Key River Walleye Spawning Bed Rehabilitation Project

Key River Walleye Spawning Bed Rehabilitation Project

The Eastern Georgian Bay Stewardship Council (EGBSC) partnered with the Key River Area Association (KRAA) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s Upper Great Lakes Management Unit (UGLMU) to enhance two Walleye spawning sites on the Key River. The preferred spawning site is the upper site, located approximately 820 metres further upstream from the lower site. At water levels below 176.25 metres above sea level, fish are unable to access the upper spawning site.

Jerry Smitka, Key River Area cottager, has been monitoring the Walleye spawning at Ludgate for several years. He has noticed a decline in both the number of Walleye spawning and the number of eggs deposited at the site. Monitoring data from the UGLMU showed that Walleye stocks in the Key River were severely stressed.

The goal of the project was to:

  • Increase the amount of spawning area available and improve the quality of habitat
  • Vary depths of rock placement to help ensure an adequate level of water over the spawning beds throughout Walleye spawning and egg incubation
  • By improving fish habitat, make a positive contribution for a well-balanced and productive fish community and aquatic ecosystem
  • Promote a healthy and naturally sustainable Walleye population

After funding was granted and permits were obtained, project construction took place between Tuesday, Sept 8th and Thursday, Sept 10th, 2015. French River Contracting used the Key Marine Resort as a staging area. Rock was brought to the landing by dump trucks and then transported by barge. A small excavator situated on the barge lifted and positioned the rock into the river. No heavy equipment was used on the shoreline or in the water. River rock used to create the spawning habitat, within the ideal size range for Walleye egg incubation. The rock was placed at a variety of depths, to try and ensure that some amount of spawning habitat would be available during a variety of water levels. This is crucial for helping to improve the function of the spawning area. Large boulders were used in specific locations to help influence flow direction, the speed of flow and to create resting areas. One hundred and sixty tons of river rock and 54 tons of boulder were used in the rehabilitation project. A total of approximately 400 square metres of new habitat was created, with 250 square metres of habitat created at the lower site and 150 square metres created at the upper site.

The construction phase of the project was successful, and EGBSC will be visually monitoring the site in the spawning season of 2016 to observe spawning activity. Furnace filters will be used to assess egg deposition. EGBSC will work with Jerry Smitka and the KRAA to monitor this site over the long-term, in order to observe any changes in the number of fish using the site, or eggs deposited. Click here to read the full project report and the 2016 update!

This project was funded by the OMNRF’s Land Stewardship and Habitat Restoration Program, Environment Canada’s Lake Simcoe/South-eastern Georgian Bay Clean-Up Fund, KRAA and EGBSC. In-kind contributions have been provided by French River Contracting, Henvey Inlet First Nation, Upper Great Lakes Management Unit, Key River Area Association and EGBSC. EGBSC would like thank everyone who supported the project, including those who provided letters of support to obtain the funding.

  • Key River Area Association
  • Upper Great Lakes Management Unit, MNRF
  • MNRF Parry Sound District
  • Henvey Inlet First Nation
  • French River Delta Association
  • Georgian Bay Association
  • Patricia Chow-Fraser, Professor, McMaster University
  • Charles McKinney, Independent Contractor

EGBSC would like to extend a special thanks to Jerry Smitka and Scott Finucan, who made the project possible.