Nottawasaga River Steelhead Assessment Study team have experienced angling large numbers of ascending steelhead in the lower Notty that appear to be moving rapidly upstream. They do not remain in these areas to be caught in subsequent days of angling. There are large runs of steelhead running up the Nottawasaga from the Assessment Team angling reports.

    Again if you wish to know more about the Nottawasaga watershed and its unique characteristics and species or wish to discuss your thoughts, we welcome you to our meetings. Our last meeting at the NVCA Tiffin Centre covered several very interesting and informative topics. These included Nottawasaga Chinook Salmon. Recent studies by Marklevitz et al from the U of WO showed 35% of salmon in the Lake Huron basin are of Nottawasaga origin. This is remarkable and speaks of the natural unimpeded health of the watershed to support this migratory species. Recent studies also revealed that almost 100% of salmon analyzed were now wild in the Nottawasaga River. This speaks to the importance of a healthy watershed and speaks highly of the health and diversity of the Nottawasaga River watershed and making sure it is taken care of responsibly. Think beyond the smaller and self serving picture of a nice angling experience to a healthy and natural watershed that benefits everything and everyone!

    Take care of the watershed and it will remain healthy for all species, including humans, for years to come.

    Yours in Conservation,

    Gary Christie, President, Nottawasaga Steelheaders