Memories of the Pickerel Run Innisville

Memories of the Pickerel Run Innisville

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Photos from Perth Remembered  (old bridge near the hotel)

Easter weekend in Innisville was not only visited by the Easter Bunny, but by millions of pickerel headed upstream to spawn. No finery was needed for the event, just pack your pants, jackets and some rubber boots.

The old bridge was jammed and the rapids were full with spawning pickerel swimming the seven miles to Mississippi Lake. Just after sundown the run began in the 42 degree water temperature with people from all over Lanark County and as far away as Ottawa and Toronto.  Most of them had flashlights and waited along the cold damp river bank for the ‘show to start” where the 8 inch water lapped at the shore. For as far as they eye could see, all the way to Ferguson Falls, was a seething mass of fish eyes in the murky water like lights on a pinball machine. When they complete their spawning cycle they returned to Mississippi Lake leaving the river’s rocks and vegetation with clusters of eggs.

All this was the result of stocking the river for over 20 years by the Conservation Club– The Carleton Place Fish and Game Club– that would lead to year after year of a prosperous  pickerel season that began on May 9th. The Department of Fish and Game was there to make sure people did not scoop pickerel up, as it was easy as that to get yourself handfuls of fish. Wayne Robinson and Percy Headlam were on the job in the late 1940s making sure you didn’t fill your pockets although rumour was there were many a pickerel dinner had around the area when they began to spawn. In 1949 there were plans to build more cabins around Innisville for all the folks that came up for the Pickerel season. Innisville was more than a passing few homes and general store- it was on the map during those days.

The first run began in 1910 when Herb Phillips of Smiths Falls and George Burke of Perth placed 38 adult Pickerel in the Innisville Rapids. Legend says *Mrs. W. P Kilfoyle, or “Ma” as most people knew her, had probably seen more pickerel than the whole village combined. She faithfully watched that migration every single year rain or shine. For a short time there were two bridges, the old structure and the new one, and both held thousands of people as the annual pickerel run got underway– it was the largest run in Eastern Ontario but the pickerel through the years *disappeared. In 1972 it was reported that it was a disappointing year and they blamed it on ice fishing, lights from the cottages, and the new Highway 7 $200,000 Bridge over the river for the scarcity of the fish.


Clipped from The Ottawa Journal19 Apr 1954, MonPage 3

*So why did they disappear?

Call it the case of the missing walleye. Ol’marble eyes, anglers’ No. 1 target and the ultimate shore lunch, is disappearing from some lakes in northwestern Wisconsin.

Adult walleye populations are dropping in these lakes and natural reproduction is sputtering. The stocking of small fingerling walleye, successful in the past, is netting next to nothing.

Frustration is setting-in in some communities where walleye has long been king of the creel and a top tourism draw that feed the local economy.

“The number one complaint I hear from anglers locally is, “We want our walleye back,” says Heath Benike, DNR fisheries biologist for Polk and Barron counties since 2003.

“We’ve tried increasing our walleye stocking rates and adding more walleye spawning habitat, and that did not help increase walleye survival or solve the existing problem.”

Right now, the leading suspects are:

  • Largemouth bass. Largemouths have been documented eating young walleye and populations of largemouth bass, opportunistic and voracious feeders, have soared as walleye have declined on these lakes. Cause or coincidence?
  • Climate change. Northwestern Wisconsin has gotten warmer and its growing seasons have gotten longer over the last 50 years. Have these changes favored largemouth bass at walleyes’ expense?
  • Lower lake levels. Prolonged drought has left walleye spawning grounds high and dry on some lakes. Did plunging water levels sink a species whose reproductive success depends on having clean gravel or rock cobble along wild shorelines?
  • Clearer water. Pollution control efforts and the drought have increased underwater visibility in many lakes. In clearer lakes, light-sensitive walleye must go deeper to be comfortable, reducing their overall habitat and giving largemouth bass an advantage sight-feeding in the food rich shallows.
  • Fishing regulations. Have minimum harvest length regulations on bass worked too well? Has prohibiting bass harvest until late June in the Northern Bass Zone hurt more than it has helped?
  • Catch-and-release. More anglers are releasing more bass to fight another day. Walleye are a different story. Has catch-and-release of largemouth bass become too much of a good thing?

