In 1984, the commercial fishing regulators introduced individual harvest quotas for each species of fish. In turn, many larger operations bought the quotas of smaller operations on Lake Erie. Unlike most people fishing on the lake, Todd kept fishing as an independent owner/operator. He figures about 40 per cent of the lake’s fleet today is still independent.
MEET THE PEOPLE
Todd – Wheatley
Todd is a third-generation fisherman. His grandpa Warren started running a boat out of Wheatley, Ont. in the 1940s. His father Ken tried working at a bank, didn’t like it, and returned to fishing. Todd began to fish full-time in 1980 after graduating high school. He worked on both his uncle and his father’s boats, and in 1984 Todd became a boat captain.
Todd has had some tough times over the years fishing Lake Erie. The late 80s and early 90s were incredibly challenging. Some years, the perch numbers were way down, so he couldn’t meet his perch quota, while the pickerel were plentiful, but he couldn’t fish for more of them because he had surpassed his pickerel quota. Other years, it was the opposite. Recently, the pickerel population has been up (maybe the best Todd can remember), while the perch population is down. Todd explains how this cycle is standard —when one species is up in the lake, the other seems to be down.
“Many people think fishing is like a tap. You just come out here and turn it on, but it’s not like that. You might get three good days out of a week.”
Todd works 10 months, most years, from March until Christmas. In his off months, he is doing net repair and getting the boat ready for another year. Todd's typical workday consists of waking up around three in the morning and departing from Kingsville harbour at 4 a.m., returning in the early afternoon. After fishing, he heads to his store in Wheatly, where he is until early evening. He works a lot.
Since Todd started fishing in 1980, not a lot has changed. A few electronics are more modern, but the boat he uses is the exact same boat his father used. Todd enjoys his job— fishing—but has never been one to fish for fun.
Most of Todd’s friends are already retired.
“I’m not ready to get off yet. I'm good for a couple more years anyway."
Loop Fisheries continues to be a family business. His wife Tracy has kept the company’s books in order for decades, and one of Todd’s daughters helps with retail. Still, none of his three daughters plan on taking over the boat. But his nephew Josh is one of Todd’s crew, and just got his captain’s papers.
“Fishing is my livelihood. It supports the community and all the families that work in it.”
Todd knows what it is like to have tough years out on Lake Erie. He does worry about the lake’s well-being and the future of the pickerel and perch fishery.
“All the algae bloom stuff. I don’t know where that is leading to, and that’s kind of scary. With the Asian carp coming in, that’s another threat. One big spill from one of these tankers, and they could shut us down. It is so shallow up here in this western end that something like that could ruin us.”
Lake Erie and the millions of people who rely on it for their drinking water, local jobs, and so much more need your help.
The health of Lake Erie continues to decline. Action is needed more than ever to restore its health for current and future generations.
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