90 Black Bass In Less Than 2 Hours Once Caught, by Howard M. Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 14 June, 1962

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.

Fish Stories

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.

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Ducks Nearly Unlimited, Indian Relics Plentiful, by Howard Horton Brown, Carleton Place Canadian, 17 August, 1961

This is the second of three articles recalling hunting and fishing activities of many years ago in the Carleton Place area.

A century ago in the Eastern Ontario paradise for hunters and fishermen which extended throughout the then united counties of Lanark and Renfrew, locally organized action already was under way to protect wild animals from wasteful destruction.  Its first supporters, as mentioned in the preceding instalment of these stories, were a few foresighted hunters and other leading citizens of Carleton Place, Pakenham and Almonte. 

Later, with a spreading realization of the economic and esthetic benefits to be gained by men from his protection of wild birds and animals, there came a gradual revulsion against wanton slaughter in the forests, fields and lakes.  Among the victims, the long-extinct passenger pigeon still was shot here in numbers in the early 1880’s, as shown by reports of partridge and pigeon hunting in the townships bordering the Mississippi Lake.

First Finds of Indian Relics

Of the native Indians who a hundred and fifty years ago had been almost the sole inhabitants of the Lanark and Renfrew area, only a few stragglers still remained seventy-five years ago in Lanark County.  One of district’s first residents to record his interest in the excavated relics of the reign of the Indian hunter was Andrew Bell, a son of the Rev. William Bell of Perth.  In the early settlement days here he wrote in a letter:

“All the country hereabouts has evidently been once inhabited by the Indians, and for a vast number of years too.  The remains of fires, with the bones and horns of deers round them, have often been found several inches under the black mound. .. A large pot made of burnt clay and highly ornamented was lately found near the banks of the Mississippi, under a large maple tree, probably two or three hundred years old.  Stone axes have been found in different parts of the settlement.  Skeletons of Indians have been several times found, where they had died suddenly or had been killed by accident in the woods.  One was found in a reclining posture with its back against a hillock, and a rough-made stone tobacco pipe lying beside it.”

Another Pioneer Conservation Society

The wild life conservation movement in this district had expanded by the 1880’s to the arousing of organized local support for a wiser harvesting of most of the usual products of rod, gun, spear, trap and net, and for protection of other obviously harmless or beneficial wild creatures.  Carleton Place Herald editor James Poole in an editorial of nearly a hundred years ago already had claimed any man who would shoot a robin or other songbird would be capable of robbing his grandmother or of committing any other crime or rascality.

An organization in Carleton Place with these newer ideas for the conservation of practically all main forms of wild life was formed in 1884.  Under the title of the Carleton Place Game, Fish and Insectivorous Birds Protective Society it continued to operate for some years.  Original officers of the group were William Pattie, president ; Jim Bothwell, vice president ; Walter Kibbee, secretary-treasurer, and committee members John Cavers, Tom Glover, John Moore, Jim Morphy and Jim Presley ; elected at a May meeting in the old fire hall on Bridge Street, when a constitution drawn up by Robert Bell was adopted.  Other members pledged to support the rules of this pioneering wild life protective society were William Beck, Peter Cram, Jim Dunlop, John Flett, David Gillies, Charlie Glover, Tom Hilliard, Archie Knox and Tom Leaver ; Hugh McCormick, William McDiarmid, Hiram McFadden, Jim McFadden, Jim McGregor, George McPherson, William Neelin, Robert Patterson and William Patterson ; Dr. Robert F. Preston, Alex Sibbitt, William Taylor, William Whalen, Will R. Williamson, Alex Wilson and Joe Wilson.  Out of town sportsmen among the first members were Duncan Campbell, John Gemmill, D. G. MacDonnell and Tom Mitcheson, all of Almonte ; Jim Rogers of Montreal and R. W. Stevens of Ottawa.

At this time fishing on Sundays was illegal here as well as hunting on Sundays.  Only about five of these men were said to be still living in 1928 when a story recalling the formation of the Carleton Place wild life protective society of 1884 was published.

A social event sponsored by the Society in its first year was a steamboat excursion to the present Lake Park, then noted as “the old Regatta Grounds.”  The “Morning Star” and her two barges, with a number of skiffs in tow, carried three hundred people to the picnic ; which featured a rifle shooting competition, a baseball game, tug of war and track events, croquet, boating, and dancing to the exhilarating airs of the Willis bagpipes.

Game Law Enforcement

Two unfortunate Indians were among those who felt the first punitive effects of the new society’s protective activity.  This local story was published in October of 1884:

“Last Wednesday two Indians from St. Regis were about to pack up and leave their camp between Appleton and Almonte, on the Mississippi River, when a representative of the Carleton Place Game, Fish and Insectivorous Birds Protective Society appeared on the spot and confiscated a number of muskrat skins.

The fellows had been warned by the Society to desist trapping the animals until November.  The two offenders were brought to Carleton Place.  They had in their possession 126 muskrat skins, one mink skin and one raccoon skin.  The taking of the latter is not an offence.  The poor fellows were in most destitute circumstances.

The magistrate inflicted a fine of $10 and costs and the skins were confiscated.  They doubtless intended to do the river above Carleton Place at once, as has been their annual custom.  The Protective Society is extending its influence very rapidly in all directions from Carleton Place, having a good representative membership in many points at a distance.”

Duck Shooting Toll

Ducks in the 1890’s remained abundant and were shot by the hundreds by the most experienced hunters.  An 1890 published report of two Carleton Place duck hunters’ successes gave totals early in the season of 200 birds for one and 272 for the other, with one shooting 154 ducks in three days in a northerly expedition.  Heavy tolls by the relatively small numbers of hunters seemed to make little impression on the duck population.