Wild Northerner Magazine Bonus issue


Wild Northerner staff

The last thing I wanted to do was be killed or, even worse, come back with a sucker.

I had a unique opportunity to go see the work done by the volunteer members of the United Walleye Clubs thanks to the chairman, Rolly Frappier, on Tuesday night at Ella Lake.

The club was out to net spawning walleyes and collect eggs for the stocking programs in the region. They had rented a shocker boat from Kilgour and Associates, an environmental consultant firm out of Ottawa. The boat has a device at the bow that shoots 150 volts at 60 hertz through “tentacles” in the water. This gives the fish a small zap and temporarily stuns them. Two people stand at the bow and net the stunned fish and put them in a four-foot cooler acting as a live well. I will get to more on the boat later.

I thought this was going to be another stand, observe, write notes, take photos and then leave with a good story. I got way more than I could have hopes for and it made the experience that much more rewarding.

I was told earlier in the evening by Frappier he might be able to get me on a safety boat to get up-close-and-personal with the shocker boat. I liked the idea.

At about 9 p.m., Kilgour and Associates ecosystem management technician Rob Hallett called everyone over to the shocker boat at the boat launch. He went through an orientation process of what he does and why he was there to a crowd of about 20 people. He then asked what two people were going on the first run to net fish.

Frappier had asked my good friend and fellow reporter, Bruce Heidman from The Sudbury Star, if he wanted to go on the shocker boat. Heidman went last year and he turned to me and asked if I wanted to take his spot. Like a zapped walleye, I was temporarily stunned. I didn’t know what to say because I knew how much Heidman liked this aspect of the program. He did a big feature on the work done by the club last year. He had told me for the past 12 months how amazing the experience was. While I was stunned, Heidman answered for - he said I was going.

I nodded my head. I had to put on a floatation survival suit and rubber gloves and boots. The shocker boat is grounded, but Hallett doesn’t mess around when it comes to the safety of the volunteers.

Hallett went through a long safety checklist with me and Chelmsford Fish and Game member Lizette Carlson, who was also going out to net. It was the second time Carlson was going out. She had the opportunity to try last year and loved it so much, she was doing it again this year.

Hallett went over a lot of stuff. The one thing that stood out was when he said under no circumstances put your hand in the water.

“You put your hand in the water, it’s over,” Hallett said. “If the electricity passes your heart, you will die. I will not be mean about it, but if you do it, I will shut it down and bring you back to shore and you don’t get back on the boat ever again.”

This was serious business. It certainly made me put on my game face as I got onto the boat.

I felt the mood had changed a bit. It didn’t take long for the mood to go back into a relaxed and fun state. As I got on the boat, Frappier said don’t net a sucker fish. Some people in the past have mistaken a sucker for a walleye and netted it. Frappier said if I netted a sucker, I had to bring it back to shore and have my picture taken with it as a form of fun punishment. A photo of a sucker with a sucker. Everyone had a good laugh about it.

The shocker boat is something else. It is outfitted with a generator that produces the electrical current. The net people stand at the bow and are protected by a steel rail with lights. The rail is strong enough to put all your weight into it and it doesn’t give one bit. Everything on the boat is grounded for safety. Myself and Carlson keep our feet on pedals. These pedals allow the electrical current to be passed into the water. It’s also a safety mechanism in case someone falls in. Once a foot is off a pedal, the electrical current is stopped.

We headed out into the night to a pinch-point on Ella Lake to get some fish. A safety boat followed close behind us. The safety boat is there in case of an emergency. It’s fun work, but also dangerous. The water is freezing ad falling in could result in big problems.

We made our way up Ella and to the pinch-point. The water current going through was astonishing. It was pure natural force at it’s absolute prime. The water broke into Ella Lake from the Vermillion River and hurled over rocks, producing huge waves and whitecaps.

We settled in on one side of the current and the process began. We lowered a steel arm with the tentacles on it into the water. A round of thumbs-ups from myself, Carlson and Hallett meant everyone was in position,

Walleye Clubs Making Impact

Chelmsford Fish and Game Association president Eric Daoust shows off a walleye that was netted at Ella lake as part of UWC's stocking program.

Column 1 May 2015