Fish Population in Farlain Lake

MNRF Monitoring

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) undertakes a Broad Scale Monitoring (BsM) of “Trend” lakes every 5-6 years. Farlain Lake is a “Trend” Lake, and is therefore sampled once in each monitoring cycle. Trend lakes must contain brook trout, lake trout, or walleye. Farlain Lake contains Walleye. “State” lakes are sampled once in a 5-year cycle and may or may not be sampled again in future sampling cycles. State lakes are any lakes greater than 50 hectares regardless of the fish species present.

MNRF last implemented its monitoring process on the lake in 2018. It has not been completed for all lakes in Zone 16 due to pandemic delays. This will mean the start of the next survey cycle will be delayed as well. Our lake was also surveyed by MNRF in 2008 and 2014. The results for these earlier surveys were reviewed by Peter Andrews in a “Tiny Cottager” article. The information provided here has been for the most part compiled by FLCA member Brent Graham and published in the FLCA newsletter over a series of issues in 2023-2024. The graphs and raw data which support this current review of the 2018 data have been provided by the MNRF. Each set of graphs is done by fish species (Walleye, Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass) showing the change over the 3 survey periods. Other fish species didn’t have a large enough population to create this level of analysis.

2018 Fish Monitoring Results Bulletin March 2019
Farlain Lake Habitat Summary

Walleye (Pickerel)

Walleye Underwater

Ontario is the top destination in North America for Walleye fishing. Trenton on the Bay of Quinte is the Walleye capital of Ontario. The Algoma region is purportedly great as well. Walleye spawn shortly after the ice is off the lake, early April to early May. This may change in future with the effects of climate change. Walleye prefer water temperature around 19C (67F). They are most active at dawn and dusk. They come up from the deeper waters at these times to feed. Best fishing is after spawning season. Males mature at 2-3 years of age (30.5 – 34.0 cm); Females mature at 4-5 years of age (38-43 cm). Interestingly the largest Walleye recorded by OFAH is 92 cm! The average age of a Walleye is 7 years. Of note in 2014 two Walleye were caught, using gill nets, for the BsM survey measuring 58.6 cm and 69.1 cm. Our lake is producing some very large fish. The capture of fish for MNRF surveys represents about 2% of the population on a given lake and equals the average annual natural mortality for that lake.

Based on the 2018 BsM results the Walleye population in our lake is improving. The number of Walleye caught in each BsM has consistently increased; 2008 = 3, 2014 = 21 and 2018 = 41.This is great news! The mean age of the fish caught is also going down meaning more young fish are being produced than was the case in the 2008 BsM and 2014 BsM. The mean age of Walleye on our lake in the most recent survey is ~ 3 years. The mean age in all MNRF Zone 16 lakes is 5 years. Most fish in our lake are in the 2-year-old cohort. The oldest fish caught was 8 years. The age spread in 2018 included fish from 6 age cohorts (1,2,4,5,6, and 8 years of age). This is also a sign of a healthy Walleye population! Why have things improved for our Walleye? No one knows definitively, but we know Walleye prefer clear bodies of water. The Secchi scores on our lake taken for each survey have improved dramatically. This is a measure of water clarity at increasing depths. Our scores have improved by 80% for the most current survey. We also know Walleye love a habitat with weeds. We know we have an abundance of them. Increasing since 2008, the time of the first survey. In fact, in Peter Andrews 2008 article in “Tiny Cottager” he quotes Stacey McKee of MNRF when asked why Walleye did not have a greater presence in our lake at that time she stated, “There is a limited amount of macrophytes (aquatic plants) in Farlain Lake. Habitat may be the limiting factor for the fish, since the bottom of the lake is 90% sand.” She also explained that “Walleye is a specialist species that requires specific habitat, environmental conditions, spawning habitat and food to survive.” As we are all aware with the EWM infestation our lake bottom is no longer sandy. This is likely part of the reason Walleye numbers on our lake are improving dramatically. This means we may need more considerations around indirect aquatic herbicide impacts on the walleye population. Such as possibly establishing more non-invasive aquatic plants to replace the EWM?

Contaminants & Consumption

Walleyes are likely to contain higher levels of mercury than Whitefish of the same size. This is because Walleye are top predators and feed on smaller fish that may also contain elevated mercury levels. Whitefish feed lower down in the food chain on aquatic insects and invertebrates which contain less mercury than small fish. Whitefish livers also appear to be better at removing mercury from their body. When fish are tested for mercury in a specific area, the practice is to start with species that are top predators because they likely indicate the highest mercury levels. If low levels of mercury are found in predators, testing other species may not be necessary.

It is well known that contaminant levels generally increase with fish length, you can apply the following rules before consuming:
• for fish smaller than the advisory table (below) range, follow the advice for the smallest tested range.
• for fish larger than the advisory table range, it is difficult to provide consumption advice. Generally, you should not eat larger fish.

Download Farlain Lake Walleye Summary

Bass (Large and smallmouth)

This information focuses on smallmouth bass with comments on largemouth bass. There were not enough largemouth bass caught in the surveys to include them in the full analysis by the MNRF. Ontario offers excellent angling opportunities for many gamefish, but there’s nowhere else in Canada to catch more and bigger bass — both largemouth and smallmouth. You can find these scrappy fighters almost anywhere across the province, from the southern-most reaches at Point Pelee, north to Kenora and beyond. These bass are big, too, and getting bigger every year thanks to a variety of factors, including the invasive round goby—an energy-rich baitfish that bass have quickly grown to relish. The biggest largemouth and smallmouth bass ever caught in Canada were both from Ontario, but unlike some records that have stood unthreatened for decades, any day of the season could produce a game-changing 10-pound-plus fish. In much of Ontario, bass season opens in late June, making bass the unofficial fish of summer, the one catch you can pretty much rely on during camping trips, long weekends and cottage visits, no matter how crowded the water. Both largies and smallies are cooperative biters, and explosive, acrobatic fighters, too. For many Ontario anglers, their first memorable fish was an unexpectedly huge bass that slurped up their worm and mangled their little-kid tackle—hooking them forever on the excitement of fishing (1st paragraph from “Outdoor Canada”, July 8, 2019).

