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Native Fishing

Positives for Fishery Management


Posted May 25, 2017

A May 16 North Bay Nugget article outlining the current state of the Lake Nipissing walleye fishery is available here. A major study entitled Achieving a Sustainable Lake Nipissing Walleye Fishery, produced by Doris Smith for the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce, was released today (May 25) and is available here. Thank you to Paul Cormier for his contribution in representing the UFRCA among the many stakeholders. Today's press release from the NBDCC is available here. The response from a variety of local stakeholders was reported in the June 23 North Bay Nugget and may be seen here.

Fishing News - Commercial Fishery To Be Closed


Posted August 19. 2015

See this breaking news at


More On Fishing


Posted June 27, 2015


Following are several links to other fishing-related articles in the North Bay media. 

Fishing dominates local Lake Nipissing news


Posted June 18, 2015

The Lake Nipissing fishery continues to generate news from all sides. The following three articles are from the North Bay Nugget.


Fish protest being planned for August 1, 2015

By Jennifer Hamilton-McCharles, The Nugget
Wednesday June 17, 2015 2:04:39 EDT PM

Fishermen, tourists and concerned citizens are holding a demonstration to raise awareness of what is happening on Lake Nipissing. The organizer Reg Dupuis said he wants to bring accountability to what he describes as the mismanagement and lack of enforcement by Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Nipissing First Nation leaders and Anishniabek Police Service. Dupuis said he is in the process of informing Ontario Provincial Police, North Bay Police Service of the protest, as well, ensuring he has the proper permits for the Aug. 1 event. For the rest of the North Bay Nugget article, see

Co-operation, understanding key to Lake Nipissing's health

By Bob Goulais
Special to The Nugget
Wednesday June 17, 2015 10:00:07 EDT AM

We have a couple of big problems to solve when it comes to the Lake Nipissing fishery. First and foremost, we all need to work together to address the serious decline in the walleye population and overall health of our beautiful lake. Lake Nipissing has been our lifeblood of the Nbisiing people giving us sustenance nutritionally, economically and spiritually. The lake has also been a critical economic driver for many residents and anglers who live, work and play in our region. We all have a stake in the protection of our lake and its species. For the rest of the Nugget article, see

Dumped fish angers angler

By PJ Wilson, The Nugget
Thursday June 11, 2015 4:42:39 EDT PM

The Lake Nipissing fish no one seems to want are being left to rot, according to a fisherman who says he was “sickened” by a fish dump on Nipissing First Nation land. Larry Bonney said the dump on Mooz Miikun, a road that leads to a gravel pit off Highway 17, was probably about 60 feet by 60 feet, and contained unsold, packaged fillets as well as whole pike, muskie, sheepshead and bass. For the rest of the Nugget article, see

Walleye Population Remains Stressed but Improving


Posted May 26, 2015

According to a North Bay Nugget article today, "the walleye population in Lake Nipissing remains stressed, but recent legislative changes are helping the young fish mature and reproduce, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry." For the complete North Bay Nugget article, click here.

Changes in the wind for local First Nations


Posted May 26, 2015

Political changes are in store for both local First Nations. At Nipissing First Nation west of North Bay, Chief Marianna Couchie recently announced she would be stepping down at the end of this term. The election for chief and band councillors is slated for July 10, 2015. For the North Bay Nugget article click here. At Dokis First Nation, Chief Denise Restoule has also claimed this will be her last two-year term, which ends in 2016.

Gill netting continues to be a problem during moratorium

Posted May 23, 2015

An article from the May 10 North Bay Nugget is available here.

Charges laid in gill netting

Thursday, March 26, 2015 5:10:10 EDT PM


The Ministry of Natural Resources has confirmed charges have been laid in relation to the unmarked gill nets found in Lake Nipissing last summer. “I can confirm that on March 24, 2015 charges were laid in relation to the unmarked gill nets,” Jolanta Kowalski, Senior Media Relations Officer with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry told The Nugget Thursday afternoon.

She said the suspect was charged with wasting flesh of fish suitable for food (an offence under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997) and for leaving decaying fish in a net (an offence under the Federal Fisheries Act). “We appreciate the cooperation and assistance of the Nipissing First Nation in this matter. Since this matter is now before the courts, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.” Kowalski refused to identify the suspect and didn't provide an explanation.

