| Apr 03, 2008

Feature Article - April 3, 2008

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Feature Article -April 3, 2008 Eastern Ontario Sportsmen’s Association formed by Jeff Green

MPP Randy Hillier attended the formation meeting of the Eastern Ontario Sportsmen's Association in Sharbot Lake last Friday night (March 28), and he promised to take the fight over a variety of fishing regulation concerns to Queen's Park.

The Sportsmen's Association was initiated earlier this winter after people in the live bait industry in Eastern Ontario fought, and won, a battle with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) over a limit on the size of minnows that can be used.

Some fishing camp operators in the region have now raised concerns about a possession limit of 50 for species that are collectively known as pan fish. Previously there has been no possession limit for these species, and according to Roxanne Darling, a co-owner of Nordlaw Lodge on Bobs Lake and a member of Tay Valley Township Council, “The limit on sunfish could be the last nail in the coffin for this business that has been run by the Stewart family for over 50 years”

“The business has declined 30% since 1991,” Darling added. To illustrate this she pointed to sales of fishing licenses at the lodge, which stood at 763 in '05, and had dropped to 549 by '07.

In a letter to Donna Cansfield, Minister of Natural Resources, Darling said that her husband has been netting minnows from Bob’s Lake, for which he has a bait license, and that “He knows that there is an ample supply of pan fish. And if they are not fished they are so prolific they will over populate our lake and we will not have the large game fish. The pan fish feed on Walleye and Bass Eggs. More pan fish, fewer eggs.”

The new regulation was not prompted by a concern from the Ministry of Natural Resources over numbers of pan fish in Ontario lakes.

(An article was published in the Frontenac News 2 weeks ago on this matter. It is posted at


Other fishing tourism issues were raised at the meeting, all of them related directly or indirectly to the MNR.

Ron Pethick, from the Conservationists of Frontenac Addington (COFA) reported that the Ministry has once again placed a limit on the numbers of Walleye fry that can be raised at the COFA fish hatchery in Cloyne.

“They have limited us to 400,000 eggs this year, which is about 3 million under our capacity,” Pethick said, “and they want us to send 100,000 of them to Haliburton, which is hard for us to swallow.”

The COFA fish hatchery was established in 1995, and, according to Pethick, at the time the MNR was all for it, and told COFA to set up a facility that could hatch 4 million eggs.

“In 2003 we were informed we were going to be cut back, and it's been difficult ever since,” he said. “They've decided that the fry stocking doesn't work, but we know that it has worked for 70 years. I've seen the way the MNR stocks, they dump the fish out of a truck into shallow water where they are easy prey. We put them in weed beds, in different areas, where they are protected from predation.”

Bob Leonard talked about another issue, that of a virus called VHS, which has infiltrated Lake Ontario.

“VHS is not much of a factor on inland lakes,” Leonard said, “but it is being used by the MNR to try and kill the live bait industry.”

Another target for Leonard is the Ontario Bait Association, which he said is “full of ex-MNR bureaucrats and does not represent the interests of the industry.”

The Eastern Ontario Sportsmen's Association is poised to step in where it sees the Ontario Bait Association has fallen down.

Randy Hillier chimed in with some harsh criticism of the MNR, saying it “turns out the bait association is a wholly owned subsidiary of the MNR. They decide who is on the board, where it is located, and by coincidence the people who are on the bait association are former MNR members. There are many other similar situations. Sierra Legal, World Wildlife Fund, Peaceful Parks, are all government funded, and the government decided they would fund an opposing group for every environmental group to create a phoney war.”

Hillier also talked about a bias in government against hunting and fishing in general. “There are lots of people in this province who don't approve of hunting, fishing or harming any animal, and they have a very significant influence in MNR decision making,” he said.

On the specific issue of pan-fish possession limits, Hillier is optimistic that, given the pressure that is being mounted, the ministry will act.

“I have no doubt that they will move,” said Hillier.

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