Popular sentiment and some fish biologists finger largemouth bass as the leading suspect, but there’s no smoking gun, says Steve Avelallemant, a DNR fisheries biologist in northern Wisconsin for the last 25 years and top fisheries supervisor in the region.


Thanks to Nancy Hudson.. she has sent us two photos.. Thank you Nancy!!–Here are a couple of pictures to go along with your Innisville theme today. The aerial shot was taken in 1958-9 when the current highway 7 was being built. The other is of the village bridge which was taken down in the late 70’s. My grandfather, Walter White and later my parents lived in one of the Ennis homes in the village.




Bill Bompas game warden stocking the lake.. 1970s Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum


 - - Others were using the river. Just below...

The Innisville Bridge-The Innisville bridge under construction in 1958-1959 was built by a Company owned by my Father, Willys Armour, Beckwith Construction Co., Ltd., of Carleton Place. Somewhere I have old colour movie footage of the construction and old F100 trucks etc. The company was originally located on Mill St., then moved to Flora Street.--John Armour

March 16, 1976        Elsie M. KILFOYLE

Elsie McLaren Kilfoyle, affectionately known as ”Ma” around her native Innisville, died suddenly March 16 in Carleton Place and District Memorial Hospital after a short illness. She was in her 82nd year. Elsie was born Jan 22, 1895 the daughter of the late James McLaren and his late wife, the former Eliza Ann Morris. She was educated in Innisville and on May 7, 1919 she became the wife of Willard Preston Kilfoyle who predeceased her in 1958.  Mrs. Kilfoyle was an active member of St. John’s Anglican Church, Innisville and worked hard in the Women’s Auxiliary and the Women’s Institute. “Ma” Kilfoyle is probably best remembered for her weekly social columns in this newspaper and in The Perth Courier and The Smiths Falls Record News. For more than 40 years Mrs. Kilfoyle wrote about the happenings in and around Innisville, telling about the visitors, the births, the deaths and the marriages, even how the fishing and tourist seasons were as compared to other years. She is survived by three sons: Stanley of R. R. #3, Perth; Wallace of Ottawa and Murray of Carleton Place. There are also seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren as well as a niece, Joyce McFarlane.  One son, Jerry, died in a car accident in 1968.  The funeral was conducted from the Alan R. Barker Funeral Home, March 19 at 1:30 p.m. with the Reverend Allan Gallichan officiating. Burial was at Franktown. Pallbearers were David, Ricky and Wayne Kilfoyle, James Carruthers, Allan Crampton and Frank McGregor.



Clipped from The Ottawa Journal22 Apr 1960, FriPage 29

Pickerel Fish Tacos

(Makes 8 tacos)


  • 2 fresh pickerel filets
  • Season with salt, pepper & cayenne pepper
  • Grill for 4 min per side then finish off by squeezing fresh lime juice on the filets
  • Take off the grill and flake in a bowl then put aside.

Pico de gallo

  • 2 tomatoes – diced
  • 1 white Spanish onion – diced
  • 1 Handful of chopped cilantro
  • 2 jalapeno peppers diced
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ½ cup lime juice
  • 4 tbsp Olive oil
  • Mix in a bowl all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside

Lime Crema

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 tbsp lime juice
  • Mix together in a bowl and set aside


  • 8 small tortilla
  • Top the torillas with equal parts fish then top with a tbsp or 2 of Pico de gallo and 1 tbsp of Lime crème and garnish with chopped radishes and more cilantro

Success tip:

  • You can use any mild flaky white fish for this dish but always make sure it’s fresh.  We are using Lake Erie pickerel for this recipe.

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun

Related reading

More Pictures of the Innisville Pickerel Run

The Angling Adventures of John and Leonard McNeely

Tales of the Innisville Hotel

Back Where I came From — Innisville

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

8 responses »

  1. Thanks for posting this Linda. I spent all my summers as a kid on Mississippi Lake and my dad and uncles used to do a pickerel run every year since the cottage was built, just after WW1. Your stories and photos really bring back memories!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My Uncle Herb and Aunt Olive and their daughter Betty-Ann McManus live in Innisville at Sunset Cottages, they owned the house and 9 cottages. At one time they own the store near the old bridge. Now my sister and brother in law own the only old stone house in Innisville on Innisville Water St., it was the Blacksmiths shop.


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