High water force salmon anglers to catch as catch can

Sarnia’s John Perz casts his line while fishing for rainbow trout under the Blue Water Bridge last week. The past two years have not been kind to local shore anglers, he noted, because of high Great Lakes water levels. “I’ve never seen water this high,” he said. “It’s changed everything.” Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

The high water in Lake Huron could be a blessing and a curse for anglers at this year’s Bluewater Anglers Salmon Derby.

Great for the boaters, not so much for anglers on shore.

“Hopefully this year will be good,” said event chair Paul Heckley. “Last year was one of our highest numbers of fish entered (with) just over 1,600.”

But anglers fishing from shore, which have their own Derby categories, have had less than stellar results, he noted.

“Last year was not a particularly good year for shore fishermen. The numbers were down by close to half, but they had a lot of dirty water from the north winds. And that definitely impacts the shore fishermen.”

The derby returns May 1 – 10, when anglers from across the region descend on Lambton County to vie for more than $40,000 in prizes, including $5,000 for the biggest salmon.

More than 1,200 participants are expected this year, with weigh stations set up in Sarnia and Port Franks.

Last year also saw a record number of children participating, with 44 registered, he added.

The revenue generated covers about half of the Bluewater Anglers’ hatchery operating costs for the year, he said.

Since 2013, more than 400,000 Chinook salmon have been raised and released from the Point Edward facility.

Bluewater Anglers are allowed to collect 100,000 Chinook eggs each fall. From that, about 90,000 salmon are growing in hatchery tanks right now, he said.

The natural resources ministry provides the hatchery with 50,000 rainbow trout eggs, and 25,000 brown trout eggs each year, Heckley added.

The volume is determined based on current populations in the Great Lakes ecosystem.

“It’s been pretty steady for the last ten years. We’ve had those numbers every year. And what we release just depends on what the survival rate is from eggs.”

The hatchery has an open house scheduled so residents can see the operation up close for themselves, March 21 and 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For Derby registration and more information, visit www.bluewateranglers.com.