Welcome to Week LVIII of 'Fishing Parkland Shorelines'. Like most of us I am a novice fisherman, loving to fish, but far from an expert. In the following weeks I'll attempt to give those anglers who love to fish but just don't have access to a boat, a look at some of the options in the Yorkton area where you can fish from shore, and hopefully catch some fish.
On this particular trip the gear is in the car for a later side trip, but for the main stop of the trip I only need my camera, and my trusty pen and paper to take a few notes.
I head west on Highway 16 and swing south at Springside, destination Wilson Lake.
You may recall I visited Wilson Lake last year, but sadly found it was not shore fishing friendly, not that most lakes offering up rainbow and brown trout are great for shore fishing based on the species themselves.
But as I said I wasn't out to fish Wilson Lake this time.
Instead I was meeting Chad Sherman a fish technologist who would be stocking the lake with a new batch of fish, 15,000 rainbows, and 2,000 brown trout to be specific, although I admit I did not count them to check the math.
Chad works with the Saskatchewan Fish Culture Station in Qu'Appelle which has a long history in the province.
The first stocking of a Saskatchewan waterbody took place in 1900. Eight million whitefish fry from a Manitoba hatchery were transported 300 miles by rail and horse-drawn wagon to the Qu'Appelle Valley lakes. The demand on prairie fish stocks increased due to the settlement of the west in the early twentieth century. The Fort Qu'Appelle Fish Culture Station began operating in 1915.
During the station's early years, the vast majority of its stock was whitefish. Cisco were introduced (1918), perch (1920), bass (1923) and walleye, brown trout and rainbow trout (1924). Additional species raised over the years include lake trout (first introduced in 1926), brook trout (1933), smelt (1944), arctic grayling (1947), kokanee salmon (1961), alpine char (1964), splake trout (1966), coho salmon (1969), cutthroat trout and tiger trout (1988). Walleye, northern pike and the various trout species presently comprise the majority of station stock.
As I arrived at Wilson Chad was busy cycling lake water into the tank holding the trout fingerlings. He explained it was important to acclimatize the fish to the lake water before letting them go. Since fish are cold blooded that made sense.
It also gave me time to chat with Chad a bit about Saskatchewan's fish stocking efforts.
On an annual basis there are some 125 lakes and rivers in the province stocked with trout. Those stockings cover a range of species from rainbows and browns, which were going into Wilson Lake, to tiger trout, which were among the trout Chad had stocked into Lady Lake north of Preeceville earlier the same day, to brookies, splake and lake trout.
Lake trout are the only one of the species native to Saskatchewan, and are technically not a trout at all, but are rather part of the char family.
The program also stocks some 75 lakes annually with walleye, and on occasion the program will even include stocking pike, usually in unusual circumstances such as a severe winter kill in a lake, explained Chad, although that is a rare thing.
"Generally pike do quite well on their own," he said. As an aggressive predator that will consume virtually anything they can snap up, that is not surprising.
Winter kill and fishing pressure are also prime reasons for walleye stocking, said Chad, adding the species "Doesn't naturally reproduce in some areas," and so stocking is the only way to maintain populations.
For any species, stocking might occur to establish "a new angling opportunity" explained Chad, with fish going into waters where fish no longer live, but that are suitable to sustain a population.
Chad mentions walleye going into the reservoir at Avonlea, not natural waters for the species.
"Walleyes might not reproduce in that one because it's not a natural lake," he said.
When I got back to the car I pulled the map from the glove box and sought out Avonlea. It's a bit farther afield than I thought, south of Regina, but Chad said the pike, walleye and perch are all fairly steady there, and there are shore fishing spots, so it's on my 'one-day' list now.
I found it interesting just how the hatchery at Qu'Appelle actually raises the fish to be released.
In the case of lake trout eggs are collected at Whiteswan Lake, a noted lake trout home on the Hansen Lake Road. It's a large lake, and deep, and the trout like it that way.
Splake are custom created at the lake too, with lake trout eggs fertilized by brook trout males from a nearby river.
The fertilized eggs are then hatched in Qu'Appelle.
In the case of browns, rainbows and brook trout, the hatchery actually maintains breeding males and females on sight to produce eggs.
Walleye eggs are again collected, said Chad, noting Lake Diefenbaker is a prime source, with some 12 million eggs collected.
Walleye are released as tiny fry. Chad explained the species are born with an egg sack which sustains them for a few days, and then as a predator fish they start hunting. If kept in hatchery tanks they would cannibalize one another, so they are released to lakes small.
Trout species are not predatory to one another, and are quite satisfied to eat a pelleted feed while in rearing tanks, allowing them to become three-to-four-inch fingerlings before being released to lakes such as Lady and Wilson.
So how many fingerlings reach maturity from a release like the one at Wilson?
"It's hard to really say," offered Chad, adding it can depend on food supplies, water conditions, predation from birds. That said he gave the fish released to Wilson Lake a good chance "to grow to a good size."
So how is a water area chosen for stocking.
Chad said hatchery staff "don't do that part of it."
There are four regional biologists in Saskatchewan who monitor water quality, levels, and do test nettings to determine populations when warranted. It is their field work which leads to which waters are stocked annually.
"The station provides information to the public on its operation and role in meeting provincial fisheries management goals. The Visitor Information Centre provides literature, panel displays and audio-visual materials on various species raised at the station, the process of raising fish from egg through to adult and where the station stock are distributed. The station is located west on Highway #210, five kilometres from Fort Qu'Appelle," detailed a government of Saskatchewan information sheet.
"The best time to visit the station is from the beginning of May to the middle of June. During this period the eggs are being incubated and the fry and fingerlings are being held in troughs. By the beginning of August, most of the fish have been stocked throughout the province.
"The Visitor Information Centre is open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m., seven days a week from May 1 to Labour Day."
Funding for the hatchery and its stocking programs are generated through the Fish and Wildlife Development Fund, which exists based on a portion of hunting and fishing license fees.