The Saugeen River or The “Geen” – Southampton, Ontario encompasses a massive watershed, creating one of the largest rivers in southern Ontario. The river can be categorized in 4 main sections. The North Saugeen, the South Saugeen, the Beatty Saugeen and the Lower Main Saugeen River. Along with these 4 sections, the Saugeen River is home to numerous tributaries that provide cold water spawning areas for adult rainbow and brown trout. The entire lengths of the Saugeen are home to 52 man made dam structures. These dams have proven to be major obstacles for wild salmon and steelhead trout populations on the Saugeen River. Dams act as roadblocks for migrating salmon and trout and aide as an incubator for water in the river when flows are slowed ahead of the structure.
The North Saugeen River is a major contributing tributary to the river system as it drains roughly 259 square kilometers of agricultural and forested land to the east. Notable communities which are located along this section include: Holland Center, Williamsford, Scone and Chesley. The “North” meets the main Saugeen just downriver of the town of Paisley. This major water contributor to the main Saugeen is predominately a warm water fishery due to the lack of protective forest cover and 12 dams over the 52km of it‘s length. Summer river temperatures on the “North” Saugeen River are not overly accommodating to the preferred temperature ranges of juvenile steelhead. Nevertheless, adult fish which migrate into the “North” can be seen spawning in the lower stretches. Migrating salmon and steelhead trout meet the first dam on the “North” in the lower section; which is referred to as Lockerby. The Saugeen River or The “Geen” – Southampton, Ontario
The South Saugeen River is the source of a great deal of the overall flow on the Saugeen. The “South” drains roughly 798 square kilometers of land which is mainly agricultural based. Ontario communities along the 97km “South” include: Mount Forest, Ayton, Clifford and Neustadt. This portion of the Saugeen is also home to a number of dams (21 in total). This major contributing section of the system meets the main Saugeen near the town of Hanover. The “South” provides some of the most consistent angling for resident brown trout in South western Ontario, but provides little spawning water for migrating salmon and steelhead (rainbow) trout due to the numerous dams and access issues.
The “Main” Saugeen is the major route of migration for salmon and steelhead rainbow trout in terms of the river proper. The “Lower Main” is characterized as the Saugeen from Walkerton downstream to Lake Huron at 76 kilometers in total. From the town of Hanover, downstream to Walkerton is also considered to be the “Main Saugeen”. The lower section of river drains approximately 908 square kilometers of land and incorporates numerous tributaries, some of which are very important to the wild population of Saugeen steelhead. Major tribs of the main Saugeen include Pearl Creek, Silver Creek, Willow Creek, the Teeswater and the Otter. The main river is home to 21 dams or which 7 are to be considered large. The lowest of these dams (Denny’s, Traux and Maple Hill) have operating fish ladders that allow migration up river for salmon and steelhead. The “Lower Main” below Denny’s Dam is know to be the most popular steelhead fishing destination on the entire river. It is here that the Ontario Steelheaders Denny’s Dam Park Campground can be found. The Saugeen River or The “Geen” – Southampton, Ontario
The “Beatty” Saugeen is a coldwater tributary that meets the “South Saugeen” near Hanover, Ontario. This tributary of the Saugeen River is one of the most productive in terms of spawning habitat for Saugeen steelhead rainbow trout. The Beatty drains 274 square kilometres of land and stretches close to 50 kilometres in length. Invertebrate populations and forest cover on the Beatty are some of the best on the entire Saugeen watershed. This, teamed with coldwater and ample gravel beds provide steelhead with prime spawning water. The Beatty is also a release site for Ontario Steelheader adult steelhead rainbow trout fish transfers from Denny’s Dam. Like many tributaries to the Saugeen River, the Beatty has an extended spring closure, protecting steelhead rainbow trout from angling until late in the spring fishing season.
The wild fish composition of the Saugeen steelhead trout run is dependent on many variables. Many dams on the entire watershed provide roadblocks to fish migration. Warm water temperatures in the summer prove fatal to juvenile steelhead on many tributaries. Main stem spawning of salmon and steelhead rainbow trout has been documented in the past, but success of these endeavours is questionable due to dramatic changes in spring river flows, sediment loads, temperature and general river conditions on the Saugeen River. To counter act the difficulties in maintaining wild runs of steelhead rainbow trout the Ontario Steelheaders with the cooperation of the MNR and Lake Huron Fishing Club have carried out successful stocking practices of yearling steelhead that are seeded into upper reaches of the Saugeen River since 2006. These fish are easily identifiable by adipose fin clips and make up a strong portion of the annual runs of steelhead rainbow trout from Lake Huron. The partners involved have created one of the most successful steelhead trout fisheries in the country on the Saugeen River.
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