THUNDER BAY-- A popular experimental fishery that annually attracted hundreds of anglers to Squeers Lake is returning in March after an absence of six years.
The lake, about a 90-minute drive west of Thunder Bay via Highway 11 and Highway 802 South, is a provincial fish sanctuary with a healthy lake trout population.
The government started an experimental fishery in 1985, offering people a chance to catch fish and have fun while contributing to the collection of valuable data by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry's biodiversity monitoring section.
Participation escalated to the point where a lottery system had to be implemented to select the anglers, but the turnout ultimately declined, leading to a decision to cancel the event after 2016.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry said that during the last six years, biologists have had the opportunity to track the recovery of the lake trout population and use this information to improve a program that monitors inland lakes across Ontario.
According to the ministry, the province has about 2,200 inland lakes with lake trout, of which 40 per cent -- including Squeers Lake -- contain plankton-feeding trout populations.
The fish feed mostly on aquatic invertebrates, resulting in many slow-growing, smaller fish.
In contrast to this, where herring or whitefish are the main food source, lake trout grow faster and become larger.
This year's Squeers Lake winter fishery will take place between March 11 and March 19.
The number of anglers on the lake each day will be limited, and the maximum fishing party size is five people.
Participants must register online in advance, but there is no charge.
As of early Wednesday afternoon, there were only a handful of spots left for the opening day of the fishery, but plenty of openings after that.
A sport fishing licence is not required to participate, but each angler will be issued a special permit to collect fish for scientific purposes when they arrive at the MNRF check station at Squeers Lake.