Harry Husak and Gier Thorden

A New Era, Waites Fisheries.

Filletting fish. Filletting fish.

When Waite's Fisheries began operations, a new era began in the commercial fishing industry in Dore Lake and other northern lakes. Technology was introduced to the fish business.

During the 1940s, tractor cats, trucks and Bombardiers, replaced horse-drawn sleighs for hauling equipment and fish. Refrigeration methods were improved and Waite's began constructing quick-freeze processing plants on various lakes. This allowed many lakes to conduct summer fishing operations. Air transportation was also introduced to haul fish out of isolated camps, during the summer months.

The Department of Fisheries often conduct tests on lakes that have commercial fishing operations. In 1944, Dore Lake was tested and classified as a continental or "B" lake. The lakes are classified according to the quality (severity of cysts) of fish in the lakes. These classifications can change from year to year depending upon the severity of cysts found in the fish, Export fish have fewer cysts and can be sold in the United States, while continental fish have more cysts and are acceptable only for the Canadian market. Continental or "B" classified fish have to be filleted before they can be sold on the Canadian market.

It was uneconomical and inefficient to haul Dore Lake fish to the filleting plant at Buffalo Narrows to be processed. Therefore, in 1945, Waite's Fisheries constructed a filleting and processing plant, with refrigeration facilities, at Murry's Point.

Several cottages were built to accommodate the filleting crew of about twenty-five people. Geir Thorden, Stan Campbell, Erick Videen and Chris Wopnford, were a few of the men who helped construct the plant. Harry Husak remembers when the fish plant was built.

"I recall when the fish plant was built here near the lakeshore. Men brought equipment from Big River to Dore Lake and set up a plant. Trees were cut down and the lumber was used to put up buildings. This fish plant can still be seen at its former site. Now the structure is slowly decaying."

Many women were employed as filleters at the plant. Some of the filleters were: Fanny Johnson, Grace Kirkness, Gertie Redhead, Joyce and Ruth Johnson, Bernice Belfrey, M. Rasmussen, Edquists, Videens, Donna Olson, Helen and Ethel Snell, Hazel Over and Ida Olsen. Some experienced filletters were also brought in from Winnipeg, who worked under contract. Chris Wopnford, foreman of the plant, and Geir Thorden, an experienced fisherman, instructed many of the women in proper filletting techniques.

The fishermen brought their fish to the plant by canoe or boat. The fish were then washed in a machine to remove slime and bacteria. The fish were split in half and filletted. Whitefish were ribbed, skinned and candled (to locate cysts). The cysts, if present, were then removed. The fillets were placed into one-pound or five-pound cello cartons, quickly frozen and taken to the South End by barge in the summer, or snowmachine in the winter. From here, the fish was loaded on trucks and driven to Big River and kept in Waite's holding freezer. When there was a sufficient supply of fish, they were then shipped to Canadian markets by rail or truck.

In 1954, the Department of Fisheries again conducted tests on Dore Lake to determine the quality of the fish. The classification of the Lake has changed from a continental lake to an Export lake again. This meant that fish could be exported to a foreign market without being processed. Waite's Fish processing plant was dismantled in 1954. The machinery and equipment was taken to Buffalo Narrows and Cree lake.

Waite's Fisheries continued operating at Murry's Point as a packing plant. In 1961, the plant was moved to Co-op Point, at the south end of Dore Lake. At this time, another fish company was established by the local fishermen, adjacent to Waite's plant. The Co-op Fisheries was financially supported by the local fishermen's profits. Bob Snyder from Big River received the contract to pack fish at the plant. Mr Snyder held this position until 1980 when he passed away with terminal cancer. Bob's wife Clarice and Larry Hunter continued operating this plant, and do so today.

In 1979, the Co-op Fisheries went bankrupt. Freshwater Fisheries, a government-operated outfit, took over the plant's operations and continued to handle Dore Lake's fish today.

In 1968, Greg Clarke of Meadow Lake, established Clarke Fisheries at Michel Point. When Mr Clarke died, the business ceased operating and Tom Laliberte bought the building. It was used as a packing plant for a few years until it burned down.

Waites Fisheries Limited.
Waites Fisheries Logo.

Jim Neilson (previous NHL hockey player) and his sisters.
Jim Neilson (previous N.H.L. hockey player, second from right), and his sisters. Dennis and Jim Pruden with Gail LaFontaine, at the fish plant.

An ice pile turns the fuel shed at the plant on its side, May, 1955.
An ice pile turns the fuel shed at the plant on its side, May, 1955

Quotas and Prices.

