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Updated 2012

Welcome to the
'GILL NETTING' section of my home page.
By John A. Vance, Environmental Eng. Tech., & Outdoor Writer, Member: Outdoor Writers of Canada, et al. Forty year as a 'pro' outfitter/guide/writer.
The material found here is protected by copyright. For permission to use this material, please contact John A. Vance - you may be pleasantly surprised when you do!

Here you'll learn about the gill net fishing still going on in Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes.  You'll also learn how this sad activity is 'justified', and how you can help stop the over exploitation of our re-newable natural resources. 

You'll learn about where your 'stocked' fish are going - and yes - it'll make you mad - spittin' mad! Please bookmark and return later with your friends - we need your help!

The opinion of John A. Vance, outfitter/guide, Environmental Engineering Tech., and Outdoor Writer.
special note, commercial fishing in Ontario Canada, does not include charter boats, or the charter boat industry - just netting,  commercial gill netting, trawl netting and hoop nets etc.

Special Update – 2012! As I write this, I now live in northern Ontario – yes, a wondeful place – I live about two minutes from Gerogian Bay – and the North Channel of Lake Huron. Sadly, I have to report that Lake Huron, generally a much less fertile lake than the southerly great lakes – STILL has considerable gill netting going on by both out 'First Peoples' who sell most of the fish they catch, and commercially operated fishers. Despite the fact that our Ministry of Natural Resources with a branch connected to the Great Lakes Commision, made up of both Canada and the US – and with LESS fish now than in the past and with a continuing decline of most fisheries, these people still allow gill netting to continue! Sad, isn't it!

Would you like me to send you some pictures of a gill net being used – right across the entire mouth of a feeder river that walleye, trout/salmon and bass use to spawn in? I have them – and our MNR did nothing when I laid a formal complaint – absolutely NOTHING!!!!

This overview is necessary because we must define boundaries here, so that we know that we are talking about ALL forms of commercial netting on Lake Erie and Lake Huron, including Georgian Bay, which make up what is known as the 'COMMERCIAL FISHERY' OR COMMERCIAL FISHING'. This also applies to trawl, hoop and trap netting procedures as well. 

Of course, this section doesn't apply to the use of a landing  net used by a sportfisher-person while landing a fish caught by conventional hook and line. 

Sports fishing, by use of hook(s) and line, is regarded as an 'inefficient' method of fishing, when it comes to the taking of fish. Yet we do our best to 'master' this inexact science. 

Of course, the 'First Peoples' of North America DIDN'T have nets, let alone gill nets before white folk arrived – so, their claim that they always fished this way is wrong. If you are one of these people, unless you can prove to me and the rest of the world that you did have nets and gill nets before white people came here – don't bother contacting me – beacuse I don't want to hear anything you have to say – 'cause I've already heard from lots of you already! I'm much aware you don't like this exposition – but it's the truth, so we ALL must deal with it...because we're all in this together!

None-the-less, we have to be aware of fish populations, and practice conservation techniques, establish, and respect these governing laws, to achieve the 'sustainability' of those resources - there are lots of us (millions) sport anglers whom participate in this consumptive participation of these re-newable natural resources. If you or I as individuals take even one more fish while sport fishing than we can legally do so - we can face hefty fines, including seizure of your equipment including boat, and vehicle such as a car/truck etc. Yet the commercial fishers will waste far more fish in a day than most people will ever catch in a whole of their lifetime!

Commercial netting/fishing, on the other hand, is quite efficient at harvesting fish stocks - and can and does quickly take fish - en-mass, but not to the betterment (to say nothing of the enjoyment) of millions, but rather, as a financial gain for a few hundred, possibly thousand, of those folks associated with this commercial fishery. Nor are we talking of the ocean here - but rather fresh water. To make matter worse, the size of the mesh of any given gill net must also come into question. Commercial fishers are SUPPOSED to use certain sizes of mesh to allow smaller fish to go through, unharmed. Many charges are laid each year by the use of these undersized nets - which also take non target species too. It takes a LOT more SMALL fish to make a pound of weight - than it does larger fish. This translates into the potential to not just rape the resource of larger fish - but the smaller fish will be taken too, and never get the chance to get larger. To take smaller fish also means that MANY of them will never even make it to spawning size, and with fewer mature sexually mature fish, we don't have any way of replacing fish - so the fish populations spiral down, quickly.
Add to the mix that many natives set gill nets across rivers while fish are on their spawning run - so you can see easily - how do fish have any chance at all? They don't, plain and simple.

Most people today would not wish to see, or allow the market gunning for waterfowl, as it occurred here in North America, just before the turn of the second century past( the 1800s). Today, at just past the turn of the 2000th century in 2010, surly, we as conservationists must view commercial fishing by means of netting, in the same light/view as the market gunning for waterfowl of the past.

Indeed, we must view our fish stocks as re-newable natural resources; as a valuable commodity, and wish to see them shared, with the most amount of good, and gain, for the most amount of people, and, at the same time, allow the resource to be 'sustainable'. 

For the most part, fishing with nets is relatively 'non selective' in the harvest, taking any hapless fish which swims into the nets; and release is impossible as the fish thus caught, will be dead. 

