A Brief History of the Kirkland District Game and Fish Protective Association
Born of a farsighted desire to protect our northern game and fish populations, in 2014 the Kirkland District Game and Fish Protective Association will have been in existence for eighty three years. For eighty three years the club has been at the front of consevation practices, initially as a stand-in for the virtual absence of Lands and Forests representation and later as a close advisor and partner in funding various projects. At one time there also existed a women's Game and Fish Club which unfortuately lost momentum. The list of accomplishments is a long one and we have come to take for granted many achievements which resulted from caring, dedicated group of people who beleived, " the preservation of both fish and game is in the personal interest of the permanent residents of the North Country", a timeless credence if there ever was one.
The idea for the club began in 1925 when a group of about thirty men pitched in $10.00 each and put together a fish camp, on Larder Lake. This relatively sturdy structure amounted to a huge prospector style tent, a good twenty feet across and was used on and off, on weekends and as time permitted. (The men managed their way back and forth via the 'Tonnerville Trolley' a rail car that ran from Swastika, having met the train in the morning, to Larder Lake, staying over night in Kirkland Lake on the return trip.) There were no annual dues to pay but it became apparent a formal organization was needed.
In 1932, problems relating to fish and wildlife became obvious and individuals, the likes of Mr. Ian (Scottie) Robertson, (whom we thank for much of this information), Mr. Fred Brown, Mr. Dave McChesney, Mr. Lou Geizer, Mr, Charlie Linworth, Mr. M Draper and others formed the Kirkland District Game and Fish Protective Association. One of its formost purposes was to serve as an auxiliary to the Fish and Wildlife Division of the Department of Lands and Forests. At that time, Lands and Forests did not have a large budget; in fact, there was only one game warden in New Liskeard whose territory spanned Matheson to Norh Bay. (Not only that, whenever a change of government occured, from Grit to Tory or vice versa, the staff of all government departments changed too.) You can imagine what the crux of the problem was; although there were limits in place there was nobody around to enforce them. Pickerel were being scooped up as they attempted to spawn and once Kapakiat Creek was thick with spawning pickerel, these astute individuals, the founders of the Game and Fish Association, realized if the present wildlife heritage was going to carry into the future for all individuals, something would have to be done. The club became somewhat of a policing organization and its contributions to the sustainability of fish and wildlife had barely begun.
Recognizing the need to sustain, if not increase fish populations and add to diversity the available species in the area, the club entered into many stocking ventures on their own and with Lands and Forests cooperation. Prior to the existence of the Game and Fish Association, speckled trout did not exist in lakes in the Kirkland District.
Before W.W.11, the methods of handling and stocking fish eggs were by trial and error. Many attempts were made and results were unsatisfactory to concerned individuals. With the cooperation of Lands and Forests, the club sent divers into newly stocked lakes to check on the survival of the eggs. Methods were crude, cans of pickerel eggs 'eyed ova' were shipped up by rail a few days before hatching out. Timing was critical; the eggs could not be sent after hatching as the fry would string together, seeking nourishment in a cannabalistic foray. The Game and Fish Club acted on its own with help from mining companies who supplied trucks and drivers to stock such lakes as Victoria, Kenogami, Sesikinika, and Bear.
In 1942, at the club's request, a biologist and his wife were sent up to the Kirkland Lake area. The Club provided transportation for him to study various lakes with the idea in mind they might be suitable for trout. Out the Goodfish Mine road he went and into Dorothy and Lawgrave lakes he packed his field chemistry labratory. He tested Grenfell, Purdy and other lakes as well sending water samples, bottom studies, and recommendations for speckled trout stocks down south. What came back from Toronto were brown trout for Larder Lake. It was a start and as time went on they began stocking lake trout in Crystal, and other trout species elsewhere.
Although Lands and Forests had decided the Kirkland Lake area was beyond the region of small mouth bass, in 1942 bass were introduced experimentally to the area. Because bass sperm becomes inactive below a certain tempature it was touch and go and some yearly spawns were definately unsuccessful. Eventually though, members of the club discovered some bass had acclimitized and behold we had smallmouth bass in Gull, Victoria, and Bear lakes, for starters. Thank you very much!
Early in the fifties, a provincial meeting was held at the relatively new Lands and Forests log building at Swastika where representatives from Iroguois Falls, Matheson, Larder Lake, Englehart and all over the district met to review a large map which was being filled with "colours" (Parks). Originally, the Esker Park area was thought to be a potential cottage and recreational lands but a curious biologist flying over the area noticed what looked like speckle lakes; he landed on a few and quickly discovered the ancient trail which had seemed so obvious from the air was not so easy to find. As a consequence, of the report on a chain of lakes the biologist had submitted, the area was designated a park, by Toronto. At the time a primitive road used by lumbermen, the like of Walter Little. Panagapka was the only access to the area. Work crews from the Monteith Correctional Institute were "employed" to clear the trails and roads and make long stairways with landings at lake end. The men camped in tents and guards worked five days a week. The few guards who worked on weekends were transported by members of the club. It came to be known that the cook who was in for manslaughter also made excellent pies. There was only one would be escapee who gave up to escape the flies.
A meeting was set up between Lands and Forests and the Club to name the lakes of the new park which resulted in Laf and Gaf and because of the participation of the club, it was decide to name them after past presidents, thus we had Charly, Scoop, Alfie and Fan (typo for Ian) lakes. Eventually, some these lakes were renamed to honour local war heroes.
Another important contribution of the Club was the instigation of the hunter safety course brought about by an unfortunate area shooting, by the then Toronto Chief of Wildlife, of his partner in the back of the knee. Lands and Forest had no money but provided the written examination and the club took care of the organization of the course with The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, Zone 4, North Bay. The club paid the bill at six cents an applicant. Eventually, instruction and organization of the courses came to rest in the hands of private individuals.
Over the years the club has enjoyed varying degrees of social activities and community involvement ranging from ice fishing activities, wildlife dinners, winter carnivals and Canada Day Celebrations. The main event of late has been the Annual Fish Competition which originally came about to attract members who might be willing to participate in meaningful ways. This last year $5000.00 was handed out in prizes. In recent years many conservation projects have been undertaken, too numerous to do them justice, in one essay. Through various employment and funding programs the Kirkland District Game and Fish Association has been able to produce lake signs, erect duck nesting rafts on Columbus lake, perform creel surveys and assessments on stocked lakes, like Round Lake, Amikougami, and improve the landing at Middleton Lake, contruct an access point at Lancaster Lake, make upgrades to these in the last few years, participate in several projects under C.F.I.P. and C.W.I.P. joint projects which currently no longer exist.
In 1990 the club was incorporated, a move made necessary by the need for liability insurance. Since then any scale size project may now be undertaken. That same year the Junior Game and Fish Club was revived and enjoyed success for about 4 years, then lost energy as the club could not find any persons who could donate enough time to keep it going.
As we the people and our governments attempt to resolve our numerous concerns for fish and wildlife, we are finding ourselves drowning in floods of information, misinformation, consultation, and regulation. The sanctity of a fishing trip, the very thing that can preserve sanity, is being jeopardized these days from any number of directions. Now more than ever we retain our inherent privlege to hunt and fish and to ensure we pass the resources and the knowledge on to future generations.