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 with Rob Miskosky

What About Wabamun?

I first fished Wabamun Lake west of Edmonton when my kids were quite young many years ago. A friend and I would load up my 12-foot aluminum and away we’d go. The kids weren’t old enough to reel anything in but they loved fishing nonetheless.

Back then, fishing Wabamun held the promise of big pike, and I mean really big pike. It was definitely a trophy class pike fishery. And during the winter months near the power plant, the water never froze, which was where most anglers targeted the big fish. The belief was that because of the unfrozen, warm water around the plant, the fish were able to feed on items that weren’t normally available during the winter months; thus, the fish grew to a larger size.

The author’s five-year-old granddaughter
fishing for her very first time.
Prior to this season, I hadn’t fished Wabamun Lake in several years. In fact, I think one of the last times I fished Wabamun Lake was with Fred Noddin during the hardwater season about 18 years ago. We loaded up that day on whitefish and hauled in some big pike too – if I’m not mistaken, a 13-pounder was caught that day, and we were nowhere near the plant.

Shortly after that trip, on August 3, 2005, a defective rail caused 43 CN rail cars to derail, spilling 700,000 litres of bunker fuel oil and wood preservative into the lake. As a result, fishing on Wabamun Lake was restricted to catch-and-release only, which remains in effect to this day.

Prior to the spill, aside from northern pike, Wabamun was well known for its whitefish population and anglers flocked to the lake during the winter months to load up on this excellent eating fish. However, studies by Fish and Wildlife determined that contaminants from the spill affected the eggs of the whitefish, creating a serious population decline that may or may not be a problem to this day. Studies taking place this fall will determination the state of Wabamun’s whitefish population.

The Government has long been trying to establish a walleye population in Wabamun but prior to the power plant being shut down, walleye recruitment was deemed a failure. Most likely because of the higher water temperature created by the power plant using the lake as a cooling pond. However, after the plant was shut down in 2010, walleye stocking was once again renewed, only this time with success. Walleye now appear to be thriving in the lake. Unfortunately, it appears that the walleye in the lake are limited in size. This could be a result of a lack of forage fish for the walleye to consume.

As well, by my very unprofessional estimation, Wabamun’s pike population appears to be just a shadow of its former self. While some anglers still report catching large pike, in four trips I made to the lake this year not one large pike was managed. In fact, everything we caught would be considered what many refer to as hammer handles. However, perhaps that is testament to my fishing skills.

I took my five-year-old granddaughter fishing to Wabamun this year for her very first time. I must say that Wabamun is perhaps one of the greatest fisheries you could possibly take a first-time angler to. While not quite strong enough to reel in a fish by herself, Malaya managed to catch seven walleye in less than an hour, which is perfect for keeping the attention of a youngster. Squeals of delight each time a walleye would grab her line kept her focused on fishing and not on all the other things five-year-olds pay attention too.

The last time Wabamun Lake was assessed was in 2015. This fall, Fish and Wildlife staff are once again assessing the lake using Fall Index Netting. I’m looking forward to the results of that assessment, and I can’t wait to get my granddaughter on the lake again.

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