Warren Parsons, area chief of conservation and protection with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), said they need to close Alexie and Chitty Lakes to fishing to prevent specially-tagged fish from being caught.
Jeff Coates and Wayne Bryant enjoy a day of fishing for lake trout on Alexie Lake in 2001. The lake was closed to fishing last week while researchers study fish migration patterns. - NNSL file photo
Several lake trout, pike and whitefish were implanted with transmitters in September. The transmitters will allow researchers to monitor the fish as they move around the lakes.
"These fish are pretty valuable right now with these units in them," said Parsons.
"If we have people out there fishing and pulling them out of the water, it's really going to mess up the experiment."
Both lakes are relatively small -- about the size of Kam Lake -- and are joined by a narrow channel that often dries up in summer. The chain of lakes begin about four kilometres northeast of Prosperous Lake and are accessible only by snowmobile or float plane.
Parsons said researchers want to study the migration patterns of fish to determine how they spend their time over the course of a year.
"Where do they go in summertime, where do they go in the wintertime, that sort of thing," said Parsons.
Chitty and Alexie Lakes are part of a group with two other lakes -- Baptiste and Drygeese -- which are part of a study area used by DFO researchers dating back to the early 1970s. Baptiste and Drygeese are not affected by the fishing ban.
The latest study is being conducted by biologist Terry Dyck from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. He could not be reached for comment.
Although the lakes are remote, they do see a high volume of snowmobile traffic in the winter.
Parsons said the department will be posting signs on snowmobile trails, warning people not to fish at Alexie or Chitty Lakes. The lakes will also be listed as closed in next year's NWT fishing guide.
Violating the moratorium is punishable under the Fisheries Act with fines of up to $100,000, but Parsons said he doesn't expect anyone to be fined that much if they're caught fishing.
"Obviously, that's not the kind of fine we'd be looking at," said Parsons.
"Really, what we want to do is make sure people know about it so they don't go there."