Ice fishers setting up huts on Sylvan Lake this winter are being reminded to register with Take It Off, a program implemented by the Sylvan Lake Management Committee to reunite abandoned huts with their owners.
The program was created in 2011 as a solution to the problem of huts being abandoned on the lake at the end of ice fishing season. In ensuing years, numbers of huts remaining have dwindled significantly.
“This is an easy way to protect the lake,” said Keith Stephenson, chair of the Sylvan Lake Management Committee. “It’s a way of doing something to help protect the lake for future generations.”
Anglers are required to complete a one-time registration that will remain valid for an indefinite number of years. Registration is quick and easy, said Stephenson, and has resulted in the mitigation of potential damage to the lake.
“We’ve been getting about 50 per cent of the houses registered at this time, and we had three houses left on the lake last winter,” he said.
Remaining huts must be removed by specially trained ESRD (Environment and Sustainable Resource Development) personnel.
The retrieval procedure can be risky, but is necessary to protect the lake, according to Stephenson.
“One of the houses (removed last spring) had batteries, gasoline, bottles, fish hooks, tape — all kinds of stuff,” he said. “People just abandon these and don’t come back.”
Without intervention, all of those items would have entered the lake, resulting in serious contamination and creating potentially harmful debris, he added.
Although he’s glad to see the program having an effect, he’s determined to see registration rates reach 100 per cent, this year and in each year moving forward.
“The more we get registered, the easier it is to control,” he said, adding registration will also help in the investigation of any theft or vandalism that may take place. “It makes it easier for (RCMP) to identify whose house it is.”
Seeing it eventually made province-wide is also a goal.
“We’re still working with the government on that,” said Stephenson.
Overall, he believes, the program has resulted in about a 30 to 40 per cent decrease in huts being left on the lake.
Registrations can be made in person at the Sylvan Lake Municipal Government Building, the Lacombe County office and the Sylvan Lake RCMP detachment, or online at www.sylvanlake.ca/take-it-off.
All huts must be removed by the last day of ice fishing season on March 31.