From June 7 to late August the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry officers pulled 13 abandoned nets from Lake Nipissing. Most of the nets contained hundreds of dead fish. The first net was discovered on Lake Nipissing on June 7. The net had more than 200 rotting fish in it. As the nets continued to be found in Lake Nipissing, community organizations and groups jumped on board to help and bring attention to the issue.

BAYSAR Search and Rescue joined forces with the MNRF in the summer to help look for abandoned gill nets. The volunteer organization took five flights over the lake. The North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce and Lake Nipissing Stakeholders Association called for the arrest of person or persons responsible for gill nets after discovery of a fifth 200-foot net full of rotting fish floating in Lake Nipissing.

Nipissing First Nation put a stop to gill netting on Lake Nipissing last fall in response to concerns from its community members about the health of the walleye fishery. Chief Marianna Couchie stated in a previous article that the band council closed down gill netting on the lake until spring when the recreational walleye fishing season opens. She said many people wanted Nipissing First Nation to close gill netting right down, however the band council opted instead for a temporary closure out of concern for community members whose livelihoods depend on the fishery. 

NFN halts gill netting

By GORD YOUNG, The Nugget
Sunday, October 19, 2014 12:10:18 EDT PM

Nipissing First Nation has put a stop to gill netting on Lake Nipissing in response to concerns from its community members about the health of the walleye fishery.

Chief Marianna Couchie confirmed Saturday a recent decision by the band council to close down gill netting on the lake until spring when the recreational walleye fishing season opens.

She said the move comes after consultation with Nipissing First Nation community members, the vast majority of whom called for steps to curtail the use of nets on the lake.

“Many people wanted us to close it right down,” said Couchie, noting the band council opted instead for a temporary closure out of concern for community members whose livelihoods depend on the fishery.

She said gill netting is something that will be reviewed on an annual basis and that the long-term goal is to help find those who rely on the fishery alternative sources of income so they're no longer dependant or as dependant on the fishery.

Gill netting typically begins following an annual moratorium during the spring spawn and continues throughout the fall and even into the winter months.

Community consultations were called due to concerns about the health of the walleye fishery, with Nipissing First Nation indicating to its members during the summer this year's walleye harvest was expected to be greater than safe allowable estimates.

That was after the Ministry of Natural Resources indicated in March the walleye fishery is in serious decline and is now only half of what it was in the 1980s, mainly due to the combined pressure of both the recreational and commercial fisheries.

As a result the ministry did away with a slot size restriction aimed at preserving spawning walleye 40 to 60 centimetres in size and instead introduced a new minimum size limit to protect walleye up to 46 centimetres. The move was aimed at safeguarding young fish that have not yet had a chance to spawn.

In addition, the already contentious issue of gill netting was exacerbated this summer by the discovery of more than a dozen abandoned and unmarked nets on the lake.

Couchie said a total of about 200 community members attended the two consultation meetings that were organized by the band. She said one meeting was held strictly for gill netters. Couchie said gill netters aren't pleased with the closure, but she said the decision reflects the direction that the majority of community members called for.


