Like any body of water, over the years Georgian Bay water levels have gone up and down. Since records have been kept, it was at it’s highest in 1986 when it reached 177.50 meters above sea level. The lowest watermark was in 1964 when it was almost 2 meters lower. 2012 may surpass the lowest record - last summer the Island Queen was unable to sail through the Rose Point Road channel.
Why worry about the water levels? Lower water levels affect the Parry Sound area as it impacts on the coastal wetlands and fish spawning; the impact on local property owners over changing shorelines and connecting channels between land masses; and, the impact on the local economy in tourism and marinas (whose business is primarily recreational boaters). Just check out all the different activities that depend on the water.
In the past, theories put forward for explaining the drop in water levels were the dredging and other man-made changes done in the 1960’s to the St. Clair River. However, the latest reports indicate it is the changing climate and low water supplies that are having the biggest impact.
Precipitation ad/or the lack of it plus evaporation can have a big impact on water levels. During the winters of 2009 - 2011, we have experienced much less snowfall in Parry Sound; it has melted sooner than usual, and we have had a very dry summer, leaving a lower than normal water table level.
However, there is another factor that is not in the control of man, and that is Glacial Isostatic Adjustment. During the last Ice Age, the ice was more than a meter thick and depressed the Canadian Shield. Once the glaciers melted, the earth began to rise. Using GPS, scientists can measure the uplift. However, the primary issue is that some areas are rising faster than others, creating a tilt in the Great Lakes Basin.
So, while Parry sound is experiencing lower water levels, those at the south end of Lake Michigan are dealing with a sinking shoreline and the threat of serious flooding and shore erosion. As over 10 million people live in that area, do the people of Georgian Bay have the right to complain? I think not.
*(Adapted from Wed. Sept 7, 2011 Parry Sound North Star article written by David Foote.)
Most people only think of Parry Sound as a summer time destination, but as soon as the snow and ice disappear, there are a lot of great things to do in the area – and swatting mosquitoes and black flies isn’t one of them if you come before June!
Here's my list of 10 things to do in Parry Sound in the springtime:
1. Climb the Observation Tower and visit the Museum
2. Walk along the waterfront on the trail
3. Check out the deers in Killbear Provincial Park
4. Get muddy with Bear Claw Tours
5. Georgian Bay Airways can provide you a view of Georgian Bay even before the boats are running
6. Sit in the sun porch at 40 Bay Street Bed & Breakfast and watch the waters of Georgian Bay
7. Take a stroll down to the waterfalls
8. Go exploring for leeks and fiddleheads
9. See if the red trilliums are blooming yet
10. Build an innukshuk at the beach.
So, still think there's nothing to do?
A sure sign that winter is here is the appearance of ice fishing huts appearing on Georgian Bay.
Most times inland lakes freeze over quicker than Georgian Bay as there is less movement of the water. Ice fishing requires a good base of ice over the water in order to provide a solid base to walk on. In addition, serious ice fishers will often drag ice huts out to their favourite spots with a truck – so they really want to make sure the ice is thick enough!
I was surprised to learn that some people consider fishing in the winter an easier time to catch fish – the fish tend to be closer to the surface and are much hungrier. How do they know where to find the fish? Apparently, in the same places you would go to fish in the summer!
There are special ice fishing rods – they aren’t as long as regular fishing rods as the fish are generally more lethargic and your rod only has to go down a little bit as the fish are right under you. Most people use minnows, and choose their minnows based on the size of the fish they are hoping to catch – the larger the fish, generally you choose a larger minnow.
In the Parry Sound area, you typically can catch walleye, pike, crappie and bass. Lake trout are harder to catch as they tend to be found deeper than other fish. There are many local ice-fishing tournaments to participate in throughout the season – to find out more about the timing and location. visit Georgian Bay Country. Go to 40 Bay Street Bed & Breakfast’s Things to See and Do to find many more links to fishing options throughout the year.
Just remember – “You catch ‘em, you clean ‘em” as my father would always tell us!