Fife Lake is located south of Assiniboia and had been a decent Walleye fishery until the lake dried up over a decade ago. When the lake began to fill again in 2011, the SWF began doing water quality assessments on the lake to see if Fife could potentially become a fishery once more, and in spring 2016 200,000 walleye were introduced to the lake.
Throughout this time, we continued testing dissolved oxygen levels and found that the levels showed an excellent oxygen content in this lake. During our winter tests this year, we found the levels so exceptionally high given how shallow the lake was, that we actually went back to the office and calibrated our meter again to be SURE that the levels were reading correctly – they almost seemed too good to be true! Yet when we returned to the lake with both our meter and an analog reference meter, the results were the same, and we grew hopeful. With these readings, we knew there was a lot of potential for this lake, but we were still surprised at what we found when we returned this fall to test net.
When we arrived, the first thing we noticed was the number of grebes — over 200 — fishing on the water. The fact that they turned up in this number to feed was a good indication that there would be bait fish available in the lake, which boded well for the Walleye that had been stocked earlier. The water was also very turbid (visibility reaching only about a foot). This provides an excellent forage opportunity for Walleye, who use their excellent eyesight to their advantage in waters with low visibility.
We set two nets; one at a 5-foot depth, and a second at 10 feet, both of which were left for 24 hrs. Based on oxygen levels and presence of minnows, there was a good possibility we’d find fish in the lake, but we had no idea of the precise numbers we would pull. Imagine our surprise when, 24 hours later, we hauled in the nets to find over 170 Walleye, all roughly the same size and weight (average length 18 inches, weight about 2 lbs). We are delighted to report on the success of this population, which appears to have grown in size quickly and is beyond expectation.
Like many bodies of water in Saskatchewan, Fife Lake by nature has highly variable water levels from year to year. If the current annual precipitation trend continues in the south, this lake may dry up again. This fishery as it stands may be a temporary opportunity. However, it is wonderful to see just how successful this lake can be, and it’s potential to bounce back after drought. We’re hopeful that if it should dry again in the future, we can continue to monitor it, and help identify when it is ready to be stocked once more.
We’ve heard reports that few people are catching fish on this lake, but we know they’re in there. Have you caught a fish on Fife? We’d love to hear about it! Contact James Villeneuve, Fisheries Biologist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.