Walleye Population


At some point during the 1960’s or early 1970’s the Key River walleye population collapsed.  We did not fully understand the reasons but now have a much better idea.

From the early 1980’s to the mid 1990’s, the community, under the leadership of the KRAA, pulled together to help restore the population.  During the late 1990’s, the population became self-supporting and a robust expansion occurred until the early 2000’s.

Unfortunately, between 2000 and 2014 the population once again shrank very quickly due to low water levels in Georgian Bay, lack of access to spawning areas, loss of eggs into deeper water, and lack of utilization of the entire potential of the spawning site. In order to avert a total loss of the population, restructuring of the spawning habitat was initiated.  In 2006, bedrock on the west and north side of the Portage Lake outlet was blasted in order to provide some expansion to the spawning area.  Following this enhancement, in 2016, a much larger enhancement was carried out below the CN bridge in Ludgate and at the outlet of Portage Lake. 

Current Activity

During the open water seasons of 2019 and 2020, MNRF’s Upper Great Lakes Management Unit (UGLMU) performed a comprehensive two year assessment of the fish community of the Key River Area of Georgian Bay with a focus on Walleye.

While MNRF’s report is not yet complete, here is a description of the research that was done.

The assessment included capturing fish using many different methods (trap-nets, fyke-nets, gill nets and electrofishing) to assess the health and biodiversity of the fish community and to collect biological metrics of individuals. In addition, the project included tagging and live releasing walleye and muskellunge to track movements and complete a capture/recapture population assessment of the Key River area walleye population spawning at Ludgate and at the Portage Lake outlet. 

Using different gear types and methodologies allows us to glean information on many aspects of the fishery including both the predatory species and the prey base they rely upon.

To this end, we request that anglers read the attached fact sheet outlining what to do if you catch a tagged fish and be on the lookout for tagged fish while angling.

If you have questions dealing with the assessments or if you catch a tagged fish, please contact:

Jason Ritchie of the UGLMU (MNRF) at 519-371-4714

If you have questions dealing with habitat, historical aspects, or are general in nature, please contact Jerry Smitka of the KRAA at .