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Keeping it Reel

Williams Lake – Keeping it Reel!

By:  Cathy Vaughan

[Reprinted with permission from Chebucto News – June 2022]

Hundreds of trout travel to Williams Lake in Spryfield every year.  They leave their circular ponds and raceway-tanks in the McGowan Fish Hatchery and take the trout-truck from Caledonia directly to Williams Lake in Spryfield to be introduced into their new wilderness home. 

The fish hatchery truck arrived at the community entrance to Williams Lake at the Acorn Road Park to send off 2 and 3-year old speckled trout into the cold, clean waters of their new lake habitat.  The wiggly trout were welcomed by a gathering of interested folks, local neighbours and a young, novice fisher.

Chloe Kerr and her mum Melissa Kerr watch Jeff Smith of McGowan Fish Hatchery stock Williams Lake with speckled trout. [Photo: Cathy Vaughan]

Chloe Kerr is 3 years old and she is hooked on fishing.  The amateur angler is learning to fish on Williams Lake with experienced guidance from her parents.  Chloe watched the stocking process with reserved astonishment as the hatchery technicians loaded their pole-nets with the thrashing trout and carried them to Williams Lake.    

About 350 speckled trout are released into the high-water levels of Williams Lake every year in the spring, according to Marielle Turner, Manager of the McGowan Fish Hatchery. The jolt of cold water energizes the docile fish and they splash and thrash their way into the lake to check out their wild, free-range territory.  The troutlings search for safe hiding spots under the lake’s mammoth boulders, explore the salad-bar of rich vegetation in the riparian habitat on the shorelines and taste-test new treats of insects, leeches, worms and minnows.  Then they hook-up with their trout cousins at the local watering-hole for a briefing on which resident raptors and furry predators will eat them.   

The McGowan Lake Fish Hatchery is one of three hatcheries operated by the province that support sport-fishing in Nova Scotia.  The hatcheries stock about 1 million fish annually in over 400 sites throughout the province and 25% of Nova Scotia’s recreational sports fishery depends on hatchery production, according to their website.

Williams Lake has a long history as a year-round sports and recreational lake and a prized, secret fishing spot for avid anglers from all over HRM.  The Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Hatchery Fishery Program stocks about 200 lakes in HRM each spring, for summer sport-fishing and in the fall, for the really hearty winter fishers.  

Speckled and Rainbow Trout are the most popular fish used to enhance not only sport-fishing on HRM’s lakes, but also the biodiversity and ecosystems of many lakes.  The hatchery trout are an important link in the food-chain that supports a healthy aquatic ecosystem.   They provide nutrients for lakes’ aquatic plants, their presence reduces pressure on vulnerable wild fish stocks and they add some variety to the menu for many raptors and piscivores that inhabit the lake waters and its surrounding watershed.       

Anglers usually prefer to catch pan-sized fish for supper but many trout never reach that size because of the challenges that can impact their survival during their relatively short life span.  Fish populations are sensitive to changes in air and water temperature, unstable or fluctuating lake levels, turbidity of the lake water, loss of spawning areas or invasive organisms in the lake waters.

The tiny, invasive organisms that stick to boat hulls are transported from lake to lake and create major problems for the ecology of highly sensitive aquatic systems.   Pollution from motor boats has detrimental effects on vulnerable fish populations.  Gas, oil, battery acid, exhaust emissions, anti-fouling paints, garbage, cigarettes, fishing lines and lures all affect the growth of healthy fish populations in lakes.

The Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture cautions anglers to “avoid discarding fish used as bait into the waters they are fishing in.  Because of the potential threat to local fish populations, it is illegal to use certain species as bait or to possess them for bait (whether alive or dead). These include bass, bullhead, white perch, yellow perch, goldfish, pickerel, or any fish not taken from provincial waters.”

Happiness is a big fish and a witness! So, gear-up and hook-up with your most credible witness and head for Williams Lake.  There are four community parks on the shoreline of the lake for anglers to challenge their casting and catching skills. Non-motorized launches are located at Acorn Road Park, Pine Bluff Islands Park on Wyndrock Drive and the Williams Lake Beach on Cunard Pond off the Williams Lake Road.  There is also a kilometre of pristine shoreline on Williams Lake at the Shaw Wilderness Park on Purcell’s Cove Road.  

“Good things come to those who bait!”

Learn more:

Read:  “Angler’s Handbook 2022”
Visit:  McGowan Fish Hatchery website and book a tour.
Videos: Williams Lake Dam Association – Facebook
Questions?: [email protected], Manager McGowan Fish Hatchery

Keeping it Reel