Nickle Lake would not likely have been stocked recently with more than 20,000 walleye fingerlings without the help of some local southeast area businesses.
Stewart Steel, A&B Concrete, South Sask Rathole, and Apex Distribution Oilfield Supplies in Estevan helped the Weyburn Wildlife Federation last year with a project that was many years in the making: rebuilding a new walleye rearing pond.
"Cliff and Terry Benning helped us fill the pond in the spring," said WWF member Colton Tochor. "Everything went really well. We started letting the water out [this past] Thursday afternoon, the first time using the newly rebuilt system. We took lots of data, and we figured out the proper flow, and by Saturday afternoon started to see some of the walleye come through."
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He said they started off with 50,000 fry put into the rearing pond June 6th, and with only eight weeks to grow, now the fingerlings range in size from one and a half inches to five and a half inches long. They were then released on Saturday, August 6th into the lake.
"They did really well in the rearing pond for the final release. It was close to 21,000 Walleye that got put into Nickle Lake on Saturday."
The 300-yard pond is about 40 yards across and roughly 12 feet deep.
Why is a rearing pond needed?
"We put the walleye fry into the rearing pond, and that just gives them a safe place to grow, it gives them a really good chance to grow without being chased around by bigger fish, and they're able to grow really fast. There's just a way better success rate for the walleye to make it to adult fish."
Tochor said he has heard there's an 85 percent chance of survival once the fry get to the fingerling stage.
"So rather than just putting the walleye fry directly into the lake, I've heard in the past that, there's like a one percent chance of them surviving," he noted. "It's a lot of work that goes into processing the eggs, getting from them to hatch thanks to the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation. They have a fish hatchery, and they were very helpful in giving me information on the dos and don'ts to making sure we had a successful release."
He said it was amazing to see how quickly the fish grew in just two months.
"When they started off, all you could see was just two little eyeballs that look like little pieces of dirt. Their bodies are clear when they're fresh from the egg. Then eight weeks later they look like little miniature Walleye. Unbelievable."
Tochor said local businesses were so eager to help out with the project because they all know Nickle Lake is a special lake that a lot of people enjoy. So if the WWF could help with the walleye population, it just ensures the fishing experiences are better for the years to come.
In all, it took three years of planning to make repairs to the rearing pond.
"We took ideas from a lot of people, and had a lot of conversations about what would work best," he explained. "Being that there has been a rearing pond at Nickle lake since the mid-1980's, the WWF already had learned what was needed and what didn't work, so when we made the repairs last year, we wanted to make sure the Nickle lake rearing pond would be functional for 25-plus years."
He said this year, "was kind of the fun part, just seeing how it all worked out, and it worked out perfect. There wasn't one hitch in it there."
If the walleye had trouble spawning at Nickle, they should have no trouble now, and Tochor said when Saskatchewan's Environment Minister, Dana Skoropad, was 'ecstatic' to hear about the new walleye population.
"It's just so fun to do this stuff and you get to see very shortly the results, there's nothing better than getting a fish on your hook, and watching that rod bend, and I don't think we can get bored with that happening there. And if you could just up the chances of catching more fish, why not?"
The photos below were taking during the reconstruction of the rearing pond last year.