Wow - what a jam-packed afternoon!
With the weather taking a turn last week and the warm spell and rain leaving top water on area waterways, our SKIP crew decided to play it safe and change our original ice-fishing program to a more land-based games afternoon instead. Luckily, though, things cooled and got downright frigid on Saturday, so when our special guests Conservation Officer Mike Dubé and Deputy-Conservation Officer Curtis Thompson (also Murphys Point Acting Superintendent) tested conditions on Sunday morning, we were able to compromise and add a little bit of ice fishing after all!
This week we met at the park office area and started off by dividing our SKIP kids (parents and siblings were invited to this program, too, and we thank all who stayed) into four teams and rotated around four fish-themed stations.
Heather engaged the kids in a lively rounds of Fish Habitat Tag, where the "fish" kids had to collect three coloured spoons representing food, clean water and sunshine/oxygen - all important things for fish survival. One player was "it" and represented a predator (such as an osprey) or disease or pollution and tried to tag the fishies before they got back to home base.
At the next station, Beth helped each participant to strap on a pair of snowshoes and then they hiked up a short hill to retrieve puzzle pieces. The groups worked as a team to assemble two fish puzzles, and then they had to identify the fish from a chart showing all Ontario species.
Tobi conducted a fishing game at the next station. The kids took turns wearing a blindfold and the group worked as a team (a chorus of voices!) to guide each person toward a bucket filled with fish cards. Then they had to come back and determine what species they got. If they caught one that was out of season (such as large- or smallmouth bass), it had to go back to the bucket.
The last station was a memory hike led by Linda. The kids travelled along a short loop trail and looked for big fish cards hanging from trees. The cards were labelled and the kids had to remember all seven species when they reached the end of the hike.
Then we headed for Loon Lake, where Mike and Curtis awaited. They started with helpful information about ice safety, including thickness and safety equipment.
They demonstrated using a power auger to drill a hole and we all got to see the thickness of the ice and observed the various colours - which represent the type of ice and its strength. The big message from Mike and Curtis is that kids should never go out on the ice without an adult making sure it's safe.
They also reiterated that there are seasons for fish and sometimes certain species can't be kept at certain times. This weekend was a special one for fishing in Ontario because it is Family Fun Fishing Weekend, which means everyone can fish without a licence through to the holiday Monday! The rest of the time adults ages 18 and up need a licence.
Mike and Curtis had drilled several holes in order to demonstrate the different types of equipment you can use when ice fishing. This included everything from the low-tech stick with fishing line attached to a tip-up featuring a snazzy flag and rod and reel sets with jigs - not to mention fish finding equipment that showed us when a fish was about to nibble on the bait!
Then they showed us some of the specimens they had caught, including several perch. Mike pointed out the features of a good-sized female perch carrying eggs.
Everyone had a chance to try the rod for a couple of minutes and check out the action on the fish finder. We hope next year the weather will co-operate so we can plan for an full program of fishing.
Then we headed back to the chalet where Skipper Pat had prepared a wonderful fish-themed snack: fish-shaped cookies and crackers (with a gummy worm treat - bait, you know!) and hot chocolate and juice. Everyone got to take home a "loot" bag made up of fishing bait and tackle generously donated by Canadian Tire in Perth - a huge thank you to them!
Big thanks go out to everyone involved in the program this week: Conservation Officer Mike Dubé and Deputy-Conservation Officer Curtis Thompson; Park Naturalist Tobi Kiesewalter and volunteers Stephanie Gray, Pat Batchelor, Beth Peterkin, Linda McLaren and Heather Lunn. Also thanks to Jeff Ward (Stewardship Council) who helped to coordinate things, and to Trevor Deachman at Canadian Tire, as well as to Wendell Crosbie and the Lanark and District Fish and Game Club for their generous donation toward ice-fishing equipment used in today's program, which will be retained for future years.
Great day, everyone!