A smallmouth bass is pictured to the left (illustration Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). Smallies have the identical descriptors as mentioned for largies above, but the mouth does not extend beyond the eye. Their length is 25-50 centimeters (10-20 inches) and they weigh 0.5-1.6 kilograms (1-3.5 pounds). They are likely to be slightly smaller than a largemouth bass. But no guarantee! The stripes on its sides are broken and vertical. The Ontario record is 4.5 kilograms (9.8 pounds). The best fishing is in the early morning and late evening, look near deep underwater points, rocky shoals, submerged islands, weed edges.

In our area Lake Simcoe has some of the best bass fishing. Fattened by a diet of round gobies, the smallmouth bass are big, and getting bigger every year—any cast could bring a record fish. In winter, Simcoe transforms into one of the country’s most popular ice-fishing destinations. The gobies are an invasive species that are causing damage to native species, but smallies are certainly making the most of them. A record smallmouth bass was caught on Nov. 3, 2022, on Lake Erie weighing in at 10.15 pounds! It’s a new record for the Province of Ontario and the largest bass ever caught in the Great Lakes. Smallies prefer the deeper cooler waters, while largies prefer the warmers surface waters.

Based on the BsM results the population of smallies on our lake are doing well (sampling catches; 2008=20, 2014=27, 2018=20). Age cohorts are an important measure as well. A cohort is defined as fish in the same 1-year age range. In 2008 fish were caught in 12 different age ranges; 1,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,19 and 21. This is a healthy distribution as there are many fish in various stages of development. The average length of smallies in our lake in 2018 was just over 17”’. The average length of smallies for all lakes in MNRF Zone 16 is 15.6”’. In 2016 the length of smallies in all of Zone 16 and our lake were almost identical, with Farlain being slightly longer. Farlain Lake’s fish stock of smallies looks very healthy as of 2018! Although cohorts for the zone are not reported they do report average age for 2018; Zone 16 is 7.4 yrs. and for Farlain it is almost 11 yrs.! Although the average age on our lake is raised by 2 very senior outliers; 19 yrs. and 21 yrs. of age.

Download Farlain Lake Smallmouth Bass Summary

A largemouth bass is pictured to the left (Illustration Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). Largies have a back and sides which are green to olive, bellies which are yellow to white, with a broken dorsal stripe along the sides of the body. They have 9 to 11 dorsal fin spines with a deep notch between dorsal fins. The upper jaw extends beyond the eye. Their length is 25-55 centimeters (10-22 inches), and they weigh between 0.7-1.8 kilograms (1.5-4 pounds) and the Ontario record is 4.7 kilograms (10.4 pounds). They are often found in thick weeds and near sunken wood or overhanging trees and docks are good largemouth hideouts. Changes to the aquatic plan population could be important for this species. The best times to fish are early morning and late evening – they tend to take shelter during the day. They also prefer the upper warmer water while smallies tend to prefer the water a little cooler. The Ontario record for largemouth bass is 10.43 pounds. The Canadian record is 10.48 pounds. The world record largie was caught in 1932 on Lake Montgomery, Georgia and weighed in at 22 pounds, 4 ounces. It still hasn’t been beaten after more than 100 years! No MNRF survey data was captured for smallies.

Ministry Fish Stocking Records (Up to date as of 2009)

1951 – 100,000 Walleye (Fry); 10,000 Largemouth Bass (Fry); 2,000 Smallmouth Bass (Fry)
1952 – 100,000 Walleye (Fry)
1953 – 1,000,000 Walleye (Fry); 7,500 Largemouth Bass (Fry)
1954 – 1,000,000 Walleye (Fry); 10,000 Largemouth Bass (Fry)
1955 – 370,000 Walleye (Fry); 1,500 Largemouth Bass (Fry)
1956 – 900,000 Walleye (Fry); 10,000 Smallmouth Bass (Fry)
1957 – 2,000 Smallmouth Bass (Fry)
1962 – 1,000 Largemouth Bass (Fry)
1964 – 2,000 Smallmouth Bass (Fry)
1965 – 2,000 Smallmouth Bass (Fry)
1967 – 2,000 Smallmouth Bass (Fry)
1969 – 4,000 operation of the hatchery was short lived as it was cheaper to purchase fingerlings to stock the ponds. In the early 1940’s the hatchery equipment was removed.Smallmouth Bass (Fry)
1970 – 2,000 Muskellunge (Fry)

Totals over the 19-year period:
Walleye (Pickeral) = 3,470,000 Fry
Largemouth Bass = 30,000 Fry
Smallmouth Bass = 22,000 Fry
Muskellunge (Muskie) = 2,000 Fry

Many have heard about or have seen the fish hatchery on the Sweenie property on the west side of the lake, and wondered if it was used to stock our lake. Bill Sweenie. property owner, was good enough to clarify. He explained that in 1928, D. S. Pratt, a wealthy businessman from Midland, purchased the property at a Tax Sale . D. S. Pratt then built the hatchery and dams which still exist on the property. Mr. Pratt had caretakers living in the house to take care of the operation. The purpose of the hatchery was to stock the ponds with trout, so his friends and business associates could come fishing (the purpose was not to stock the lake). The operation of the hatchery was short lived as it was cheaper to purchase fingerlings to stock the ponds. In the early 1940’s the hatchery equipment was removed.