It’s not just the wind biting in this wintry corner of the Parklands these days.
So are the fish.
Fly-fishers across Canada and the U.S. have long known some of the best fly-fishing is to be found here. The town is designated “Fly Fishing Capital of Manitoba” and has regularly hosted national championships since 2003.
But with lakes plentiful with trophy trout, char, bass, perch, pike and giant walleye year round, enjoyment of their fishery is expanding to all seasons, say local economic development officials.
Roblin is now counting on the rise of popularity in winter ice fishing to draw even more visitors to their region.
“Roblin has been actively trying to open its doors to everyone who likes to fish and in all seasons,” said Ben Brodeur, Roblin’s economic development officer.
The most recent investment in its recreational fishery has been this past year when it replaced aeration systems on West and East Goose lakes at Roblin, and Persse, Twin and Tees lakes near San Clara.
Each of these lakes is stocked with trophy trout, including rainbow, brown and brook. Twin Lakes is one of the few locations in Manitoba with tiger trout while Tees Lake also offers albino rainbow trout.
The new aeration systems will ensure the continuation of this world-class recreational fishery’s long-term success, said Adam Kerkowich, manager of the Lake of the Prairies Conservation District
The town has faced some exorbitant hydro bills and other expenses keeping the old aeration systems operating, he said.
Operating the old systems on each lake was around $3,500 annually per unit, making them increasingly unaffordable to keep operating.
But replacements installed this past year significantly reduce that cost, bringing it down to about $336 per unit for a total yearly cost reduction of nearly 90 per cent.
They’re also much more effective at cleaning the lakes and far less labour intensive to maintain, said Kerkowich, who described the upgrade in a talk at last month’s MCDA annual convention. The project was undertaken in a partnership between the conservation district, Roblin and the Manitoba company Clean Water Pro specializing in lake and pond remediation.
The total cost for the new aeration systems, including installation, was $80,000 with a grant from the Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Fund helping to offset the amount.
Roblin has been convinced of the value of investing in its fishery since at least the 1980s but a study on the economic impact of lake aeration done five years ago really showed what return on investment it’s getting for it.
In 2013 the town commissioned environmental consultants with the Headingley-based firm AAE Tech to do an economic impact analysis of the region’s recreational fishery. The firm’s work showed for every dollar invested in lake aeration, the return to the local economy was $23 to $37. Aerated lakes offer enhanced fishing experiences and word gets around bringing in more visitors with cash to drop into the local economy.
That impact analysis also showed respondents in a survey post very high satisfaction with their angling experiences on aerated lakes.
“What I gathered from that is that people who fish our lakes actually know about our lakes… angling visits are not just random fishing trips,” Brodeur said.
It also showed most fishing visitors — 66 per cent — coming in spring and fall for open-water fishing. But ice fishing in November and December and March and April also made up 10 per cent of visits and it’s a sport that’s increasing in popularity meaning there’s more to potentially come at the time of year as time goes by, said Brodeur.
Meanwhile, gains from Roblin’s recreational fishery are already self-evident in terms of economic development. New businesses have started up including a new bait and tackle shop opened in 2014. The area has an outfitter renting and delivering small johnboats to area lakes and two other retailers have expanded their fishing product lines. Those offering accommodations to visitors also see a steady stream of customers.
The impact analysis showed visitors to the region’s aerated lakes can leave anywhere from just under $500,000 to $750,000 behind them every year.
“You get a spread of impacts over a diverse sector of businesses and over a longer period,” he said.
“People will stay a couple of weeks as opposed to coming just for a weekend. “And you’re seeing that over more than one season. Most sports are for one season. But when you invest in a fishery it’s done four seasons a year.”