Fishery: Gill Netters Slipping Through As Ice Recedes


Police patrols start Wednesday
By Dave Dale The Nugget
April 28, 2011

Reports of gill netters are beginning to trickle in as Nipissing First Nation tries to control rogue harvesters not respecting its self-imposed walleye conservation measures.
A resident of Callander said gill netters were confronted Sunday evening on the spawning beds of Lonely Island. Lights were seen again Monday evening. And Nipissing First Nation Chief Marianna Couchie said Tuesday two members face community sanction after the pair was caught coming ashore with nets and walleye.
"There's always one or two . . . who don't understand the importance of the moratorium," Couchie said of the annual ban on gill netting during the spawn. "They don't understand the conservation role we have. They think we are taking away a right."
This year's moratorium runs April 1 to May 10.
Nipissing First Nation exercises treaty rights to a commercial harvest on Lake Nipissing and has set rules for its members to follow, including quotas and size of nets.
Couchie said the late cover of ice this spring helped keep those who don't respect the conservation regulations off the lake. "It helped and we're disappointed to see it go," Couchie said.
The ice played a role in keeping noncompliant harvesters at bay, but it also kept resource staff, community monitors and the police providing security for the enforcement staff on shore.
On Monday there was still ice off the shore of Garden Village near Sturgeon Falls where resource staff usually launch their boats. But there's hardly any ice at Sturgeon Falls or east of Jocko Point and none near Duchesnay Creek, where the reserve borders North Bay.
Couchie said Nipissing will be ramping up the monitoring of boat activity as the lake opens up.
Anishinabek Police Service Sgt. Ken Dokis said Tuesday patrols were to begin Wednesday to help Nipissing FN resource staff enforce the moratorium. "We're here to provide security for the fisheries enforcement monitors for Nipissing FN," Dokis said. "All local police services and the Ministry of Natural Resources will be working collectively with routine patrols."
Wilfred Ramsay of Rocky Shore Road said his nephews went to the Lonely Island spawning grounds Sunday evening to investigate lights and activity. Ramsay said he was told they were pulling up the nets when two individuals arrived with their faces hidden. He said Ontario Provincial Police were called, but they were told a police boat wasn't available. Ramsay said they reported the incident to the Nipissing First Nation resource monitoring co-ordinator.

Ramsay and Dave Waye are part of the Lake Nipissing Walleye Restocking Association and they were busy Wednesday wrapping up their egg collection at Wasi Falls.
Waye said they support Nipissing FN's efforts to manage the commercial fishery, using the gill net moratorium during the spawn as a conservation measure. He said knowing the commercial harvest numbers helps all stakeholders react faster when the fishery shows signs of stress.
"It's discouraging that a community has taken the initiative to make this change, and then to have members of your community disobey their restrictions," Waye said, adding that Nipissing's chief and council must feel frustrated by the setbacks.
Couchie said members who support conservation measures are optimistic that enforcement will help. "Bit by bit, people will come to understand it was never our way to take a whole lot during the spawn," she said.
Clayton Goulais, Nipissing's natural resources enforcement officer, said the two young men they greeted coming to shore with nets and walleye are now considered noncompliant with community law and must attend a justice circle.
He said anyone with reports of gill netting activity prior to May 10 can call his office at
705-753-2922 during business hours or his cell phone after hours at 705-498-3823.
Posted: 4/28/2011

Nipissing FN Contemplating 10% Cut In Walleye Harvest

April 16, 2010

Nipissing First Nation commercial fishermen will use this type of gill net when the moratorium is lifted after the walleye spawn.— JEFF McLEOD Special to The Nugget

Nipissing First Nation is considering a 10% reduction in the commercial walleye harvest as a precautionary measure after fall 2009 index netting in Lake Nipissing registered surprisingly low yields.

And the Greater Nipissing Stewardship Council will "politely" ask the Ministry of Natural Resources to assign a full-time biologist to Lake Nipissing so it can have a better idea how of many walleye are taken by non-natives.
Kevin O'Grady, the council's board member for fisheries, said creel surveys are not being fully analyzed by the MNR because its biologist only works 10 months of the year. "We're not getting a fair picture of the non-native fishery," O'Grady said, adding that a projection of winter and summer angling success has not been available for two years. "The MNR is not giving Lake Nipissing its due . . . that's a big concern for us."
Stewardship council representatives were among 25 stakeholders who gathered at the Inn On The Bay last month where Nipissing First Nation biologist Richard Rowe gave an overview of the index netting data and the community's commercial fishery.

"All of a sudden, the numbers dropped off dramatically, sort of like the stock market did," O'Grady said, referring to Rowe's presentation.

He said the stewardship council agrees with the recommendation to lower the commercial quota this season until the mystery about why fewer fish showed up in the index nets after a successful fishing season last summer.

"I think it's a wise thing to do," O'Grady said, noting non-natives are curtailing their catch with the slot restrictions and lower limits, with a four-walleye maximum recently adopted.

