Ninette’s Pelican Lake used to be a mecca for ice anglers from Manitoba and the northern United States. Jumbo perch were in abundance along with the occasional walleye and pike thrown in for good measure.
Then, around 2004, the lake started to suffer winter kill on a regular basis and all that changed.
Concerned residents of the area have been trying to figure out the best way to help the lake back to health. A number of groups were formed over the years with mixed results.
Lately, though, the lake has staged a comeback and anglers are once again flocking to its frozen surface this winter to enjoy some excellent fishing.
Anglers have been accessing the lake at Manhattan Beach, which is on the northeastern side of the lake. Jim Price says access is for four-by-four or snowmobile only. He has been fishing on the end of a point in about 2.7 metres of water. While he has been catching nice perch in the 25- to 27-centimetre range, there have been a few walleye caught as well. Live minnows are also available locally at the Ninette Gas Service.
The Pelican Lake Healthy Water and Fish Committee (also called the Healthy Lake Committee) was formed in the fall 2012. One of the group’s main goals is to determine the most efficient and effective ways to improve the health of Pelican Lake.
The lake is not small (26.5 square kilometres), but only has an average depth of three metres. In recent, years it has suffered blue-green algae blooms, as well as significant fish die-offs. Both of these events have had a significant economic impact on the region, thus the formation of the committee.
After consulting with professionals and doing plenty of research, the group decided aeration of the lake was the best option. Over the past two years, the group installed a micro-bubbler aeration system consisting of many individual bubbler heads that sit on the bottom of the lake and are connected to an on-shore air supply.
They started out running eight micro-bubblers through the winter of 2012-13. For the winter 2013-14 they have increased the number of micro-bubblers to 26.
"We’re the hottest lake in Manitoba right now," said Trevor Maguire, who installed the micro-bubblers this past summer. "This is the year. You can see the fish piling up and you can see the food stock in the lake starting to run out, so now they’re really starting to bite."
This system will now operate year round, with further expansion as funding allows. Through the addition of oxygen with aeration, fewer nutrients will be available for algae blooms. During the winter months, the oxygen added through aeration will help to prevent fish die-offs.
Maguire hopes to get additional grant money to stabilize the north side of the lake with the same system.
"We’re not pumping enough air into the lake to clean it up, but we are pumping in enough to keep the fish alive so it doesn’t collapse and start over," Maguire said. "Give it 20 years from the last die-off and we’ll have a pretty good idea of what the static level of the lake is. It’s pretty hard to find that out when the fish are washing up on shore."
ANGLERS NOTES: The Healthy Lake Committee is holding an ice fishing derby in the northern basin of Pelican Lake on Saturday. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. in the parking lot of Terry Fox Park in Ninette, and fishing will be from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. with prizes to be awarded after that.
Entry fee is $20, and kids 15 and under are free. For more information about the group and its work, visit its website at healthylake.ca.
» firstname.lastname@example.org, with files from the Brandon Sun