Come out and see firsthand the fish that live in Hamilton Harbour and Cootes Paradise Marsh. The Fishway provides an excellent opportunity for the public to view native fish up close and learn about the conservation projects that are helping to restore this ecologically sensitive wetland.
Restoring Cootes Paradise to a healthy coastal marshland is a major goal of RBG and the focus of Project Paradise. Initiated in 1993, the project is a component of the Fish and Wildlife Project, part of the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan. Eliminating carp from Cootes Paradise is considered a vital first step in the marsh restoration process. For this purpose the Cootes Paradise Fishway was constructed in 1996 at the mouth of the Desjardins Canal—the only channel that connects Cootes Paradise and Hamilton Harbour. This large structure is the Great Lakes' first two-way fishway and carp barrier, and is one of the most visible indicators of the progress of Project Paradise. Its purpose is to block non-native carp, or any new invading fish species, from entering the marsh to reproduce while still maintaining a connection between the Lake and the spawning grounds for native fish species.
Before the installation of the Fishway, Cootes Paradise had an estimated carp population of about 70,000 adults. During the Fishway's first year of operation, 95% of carp were excluded from the marsh, and since then this number has continued to drop, with monitoring in recent years consistently finding less than 1,000 adult carp in the marsh.
The number of native fish entering the marsh to reproduce has increased in number and diversity since the installation of the Fishway. The reduced carp population in the marsh has facilitated an increase in the number of clear water days which has allowed more plants to grow. These plants provide habitat for native fish during spawning, foraging, and predator avoidance.
Spring is a busy season at the Fishway. Operation in 2014 began on April 1st and the RBG are lifting baskets at the Fishway everyday Monday to Friday at 7:30am and 2pm. Weekend and Holiday lifts are also scheduled so be sure to check the Operation Schedule here