Investigation still ongoing into case of poached Manitou River salmon

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TEHKUMMAH—An investigation is still ongoing by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) on a year-old case involving the illegal taking of salmon in the fish sanctuary of the Manitou River in Tehkummah.

Two Island residents told The Expositor in November 2021 that they witnessed the illegal taking of the salmon in the fish sanctuary of the Manitou River. This was the second incident reported in the fall of 2021, and the reports were corroborated by photos taken at the scene and by witnesses who indicated, among other things, that they observed children being used to herd and net spawning fish in Manitou River.

Kent K. Moxam, staff sergeant Sudbury Enforcement Unit with the MNRF told The Expositor December 16, “Charges have not been laid in this incident. The investigation is still ongoing.”

Previous to that incident, Central Manitoulin fishing enthusiast and Expositor columnist Andre Leblanc made a gruesome discovery on September 21, 2021 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.

Another similar complaint was reported a couple of days later.

One of the witnesses (who had asked this newspaper to not share his identity for fear of reprisal) who saw the second incident play out in front of him explained at the time, “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’” the witness told The Expositor. “So, I slowly went back towards Michael’s Bay Road. And by then there were no vehicles around.”

The witness told The Expositor at the time, “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 vehicle’s licence plates and called the ministry game warden. 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 earlier in the fall of 2021, with the fish carcasses left on the banks with the bellies slit 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 licence, and the eggs have to come from an approved facility.” Each female salmon can be carrying thousands of eggs.

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

As for what could be involved in terms of charges and fines for anyone who is found guilty in the current investigation, Mr. Moxam told The Expositor, “As this matter remains under investigation, I am unable to provide any further comments at this time.”