Little local uptake on cormorant hunting season

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MANITOULIN – The announcement of a hunting season being opened for the double-breasted  cormorant was greeted with dismay by environmentalists and avian advocates and with a substantial dollop of skepticism by fish and game club members and commercial fishermen. It seems the latter were more on the mark than the former, as few seem to be taking up the opportunity to hunt the oft-reviled birds.

“I don’t know of anybody that is hunting them,” said Up Top Sports Shop owner Blaine Williamson. “Nobody has the time.”

“I can’t think of anyone I know that is out hunting them,” Little Current Fish and Game Club (LCFGC) president Bill Strain concurred. “A lot of them (cormorants) have gone.”

“I have to agree with Bill,” said Ches Witty, Gore Bay Fish and Game Club president. “Two weeks ago there were about a dozen of them out on Lake Wolsey, I drive past them pretty much every day, but there aren’t really any of them there now. The only ones you would see now would be the ones coming down from up north.”

Mr. Strain said that the point had been made to the government by the clubs that setting a hunting season in the fall would not be productive for that very reason. “If they were serious they would have had it in the spring,” said Mr. Strain.

He noted that there has been a half- to two-dozen of the birds in the vicinity of White Haven Cottages in Sheguiandah most of the summer. “It’s disgusting what happens in the spring during the run,” he said. “I couldn’t believe the size of the fish they were able to gulp down their gullets,” said Mr. Strain. “They were so heavy they couldn’t get off the water. They probably had other fish in their bellies.”

“Absolutely,” said Mr. Witty. “What I have seen them put down their nets out at Mike Meeker’s nets (aquaculture operation) would just blow you away.”

Sheguiandah’s Bass Creek mouth is the site of the LCFGC walleye spawning operation, where the club’s nets capture pickerel coming into spawn to milk them of eggs and sperm for their hatchery and pond operations. Those operations, and the attendant educational classes for Island school children, were cancelled due to the pandemic this year.

“If they really wanted to do something about the cormorant situation they would have set up a season in the spring,” said Mr. Strain. “Having it from now to December 31? That’s a joke.”