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Province hooked on walleye as official fish

MLAs Gord Mackintosh (left) and Ron Lemieux introduce the walleye as Manitoba's official fish Thursday.

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MLAs Gord Mackintosh (left) and Ron Lemieux introduce the walleye as Manitoba's official fish Thursday. (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

Should Manitoba's new official fish be called the Americanized walleye or the more Canadian-flavoured pickerel?

The Selinger government will put an end to the debate by putting into law the walleye, not pickerel, will become the official fish of the province. The proposed legislation was introduced Thursday. The word "pickerel" doesn't appear in the draft legislation.

Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh said the issue of a proper name for the species came up in discussions over the past few weeks.

"The science is very clear that it is walleye," he said. "In Manitoba, we have commonly called it the pickerel. Manitobans will continue to call it the pickerel, but when it comes down to it, there are pickerel in Canada that are actually members of the pike family. Walleye it is. That's the official name."

Mackintosh said the province received about 4,000 nominations from Manitobans on which fish should be crowned official fish. The most popular among respondents (1,450) was walleye.

In second place was the sturgeon at 660 votes, third place was the goldeye at 600 votes, fourth was the northern pike or jackfish at 455 votes and the catfish came in fifth with 330 votes.

Mackintosh said a special advisory committee also came up with a list of contenders for top fish: the northern pike, the lake sturgeon and the walleye.

It was the government that made the final choice, even though the walleye is also the official fish of Minnesota and Saskatchewan.

"We define ourselves, those that love to fish, around our quest for the walleye," he said. "It didn't matter in the end what Saskatchewan or Minnesota may have thought about their own jurisdictions. What's important here is what Manitobans think of their own province."

Mackintosh said the walleye is the most sought-after fish by sport anglers, including American tourists and commercial fishers.

"Actually, about $200 million is garnered (annually) from recreational fishing in Manitoba largely because of the tremendous walleye fisheries that we have," he said, adding about 78 per cent of the annual commercial catch is walleye.

Free Press fishing columnist Don Lamont said the walleye was the best pick as it symbolizes the best of sport angling in the province.

"The walleye is the most famous of the sport fish in Manitoba and rightly so because of its popularity," Lamont said. "You can't go wrong with a walleye, certainly, on the meal table. There's probably no better eating freshwater fish in the world."

They are also one of the more challenging fish to catch, he added.

"Just when you think you have them figured out, they're here this hour but gone the next hour, and you've got to try to find them all over again."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca


Should our official fish be smoked Goldeye? Join the conversation in the comments below.

History

Updated on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 11:14 AM CDT:
Removes fish photo.

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Gord MacKintosh comments about the Walleye being most popular among sport and commercial fishers is probably correct; however, he is dead wrong about the American tourist fishers. I have spent a LOT of time fishing in the north with Americans and they always want "those big northerns". Every time!

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