Nipissing First Nation's annual gill netting moratorium started April 1 to give the early spawn a better chance to succeed, with the ban tentatively extending until midnight May 10.
Rowe said the recommendation — presented to the chief and council Tuesday — to lower the commercial harvest to 41,670 kilograms comes from its natural resource committee after consultations with local gill netters.

Before last year, the index netting data was trending upward toward more and bigger walleye, and Rowe said there's no way to know for sure if it was a one-time "blip" or warning sign. "While we can't dismiss the results, we have to be cautious," he said.
A Feb. 6 Nugget story highlighted the index netting results and Rowe's hypothesis that walleye may be moving in a different pattern due to altered food availability. He said anecdotal evidence suggests the smelt population ballooned, providing an easy food source for walleye, which may have also allowed the perch population to explode.
Commercial gill net harvesters met their quota early last year, Rowe said, and until the index netting project there seemed to be no lack of walleye.  Such a change in diet could mean walleye may not move around as much to find food as the water temperature changes, which may explain why so few fish were caught in the nets this fall and why it seemed hard to catch them during the winter, he said.
Rowe had proposed a follow-up spring live-trap netting project to double check the decline, but the cost of a major lake-wide project of that size was too expensive. "It was too cumbersome," Rowe said, adding other biologists "put my feet back on the ground."
Rowe, who is the featured speaker at the stewardship council annual meeting April 21, said it looks like many other stakeholders, including the MNR and tourist operators, are witnessing changes to the ecosystem.
He said the spiny water flea invaded the lake and was discovered in 2000, giving it plenty of time to establish itself and become a big food source for perch and smelts in recent years. "The timeline (for the invading zoo plankton to take hold and predator species to benefit from the new food source) is definitely consistent" with what seems to have happened, Rowe said, although there's no "smoking gun" that proves the theory.
With walleye already congregating in the shallows near spawning grounds, Rowe said it's obvious the fish haven't disappeared at the rate indicated in the 2009 index netting data. "There are fish there," he said.
Traditional and subsistence spearing is taking place as the community fishery code allows and Nipissing First Nation staff are patrolling the lake with police to ensure members are complying with the gill net moratorium.  Rowe said some nets were reported near Lonely Island Wednesday and it was confirmed the harvester was not from Nipissing First Nation. Rowe said he's not concerned about water levels on Lake Nipissing as far as spawning grounds are concerned.
A dry spell in 1999 left the lake 24 centimetres lower than it is now and it only peaked 14 cm higher, but he said it didn't lead to a walleye spawning failure. If fewer eggs hatch, Rowe said it leaves more food for the fingerlings which survive.
MNR staff were not available Friday to discuss the issue, but a media spokeswoman from Toronto said arrangements will be made to address questions Monday.
Source: Dave Dale - North Bay Nugget
Posted: 4/16/2010

Netting And Testing


PJ Wilson, The Nugget October 4, 2010

Things don't look very promising as the first net is pulled in.Thirteen yellow perch, two suckers, a red-horse and a small mouth bass. No walleye.

Richard Rowe doesn't seem too concerned. The net, one of four that are part of Friday's study, wasn't set in the most promising location. It's off Iron Island, on the west end of Lake Nipissing.

He doesn't have many expectations for the second net, to the southwest, but it's actually a lot better. There are five walleye in the catch, along with 31 yellow perch, two whitefish, a white sucker and a spot tail. That's a little better than what I would have expected," Rowe, the fisheries biologist with Nipissing First Nation, says as he and fisheries biologist intern Nikki Commanda clear the net.
A couple of gulls float on the breeze nearby, waiting for a chance to swoop in and get a free meal. After a while, realizing there won't be any handouts, they finally glide away.
The third and fourth nets yielded 15 walleye in each, as well as a few whitefish. There were 144 perch in the fourth net.

Friday was the fifth day Rowe and Commanda were checking the nets as part of the NFN's fall walleye index netting. The nets had been set out Thursday, three at depths of between two and five metres, the rest from five to 15 metres down.

