Grace Lake is a relative Paradise Springs unlike its ugly sister across the road.
Kam Lake, former sewage lagoon and tailings pond depository, has an alarmingly high arsenic level of 238 parts billion. Grace Lake, on the hand, is a splendid 10.3 parts per billion – almost, just almost safe enough to drink!
Last Sunday, as leaves turned to yellow and a brisk, Arctic wind bowled its way across the narrow finger of water, angling enthusiast Rohan Brown and I dropped a canoe into what remains of the public access at Grace in search of supper.
The Grace Lake of my childhood, aside from a single solitary home on its northeastern shore, was surrounded by boreal jungle. My father and I used to paddle to the opposite end where we spent the weekend camping and fishing, never surprised to see nobody else at all.
In the spring we would crouch at the lake’s outflow into Kam and catch huge Arctic grayling. Those days seem long gone now.
Paddling up its reach Sunday was more reminiscent of cottage country southern Ontario than the semi-wild lake of my youth. The north shore is now a parade of docks, kayaks and million-dollar homes. The south side is heading that way too.
Aside from the bitter wind blowing into our faces it was a nice day to feel nostalgic.
“Further down the lake on the right there’s a spot where we might catch some walleye,” Rohan says as we glide past the gabled homes.
Passing the last dock my Dutch-made, custom built bank rod bent sharply as a fish struck a trolled crankbait. Moments later Rohan is hooked up as well.
Other than the remains of a 14-incher found inside the stomach of one 26-inch pike I caught and kept for the freezer, we found no walleye Sunday. But there were lots and lots of pike. Despite the unfavourable weather, we caught them almost at will as we cruised up the lake.
It’s not surprising we would find fish. Of seven lakes surveyed in and around Yellowknife by the now defunct Fisheries Research Board in 1973, Grace Lake had by far the greatest catch rate of fish netted.
Grace is small and narrow but it is deep and productive. There are lots of places in the lake where fish can hide, feed and make more fish.
Over the lake’s central abyss, reaching depths of nearly 70 feet, Rohan’s sonar crackled and beeped as we passed over large schools of bait fish.
It bears wondering though what sort of future awaits this little jewel at the edge of the city. It has managed to escape much of the damage unleashed on other bodies of water around Yellowknife but progress is catching up with it. What will become of it when all the houses are finally built, and the lawns and the golf course is seeded and fertilized?
“Development around Grace Lake has undoubtedly increased fishing pressure and is probably adversely affecting water quality,” Rohan said following our trip.
“With more development to come, the future for the Grace Lake fishery doesn’t look good.”
Well, it was good enough Sunday to at least pack a few pike out for supper without fear. I hope it stays that way but time will tell.