The Bluewater Anglers Story
Where did it all start? For the part not a lot of people know. Back in 1978 or early 1979 three fishermen, Pete Bothwell, Rick Parent and Don Cox were at a sportsman show in Port Huron sponsored by the Port Huron Steelheaders, latter to become the Bluewater Sport Fishing Association.
The Michigan boys were into down rigging and other methods of fishing for salmon and rainbows that were new to these Canadian fishermen and they went to see what it was all about. The three of them ended up joining the Port Huron Club. After a few meetings they said to each other “Why wouldn’t this work on the other side of the river”. Let’s see what happens?
The three of them posted signs around town, at the plants and the old Centennial Park boat launch to see if there was any interest in forming a club in Sarnia Lambton. The initial response was about 100 people who showed up for a meeting at the Sarnia Library in the fall of 1979. From this first meeting 30 people signed up and things started to roll. The directive of the first 30 members was to generate interest. Early in 1980, there was more than enough desire and the formation of the BLUEWATER ANGLERS was off and running. The early years saw membership of 600 to 700 interested fishermen and people who seen the value of what was happening. Meetings were held at one of the local schools. With a broad range of representation, teachers, engineers, lawyers, construction workers, chemical plant maintenance and operators and retirees the emphasis accelerated.
By April 10th 1981 a charter was granted and immediately the club lobbied the MNR for stocking of rainbow Trout into Lake Huron. As noted in the Letters Patent, the Bluewater Anglers were founded to promote water conservation and quality, to deliver educational programs, to co-operate fully with government ministries and education establishments in conserving our ecology and fisheries and to operate a fish culture station.
The late Honarable James Auld was approached & through his ministry 40,000 rainbow trout fingerlings were received from the Normandale Hatchery for stocking into Lower Lake Huron. This program continued and was extended with the support of the Honarable Allen Pope. These MNR Rainbow Trout fingerlings were delivered to our waters where the Bluewater Anglers Club members took over tagging of these fish for the MNR and also provided creel census data to the MNR.
In 1981 the club formalized a request to the MNR for an experimental hatchery to be built & operated by the Bluewater Anglers with the MNR providing financial funding and technical support. The idea took hold and resulted in The Bluewater anglers receiving grant of $30,000 in 1982 from The Community Fishing & Involvement Program (CFIP) for Ontario. This experimental, or pilot, hatchery was constructed by members of the BWA in 1982. It was located on the water pumping station property in Point Edward which was owned by the MOE. 2 wells, 2” sand points were drilled during the summer of 1982. the facility was ready in late January of 83 and stocked with 10,000 Rainbow trout in February. These initial Rainbow trout, approx. 25 gr. fish were the guinea pigs, from this first batch of fish it was learned firsthand how to successfully raise Rainbow Trout.
The first stocking of Rainbows, from the pilot Hatchery took place in May of 1983 at an average wt. of 50 grams. In Aug. of 1983 another 8,000 rainbows were received. These were only 1.5 to 2.5 grams and were stocked into lower Lake Huron in May of 1984 at an average size of 68 grams. (7” to 8”). In August of 1984 the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources sanctioned the Stocking of Salmon into the Canadian waters of Lower Lake Huron. Our Club immediately petitioned the ministry to extend our Pilot Hatchery license to raise salmon during the final year of the 3 yr. Pilot Hatchery Mandate. Through the direct personal support of Allen Pope, the Minister of the MNR, the club was authorized to raise Salmon.
A small incubation trough was installed in the pilot hatchery and in Sept. of 1984, 35000 salmon eggs were fertilized and set. These eggs were collected by club members, from the streams of Rock Glen and Bright’s Grove. These eggs hatched in November and as swim up fry were on starter food by mid Dec. These original salmon smolts were stocked out into the Cull drain in May of 1985. The inclusion of salmon in the pilot Hatchery reduced the number of rainbows to only 3,000 for 1985. During the 3 years of the pilot hatchery operation 21,000 rainbows and 12,000 Chinook Salmon were stocked to Lower Lake Huron. It was understood and included in an agreement with the M.N.R. that success with the Pilot Hatchery program would be one of the requirements needed to lobby for a full scale permanent hatchery. Formal support for the permanent hatchery began in Oct. 1985.
By late fall of 1985 agreement was reached with the MNR. They committed to support the Permanent Hatchery construction with a total financial support of $106,000 on a 2 for one basis. The Bluewater Anglers needed to raise $53,000. Through the support of citizens, other clubs and groups, small business and particularly the Industries of the Chemical Valley, the hard working club members were able to meet this goal. Our members built the Permanent Hatchery during the winter of 1985 with the drilling of 2 wells and the construction of a 50ft. by 100 ft. pole barn. The facility was completed in September of 1986 with all equipment in place to raise 200,000 Chinook Salmon.
Phase One came on line in Oct. of 1986 with the release of 180,000 Chinook in May of 1987. 220,000 Chinook were released in 1988. 250,000 eggs were in incubation in the fall of 1988 for 1989 release. The agreement with the Ministry was they would continue stocking Rainbows until 1988 at this point the BWA would take over. To complete the hatchery as designed, for both salmon and rainbows additional tanks, pumps piping and feeders were required. Another fund raising drive was initiated raising $50,000 for operation and construction of the facility. The rainbow portion of the Hatchery was completed in 1992 giving us an operational capacity for 50,000 rainbow trout and 200,000 Salmon.
The hatchery as it stands today is the same as constructed in 1986 with a few modifications for efficiency. It still produces some of the largest Salmon smolts of any private hatchery.
Over the years the Bluewater Anglers have been involved with:
- Club Tournaments
- Kids Fishing and education projects
- Shoreline Cleanup
- The Annual Derby
- The Sportsman Show
- Promotion of Sports fishing
- Numerous other activities.
Most of our activities over the years have been in support of the hatchery and our goal of putting something back into the sport we all love and enjoy.