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The humble start of sport fishing in northwestern Ontario


Wednesday, Apr 15, 2020

Throughout a lot of my travels and places that I get to visit to fish, I'm often reminded of how lucky we are here in Sunset Country with all of the fantastic fishing and outdoor opportunities that we have.

I do enjoy getting to head south in the winter to go bass fishing in my boat but I have said it many times, “that you couldn't pay me to live anywhere else in the summer.” I love the weather, the beauty of our landscape and of course the excellent fishing.

Last fall by coincidence I got chatting with Danny Calvert whose family has a long history in tourism and fishing in northwest Ontario. He shared a few photos with me of his Grandfather, Ernie (E.D.) Calvert, who in the early 1900's was making a living in the sport fishing business.

Some the stories Danny shared were pretty amazing. The first picture showed Ernie fishing from a canoe in Whitefish Bay, with a second canoe following along, carrying a person operating a video camera. He says that picture was from around 1920. That's 100 years ago! Good chance that was the first time anyone ever had a camera along to record video of someone fishing. How awesome would it be to see that footage today and witness the techniques used to catch fish back then. In the early 1900's he owned seven resorts on Lake of the Woods, a few in Whitefish Bay and others in Sabaskong Bay, Miles Bay, Obabikon Lake and Pipestone Lake. My friend Bill Godin told me that some of these fishing trips would consist of 10 day canoe trips, maybe from Lake of the Woods to Clearwater Lake and back. Could you imagine how much fun that would have been back then? The fishing, the wildlife and the natural beauty of everything.

Another photo was on an advertisement for Johnson Sea-Horse motors with a photo of Calvert holding a pair of large lake trout, then featuring a testimonial of his experience with the motor, the reliability of it and how it would help you catch more fish.

Not a lot different from the marketing these motor manufacturers continue to use today. Danny says he was the most famous angler in the World in the 1930's.

A product of a passion for fishing and wanting to share the experience of fishing in Sunset Country.

The best story that Danny shared with me was in the early 1900s, Ernie was known to travel to Rat Portage (Kenora) by canoe each summer, pick up cream cans full of smallmouth bass fry and then travel to Rainy Lake, taking a different route each time and dispersing the fry along the water in different places. He did this for more than 20 years.

Since bass are not native to the region, those of us who enjoy fishing for them sure are thankful for his foresight to do this.

This was before we had Ministry of Natural Resources regulations about the transfer of fish from one body of water to another. He did this to create more fishing opportunities and I'm grateful for it.

Today, bass fishing attracts thousands of anglers to our region each year to simply go fishing.

During times like these, stories like this make a person smile. I wish I had the opportunity to meet Ernie and thank him for carving out a path for somebody wanting to make a living fishing in Northwest Ontario.


Jeff Gustafson - Livewell

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