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The baitfish primer

A guide to identifying and protecting Ontario's baitfishes

by Becky Cudmore and Nicolas E. Mandrak

The baitfish primer

The baitfish primer (PDF, 14.6 MB)

Table of Contents

Baitfish habitat header.

Baitfish habitat header.

Baitfish habitat

Importance of baitfish habitat

Baitfishes, like all fishes, require a place to meet their needs for food, shelter, and reproduction throughout their entire life. Although habitat requirements may be different for each stage in the life cycle of baitfishes, it is important that all needs are met. If, as a result of habitat degradation or loss, one or more of these requirements are not met at any point during their life cycle, their numbers will drop and the population may die out. The abundance of baitfishes is directly related to the quality of their habitat. Therefore, baitfishes can act as indicators of the environmental health of their habitat. A healthy baitfish population provides an important food source for many fish species, including commercial and sport fishes. By providing baitfishes with habitat that includes clean water, adequate food supply, cover, appropriate spawning and rearing grounds, and accessible migration routes, we safeguard these important resources for the baitfish, commercial, and sport industries, and also to help ensure a healthy ecosystem.

Some threats to baitfish habitat

Habitat threats illustration.

Habitat threats illustration.

Many of our actions threaten baitfish habitat. For example, agricultural and forestry activities can affect the quality and quantity of aquatic habitat through damage to in-stream habitat and the introduction of silt and other harmful materials into the water. General construction activities, such as building bridges and culverts, may also affect physical habitat and water quality, as well as impede movement of baitfishes among different habitats.

Other activities along shorelines, such as erosion control projects, marina developments and vegetation removal, may impact baitfish habitat by altering the natural cover and substrates of shoreline habitat. Changing water levels due to climate change and water-taking activities also directly affect the quality and quantity of baitfish habitat.

Protecting baitfish habitat

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has developed a webpage to provide advice and guidelines on environmentally sound practices when working in and around water. The ‘Projects Near Water’ webpage provides common measures and best practices to avoid and reduce, or eliminate, impacts to fishes and fish habitat.

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