We need your input. Smallmouth bass spawning at risk in Lake Ontario. The cold Great Lakes postpone the spawn for big water smallmouth in Ontario's FMZ 20. Two proposes exist.
First: delaying the smallmouth bass season until July 1st.
Second: a version of a pre-spawn bass season from January 1 to May 10th
PUBLIC FEEDBACK: email: FMZ20@ontario.ca (Due date March 30, 2020)
Here is the issues and science
Fisheries Management Concern
The Ministry is concerned about the future of the Smallmouth Bass (SMB) bass fishery in FMZ20. Recent science indicates the current open season date (3rd Saturday in June) provides little protection to spawning fish which could result in a long-term population decline and reduced social and economic benefits. The current open season date for Largemouth Bass (LMB) provides sufficient protection.
Fishing Seasons – Bass Management
Typically, bass angling season is closed during spawning time to improve reproductive success. Bass are especially vulnerable during spawning because they guard their nest against predators and can be easily caught by anglers. Nest predation by Round Gobies and other species following the removal of the parent, even for short periods of time, has been well documented.
Bass Spawning Time in Lake Ontario
In southern Ontario, the timing and duration of bass spawning is closely related to water temperature and generally occurs from mid-May to mid-July. In Lake Ontario, LMB and SMB are typically found in different habitats which warm up at different rates in the spring. SMB that occupy deeper cold water habitats in the main Lake and in the St. Lawrence River have been observed spawning
much later than LMB in the warmer near shore areas.
New Science - FMZ20 Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass spawning
Queens University researchers, led by Dr. Bruce Tufts1, conducted a three year study from 2014-2017 to evaluate the amount of protection provided by the current closed season for bass angling. The study examined the timing of spawning and development from egg to the swim-up fry stage (free swimming juvenile fish) for both LMB and SMB in the eastern basin of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Reaching the swim –up fry stage (free swimming juvenile fish) is considered a nest protection threshold. Once “swim-up” is attained the nest is considered to be successful.
The researchers conclude that there are important differences in the timing of spawning between the two species in Lake Ontario and the Upper St. Lawrence River and that the current dates for the open season provide minimal protection to Smallmouth Bass.
Proposed Early Season Angling Options
1. Early season angling for LMB and SMB (January 1 to
May 10) with catch and release (no harvest).
2. Early season for LMB and SMB (January 1 to May 10)
with reduced daily catch limit - Sport (2) Conservation
(1) - exception: no early season harvest (catch and
release only) in small waterbodies in FMZ20 such as:
Roblin Lake, Fish Lake, Lake Consecon, East and West
Lake, Lake on the Mountain Wellers Bay, Pleasant Bay,
3. Maintain status quo – no early season
In both early season options (1 & 2) the season is closed between May 10 and the proposed opening date. (No bass angling would be allowed when the majority of bass are staging and spawning.)