According to the Department of Fisheries, a lake quota has likely been in effect on Dore Lake since the early days of the fishery. A quota can be defined as the amount of fish allowed to be taken from the lake during that year by the commercial fishing industry. Quotas are established for the protection of the fish population and fluctuations of market demands.

The earliest recorded information concerning Dore Lake quotas was in 1941. The quota was set at 400,000 pounds. Changes in Lake quota since then are:

1946 - 600,000 pounds
1954 - 700,000 pounds
1968 - 600,000 pounds

Today the quota remains at 600,000 pounds.

Although the earliest recorded information concerning quotas was in 1941, some of the veteran fishermen can recall the quotas and prices of fish previous to this date. John Thompson recalls that a limit of 800,000 pounds was established in the 1924-25 season. He also remembers the wage he received as a helper during his early years as a fisherman. "I was paid the going wage of $50.00 per month".

The price for fish that the fishermen received on the Lake varied during the years, according to market demands. Nels Edson recalls the price of fish in 1916. "We made good getting 3 cents a pound for whitefish on the Lake. Ole Skivik and I cleared $1900.00 each that year". Marion Goliath states that the price of fish in 1930 was 2 cents a pound for whitefish and 11/2 cents a pound for jackfish.

The Commercial Fishery Today.

The period in which the commercial fishery operates has varied considerably in the past years. It has ranged from entirely a winter operation to almost entirely a summer operation. The Lake quota for the year is divided between the summer and winter seasons. The quota for the summer season is again split between spring fishing, which operates in June, and fall fishing, which operates in September.

The period in which the commercial fishery operates has varied considerably in the past years. It has ranged from entirely a winter operation to almost entirely a summer operation. The Lake quota for the year is divided between summer and winter seasons. The quota for the summer season is again split between spring fishing, which operates in June, and fall fishing, which operates in September.

The commercial fishermen and the Department of Fisheries have varying opinions regarding the operation of a winter and summer fishery. The fishermen participating in the commercial fishery come from Dore Lake, Big River and Beauval. The Beauval fishermen favour a summer limit as they are not well equipped to camp at Dore during the winter. The Dore Lake residents are generally more favourable to a winter fishery. There are several reasons why the residents prefer the winter fishing. Four-inch mesh nets are not used illegally to the same extent in winter as in summer. The winter commercial fishing is in operation when other work is not available. A supply of burbot is available to local mink ranchers. Burbot can only be caught during the winter season. A winter fishery protects spring and fall spawning. Furthermore, winter fishing avoids unfavourable reaction from the sport fishery, which operates only during the summer season.

The Department of Fisheries considers both winter and summer fishing operations important for the management of the Lake. The relative proportions of whitefish, walleye, and pike, in the catch, are different in summer and winter. On average, there is considerably more whitefish (76%) in the winter catch, than during the summer (59%). The catch of walleye in the winter drops to 11%, from the summer catch of 35%. The winter catch of pike increases to 11%, from the summer catch of 6%. The composition of the catch can be controlled to some extent by manipulation of the fishing season.

The species composition of the commercial catch indicates that whitefish are the backbone of the fishery. Considering only the three most important species, (whitefish, walleye and pike), they have contributed an average of 69% to the production. The harvest of whitefish has ranged from a low 172,000 pounds in 1964-65, to a high of 876,000 pounds in 1920-21. An average annual removal has been 464,000 pounds. Dore Lake is recognized as one of the richest walleye producing lakes in the province.

While pike is not included in the official limits set for Dore Lake, removal of these is present of concern to the sports fishery. Pike will become more important commercially as overseas markets develop. Low production was 28,000 pounds in 1961-62 and the high 239,000 pounds in 1943-44. Next to Big Peter Pond and Last Mountain Lake, Dore Lake has the richest bottom fauna and plankton than any other commercial fishing lake in the province.

Origin of commercial fisherman on Dore Lake.
Origin of commercial fisherman on Dore Lake.

Table 2.  Percent of each of three species.
Table 2. Percent of each of three species in the summer and winter commercial catch, Dore Lake. The average of each species for the entire period is also shown.

Table 3. Commercial production of whitefish.
Table 3. Commercial production of whitefish,
walleye, and pike from Dore Lake.

table 4. percentage of whitefish.
Table 4. Percentage of whitefish, walleye, and pike (3 species only considered in calculations) in the commercial catch from Dore Lake.

Big River Consolidated Fisheries land lease lease.
Big River Consolidated Fisheries land lease.

big river consolidated fisheries </p>portable sawmill lease.
Big River Consolidated Fisheries portable sawmill lease.

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Author: Webmaster - jkcc.com
"Date Modified: July 9, 2024."

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