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Monday, 16 April 2012

Great Bear Lake home of monster fish of mythic proportions

Great Bear Lake home of monster fish of mythic proportions

Great Bear Lake monster fish
By Ed Struzik, April 15, 2012

University of Alberta biologist Louise Chavarie holds one of the monster lake trout that live in Great Bear Lake.

University of Alberta biologist Louise Chavarie holds one of the monster lake trout that live in Great Bear Lake.

University of Alberta biologist Louise Chavarie has been pulling big fish out of the ocean since she was nine years old working alongside her father in the cod-rich Gaspé region of Quebec.
But when she and her colleagues netted a 23-kilogram lake trout in Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories recently, she admits she was a bit wide-eyed when the fish appeared to be nearly as long as she is tall, which is not small.
“It was a big fish,” says Chavarie who more than capable of pulling her weight. “But the Dene people in DeLine, the village on the shore of Great Bear, have caught fish that are much bigger than that one.”
That may sound like a tall tale. The biggest lake trout in Alberta, which was caught in Cold Lake more than 80 years ago, was about the same size as the one Chavarie netted. Alaska’s biggest lake trout came close, but it was just 21 kilograms.
Great Bear is known for its monster fish. In 2000 American sportsman Matt Cornell’s 35.7-kilogram behemoth established an angling record that has not been broken since. However, DeLine resident George Kenny got a bigger one three years ago when he netted a 38-kilo fish in the lake near Broken Plate Creek. He says he caught a larger fish the year before, but threw it back in so that it could produce more of the same monsters.
Up until recently, Iceland’s Lake Thingvallavatn was considered to be most special among the world’s polar lakes. Not only does it have big char, which lake trout are, it has four anatomically distinct forms of char with different food habits and growth rates. Lake Superior, by way of comparison, has three. Lake Hazen, the biggest lake above the Arctic Circle, has two and recent studies suggest it could have three.
But Chavarie, along with her University of Albert PhD supervisors Bill Tonn and Kim Howland are promising to put Great Bear into the record book with their study of four, and possibly five distinct forms of lake trout that have recently been discovered living there. Four of them are found in shallow water. The fifth suspect was found deeper down.
Being 320 kilometres long, 175 km wide and 450 metres deep in some places, Great Bear is the eight largest lake in the world and the largest that lies entirely within Canada.
Like most Arctic lakes, it was created thousands of years ago when the continental ice sheets retreated. Lake trout and other forms of char living in recently deglaciated regions gradually moved in to exploit the new source of food that became available.
With very little competition for these new food resources, the fish ended up dividing the lake up like a pie. While some became small bottom feeders, others became big bottom feeders. Monster fish such as the one that Chavarie and George Kenny caught became incredibly fast-growing fish eaters. All of them, more or less, exploited plankton.
Unlike most other fish in crowded southern lakes where competition for food is intense and where the ability to specialize is limited, Great Bear’s trout could be on the same kind of fast-forward evolutionary trajectory that has been seen in Darwin’s Finch in the Ecuadorean Galapagos. Finches there have evolved to have a smaller beak within two decades.
Great Bear’s fish have not been evolving nearly as fast as those finch. But in a relatively short period of time, they have morphed into these anatomically distinct forms with different food preferences and growth rates. Although they already exhibit some genetic differences, they can still interbreed.
This kind of diversity is extremely important because it could supply these fish with a range of evolutionary options that allow them to adapt to a rapidly changing Arctic world, which is warming faster than any other place on the planet.
That ability to adapt may not help lake trout in the big lakes of Alberta, Saskatchewan and other parts of southern Canada and the United States, however.
University of Alberta scientist David Schindler believes that big shallower lakes like Lake Athabasca on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border, which produced the world’s biggest lake trout in 1961 on the Saskatchewan side, may not be able to sustain these fish in the future if water temperatures continue to rise.
In the 1990s, he and others demonstrated that lake trout do best in temperatures ranging between 8C and 12C. A temperature of 23C is lethal for lake trout, as it is for the closely related bull trout, Alberta’s most famous fish.
“The opossum shrimp — Mysis relicta — the main food for small lake trout, have similar temperature tolerances as well,” he points out, “It is probably no coincidence that they are both glacial relicts that co-evolved, so where one is found, so is the other.”
Cold water fish such as these can be sneaky, says Schindler. They have been known to move into warm water to feed for short periods of time before retreating back to the deep to cool off.
“But I suspect we will lose some of our biggest lake trout lakes, such as those that do not stratify in summer because they are so large and shallow that they don’t form a thermocline – that steep temperature gradient which separates the upper mixed layer of warmer water from the colder water below.
“Lake trout survive because the lakes never reach temperatures above 17-18C,” he adds. “But with climate warming, they will probably exceed 23C and there will be fish kills in places like Lake Athabasca and other large lakes in southern NWT/northern Alberta and Saskatchewan.”
Being as deep as it is, Great Bear in not going to warm as fast as Lake Athabasca or Cold Lake for that matter. But Howland says young fish in the lake could be at risk if they are forced to move out of the near shore shallows into deeper waters occupied by adults.
“That’s why it’s important to keep monitoring the situation and to ensure that harvest rates are sustainable.”
Currently, the community of DeLine, which is participating in the study, harvests about 3,000 fish each year.
Former DeLine chief Walter Bayha says the fact that Great Bear is still home to “Grandfather” fish such as these that can live up to 50 years or more is a sign that all is still well in this part of the world.
“People here take great pride in the fact that this one of the last place on Earth where there are still fish as big and healthy as these fish are. It’s important that it stay that way.”
Chavarie says she got the idea of going into this field of science just as the cod fishery began to collapse.
“When I grew up in Gaspé, I often went cod fishing with my father who was a biologist with Parks Canada. When I was nine, we could catch more cod than we needed; there were so many. But five years later, may father and I went out fishing one day and we caught only one fish after several hours of trying. When I go into fishing communities like DeLine, I tell them that. When change happens, it can happen very fast.”

Friday, 12 March 2010

Great Slave Lake creature -possible identity?

Great Slave Lake is the second largest lake in Canada It covers an area of 10,962 square miles and is said to be more than 2015 feet (approx 670 metres) deep( I was unable to find a verified depth). It is named after the Slave (Dogrib) tribe of Native Americans. In 1771 British fur trader Samuel Heame exploring the area crossed the lake, which he named Lake Athapuscow. In the 1930’s gold was discovered in the area lead to the establishment of a city called Yellowknife. The lake remains partially frozen for almost eight months of the year and the ice becomes thick enough for trucks to pass over it. Stories of an unknown creature in the lake nicknamed Ol’Slavey have been around for many years. People travelling across the lake have reported their boats being hit or striking an object when over 300 feet( 96 metres) of water but not actually seeing anything.
The first documented sighting I could find was this but no date :On a moonlit night Antoine Michel and his wife where returning to their home from a caribou hunt across the lake. They saw what appeared to be a large rock sticking up out of the water and navigated the boat around it. The rock sank below the surface as they passed and waves from it rocked the boat. (Unusual behaviour for a rock.)
In the mid 90’s there was a recovery operation to locate the body of a man who had fallen through the ice. Two of the three divers reported they saw a large animal which was described by one of the divers as having an alligator like body with a head like that of a pike.
In 2004 Roman Catholic priest, Father Jim Lynn, looked out from his home on the shores of the Great Slave Lake, near Yellowknife, and saw a something moving at a great speed across the lake. See report below:

'It was like the head of a dragon'
Continuing reports of mysterious creature
swimming in North America's deepest lake
YELLOWKNIFE, N.W.T. - Somewhere in the murky depths of the continent's deepest lake, a monster lurks. Jim Lynn is sure of it. This week, the Roman Catholic priest was looking out from his home on the shores of Great Slave Lake near Yellowknife when he saw an object trailing a small boat across the water. "I got the goggles because it was moving fast and I was kind of curious as to what it was," said Lynn, 66. "It was high, six to eight feet above the water and moving at an incredulous speed. "It was like the head of a dragon -- just coming out of the water at just a ferocious speed, just moving like crazy." Lynn watched as the creature, which looked green, hurtle behind an island, then disappear. He quickly called the Yellowknifer, a local newspaper, to place a advertisement asking the person on the lake that day to call him. "I would think they would have felt the waves (from the creature)," he said. Step aside, Nessie and Ogopogo, there's a new mystery leviathan on the block. And according to Chris Woodall, it's called Ol'Slavey. Woodall, a Yellowknifer columnist, wrote earlier this summer that Great Slave Lake, with a maximum depth of 614 metres, hides some weird and wonderful creature.
To his surprise, his phone soon started ringing with calls from people who claimed to have seen just such a thing. He gave the creature the name Ol'Slavey, after one of the aboriginal languages in the Northwest Territories. It's a fitting name, since the Dene have many stories about an unknown creature in the waters. When Antoine Michel was growing up in the traditional community of Lutsel K'e, about 200 kilometres east of Yellowknife, he was taught that a creature lived in the waters off Utsingi Point, about 80 kilometres southwest of the community. To appease the nameless creature, people boating by the point pass in silence and pay respect to the lake with tobacco offerings. "We usually stop the motor and go around the point, paddle quietly," he said. Years later, he saw the creature himself, on a calm moonlit night as he and his wife returned by boat from a caribou hunt. "We seen a rock there. I thought it was a rock first time, there was seagulls around it," he said. "I just turned away from it, I didn't want to hit it, (then) it just went down. I felt the waves, and then I just took off. I didn't take a look back." Boaters have seen strange creatures suddenly surfacing in the water in front of them. Lutsel K'e is near some of the deepest pockets in Great Slave Lake, a natural habitat for a beast of the depths. Naysayers will say it's just a big fish, but northern divers who actually swim those waters say differently. A decade ago, Arctic Divers was on a deep-water body retrieval near Lutsel K'e when one of its divers saw a terrifying beast. "It looked much like an alligator, but with a head like a pike," said Wayne Gzowski, the company's district manager. "I really do believe that there's unknown marine life in a lot of these areas," he said, in places that have never before been explored by humans. According to aboriginal legend, the great Mackenzie River was created by a giant beaver. Rene Fumoleau, a retired Oblate priest and respected northern historian, remembers a Gwich'in elder telling him that a dragon now lives in the waters of Canada's biggest river."There are some places where the water never freezes in winter, and that is because there is that monster somewhere at the bottom of the river that stirs the waters," he said. The Mackenzie flows out of Great Slave Lake; perhaps Ol'Slavey moves between haunts. Whatever the case, Archie Catholique, the chief of Lutsel K'e, is a believer. "The elders were saying that this thing here doesn't bother anybody -- it's not there to hurt anybody," he said. But, he added, "people see it."
Source: Nathan VanderKlippe CanWest News Service Saturday, September 18, 2004 Originally from Edmonton Journal
The description sounds to me like a sturgeon or an alligator gar. I have no idea if they would like in those cold waters. Perhaps someone can post if they know. Certainly an intriguing tale. said...
I was just up at Great Slave this weekend on a fishing trip. While me and some of the other fishermen were up at the lodge, we were looking out over the bay, which was competly calm, bairly any wind at all, where we saw which appeared to be an object moving across the bay. One fisher said it was just a rough wave, but you could see a black object at the tip of the wave. We watched it for about a minute or two, and then it suddenly disappeared. I know I saw something, it it was too big to be a beaver or a muscrat or any bird.


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