Quetico Provincial Park is near the northern most range of four species of sunfish – the pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus), green sunfish (Leopmis cyanellus), bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), and the northern sunfish (Lepomis peltastes). The northern sunfish has recently been assessed under both federal and provincial legislation to be a Species of Special Concern within the Great Lakes watershed, which boarders the Nelson River watershed (which includes Quetico Provincial Park), but within the Nelson River watershed the northern sunfish is considered to be Not at Risk. The lower designation within the Nelson River watershed is partially due to the fact that most of the northern sunfish in this watershed are protected within Quetico. However, northern sunfish populations have not been identified within Quetico Provincial Park since the early 1970s as a result of limited studies on the species.
From July 11th to July 14th Cat Langille and Jared Walter Stachiw, Quetico Park Assistant Biologists, as well as Brian Jackson, Quetico Park Biologist, and Dustin Jeffrey, Quetico Park Warden, surveyed Bass, Mosquito, and Mouse Ear Lakes in the southwest portion of the Park for sunfish. The purpose of this research endeavour was to assist in identifying the distribution of Lepomis species in Quetico, collecting length, weight, and age data to assist in assessing population status of sunfish species, and to collect tissue samples for genetic analysis to allow for assessment of hybridization between sunfish species. The genetic data and analysis will also be provided to the Royal Ontario Museum as there is interest in a greater understanding of hybridization between sunfish in northern Ontario. The crew used seine nets, minnow traps, and angling in sunfish-suitable habitat to capture sunfish while minimizing handling time. Adequate fish samples were attained for the desired sunfish species, which will provide a great data set to assist with the proper management of Quetico’s aquatic ecosystems.
By: Jared Walter Stachiw