Nets three and four are much more promising. There's a lot more walleye, but what catches Rowe's eye is a large whitefish. One of Nipissing's best-kept secrets," he calls it.
If you went to Georgian Bay, they love whitefish there. In eastern Ontario, it's bullheads. For the folks around here, though, walleye is king." There's also a sturgeon in one of the nets. Rowe and Commanda gingerly free it from the net, then return it to the lake. They lean over the side of the boat to watch it, not sure if it's going to survive its reintroduction to the lake, hoping the prehistoric fish makes it.
So far the netting looks better this year than last year, although Rowe admits it's difficult to make any predictions based on such preliminary findings.
The results last year were not what we would have thought," Rowe says. The expectations were pretty high for walleye last year, but we were not where we have been in the past." The index netting has been used on Lake Nipissing during the last 12 years to track the health of the walleye population. It isn't limited to walleye, though, and the health of other stocks, such as perch, pike, herring and suckers, is also studied at the lab set up at Nipissing First Nation.
In addition to Nipissing First Nation, the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources is also netting fish for testing.
This year, there will have been 80 nets set up on the lake for testing during the two-week period. The 200-foot gill nets have a range of mesh sizes and are in place for 24 hours, then lifted. The fish are counted and measured for length, weight, sex, maturity, age and spawning potential. Stomach contents are also studied.
The fall netting last year was one of the" pieces of the puzzle" that led Nipissing First Nation to cut back its allowable commercial fishery by 10% this year.
But Rowe points out that the walleye fishery in Lake Nipissing, for as long as he has been on the lake, has been considered stressed. It hasn't been in a healthy state as long as I've been here," he says. It has been showing signs of improvement over the years, but last year's results of the testing were a bit of an anomaly." He says a number of theories have arisen, and these theories are being studied. One was that walleye were changing their diet, moving to the mid levels of the lake to dine on smelt, instead of going deeper into the lake to feed on freshwater shrimp.
Nipissing First Nation uses the FWIN information, together with commercial harvest reports and the angler harvest reports collected by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources during its angler creel surveys, to set sustainable fishing regulations each year.
Fewer than 500 walleye are usually captured during the study. Any edible fish captured are cleaned and donated to a local food bank.
Posted: 10/4/2010

Fishery Critics Should Look At History

PJ Wilson The Nugget October 4, 2010
Anyone who blames Nipissing First Nation for the declining walleye stocks in Lake Nipissing should take a look at the history of the lake, according to Nipissing First Nation fisheries biologist Richard Rowe.
According to Rowe, the Lake Nipissing fishery is entering its fourth era, one he hopes will result in a sustainable walleye population.
I think we're turning the corner to a sustainable level harvest by everybody," Rowe said Friday. We are seeing a slow, steady improvement in the fishery."
Rowe said the first era for the Lake Nipissing walleye fishery stretched from the 1970s to the 1980s, when 1.5-million hours of sport angling took place on the lake every year.
That's a lot of pressure on the lake," he says.
That pressure, he believes, caused the stress on the walleye fishery that exists to this day.
The 1990s, with the implementation of slot sizes on the catch marked the second era, with a much-reduced harvest.
It was also the time when a lot of fingers were pointed at Nipissing First Nation for the reduced harvest.
But it was also that time when the Anishinabek Fisheries Resource Centre was formed and began to gather data on the walleye fishery to help manage the resource.
That period, he said, was a good era, a sustainable era" for the fishery.
The third era began in 2003 as the demand for walleye grew, but the concern over the resource began to grow within the community.
The fishery, he said, took a turn for the worse. The biggest harvester was the commercial fishery, and it worked to come up with a sustainable fishery management system. It closed down the commercial fishery in the spring, and put other restrictions in place to try to restore walleye stocks.
"Sustainable fishing regulations were taken to members of Nipissing First Nation, who backed them in a plebiscite. This past year, for example, the commercial fishery was cut 10% following a blip in the fall walleye index netting last year which indicated the fishery was in trouble. It was just to be on the safe side, but if you make a mistake, what's the worst that will happen? You'll have more fish in the lake," Rowe said.
Posted: 10/4/2010

First Nation Introduces Fishery Rules 

Council takes ‘progressive stance’ to protect lake

Bryn Weese
Local News - Friday, April 13, 2007 Updated @ 10:12:30 AM

The Nipissing First Nation has, for the past year, been regulating its commercial fishing and
collecting data on the harvest.

