Fisheries Advisory Committee (FAC)
The Fishery Advisory Committee (FAC) is a standing committee of the SSA. This group, headed by a Chair, advises the Executive on all fisheries-related matters. It includes the Hatchery subcommittee, the Stream Enhancement Subcommittee and the Emergency Fish Rescue subcommittee, along with other Ad Hoc subcommittees as required.
The Hatchery Group
Presently we raise Chinook salmon and Rainbow trout in two hatcheries on the Ben Miller property, located just south of Owen Sound. These hatcheries are fed by a cold water spring creek commonly known as Weavers Creek, which eventually joins up with the Sydenham River in Harrison Park.
Daily maintenance is done by many dedicated SSA volunteers that are passionate about the fantastic fishery that this part of Ontario has to offer. Their duties involve cleaning tanks, picking dead fish, filling feeders and keeping detailed records of dead fish, air and water temperatures, etc.
To operate the hatchery, the SSA has several permits, two of which deal with the use and discharge of water. The Permit to Take Water and the Permit to Treat Water involves measuring the volume of water that passes through the hatchery on a daily basis, along with regular water sampling and lab testing, which takes extra time and money to accomplish. Annual reports are submitted to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation & Parks, to demonstrate that during the year, our operation has kept it’s water taking activities within the parameters specified in the two permits in question.
We collect our Salmon eggs and milt at the Mill Dam in Owen Sound, and our Rainbow eggs at Denny’s Dam, near the mouth of the Sydenham River at Southampton.
For the Chinook salmon, this happens in late September or early October, depending on water temperature. Adults are checked to see if they are ripe (ready to spawn), before any effort is made to collect the eggs and milt. Being only able to spawn once in their life before death, the fish utilized by the hatchery operation are humanely dispatched, while the “green” fish (not quite ready to spawn) are released above the Mill Dam, where they will continue their trip upstream, to spawn in the spawning beds below Inglis Falls.
The SSA has a permit from the MNRF to collect the eggs and milt, with agreed limits on the number of fish to be used, and the total number of eggs to be collected.
Once the eggs and milt are collected at the Mill Dam, there still is a lengthy process back at the hatchery, involving fertilization, water hardening, treatment to remove harmful bacteria, placement in hatching trays, etc. Before the eggs are “eyed up” (at about 28-30 days), they are treated with Formalin every 2 days to prevent the growth of fungus; optimizing the number of eggs that will actually hatch out and go through the care and feeding process given by the hatchery volunteers.
The Rainbow trout eggs are collected in late March to early April, and although the timing is different than that of the Chinook salmon, the requirements, conditions, and processes is entirely the same.
Kidney Pond Cleanout
A kidney-shaped pond near the fish hatchery acts as a secondary settling pond from the two hatcheries. Over time this pond is prone to algae growth and waste build-up, making it essential that it be cleaned out, several times each year. This is perhaps the least known task to be undertaken by our volunteers, but they know the importance of the work and are quite willing to come out, roll up their sleeves, and get the job done when it needs to be done. With the use of large push squeegees, buckets, chest-waders, a pressure washer, and a septic pump truck that comes on-site to remove and dispose of the waste material, the workers get the job done.
A few years ago, we made the decision to keep the hatchery Rainbow trout to a year plus size before stocking. Even though this is much more expensive, we believe that by stocking out larger young Rainbows, their overall survival rate is much higher, and therefore there will be a correspondingly higher number of adults returning to local rivers and streams to spawn and increase future generation numbers.
Chinook salmon can’t be kept as long as Rainbow trout, since at a certain point in their development, they turn silver and are genetically triggered to seek deeper and larger bodies of water. At this point they leave the hatchery and are stocked into the Sydenham River.
For us, the stocking of our hatchery fish, be it salmon or trout, takes place in May / June of the year. If all goes well from start to finish, in any given year, we stock out approximately 50,000 +/- Rainbow trout yearlings, and 85,000 +/- Chinook salmon.
Emergency Fish Rescue
When the spring floods come to an end, the water levels in the tributary streams that flow into Georgian Bay will drop dramatically. Since Rainbow Trout usually travel up these streams, they are often trapped in small pools and are then unable to travel back down to the bay. Volunteers, with permission from the MNRF, are permitted to go to these pools, net the adult fish, place them in coolers with aeration and transported them back to the nearest open water to Georgian Bay, not negatively affected by the dropping water level.
The SSA recently signed agreements with the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority to maintain spawning channels downstream on Inglis Falls on the Sydenham River; built by the SSA over thirty years ago. Also, a signed agreement was reached with respect to the operation of the Sluiceway at the Mill Dam in Owen Sound.
Tree planting on Bothwells Creek, an important Rainbow Trout spawning area, had happened over the last few years.
The SSA is engaged with ongoing stream enhancement work on the Upper Sydenham River, as well as various projects on Bothwell’s Creek, involving cattle crossings and fencing. Tree planting on Bothwells Creek, an important Rainbow Trout spawning area, had been taking place over the last few years, to help cool the streams, control erosion, etc.
At this time the SSA has five aquarium setups in four Owen Sound schools. This is part of the club’s School Salmon Hatchery Program. We put an aquarium, a special cooler unit, all the equipment necessary to the feeding and handling of fish, fish food, and 50 eyed-up Chinook salmon eggs in each classroom. The teacher utilizes the aquarium set-up as part of their outdoor education classes, using the fish as they develop and grow, along with printed material from books, the internet, videos, etc. to involve and educate the students, throughout the class year.