Fish Habitat Assessment and Prioritization of Restoration Sites

EGBSC has started a 32 month project, with funding from the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund, administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada. The goal of this project is to assess if there is sufficient accessible fish habitat (spawning, nursery, rearing, foraging) to support Walleye, Lake Sturgeon and Sucker species in tributaries of Eastern Georgian Bay, within Parry Sound District. Habitat surveys will be carried out in eight tributaries up to the first major fish migration barrier. The eight tributaries that will be assessed are:

  1. Seguin River
  2. Shebeshekong River
  3. Shawanaga River
  4. Naiscoot River
  5. Magnetawan River
  6. Key River
  7. Pickerel River
  8. Sucker Creek

The assessments will evaluate the location and amount, and the quality of habitat available to the target fish species. Surveys will also examine whether there are habitat limitations from human or natural stressors and identify any potential restoration opportunities.

For the broad assessments, the following information will be collected:

  • Basic water quality parameters (pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen)
  • Water temperature throughout the season
  • Length of accessible river from migration barrier to Eastern Georgian Bay
  • Stream flow
  • Substrate type
  • Overall size of habitat
  • Water depths
  • Aerial photos
  • Accessibility of spawning areas during different flow patterns
  • Potential limits or indicators of stress
  • Opportunity for restoration

Two detailed assessments will be carried out on sites that could be potential restoration projects. For these assessments, field staff will take detailed channel measurements for depth, flow and substrate. This information will be used as input into a restoration design.

A collaborative working group (Environment and Climate Change Canada, Georgian Bay Forever, Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Upper Great Lakes Management Unit and EGBSC) will evaluate the data and help to identify sites for restoration. Sites that are identified will then be prioritized for future work. In addition to being an active part of the collaborative working group, Georgian Bay Forever is assisting with field work and providing their staff, boat and Lowrance unit to create depth maps (bathymetry) for the tributaries. Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve is also helping with project communications and reporting.

Near the end of the project, one spawning bed restoration project will be designed and completed. A workshop will be held to share project findings, open to all community members to attend. Volunteers and community members will be involved with field work when possible.

In addition to gathering field data, EGBSC is also collecting background monitoring information and any local knowledge that community members would like to share about the tributary areas. We will be working with local groups, organizations and First Nations to complete the assessments.

Our project deliverables include:

  1. A comprehensive report, with a catalogue of all site assessments
  2. A list of prioritized restoration sites
  3. A list of other project recommendations (e.g. water level management, monitoring, etc.)
  4. Design and completion of one restoration project

The report will be shared with all project partners and other interested agencies, municipalities, First Nation communities and organizations. Habitat information gathered in this project will be integrated into the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve’s State of the Bay Report (2018) and the Upper Great Lakes Management Unit’s Lake Huron Walleye Management Plan.

This project was undertaken with the financial support from the Government of Canada. Ce projet a été realise avec l’appui financier du gouvernement du Canada.

Underwater videos taken during spring 2016 field work (for best quality, view in 1080hp):