With scientific evidence on hand, as well as a fisheries biologist, a new set of regulations has
been put in place this year to sustain the fishery for the future.

Included in the regulations is a moratorium on netting during the walleye spawning period, a
measure that was introduced four years ago because of declining fish stocks. This year, the
moratorium began Tuesday and will last until May 10.

“We’ve always been responsible for the fishery,” said Marianna Couchie, chief of Nipissing
First Nation, noting outside pressures convinced the council to impose regulations last year.
“It was the increased pressure on the fisheries from anglers, cottagers and ice fishing.”

Couchie said the regulations, which include netting permits, daily harvest logs, regulated
seasons, quota limits and equipment standards, were necessary to ensure the First Nations
could continue to manage its fishery resource.

“We took a stand (against looming government regulations),” she said. “It’s our inherent right.
We’ve been harvesting Lake Nipissing since before the European contact, and as a council, we decided we would take a more progressive stance in protecting the fishery.”

The next step for council is to revisit its enforcement bylaws to add weight to the management plan.

Richard Rowe, a former Ministry of Natural Resources biologist who now heads up the Nipissing
First Nation fisheries department, said the increased management of the fishery by both the MNR and Nipissing First Nation over the past few years has yielded positive results for the walleye population.

The fishery is sustainable now, he said, and based on data collected during last year’s harvest,
Nipissing First Nation has been able to design quotas and size limits for this year that will keep it that way.

“Under this kind of management, we’re going to see some positive results. We already have, but I think it’s only going to get better,” he said. “Nothing ever goes as planned. There will always be bumps along the road, but we’re definitely heading in the right direction. We’re very excited about the fishery’s future.”

Rick Stevens, a Nipissing First Nation councillor, said the true benefit of the fisheries management plan — which has cost council “a six-digit figure” because of equipment and increased staffing costs — will be realized once it is combined with data collected by the MNR on the sport fishing harvest.

While Couchie doesn’t think the MNR response has been positive since Nipissing First Nation began regulating and monitoring its commercial fishery, Stevens thinks the time of co-operation is nigh.

Likewise, Dave Payne, the Nipissing district MNR supervisor, said he thinks collaboration with
Nipissing First Nation is a good idea. Although he admitted he wasn’t aware of all the details of the commercial fishery management plan, he said he is anxious to learn about it.

“We hope that we can create a partnership together and work at managing the lake. They are the people collecting the data on the commercial fishery and we’ve always maintained that in order to manage the lake, we’re going to have to combine the fisheries data for commercial fish and sport fish to get an overall picture of the lake,” Payne said. “We’ve been saying that forever and that has not changed.”

Regardless of when a formal partnership suitable to both parties can be reached, the Nipissing
First Nation fisheries department will begin its surveys for this year as early as Monday.

The staff is also anxious about a program being tested this year where walleye eggs on the verge of hatching are placed in traditional, but recently unused spawning grounds. The hope, according to Rowe, is that the fish that hatch on those beds will begin to use them again.Posted: 4/15/2007

Commercial Fishing Regulations On Lake Nipissing Dec. 17, 2004 


Ontario Government Amends Regulation for Commercial Ice Huts
The Ontario government has amended a regulation to require licences for commercial ice huts and allow the ministry to limit the number of huts that tourist operators can rent out on Lake Nipissing, Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay announced December 17, 2004.
“Right now, there are no restrictions on commercial ice huts on Lake Nipissing,” said Ramsay. “Controlling the number of ice huts on the lake will help us assess the impact on the fishery.”

The amendment allows existing commercial ice hut operators on Lake Nipissing to continue their operations this winter with roughly the same number of huts as last winter. There will be no fee to register commercial ice huts this winter.The ministry will monitor and assess this year’s activity to develop a fisheries plan for Lake Nipissing that will determine whether new huts will be allowed in the future. That plan should be in place within a year.

“We are committed to maintaining and enhancing our healthy, world-class fishery,” said Nipissing MPP Monique Smith. “This change will help us meet that commitment.”
The ice hut registration system for recreational anglers remains unchanged.

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