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Introducing the Stoney Lake Fish Tracking Project

Updated: May 5, 2022

The project

At Trent University, we are preparing to build a long-term research program focused on the health of the Stoney Lake ecosystem. The goal of this program is to conduct world-class research on Ston(e)y Lake, Clear Lake, and Upper Stoney (referred to as Stoney Lake hereafter), in close partnership with the people and organizations who are already doing important environmental work on these lakes. To begin the program, we will conduct a multi-year fish tracking project that will answer questions about fish behaviour, spawning, survival, habitat needs, and the effects of changing water quality. This fish tracking project is the starting point for a longer-term program that will include research on the full range of threats that impact the Kawartha Lakes (e.g., invasive species, toxic algae, climate change). Healthy lakes depend on a complex balance of the biological community, including numerous organisms such as plants, insects, and fish.

How it will happen

This is a community-driven project, made by possible by in-kind support and generous donations by community members, led by the Ingleton and Szego families of Stoney Lake who have donated the necessary funds to start the program, and who will continue their support in the years to come and assist with bringing other donors on board. We also have an exceptional partner in Dr. Jake Brownscombe from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), who will provide a major investment of time, expertise, and equipment that makes the project possible. We will also work with other government agencies and the local people and organizations who are already doing important ecosystem monitoring.

The project will involve multiple fish species but will focus particularly on walleye (often referred to as ‘pickerel’ in Ontario), an important fishery species that has declined in the Kawarthas. Acoustic telemetry will be used to track the movements of fish, by listening for ‘tagged’ fish (fish implanted with acoustic transmitters) with a network of underwater ‘listening stations’ (acoustic receivers). The transmitters will transmit their signal every ~3 minutes to receivers and will last for 3-4 years, allowing us to follow the lives of individual fish over time. Fish tracking will be complemented by monitoring of key habitat variables like water temperature, clarity, and dissolved oxygen. We are planning on getting started this spring (2022).

An acoustic receiver (the black cylinder suspended on the rope) deployed underwater in Lake Huron, similar to how they for the Stoney Lake fish tracking project. The receivers and floats will be below the surface, out of sight, and a minimum of 6-feet below the surface so they do not interfere with navigation. Photo credit: Tom Binder.

So what?

The fish tracking project will reveal fascinating and previously unseen fish behaviours in ways that will help engage the community in thinking about the lake as a living system. We will gather valuable information on where and when fish spawn, estimate their survival rates, identify crucial summer foraging and over-wintering areas, and help understand the impacts of threats like changing water quality.

Support the next generation of freshwater biologists

Future updates will celebrate the achievements of the undergraduate and graduate students at Trent helping to carry out this research. The research will produce valuable insights but also help train the next generation of freshwater biologists who, in the process, will become deeply engaged with the Stoney Lake ecosystem and surrounding community.

The program would benefit greatly from additional donations to support the personnel costs (undergraduate and graduate students at Trent University) to run the fish tracking project over the coming years, and to fund the purchase of acoustic transmitters (tags to track fish). If you are interested in donating, please get in touch with Emily Vassiliadis ( at the Trent University Advancement Office.

Stay tuned

We are excited for this project to begin and to connect with the community. Stay tuned to this blog page for project updates.

A walleye being released in Lake Erie after having an acoustic transmitter inserted into its body cavity. The fish is also externally marked with an orange numbered so that it can be easily identified when recaptured in the fishery tag (we will likely use slightly different tag types for Stoney Lake fish). Photo credit: Andrew Muir.

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