Written by McKaylii Jawbone of Kebaowek First Nation, Water First Intern
I was a part of a two-year project to restore and enhance walleye spawning habitats in my community. Working with Ivan and Kacie made the project run so smoothly, we worked well as a team and we always had fun to make the days seem a little shorter. We called ourselves ‘The Food Crew’ because we needed a team name, and we always seemed to be talking about food. We spent our days driving in the bush, fighting off mosquitoes, and moving rocks into the water. In the end, we were able to restore three walleye spawning beds.
To start off the project, we got in the truck with a GPS and a map, and a fishing rod. We investigated many potential sites, and talked to community members and elders about any potential areas we could restore. The second step was to agree on a site with the Water First team and Richard Rowe the biologist.
Then the work began of gathering rocks, a lot of rocks. We would get a dump truck to drop them off on the side of the road for us, then we would slide them down to our worksite using a homemade slide. One by one we placed the rocks in the water, wearing our hip-waders or rubber boots to start building the shoal.
I know that this can probably sound boring, “we moved rocks”, but these rocks will provide a safe space for the walleye eggs to drop into and hatch. The end goal of this was to have walleye fish use this spawning bed successfully for years to come.
We wanted to make a difference in the Kipawa Lake fishery, as well as gain knowledge of our land and ways to help preserve the ecosystem, and I think through this project with Water First we were able to accomplish that.
We monitor each site, and will continue to monitor them in the coming years. This work has taught me a lot about walleye fish, their ideal spawning habitat, and also about the importance of sustainable fishing practices.
It’s been great to work with such amazing people from Water First, our mentors throughout the project, Jesse and Jag. It was always so fun to have them come to Kipawa and spend the days in the bush. They would teach us about water science, and we would teach them about our Indigenous culture. The hard work that’s been done together throughout this project is truly rewarding, and I’m looking forward to more restoration work in the future.