First-of-its-kind spearfishing course held to control invasive species in Clear Lake

A new invasive species in Clear Lake has Parks Canada taking steps to prevent damage to the aquatic ecosystem.

The smallmouth bass is a top predator fish that isn’t typically found in Manitoba.

“They can actually do a lot of damage to aquatic ecosystems through predation and competition,” said Michele Nicholson, an aquatic ecologist with Parks Canada. “They’re really aggressive predators, and they can really impact native fish species.”

Four employees of Parks Canada and four members of the Coalition of First Nations recently completed a spearfishing course at Riding Mountain National Park. The course teaches how to dive and resurface safely, as well as proper spear throwing techniques.

The smallmouth bass is a top predator fish that isn’t typically found in Manitoba. (Image Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Robyn Bone, one of the course participants, says the course challenged her both physically and mentally.

“It’s the mental part of when you are under the water and the fact that it’s hard to breathe,” she says. “And physically, it takes a lot of effort and energy to do what you need to do.”

This course is the first of its kind in Canada, as Nicholson says research on spearfishing in freshwater hasn’t been done before.

“Spearfishing has been used a lot for invasive species in the ocean, but not in freshwater,” she says, adding that Clear Lake’s ecosystem makes it ideal for this kind of population management.

“The water here is really clear, where a lot of freshwater lakes are not. Smallmouth bass nest in shallow water, so we don’t have to dive really deep. And male bass when they’re nesting, they hang out in one place on their nest, so we could use spearfishing to go in and get them.”

With the course complete, the work to manage the smallmouth bass population will begin in the coming weeks.

Parks Canada says any boaters coming to Clear Lake need to get an aquatic invasive species inspection at Riding Mountain’s boat launch area before anything goes in the water.

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