By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady
Since the earliest days of Haldimand-Norfolk, fishing has been an integral part of not only the economy but also a way for people to put food on the table.
This week is the annual Free Family Fishing week in Ontario when Canadian residents can fish without a license. Normally, residents 18-65 need a license when fishing. This week follows on the heels of three family fishing weekends held on the Family Day weekend in February, Mother’s Day weekend and Father’s Day weekend.
Those who do not have a license must follow conservation catch limits and carry federal or provincial identification with a name and date of birth in the event law enforcement checks in on you.
While planning for my fishing expedition next week, I started to think of all the good work done by the volunteers with the local fish and game clubs.
Dunnville Hunters and Anglers are the most active on the fisheries front. Started in 1935 in the club’s location on McLauglin Road, club members run a walleye hatchery program every year in conjunction with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.
This program starts in March with ministry personnel collecting walleye in the Grand River through electrofishing. The fish are then kept in a crib in the river until the females are ready to lay eggs. At that time, the eggs are removed, fertilized and put in the club’s hatchery.
After hatching inside, the fish are moved to the club’s rearing pond. The small fish are fed until they are six to eight weeks old and about two inches long. At that point, club members use a net to capture the small fish, put in a portable tank and then take them to release in the Grand River between Dunnville and Cayuga.
Club manager Gary Schumaker explained if the fish are released too close to the Dunnville dam, they end up in the lake. This is not what the club is trying to do. Members are supplementing the fish that live in the river year-round between Dunnville and Cayuga.
The Dunnville club also has a kid’s fishing day for their members.
Caledonia Hunters and Anglers youth fishing day is open to any youth and attracts as many as 150 participants. All come away with a prize no matter the size of the catch.
Formed in 1945, the club has a property along the Grand River with docks and a launch ramp, but participants in the derby can fish anywhere up to Caledonia. They have to register at the club to start and return at the cut-off time with their fish.
The Caledonia club also holds an adult fishing derby in the Grand River in September.
Long Point Area Fish and Game Club was prominent in Norfolk for years as the host of the opening day bass derby on Long Point Bay. The proceeds went to both fisheries and wildlife habitat projects.
One of the more recent fisheries initiatives was habitat work on Dedrick Creek. This included fencing to keep cows out of the stream, and planting trees next to the banks to provide stability and provide shade. Today, club members assist with the Norfolk high school fishing derby at Backus, with the youth day at Deer Creek and are working on installing a fishing dock at Deer Creek.
Long Point Area Fish and Game Club quit running the derby due to administrative issues, but it was picked up by the Long Point Bay Anglers. This club is unique in it operates a live-release bass boat to help ensure fish caught in tournament are transported back to deeper water to be released safely. This boat is the only one like it on the north shore of Lake Erie.
Enjoy family fishing week and if all goes well you can put supper on the table!
Bobbi Ann Brady is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk