An Assessment of the Summer Sport Fishery for Walleye and Northern Pike at Pigeon Lake, 2003


Bill Patterson


To recover or maintain Alberta's walleye and pike fisheries, Alberta Natural Resources
Service implemented new management strategies in 1996 for walleye and in 1999 for
pike. Walleye in Pigeon Lake were likely extirpated by the 1960’s. To restore this
important fishery 18.4 million walleye fry and fingerlings were stocked into Pigeon
Lake between 1994 and 1999. Consequently, in 1996 the walleye fishery at Pigeon Lake
was classified as a stocked lake and a zero daily limit (catch and release regulation) was
implemented. In 1999, based on a new northern pike management strategy, the pike
fishery at Pigeon Lake was classified as stable-recreational (vulnerable) and a 63 cm
(maximum total length, TL) size limit, 3 fish daily limit was implemented.

In 1999 a creel survey was conducted at Pigeon Lake to quantify sport angling effort
directed at the re-established walleye fishery and to assess the pike stock. Results from
these efforts showed that angling pressure and the associated yield of walleye and pike
were low. Based on criteria listed in the pike management strategy, the results of the
1999 creel survey indicated the pike stock was likely collapsed.

In this report we describe the results of a creel survey conducted from 23 May to
1 September 2003 and compare these data with those collected using similar methods in
Pigeon Lake in 1999. Results from these efforts indicated that 7,646 anglers fished
Pigeon Lake for 31,517 hours or 3.3 hours/hectare (h/ha) during the 3-month period in
2003. In contrast, angling pressure in 1999 was 1.2 h/ha. Comparisons of the incidental
yield between 1999 and 2003 also differed substantially; incidental yield in 2003
(1.0 kilograms/hectare, kg/ha) was about 4-fold higher than that in 1999 (0.023 kg/ha).
Similarly, the sport yield of pike (harvest + incidental mortality) in 2003 (0.047 kg/ha)
was about 25% higher than that in 1999 (0.035 kg/ha). There was no walleye or pike
recruitment observed during the survey period and the usage of the stocked walleye
population has increased greatly since 1999.

The pike stock in Pigeon Lake appears to be on the verge of collapse. Observed and
estimated catch rates were extremely low. Older and larger pike made up the catch and
there was no evidence of recruitment. Anglers had low success in catching legal-size
pike and there was a high level of inequality in the distribution of catch.

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