York Bassmasters restore habitat

NEWMARKET, Ontario — An ongoing conservation project by the York Bassmasters has turned a barren pond into a lush environment for wildlife and largemouth bass.

Since 2007, the club and community members have worked on removing garbage and invasive weed species next to Bogart Creek, which flows into the world-class smallmouth fishery of Lake Simcoe.

“There was a storm management pond [Bruce Lindsay Retention Pond] that was just barren,” said Tony Dean, the club’s conservation director, “and over the years we have developed it into a fine ecological project through planting and cleaning up. Now we see herons and ducks in the pond, whereas five years ago it was just a barren mud hole.

“Two years ago, we held a tournament and transported largemouth from the tournament into the pond,” continued Dean. “One of the things the bass lacked, though, was water cover.”

So, the club purchased 40 native water lilies and planted the aquatic vegetation in the pond. 

The club’s latest habitat project occurred May 25 when club members entered the frigid pond to plant more than 40 water lilies in water at least 3 feet deep. “The water was just above freezing that day, so it was hard to get volunteers to go into the water,” said Dean.

While planting the lilies, the club members witnessed some positive results from their previous labors. Dean noted club members saw 8-inch largemouth bass, which he estimated would be second year-class fish. The largemouth bass they originally stocked from the tournament two years ago were a minimum size of 12 inches. “They are surviving and spawning,” said Dean. “We did see quite a few bass on beds while we were there.”

The creek restoration project has been funded in the past with money from two Berkley Conservation Institute awards, a local water conservation group award and grants from local governments. The club is also being considered for a stewardship program with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, which would match the funds the club spends on its habitat improvement project.

“The York Bassmasters club is a shining example of the excellent conservation efforts being carried out by the Ontario B.A.S.S. Nation (OBN),” said Jason Barnucz, OBN first vice president and conservation director. “The OBN has several clubs very active in fisheries conservation. There are so many wonderful projects going on across Ontario that it would be hard to list them all. The passion for conservation within the OBN is stronger than ever.”