A Georgian Bay fishing vacation has long been a popular Bruce Peninsula attraction. During fishing derbies, the regional waterways are dotted with fishing boats of all shapes and sizes. Of course, the idea of a fishing derby is to enjoy the competition of catching the biggest fish. But I am sure that many fishermen also want to catch the big one in order to win a new fishing boat.
A Georgian Bay fishing vacation is popular, especially because the Bruce Peninsula region is home to many fishing derbies throughout the year. To find out the dates and entry requirements you can contact the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters or a more local group such as the Sydenham Sportsmen. This will make it easier to plan your Georgian Bay fishing vacation around one or more fishing derbies.
If you just want to spend a day or more enjoying a fishing vacation in the area, there are many species of fish in the waters surrounding the Bruce Peninsula.
When I was a youngster, my father and I would often take one of the family’s fishing boats out and try our luck trout fishing.
Other times we would go to the mouth of the Indian River which empties into Georgian Bay at Balmy Beach and enjoy some bass fishing.
Today, the Lake Huron and Georgian Bay fishing region contains some excellent smallmouth bass fishing areas. These stretch from the Lake Huron shoreline from Point Clark to Stokes Bay and almost the entire Georgian Bay area from the North Channel to southern most section of the region
The popularity of fishing derbies has provided a new attraction for visitors to the region and consequently an increase in tourism dollars. However, the role of Lake Huron/Georgian Bay fishing as part of this region’s economy is not a new phenomenon.
For centuries prior to the arrival of European settlement in the area, the Indigenous communities along the peninsula established what, was in fact a commercial fishing industry. Fish became a form of currency for area natives. They traded the excess from their catch to Indigenous communities in the interior of the region. In the Jesuit Relations of 1648, Jesuit Missionary and Martyr, Gabriel Lalemant wrote: “About the middle of Autumn, they (natives from the Bruce Peninsula region) begin to approach our Huron...; but before reaching them, they catch as many fish as possible, which they dry. This is the ordinary money with which they buy their main stock of corn...”
Almost two decades before European settlement began in earnest; fishermen from southern parts of the Upper Canadian colony were operating in the region. Primary among these operators was Captain Alexander MacGregor of Goderich. MacGregor set up his base of operations on Main Station Island in the aptly named "Fishing Islands" off the Lake Huron shoreline near the present day resort community of Oliphant on the Lake Huron shore of the Bruce Peninsula.
The Goderich sea captain signed a contract to supply at least 3,000 barrels of fish a year to a Detroit based company. MacGregor received $1.00 a barrel for his catch. Although he profited from this agreement, the enterprise in Detroit probably made an even larger gain as the 1830 selling price for fish in Michigan was $6.00 a barrel.
Today, fishermen use sophisticated technologies to find and catch fish. Such methods were hardly necessary in the era of the first fisherman in the area. Fishing stocks were so plentiful that the technique used mainly to catch the fish was described as being more associated with “the corralling cattle or the instigating of a buffalo run”. This massive harvesting of fish caused the local Indigenous communities to fear for the loss of a vital staple in their life. Their concerns were first aired in 1846 and resulted in an 1849 agreement with the Department of Indian Affairs to lease some of the "Fishing Islands" to legitimate operators. The pact allowed “the Saugeens to determine the location of islands, duration of licenses and selection of leaseholders.” However, it was not long until it was realized that due to many circumstances the agreement proved to be unenforceable.
Exploitation of fishing stocks, not only in this region, but also throughout the entire colony finally forced the government to take more definitive action. In 1857 the Fishing Act was initiated. The primary theme of this legislation was that commercial fishing ceased to be a public right and instead became vested in the Crown. There was good reason for the government’s sudden interest in fishing. At the time of the new legislation, the fisheries on Lakes Ontario, Erie and Huron (including Georgian Bay) were valued at more than half a million dollars!
The Fishing Act of 1857 did not quell the dissatisfaction among the various groups involved and marked the beginning a period of controlled growth and prosperity in the industry. Instead, it only served to create more acrimony between all the parties involved.
It is enjoyable to read about the fishing history of the area, but the reality is it is more fun to take a Georgian Bay Fishing Vacation!
List of Lighthouses on the Great Lakes: If you have names and/or pictures of Great Lakes Lighthouses please submit them along with details of their location.
