A paper by Mr. William McKirdy, Ontario Government Fishery Overseer at Nepigon, rad at the annual meeting of the North American Fish and Game Protective Association, held at Ottawa on the 21st and 22nd January 1903.
The following paper, a carbon copy on yellow copy paper, was found in a file, in a box with other notes and items left by Jack McKirdy, who died in 1979. I (J G M McKirdy) have typed it in without editing, in January 2017.
So much has been written about the Nepigon and its Trout by much abler writers than I, that I feel some diffidence in preparing this paper, but I have the consolation of knowing that each of us handles the subject as it appears to him, and I trust that my paper may present some new colourings and facts that have not appeared to others.
The average size of Nepigon Trout has been for many years two and a half pounds (2-1/2) the largest accredited fish caught on the river, eight and a quarter pounds (8-1/4), although some larger fish have been reported. To the angler used to fishing other streams, these are extraordinary fish. In fact, many visiting the stream for the first time have said it was a salmon proposition in the matter of the size of the fish, and the tackle necessary to hold them, which is really the case. Nor is it to be wondered at, that the Nepigon is the home of these beauties. As the conditions are unique – no more favourable ones could be found in the world – the Brook Trout, in sympathy with these surroundings, have excelled their kind.
Nepigon Lake, the head waters of the St. Lawrence, is some eighty miles long by fifty wide, with a coast line equal to that of Lake Ontario, the water is of the clearest and (purest), and studded with bold, rocky islands, capped with the stately spruce and graceful birch. Here the finny tribe thrive, as the lake is filled to overflowing with Whitefish, Lake Trout, (some of the latter have been caught weighing forty pounds) and the last, but not least important the Brook Trout (Salvalinus fontinalis) varying with teir surroundings in size and beauty. It has been stated by old residents on the lake that Brook Trout, weighing from two to twelve pounds have been caught on the spawning beds, and to give an idea of the quantity of these fish, I have mapped out some twenty miles of spawning beds, and in doing so, have only shown a portion of them. A gentleman traversing the lake during September told me he passed through an extraordinary large school of Brook Trout; this was before the spawning season, which commences on the Lake about the 15th of October. Most of the streams emptying into the lake have no trout in them, except in the higher reaches; there is an exception, however, viz. Sand River, a wide, rapid stream on the Northwest corner. Here, I understand, the stream is full of these trout, equal in size and beauty to those of the Nepigon River. Lake Nepigon will, no doubt, become a great tourist resort. Its ideal camping places on the numerous islands and beautiful bays, together with the delightful cool nights in the hottest parts of the season (one can always enjoy a good supply of warm blankets) possessing the charms of nature untrammelled by civilization, yet within easy reach of modern travel.
The Nepigon River is simply an outlet to the lake, two to four hundred feet wide, forced in great measure through rocky formations, preserving its clearness while leaping over foaming falls, dancing over surging rapids, losing itself in placid lake expansions, repeating itself thus as it dashes through towering precipitous rocks, where its deep green water lends a charm that is not easily forgotten in its forty miles’ course to Lake Superior, dropping 250 feet in that distance.
The government has preserved the stream in its beauty, only the necessary camping grounds being cleared for that purpose. An Overseer is constantly patrolling the river, whose duties are to see that there is no abuse of the fishing privileges, that all camps are kept clean and all refuse burned, so that when a camp is left by one party, it is in readiness for the next. His duty is also to facilitate in any way possible, by information and courtesy, the pleasure of the anglers. For some years back it has been found that Pike were on the increase, and threatened to do serious damage to the trout. Last year a raid was made on them in their haunts by netting these places. Thousands of Pike were caught, of weight varying from four to twenty-five pounds. I have measured them from four to five feet long.
Your Society aims at preserving the game and fish of America; I think there is great work for you. I can look back to the time when I was a boy, and remember the splendid fishing streams about home, and those days have gone, and so has the fishing, and the work you have undertaken is to produce those conditions as far as possible, and preserve those that are as nature has left them. It seems to me that if there could be left a small wooded belt along our streams, even a narrow one, this would not interfere with the general utility of the land, in fact, would improve it, and would be the means of preserving our streams to a very great extent.
I have noticed that in every lake and every principal stream ( and smaller ones emptying into it) where Trout ae found that each one has Trout peculiar to itself. Great care is taken by breeders of cattle and other domestic animals to raise only the best, why not so the Trout? And if the Nepigon Trout is the finest and gamest fish in the world, why not stock our depleted lakes and streams with it?
There are such possibilities for securing spawn known as in Lake Nepigon, with its miles of spawning grounds. Nets couyld be thrown around them, and spawn could be secured in quantities to stock America, if necessary. The Nepigon River is itself one vast spawning bed on all its rapid portions. I passed over a half mile of water at the foot of Pine Portage where the fish fairly covered the whole stream, shining out with their gorgeous fall colourings, a sight to be remembered.
After reading this Post go back to the previous Post and see the You Tube video of our Nipigon River Before and After the Dams.