The Province announced funding for 17 new projects through the Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Fund (FWEF) last week, with projects focusing on population and habitat enhancement, habitat protection, research to improve angling opportunities, education for young anglers through fishing day camps, hunter education, and improved public access including upgrading docks.

The Oak Lake committee was able to tap into the funding for a grant of $74,500 to establish a spawning ground and area of protection for walleye.  

Committee member and Councillor for the RM of Sifton, Scott Phillips, says the province has been placing perch, walleye and northern pike fish fry into Oak Lake since the late 1930's, but the committee recognized they might be able to help with the health and welfare of these young fish, and the egg layers, with an artificial spawning bed.

"In the last handful of years, we've tried to find a nice rock spot for them along the shoreline," explains Phillips. "Through conversations with biologists we've been discussing that it would be nice to have a rock shelf or gravel shelf for these walleye fry to hide, but also for the mature walleye to spawn.  We came across this [FWEF] grant and submitted it, and we've done a lot of research with biologists and fishermen.  We've got lots of letters of support from neighboring municipalities and area game and fish organizations. We were pleased to see we were awarded the funding last week!"

Oak Lake is 15 sq miles, the largest lake in the region, and is an aquifer supplier for numerous nearby residential areas and farms, its primary surface inflow is Pipestone Creek, which originates in Saskatchewan.

Last summer the committee took a series of underwater pictures, documenting the terrain at the bottom of the lake to find the best location for the new spawning ground.  Phillips says they'll be spending more time finalizing the location and then will haul the rocks onto the ice next winter.  "And then come spring thaw the rock will settle to the bottom and there is your artificial spawning protection ground!"

Phillips notes the funding will go towards acquiring and hauling the rocks to the designated location, as well as signage and other project expenses.  "We're blessed with aquifer water but not rocks, so we'll have to truck all those rocks in."

The Manitoba government has approved $958,000 for new projects this year through the Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Fund (FWEF) as part of its ongoing commitment to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife, Economic Development, Investment, Trade and Natural Resources Minister Jamie Moses announced last Friday.

“Protecting Manitoba’s fish and wildlife habitats and populations is a priority for our government,” said Moses. “I am pleased to announce that $958,000 will be provided to support 17 projects across the province this year to help protect, monitor, and enhance fish and wildlife species, as well as increase public education and access to fishing and hunting opportunities.”

Please listen to more with Scott Philips below as he shares more on this project!