As the ice begins to form on lakes in Saskatchewan so marks the end of the open-water fish tagging season with the Saskatchewan Sportfish Research Group. It’s hard to believe that we set out in May to tag our first walleye! The goal of the season was to put simple coded tags on as many walleye (and sauger), from as many recreational fishing lakes in Saskatchewan as we could. Reported recaptures of tagged fish by anglers would later provide us valuable information on sportfish movement and behaviour post-catch and release. The trick with mark-recapture research is that you need A LOT of tags in the water to see any returns. The truth is, it’s very rare for an angler to catch a tagged fish (although our SK anglers seem to know what they are doing). Fortunately for us, Saskatchewan is host to a number of competitive catch and release walleye tournaments which provide researchers an incredibly unique opportunity to access hundreds of fish in one weekend, which are all released. Even more fortunate for us is the wonderful cooperation shown by tournament organizers and volunteers to support this type of research. We simply could not do this type of research without these folks.
The last tournament of the year, and the last one which we hoped to tagged fish, was the Nipawin Vanity Cup on Tobin Lake, Saskatchewan. This weekend in October marked a special milestone for me as I had just recently moved to Prince Albert (1 hour away) to accept a position with Saskatchewan Polytechnic. Gone were the days where I would drive 5 hours to visit the renowned Tobin Lake; from now on Tobin, and the friendly town of Nipawin would be only a short drive away. It made tagging our 1655th walleye feel that much more rewarding.
Here are a few of my favourite moments from this inspiring weekend of fish research.
For more information on the findings of this research and the faces behind it, I encourage you to visit the Saskatchewan Sportfish Research Group facebook page. Dr. Somers and his crew continue to dive into the world of catch and release science. I’ve got a feeling we’ll see these guys out on the ice with the tagging equipment. Below is just a sample of some of the neat visuals of fish movement which are shared on this page.