Bureaucrats will argue in favor of the commercial fishers, that by net placement, and size of mesh, that non target species catches can BE KEPT TO A MINIMUM!  This is simply a 'bunch of bunk' - misinformation slanted in favor of the commercial fishery, perpetrated by governments, and the commercial fishing industry. 

Another  sad fact that needs to be known and understood, is that many AMERICAN STOCKED fish are swimming over into Canadian waters on the Ontario side of the lake, and being caught in commercial nets. We as sports anglers will catch a few of these fish also, but bearing in mind that sport fishing being inefficient, the overall is scant, when compared to the harvest being taken by commercial fisher-folk.  MANY OF THESE AMERICAN STOCKED FISH TAKEN IN  COMMERCIAL NETS - ARE THROWN AWAY - THIS IS A SLAP IN THE FACE OF ANYONE WHO CARES ABOUT OUR GREAT LAKES FISHERY! The reason they are thrown away is because the government doesn't allow the sale of trout in Canada as the only reason - so these dead fish get tossed overboard.  They usually will piece the swim bladder so they sink readily - never to be seen again

But of course, not all the fish taken by commercial fishery, as in the case of the walleye of appropriate size are thrown away - they're taken and sold! 

All of the trout, and most of the salmon taken by the commercial fisher people are discarded. Too, it's worth mentioning here, that commercial fishers don't want large walleye, such as those that we sport anglers cherish. Many of the walleye over 18 inches long are also discarded, favoring the walleye that are from a foot long, to 14 inches in length. 

For the most part, commercial fishing by use of nets has been discontinued in American waters of Lake Erie, and after doing so, the fishing success of sport fisherfolk has increased DRAMATICALLY. 
Both the US and Canada share the waters and resources of the Great Lakes, including Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Lake Superior, and they ( an International Commission) set quotas so that people in both countries can each take FAIRLY of the fish stocks of given species - such as walleye, perch etc. 

In all fairness, despite the fact that the US has gotten rid of it's commercial fishery, sport fisherfolk annually harvest the agreed on quota for the US. American people are great fishermen & women, and many 'person' hours and many millions of dollars spent upon this quest! This is truly a boom for local economies right around the Great Lakes!

American anglers - and States, contribute millions each year towards conservation, and stocking programs of various fish, contributing to the general fishery of Lake Erie and other of the Great Lakes. 
The sport fishery, including all the associated spin-off industries, contributes BILLIONS of dollars for the US economy, stimulating jobs - jobs - jobs!

The American people, including their politicians, are proud of their 'sport fishing industry' and rightfully so; and they make data and facts easily available to the public, in support of these unrefutable facts. 

In Ontario, similar facts are not easily obtained, to the extent that it is easily seen, and obvious, that to a government which favors commercial fishing, that it is better NOT to let the public know and see the whole picture. This is incredibly SELF SERVING, as much of the politics involved is based on money, favors and concessions that the commercial fishery contribute to 'friendly' politicians and parties. Are you sickened by all this yet?

SELF SERVING too, is that the government has allowed, and is allowing commercial fishing to occur to such an extent, that on the Canadian side, many average sports fisher-folk don't go fishing in Lake Erie as often, as the fish stocks are depleted to the extent that  the 'pro' sports fishermen, including outfitters/guides are even becoming 'hard pressed' to produce viable catches for their clients. This fact is self serving  for the government because if people aren't able to participate in the resource, they become complacent, apathetic, and generally uninterested in the resource - allowing the commercial fishermen to continue to ply their trade with little interest shown by less and less sport fishers. 

As well, many ( most) people don't really know what goes on out on Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes where much commercial fishing exists, and especially when it comes to commercial fishing. Those few people whom are out on the lake each day, such as ardent sports fisher persons, including guides and outfitters do, and are appalled by the circumstances. These people, even if they voice their opinion, are defeated by the huge tangled bureaucratic process of government and another agency which are the 'official' spokes-persons for the sport anglers - to the Government that brought that group into power, and gave them that status! 

It appears by most people that are 'in the know' that this larger agency may in fact, be 'in bed' with the politicians and their quests, as concessions are often made

AND THERE'S MORE - Loons and other birds are being caught in gill nets too. Some local duck shooters told me of red head and canvasback ducks that they shot this past fall - having pieces of gill net around their necks - and these were some that got away, somehow - how many didn't? It's rumored that someone had seen this net with struggling birds did what they could to cut as many loose as they could. Had they been caught by authorities, they could have been charged for interference of that net - so not many people are going to brag about doing this sort of thing, now, are they?

But we CAN do something - you and I. Firstly, PARTICIPATE - read-on, become informed of the whole picture. Too, tell your friends about this web site, encourage them to come here and also arm themselves with the education needed to ultimately eliminate commercial netting form Lake Erie. 

My personal needs are simple, to be able to make a living, and so I can afford this web site, I need you to visit my product section of this web site, and make purchases of items that will enhance your 'sports activities' .

Most of my product line is exclusive - and high quality. My written products are knowledge based - and NOT the same old stuff - just re-written in my own words as so much of the information is now-a-days!
Aslo available in 2012 – Audio Cds for fishers wishing to learn how to learn how to fish at an extremely advanced level...

Author: John A. Vance
Copyright © 1998 John A. Vance. . . 

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