Bringing hope to eastern Georgian Bay fish

Certain fish populations have been suffering in Georgian Bay due to over-fishing, water flow manipulation in spawning areas, dam constructions, climate change, pollution and waves of invasive species. Here are some indicators of the collapse of certain species:

  • 30,000 to under 1,000 in one spawning location - The Eastern Georgian Bay Stewardship Council's Walleye Woes indicates that spawning runs in the Moon River of Georgian Bay used to number around 30,000 fish annually - these days the numbers have been reduced to several hundred.
  • Abundant to threatened - The Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve notes that Lake Sturgeon used to be prevalent before European settlement in the mid to late 1800’s, and now they are officially "threatened", and in fact are non-existent in some of the tributaries and water where they had spawned.
  • Georgian Bay Forever wanted to bring attention and help as a partner to the project led by The Eastern Georgian Bay Stewardship Council that will assess habitat for remediation and is detailed below.

Walleye Picture

Help is on the way…

Written by Julia Sutton of the Eastern Georgian Bay Stewardship Council in January 2017. There are some great videos on the Eastern Georgian Bay Stewardship Council page at the bottom, as well as some other information. Please visit this link .

A project is in work to assess the quality of fish habitat available to Walleye, Lake Sturgeon, and Sucker species in tributaries of Eastern Georgian Bay within Parry Sound.
Note, March 2018: This project has been completed. We will link to the end report on the Eastern Georgian Bay Stewardship Council website as soon as it is available.

In the short-term, please enjoy a restoration story for Walleye fish passage on the Shebeshekong River, that was identified through this tributary project at this link . And please read on to understand the intent behind the project.
Walleye, Lake Sturgeon and Sucker species utilize similar spawning areas and many Georgian Bay stocks move upstream into tributaries to spawn in the spring. Stocks have been stressed or severely stressed in many Eastern Georgian Bay tributaries, particularly Walleye.

Tributaries provide important spawning habitat for Walleye, Lake Sturgeon and Sucker species and, depending on the system, important refuge and feeding habitat for juveniles. Land use changes, Georgian Bay water level fluctuations and changes in upstream flows can impact these important areas for fish habitat.

More information

This project is looking to assess whether spawning habitat is functioning well and whether that spawning area is connected to downstream rearing and nursery areas for species to carry out their early life stages. This information will provide valuable information on habitat connectivity and the potential for restoring habitat.

Blackstone River Spawning Area
Photo Credit: Eastern Georgian Bay Stewardship Council (EGBSC)

Fish Habitat spawning Area Georgian Bay
Where exactly?

8 tributaries will be evaluated on whether they provide suitable spawning, nursery, rearing, and foraging environments.

    1. Seguin River
    2. Shebeshekong River
    3. Shawanaga River
    4. Magnetawan River
    5. Key River
    6. Pickerel River
    7. Sucker’s Creek
    8. Naiscoot River
Who's involved?

A collaborative working group is lending their expertise to help evaluate the data and to identify and prioritize sites for restoration and assist with project communications.

Led by the Eastern Georgian Bay Stewardship Council (EGBSC) , the group also includes Georgian Bay Forever, Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve, Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Upper Great Lakes Management Unit.

    More information
This project is being funded through the Environmental Damages Fund for Parry Sound District and EGBSC. In-kind contributions for the project are being provided by GBF, GBBR, Upper Great Lakes Management Unit (UPGLMU) of Ontario Natural Resources and Forestry.
Start date – July 2015
Fall 2017 – Complete one restoration project
Dec 2017/Jan or Feb/2017 – EGBSC Host workshop to share findings
End date – March 31, 2018
Expected Outcomes:

In addition to the assessments of the 8 tributaries, near the end of the project, one spawning bed restoration project will be designed and completed. A workshop will be held to share project findings, open to all community members to attend. Volunteers and community members will be involved with field work when possible. The report will be shared with all project partners and other interested agencies, municipalities, First Nations and organizations. Habitat information gathered in this project will be integrated into the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve’s State of the Bay Report (2018) and the Upper Great Lakes Management Unit’s Lake Huron Walleye Management Plan.

Shebeshekong - aerial photos to help identify potential fish habitat
Photo Credit: Eastern Georgian Bay Stewardship Council (EGBSC)

Fish Habitat Picture Georgian Bay

Field Work Activities

For the eight broad assessments, the following information will be collected:

Tributary length (outlet to first major fish migration barrier or spawning area)
Spawning areas
Tributary survey timelines
Activities to Date
Fall 2015
Winter 2015/16

Photographing spawning substrate

Taking pictures of spawning habitat Georgian Bay Photo Credit: Eastern Georgian Bay Stewardship Council (EGBSC)

Georgian Bay - Shebeshekong River Measurements

Measurements on the Shebeshekong River Photo Credit: Eastern Georgian Bay Stewardship Council (EGBSC)


Most information and copy was provided by Julia Sutton from the Eastern Georgian Bay Stewardship Council, with some editing by Heather Sargeant of Georgian Bay Forever. Thank-you EGBSC for your insightful contributions.