INNISFAIL - Dozens of fish-loving citizens recently gathered by the boat launch at Dodd’s Lake to witness a bit of history.
About 330 rainbow trout made the lake their new home, courtesy of the Innisfail Lions Club, with support from the Innisfail Fish & Game Association (IFGA).
Attempts to stock Dodd’s Lake with fish has been tried before but not with the same extensive time, study and effort made as in this recent effort, which began about two years ago when the Innnisfail Lions Club first made a pitch to town council.
The stock of the popular sport fish was delivered on May 22 by Eckville’s On The Hook Fish Farm, which donated 30 of the total number of rainbow trout.
“I really do hope it works out because it’s a great opportunity for the community and the kids to come fishing and make use of the facilities as it’s right in the heart of the town. Yes, I am really excited about it,” said Town of Innisfail Mayor Jim Romane, who was at the boat launch to celebrate the Dodd’s Lake’s fish stocking pilot project, and to sing the praises of the Innisfail Lions Club, whose members worked diligently over the past two years to get the pilot project started.
“These guys are just so motivated for the community. It was a project they took on at no cost to the town, and it’s all for the benefit of the community,” said Romane.
Club member Tom Reinhart said the trout delivery was a special moment for local anglers, and one with greater importance for the entire community.
“It was encouraging to see. You were able to see the fish, and that was exciting, particularly for the kids who were here. It’s a family thing and not just a kids’ thing,” he said, noting anglers have already been having plenty of fun catching Prussian carp, a pesky invasive species that somehow recently found its way into Dodd’s Lake.
“There’s lots of adults fishing here now, and they have been catching these carp steady. Just in half an hour standing there they had caught about 20. The other day a group caught about 80 of them.”
But now the Prussian carp have some competition, and the new rainbow trout are already about the same size.
“These fish are big enough that you can actually catch them now, as opposed to fingerlings and waiting for them to grow,” said Reinhart. “They average around nine to 10 inches, and now they are ready to catch, and big enough to look after themselves for the summer.”
As for the concerns about whether Dodd’s Lake, a former swamp-like slough that was cleaned up decades ago by the Llewellyn family, Reinhart said the Innisfail Lions Club in partnership with the IFGA conducted several tests on the lake in 2020.
“There was no significant contamination in the lake that was a health concern. The only concern is how much oxygen will be in the lake in February to support the fish,” he said, adding the club and IFGA will find out in the spring whether the remaining rainbow trout can survive the winter. “I am sure some will. How many? Who knows? The lake is big enough. There is a good chance some can survive.”
As for the lake’s depth, which is also important for the fish’s survival, he said that’s a question that has not yet been accurately determined.
“Nobody seems to be able to agree. The people who are in favour of this say it’s 14 feet deep and the people who are against it say it is only six feet deep,” he said. “So, unless we go out there with some sort of tester, and I may do that this year, and I can GPS it and find out how deep it is.”
Bob Leney, president of the IFGA, said the trout stocking is a “big win” for the town to have a “multi-use” lake, and not just one used by only a few.
“I think getting kids outside and catching some fish is a perfect scenario,” said Leney.
He said IFGA studied the lake for one full year by collecting water samples and taking oxygen levels and determined “everything would work” to put fish in.
“The biggest concern was the oxygen levels over the wintertime. If they get too low the fish will essentially suffocate. We found oxygen levels kind of borderline in the deepest part of winter but we are hopeful the fish will survive,” Leney said. “At this point it’s a wait and see what happens in the spring.
“I guess the ideal situation is for people to catch all the fish this summer and then there is no issue anyway,” he said, adding he also believes the rainbow trout will be able to co-exist with the Prussian carp.
“They do in other water bodies, such as the Red Deer River, which is full of Prussian carp and there is plenty of other species in there as well. I don’t see this as being a big issue.”