Trent student protects walleye
Understanding the popular sport fish can help them thrive, he says
A Trent University researcher’s findings on walleyes may help better manage Ontario’s most popular sport fish.
Ayden Ricker-Held recently completed a report that shows walleyes have a more diverse diet than what’s been scientifically documented.
This new-found information will be used to make healthier ecosystems so the walleye can thrive on their own, Ricker Held said.
“It could be a piece of the puzzle to managing walleyes more effectively,” he said. Through his work, Ricker-Held examined the contents of walleye stomachs from Lake St. Joseph, a prolific walleye fishery. He got the idea while working at Old Post Lodge in Northern Ontario, where he was a fishing guide. The focus of his study was to better understand the natural offshore feeding habits and movement of the walleye in Lake St. Joseph, where they’re thriving, so that environmentalists can replicate the habitat in places where the fish are declining. Through his research, the master’s student discovered that walleye migrate to shallow water after spawning to feed exclusively on insects. Previous research shows that walleyes survive on minnows and other fish, he said. Understanding all the parts that go into making a good walleye fishery — including the “little things” — is important, said Ricker-Held, 23.
“A lot of the time, insects get overlooked, but they serve a really important purpose in the
If a habitat becomes inconducive to the insects walleye need to survive, it throws off the ecosystem, he said. Knowing what walleye need to flourish could enable wildlife managers to create better habitats for insects, Ricker-Held said, allowing for ecosystems to thrive more naturally.
“We can manage the population more effectively in the future so that we don’t have to stalk as much and it’s not as much continual management of the fishery.”
Lake St. Joseph is home to many lodges that rely on the fishery to draw in tourists, Ricker-Held said.
“Walleyes are a highly soughtafter sport fish. They also have a lot of commercial value, and it impacts the lodges and other businesses as well.”
To get the project up and running, Ricker-Held had to secure funding, which he said wasn’t so easy. Mitacs, a nonprofit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada, stepped up and matched the $7,500 contribution that Old Post Lodge donated to launch the study.
“Without Mitacs’s support, it wouldn’t be possible.”
Ricker-Held completed the study under the supervision of David Beresford, environmental sciences professor, and in partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. It will be released in May.
Before going for his master’s, Ricker-Held received a joint diploma between Fleming College and Trent in ecological restoration. His studies have allowed him to delve into work that he’s not only interested in but has a passion for.
“It’s great knowing I’m doing something that could really help the ecosystem or just fisheries in general, and I get to do something I really love.”
Researcher Ayden Ricker-Held takes a closer look at mayflies, a food source for walleye, at Trent University Friday.