Port Stanley’s community hatchery C.J. ‘Kit’ Brown has turned a boy’s love of hooks, lines and sinkers into a man’s passion for community fish hatcheries and the environment. “I’ve fished Lake Erie since I was about six years old,” said Brown, 80, a founding member of the Lake Erie Salmon and Trout Club (LESTC), and a director with Elgin Stewardship Council (ESC). “I’ve always been interested in nature, period.” LESTC was a standard-bearer for recreational fishing, launching a Lake Erie fishing derby, the popular Summer Salmon Search, in July 1980. Eight years later, the derby was renamed the Summer Salmon Search and Great Walleye Hunt. In 1990, reflecting the changing composition of the fish population, it became the Great Walleye Hunt until the final derby in 1992. “We started this Salmon fishing contest, it made a lot of money and we needed to find something constructive to do with it,” said Brown. The anglers discovered a scenic nine-acre parcel of flood plain, at 4255 Thomas Road, just west of Union Road. That property – located in the old Village of Selborne, Southwold – was once the site of the Phoenix Mill, built in 1831 and sold in 1949 to C. Teskey Smith. LESTC had 100 members at the time – only 20 remain today – and when they agreed to buy the lot, their focus turned to building a Salmon hatchery to help stock Lake Erie and support recreational anglers across Southwestern Ontario. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), rejected the notion of a Salmon hatchery, so LESTC started farming Rainbow Trout instead.
About 1.27 million anglers go fishing in Ontario lakes and streams every year, contributing about $2.2 billion to the provincial economy annually. Behind the scenes, community hatcheries like the LESTC operation have collectively stocked over 235 million fish since 1982. Less than 50 community hatcheries remain in Ontario, with 70,000 volunteer hours a year needed to keep the sport – and the science – alive. The MNRF operates nine fish hatcheries, stocking about eight million fish into some 1,200 Ontario water bodies each year. Community hatcheries complement those efforts, stocking Atlantic Salmon, Brook Trout, BrownTrout, ChinookSalmon, CohoSalmon, Lake Trout, Muskellunge, Rainbow Trout and Walleye. The LESTC hatchery, a registered not-for-profit corporation, is comprised of a series of six tanks. The tanks capture water from nearby springs and a natural aquifer, with about four gallons per minute flowing through the property, with a septic system for settling, before running out to Kettle Creek.
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