Georgian Bay Ships: A List of all the ships that sailed on Georgian Bay until the 1960s. This list is not complete. If you know of a ship that sailed the waters of Georgian Bay please contact me with information about that vessel, and, if you have a picture that I could post with it, that would be much appreciated.
1885: A Memorable Summer Job for Owen Sound teenage boys on the Great Lakes would have historic importance, not mention a possible exciting career opportunity.
Hindman Transportation Company was a well-known Great Lakes shipping company for many years. Here you will find pictures of many of the Hindman ships
Owen Sound Harbour – A Photographic History, by Robert A. Cotton is a book that interests my historiographical curiosity.
Commercial Great Lakes Fishing It is probably safe to suggest that the commercial fishing industry was an important part of the early growth of this region.
A Georgian Bay fishing vacation has long been a popular attraction in the Bruce Peninsula region. During fishing derbies, the regional waterways are dotted with fishing boats of all shapes and sizes.
The Georgian Bay Mackinaw, designed by William Watts of Collingwood is an example of a Georgian Bay innovator creating a vessel to service the needs local mariners.
Great Lakes fishing is an asset that is protected and developed, not only for its economic potential but also for those who just enjoy spending a day by the side of a river or in small fishing boats trying to catch “the big one”!
Great Lakes Fishing History is not without its controversy. The impact of the fishing industry was such that it played an important role in the development of communities along the Georgian Bay and Lake Huron shoreline.
Georgian Bay Travel Before the Winter Freeze-Up could be a dangerous time for mariners in the early years in this region.
A Harbinger of Spring on the Great Lakes in pioneer times, was the eagerly awaited news that a lighthouse had been lit and shipping traffic could begin sailing from port to port.
Lumber Hookers Lumber hookers and tugs were an important innovation to improve the transportation of lumber on Georgian Bay.
Mapmakers on Georgian Bay were also explorers. They mapped the Georgina Bay shoreline noting safe harbours, dangerous reefs and other guides for sailors and pioneer settlers looking for a place to call home.
Paddling Georgian Bay & Pondering: traversing parts of this great waterway in a canoe leads one to wonder about the ships of a bygone era battling the rough seas they encountered.
Parry Sound Shipping History: The Parry Sound area has always been connected to the southern regions of the Province of Ontario by a system of good roads. Or has it?
Parry Sound’s shipping history 2 is more than the tragic sinking of the Waubuno or the later catastrophe surrounding the sinking of the Asia.
Sailing Season Closing: A Frantic Time on Peninsula as ships raced from port to port delivering and picking up passengers and produce before the waterways froze.
Ship Captain Andrew Port was not only a dynamic and brave Georgian Bay mariner, he was a personal favourite historical character of mine.
Ships Stuck in Ice: The Oak Glen was icebound in 1996 but this sailing hazard has been impacting vessels on Georgian Bay since the beginning of time.
Lake Huron shipwrecks, the Hibou often occurred in the Georgian Bay region of that Great Lake due to the often violent waters that could strike unsuspecting vessels like the Hibou.
Shipwrecks: The "Asia" wrecked off the eastern coast of Georgian Bay taking all but two of the more than 100 passengers to a watery grave.
Masters, Mates, and Pilots Association created its first Canadian chapter on Georgian Bay, providing maritime safety education, and other seafaring issues to better inform its membership.
Pioneer Travel Aboard the Fly Tells the story of a sailing vessel as the tenuous link between survival and death in a pioneer settlement in the 1840's in Upper Canada.
Sailing Stories: the Captain Who Smelled his way into Port The Captain Who Smelled his Way into Port details how pioneer seamen on Georgian Bay safely sailed the rough waters without the aid of the modern technological tools so readily used by today's mariners.
Sailing Story: The Voyage of the Prince Alfred the incredible voyage of the Prince Alfred, fraught with danger for both vessel and the crew in the winter of 1880.
Shipbuilding As the southern Georgian Bay region became more populated shipping traffic increased to meet the needs of an expanding market place.
The Summer of 1844 was No Picnic for the early settlers in the pioneer area near what would become Owen Sound on Georgian Bay.
The CPR Grain Elevator Fire of 1911 spelled the end of Owen Sound's role as the eastern terminus of the CPR Great Lakes Fleet.
Georgian Bay shipping occurred long before the first Europeans paddled these waters. But the fur and timber trades opened Georgian Bay to shipping in a big way!