In the early days of Carleton Place’s Vacationland of the Mississippi, most of the tenting lakeside vacation dwellers seem to have taken only a casual interest of the frying pan in the excellent fishing that was available. Their numbers included few duck hunters, though the duck hunting season then started in mid-August.
Very large catches of fish and bags of ducks by other town and district fishermen and hunters were reported, and earlier the similar wholesale shooting of now extinct passenger pigeons. The harvests of fish and ducks by some went to the town’s food markets and restaurants, then a legal selling operation. Occasional notes in the local newspapers told of catches of fish in what were considered newsworthy quantities and sizes.
Of the larger game fish, black bass were prominent in reported catches, before an apparent increase or dominance in numbers of pike and the later introduction of pickerel. Introductions of whitefish and lake trout in the Mississippi Lakes in the eighteen eighties were unsuccessful. The whitefish experiment was made in 1884, year of the formation of the “Carleton Place Game, Fish and Insectivorous Birds Protective Society.” On May 1st this newspaper reported:
“Through the active agency of Mr. Joseph Jamieson, M.P., about 300,000 fry of the white fish species were deposited in the lakes here last Saturday. The fry came in three large tin cans from Ottawa and in charge of an expert. The Morning Star was chosen, and accompanying the expert were Deputy Reeve William Pattie, Thomas L. Nagle, Joseph Wilson, and William Bell. The first can was emptied into a quiet cove near Squaw Point, the second off the Landing at Prettie’s Island, and the third in the channel reaching into the Big Lake. In three years maturity will be reached and propagation set in ; and the fish grow and increase to between eight and twelve pounds.”
According to our fishing news note of early September of the same year, “Mr. Sid Anable and son Hiram went off in a skiff Friday morning last at 3 a.m., reached the mouth of the Innisville river at 6, and fished from 6 to 9 a.m., catching 37 black bass, five pike, and sixty rock bass. On one side of the boat they caught minnows for bait. On the other side the rods had not a moment’s rest.” Several weeks earlier in a record catch, as reported in the Carleton Place Herald, “The Messrs. Anable last Friday caught ninety five black bass in the Innisville branch in less than two hours. Among them were some very heavy black bass.”
Fish from large catches sampled by local newsmen were fairly sure of receiving public mention. A corrected report of an August 1890 outing, previously misprinted in this column, said in part: “One morning last week a party composed of Rev. Father O’Rourke, Maurice Burke and the old standby Sid Anable in five hours landed sixty of the finest black bass we have ever had the opportunity of tasting. The fish weighed on an average three pounds each.”
A similar news note of the following July stated: “Mr. S. J. McLaren caught thrity-two fine black bass up near the Big Lake lasts Thursday. The previous Friday he made a haul of forty-two.”
The Perth Courier a decade later reported in July, 1903:
“There has been some excellent fishing in the Mississippi waters at Carleton Place this season. Many good catches of black bass and pike have been reported. Among them, John Butts and James Umpherson frequently bring down from fifty to sixty fine fish in a morning’s catch.”
Duck Shooting in the Eighties
Down from the eighteen eighties came samples of similar news stories of the abundance of ducks on the Mississippi Lakes.
An October 1883 account said:
“A party of Ottawa gentlemen were out duck shooting on the Mississippi last week and succeeded in bagging no less than one hundred and forty of them. Mr. Hugh Moore of Carleton Place, who was one of the party, shot a fine deer at Squaw Point near Wylie & Company’s shanty, for which the Ottawa men gave him eight dollars.”
According to a late August report of the following year, “Messrs. Glover had a very successful duck hunt last week. One day they killed forty-six. The C.P.R. restaurant took four dozen of the luscious fowl.”
Present Lake Problems
This last series of brief glimpses of activities on the Mississippi of over fifty years ago in recent numbers of The Canadian has been designed to recall a few more of the many ways in which these waters continued to serve from the first years of settlement as one of the leading natural assets of the Carleton Place area. The decades of large scale lumbering and of industries based on local waterpower were followed by the rise of hydro-electric power and a decline in industrial uses of the lakes and river here. Now the Mississippi from Carleton Place to Innisville serves in the role of a recreational area which is attracting growing numbers of some thousands of seasonal residents and visitors yearly.
The future quality of this latest phase of development of the lakes, and the trend of its value to Carleton Place and to the adjoining townships, can be expected to depend in part on whether land and water use in this recreational region receives the community guidance and assistance needed. Such needs, as seen by some observers, include improvements in lot and building restrictions, and the promotion and application of policies to prevent unsanitary or offensive conditions, game law and traffic misconduct, and water pollution, among others.
Improvements and precautions of varying degrees of adequacy have been provided in some such respects in recent years under township, provincial and national government auspices, and at the instance of several lake community associations and by the Mississippi Lakes Association of Carleton Place.
Lakes A Town Asset
The Mississippi Lakes Association is a pioneering illustration of how our water recreational resources may be maintained and improved in the interests of the town.
In an earlier age, an incidental effect of the towing of great rafts of logs down the Mississippi Lakes to Carleton Place appears to have been the prevention of excessive waterweed growths over wide areas. After the ending of nearly a century of rafting on these waters, rank growths of underwater weeds gradually spread, choking navigation and speeding the growth of mud shoals by slowing the normal flow. In this way a large part of the lakes and river here was being progressively ruined for boating, swimming and the most popular types of fishing.
Now for nearly 20 years weed cutting machines have been operated by the Mississippi Lakes Association of Carleton Place. Initiated by public-spirited citizens including the founding president, Mr. E. H. Ritchie, and bought and maintained by voluntary public support, these machines, together with other activities of the association, have been instrumental in keeping a large lake and river area in good usable condition.
The erection of additional scores of summer cottages of lengthening seasonal use and the occupation of an increasing number of year-round residences on the lake shores has followed this checking of the lakes’ deterioration. Among the yearly products of this continued lake maintenance and development are additions to the volume of business of local merchandising and service trades, with the prospect of a continuing contribution of useful proportions to the population and general business and tax revenues of this area.
These gains can remain only if the lakes remain a desirable summer resort region. The principal attraction inducing most of the lakeside summer visitors and residents of today to come here and to buy and continue to occupy property here is a readily accessible lake with water which has been kept fit for swimming and fishing and boating, activities of newly soaring national popularity. A lake shrunken in usefulness and attraction by wide spreading weed beds, and with future boating by newcomers and others endangered by unmarked rocks, submerged piers and shoals, would not meet this modern test. In that case many summer residents, both owners and tenants, soon would go elsewhere. Such business benefits, instead of increasing, would decline accordingly.
It would be a greater loss to the town than appears to be generally recognized if insufficient assistance for this Lakes Association work were to lead to the eventual abandoning of our waterways near and in the town to their approaching weedy stagnation of fifteen or twenty years ago.
The Association’s prime mover and president since its founding, Mr. E. H. Ritchie, indicated a year ago his intention of asking to be replaced, after his many years of vigorous and successful direction of this Association’s activities. The Mississippi Lakes Association at present is in urgent need of more Carleton Place members who are willing to give some of their time and ability in the spring and summer seasons to its particular community services, by helping in the management of the association’s work and annual membership fund collection campaigns on the lakeshore roads and in the town.
An enthusiastic response to this need and opportunity will ensure against a decline and ultimate loss of a large part of the water vacationland for which Carleton Place now serves as the headquarters.