Citizens confront alleged salmon roe poaching duo

These salmon carcasses have had their bellies slit, were gutted for their eggs and left to rot on the bank of the Manitou River. The carnage was discovered on September 21. photo by Andre Leblanc

Observe children being used to herd, net spawning fish in Manitou River

TEHKUMMAH – Two Island residents say they witnessed the illegal taking of salmon in the fish sanctuary of the Manitou River. The Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (MNDMNRF) is investigating this second incident this fall, now corroborated by witnesses and photos taken at the scene.

As was reported previously, Central Manitoulin fishing enthusiast and Expositor columnist Andre Leblanc made a gruesome discovery on September 21 on the banks of the Manitou River near Michael’s Bay in which salmon carcasses that had been gutted for their eggs and left to rot during their crucial spawning season. 

A MNDMNRF spokesperson told The Expositor last week that another complaint was reported a couple of days later.

One of the witnesses, (who has asked this newspaper to not share his identity for fear of reprisal) who saw the second incident play out in front of him explained, “I have never  witnessed anything so blatantly against the rules. It happened two weeks ago on a Saturday about 4:00 in the afternoon. I was driving out of Michael’s Bay Road toward the Government road, when a black Dodge half ton truck was being pulled out  of the ditch and there was a black Dodge van behind this vehicle.” 

“On the river side of the road, there was a man and three kids, two boys and a girl with him, I would say between the ages of 10-12, dressed in chest waders. I thought, something just doesn’t look, right here. So I slowly went back towards Michael’s Bay Road. And by then there were no vehicles around.” 

The witness, who wished not to be named fearing for retribution, told The Expositor, “another guy I know said he had been coming out of Michael’s Bay, and he saw the three kids with landing nets  in the river chasing salmon. He said they were running through spawning beds and that he had taken pictures of them. There was even one photo with a fish in the net.”

The witness continued, “then the half ton truck and the van came back to pick up the kids. We stopped the vehicles and the friend of mine got pictures of the vehicles’ licence plates and called the ministry game warden. I know this is still an active investigation. The two vehicles were definitely from southern Ontario. However, he said the kids involved are all local residents. The adults told the witness they were from southern Ontario.

“All we had seen and the pictures taken were reported and given to the game warden,” said the witness. He said this most recent incident all ties together with the incident The Expositor reported previously, with the fish carcasses left on the banks with the bellies slit out of them and the eggs removed from the salmon. “The reason they would be doing this is that big money can be made by selling salmon eggs in Southern Ontario. But to sell salmon eggs, you need a retail license and the eggs have to come from an approved facility.” Each female salmon can be carrying thousands of eggs.

The Expositor contacted Moxy’s Bait and Tackle in Lively and an employee explained, “salmon eggs retail for $7 for 12 roe sacks (of approximately 4-5 eggs in each). To sell them, we have to have a licence and you have to buy them from a licensed retailer.”

“I’ve never seen an incident like this before,” stated the witness. 

“I’m very concerned how this is going to affect the salmon population here,” said the witness. “All the eggs were taken and the fish were killed. There is no stocking of salmon on the south shore (Manitoulin); there is only natural reproduction of salmon and when a few fish are destroyed and the eggs are taken, it has huge effects for four years. I hope this incident is enforced to the end.”

“It’s absolutely disgusting, and it happens every year, said Dave Patterson, organizer of the Manitoulin Expositor Salmon Classic. “People are harvesting fish eggs from spawning salmon for bait, and those fish aren’t coming back.” 

“Four or five big salmon are potentially  a couple of hundred salmon that would have returned to that river,” Mr. Patterson added. “Those fish bring millions of dollars to Manitoulin’s economy.”

“Those aren’t fishermen, they’re poachers,” he added, encouraging anyone who sees anything untoward to report it to the MNDMNRF. 

Morgan Kerekes, acting media and issues advisor with the MNDMNRF, told The Expositor on October 25, “you were inquiring about any updates on the fish incident on Manitou Lake. I have confirmed that we do not have any updates and the matter remains under investigation.”