Status of the Summer Sport Fishery for Walleye and Northern Pike at Fickle Lake, Alberta, 2004


Mike Blackburn and Craig F. Johnson


In the mid to late 1990s, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (ASRD) developed the Alberta Walleye Management and Recovery Plan (WMRP) and the Alberta Northern Pike Management and Recovery Plan (NPMRP) to aid in the recovery of declining walleye (Sander vitreus) and northern pike (Esox lucius) populations throughout the province. Using guidelines in these plans, populations of these species in all lakes in Alberta were assigned to one of four management status categories: 1) collapsed, 2) vulnerable, 3) stable, or 4) trophy. Based on these management criteria, Fickle Lake was classified in 1996 (re-affirmed in 2000) as having a collapsed walleye fishery that resulted in a catch-and-release or zero bag limit regulation. The lake was first classified in 1999 as having a stable northern pike fishery and anglers were allowed a daily harvest of three walleye of minimum size 63 cm total length (TL)), but was reclassified in 2000 as having a vulnerable fishery. Accordingly, anglers were restricted to a daily limit of one pike of minimum size 63 cm TL. This report compares results of a creel survey conducted during the summer of 2004 to results from a 1998 survey to evaluate the efficacy of these management plans in aiding the recovery of the Fickle Lake fisheries.

Angling pressure at Fickle Lake increased between 1998 and 2004. In 2004, 1,221 anglers fished at the lake for a total of 2,835 h corresponding to an angling pressure of 6.2 angler-h/ha, whereas in 1998 1,136 anglers fished for 2,565 h corresponding to an angling pressure of 5.6 angler-h/ha. The estimated illegal harvest of walleye during the survey period was 18 fish, corresponding to an estimated weight and yield of 1.630 kg and 0.063 kg/ha, respectively. Release rate for walleye was 0.400 fish/h, resulting in an estimated release of 1,279 walleye. The estimated total yield (illegal harvest + incidental mortality) of walleye, using hooking mortality rates of 2.8% and 16%, was 0.101 kg/ha (54 walleye) and 0.280 kg/ha (223 walleye), respectively.

The estimated angler harvest of legal-sized northern pike during the creel survey was 16 fish with a mean weight of 0.915 kg, resulting in a yield of 0.031 kg/ha. In 2004, anglers released northern pike at rate of 0.355 fish/h for an estimated release of 1,027 northern pike. The estimated total yield (harvested + incidental mortality) of northern pike, using incidental (hooking) mortality rates of 4.8% and 22%, was 0.118 kg/ha (65 pike) and 0.427 kg/ha (242 pike), respectively.

According to the WMRP, estimates derived in 2004 for walleye age-class distribution and stability, length-at-age, and catch rate indicate a vulnerable population, whereas the estimate for age-at-maturity indicates a collapsed walleye population. Overall, Fickle Lake had low-to-moderate densities of walleye less than 50 cm TL (indicated by low angler catch rates; 0.405 fish/h) with an unstable age-class distribution, which was composed of moderately-fast growing, fast maturing fish. Based on these criteria, the walleye population at Fickle Lake in 2004 could be classified as vulnerable.

According to the NPMRP, estimates derived in 2004 for northern pike total catch rate, length-at-age, PSD, RSD, and Gini coefficient indicate a vulnerable northern pike population; whereas catch rate, measurable age-class, mean weight, and angler success indicate a collapsed pike population. Consequently, the northern pike population at Fickle Lake in 2004 could be classified as vulnerable-to-collapsed.

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