The Decline of Charleston Lake Lakers….

A little while back Birdee, Ariel and I loaded up the boat and spent the day on beautiful Charleston Lake.  We decided to change things up a bit and bring out the riggers and light sticks for a lazy Lake Trout troll.  This is always an enjoyable laid back day as we just kick back and wait for the rods to start bouncing.  We setup 2 riggers running 10 lb test line with a Williams spoon on one and a West River on the second.
Charleston Lake for us is traditionally a fairly easy fish for Lakers.  Double digit numbers with fish well into the low 20 inch range were fairly common.  I had begun to hear stories of the decline of the Trout fishery.  Well I can now say I’ve seen it.
We spent 4 hours trolling and landed many stockers in the 10-12 inch range.  Simply popping the hook at the back of the boat insured their survival.  This was the best fish we could muster up.
I’ve done a bit of digging with a few contacts I have.  The results of my digging produced the following.
In recent years the MNR with co-operation of the lake association have been reducing the amount of stocking due to the existing natural producing native population of lake trout. Through science the MNR has established a lake trout stocking policy after reviewing all the lake trout data in the province.  Charleston is one of the last lakes in Southern Ontario to stop stocking lake trout.  In other lakes such as Lake Rousseau in the Muskokas where lake trout stocking stopped in 1990 the lake trout harvest declined for a number of years afterwards but the native population rebounded and the harvest has now increased.  The main concern is that stocking on top of the native reproducing population will eventually cause the native population to disappear.  The data was starting to indicate that had begun.  That situation has already occured in Loughborough and Silver Lakes.
The native trout are also better adapted to the lake and can handle the stresses such as zebra mussels, climate change, disease etc.  They are simply better equipped to handle it.  There is also the concern of too much stocking leading to the demise of the forage base in the lake as has happened in Loughborough Lake.  The collapse forage base leads to long thin fish as I’ve seen many times out of Loughborough.
Many thanks to Scott Smithers and Anne Bendig from the MNR for their insight on Charleston.
It appears to me that Charleston Lake is in the right hands.  The MNR along with the Cottage Association are on tops of things and are monitoring it.  According to the science the fishery will bounce back though it may take a few years. Those 10-12 inchers I was shaking off all looked healthy and proportioned.  One thing the temporarily poor fishing will do is lessen the fishing pressure the lake receives which is only a good thing. I can add that in my 4 hours of trolling I came across ZERO bait on my Lowrance.  Let’s hope the forage base hasn’t collapsed and Charleston lake can return to the Glory days of not so long ago.