Photos from Perth Remembered
The Innisville Pickerel Run was known as the “Mississippi Lake Feeding Frenzy” and it was the biggest event in the ‘Ville’. People still say that there were millions of pickerel covering the river bottom under the Innisville bridge and word was that you could see a solid layer of fish eyes, side by side, caught in the flashlights of onlookers. All kinds of people stood on that Innisville bridge, with cars parked everywhere and the general store doing a booming business.
One day John and Leonard McNeely got themselves one heck of a catch from Mississippi Lake in the late winter of 1964. After just a few hours the men came home with a record catch of 12 pickerel. They were lucky, as time was running out because the season was soon ending in preparation for the annual spawning.
All winter fishing had been poor, and not much had come out of the cold season in their fishing hut after chopping holes through the thick ice. However that morning in 1964, all they had to do was drop their lines through the ice and the pickerel grabbed the bait. Four of the fish weighed over 4 pounds alone, and Len said there were no government regulations on how many fish he could have caught that day.
It seemed that in the the winter of 1963 a lot of fisherman from Perth had tried their luck and some of them left their minnows on the ice. Well Len spotted them and decided to try fishing with the dead minnows and it worked- unlike those Perth fisherman. As Len said, if they didn’t try and use them someone else might.
It appears luck was with these two men this time, as for years the Pickerel had been sparse, and as a result the Department of Land and Forests had taken to restocking Mississippi Lake. The natural restocking area which had been declared a sanctuary was situated at Innisville. The McNeely brothers felt that if so many pickerel could be caught in such a short time (5am to 8am) this indicated the fish were still there. On the other hand, with so much fishing pressure in the summer, they wouldn’t mind seeing the fishing season shortened.
The Pickerel population diminished very quickly. The department of Lands and Forests did put in concrete cribs at the rapids to encourage spawning to try to get the pickerel back and all that they succeeded in doing some say was to block the flow of the river and provide a nesting place for the sea gulls. Now you have to pay to see fish extravaganzas in Sea World and the like. Back then all you had to do was to drive out to Innisville and just watch those fish swim.
Allan Lewis— This is known as the “Mississippi Lake Feeding Frenzy”. My cousin, Garry Burns (was from Carleton Place) and I ran into this phenomenon once on a very hot August day, in 10 feet of water. The pickerel were almost jumping into the boat. It lasted for about an hour. A great day on the lake!
Gail Sheen-MacDonald-– The fish population diminished very quickly. The department of Lands and Forests put in concrete cribs at the rapids to encourage spawning to try to get the Pickerel back. All that succeeded in doing was to block the flow of the river and provide a nesting place for the sea gulls. The gulls created a tremendous problem polluting the river and making swimming extremely dangerous. One of my friends almost lost his life due the bacteria from the bird feces that attacked his heart. I attended many meetings of the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority to see what could be done. As it turned out, there was money to put the cribs in, but none to remove them. It is also against the law to shoot sea gulls even though many residents and cottagers wanted to to just that.