Sunday, 15 July 2012

Three Fish Stories, by Mark Murray

When I was a young boy around ten years old, my grandfather would come home with lots of fish. He would tell us children his stories of where and how he had caught those fish. I was always fascinated with his stories. I couldn’t wait until I could go fishing with grandpa and learn his technique.

I worked for my father around the house and in town doing odd jobs during the summer, I saved money to buy myself fishing tackle. I bought fishing poles, a tackle box, line, sinkers, bobbers, and a used net from a friend. I was already to go fishing when spring came. I showed off my gear to whoever would listen, but, the main person I wanted to impress was my grandfather. To me, my grandfather was the best fisherman on the St. Mary’s river. I can’t remember a time that he went fishing and didn’t come home with fish. He would catch so many fish that sometimes, he would smoke them, then take them to town and sell them. Grandma didn’t like it too much, because, I believe he sold them at the local taverns. Local people came to his house to buy fresh fish whether smoked or not. Grandpa had a nice boat for that day in time; he would pay me sometimes to clean it, a hard and stinky job. I didn’t mind because he would explain to me the responsibility of keeping your gear in good clean working condition, which, was a very good lesson. I in turn have taught my sons that same old lesson.

During those first five years of fishing I went with grandpa as often as school would permit. I learned the secrets of my grandfather’s ways. Pretty soon I was catching fish all the time. Grandma said, “I needed to learn how to smoke the fish like grandpa,” she liked smoked fish because she didn’t have to cook them. As I got older, I was allowed to go fishing with my friends and their dads. I always took my gear with me, as sometimes their fathers would say, “ he has everything needed to fish”. I knew grandpa’s way and that is the way I fish. I was asked many times after that to go fishing with them, sometimes it was just with the father, maybe his buddy and myself. I was starting to get the reputation on the river as a good fisherman. I sold some of the fish down at the Sugar Island ferry boat. As Grandma would say, “we have enough fish.” I would give them away to some of the old timers sitting on the dock trying to catch fish or just there relaxing; it made me feel good to give away some of my catch. The old timers would laugh and say “I’ve got a good story to go with this one.” It made me think of my grandfather’s stories.


One time I went fishing on the North Shore of Sugar Island, just looking around mostly. However, I looked down into the water and saw the biggest fish in my life; it was a six foot Sturgeon! I stopped the boat and hooked up a line that would maybe be strong enough to catch it. I baited a big hook dropped it right down in front of this beast; it was only about ten foot deep. I could see everything going on, to my surprise this beast took the hook. I jerked hard to set the it and the fight was on. I was alone with this beast. I didn’t have the boat anchored, so the beast dragged the boat all around the river. I got tired several times as this fight lasted over four hours. I finally prevailed and the beast gave up the fight. I couldn’t keep the beast as to me, “a Native” he was a “Grandfather Spirit”. I took the hook out easily and watched him go back into the deep. I went home and told my wife and Grandpa of the fight. I could not prove it, but they knew because of my excitement. I love to tell my boy about that day, just like my grandfather’s stories, he was fascinated.


In 1995 the FLW came to the St.Mary’s river to put on a Walleye Tournament. This was a big tournament with professional fishermen. They had advertisements on their boats, with big motors, and every kind of the newest fishing equipment known; the “crème de la crème” of fishing. However, weeks before the tournament, these teams came up the river trying to find the best walleye holes. They asked around town for the best fishermen on the river, looking for guides. I was approached by a team, new to the tournament; they were on a tight budget with less sponsoring than other teams. Mike Ryder and Bill Pagan were their names; they said they could pay three hundred a day to guide them. I didn’t want to do it; but my wife said “we could use the money.” I went along for three days straight leaving at six a.m.. The rules were you could fish from sunup to sundown. We caught lots of fish during the early morning hours and in the late evening. One night I took them out on my twenty-one foot pontoon boat set up for fishing. I showed them how to catch walleye at night. I shared holes around Sugar Island, Les Cheneaux Islands, and Drummond Island. They didn’t win the tournament, but they made it to third place, which paid a large amount of money. I never revealed to them my upper river holes. HAHA!
I’ve fished the St. Mary’s for forty five years. Now is the time to pass my grandfather’s techniques down to my son Marc. He will be among a handful of men who know this special technique of fishing the river. Grandpa is long gone, but his techniques will live on through my son Marc as he loves fishing. Marc and I love to go out in the boat, however, today’s economy is cutting our times short and few. But, on the banks of the mighty St. Marys you can find us fishing like the old timers. He has caught several big walleye and many whitefish, his preference is catching the Atlantic Salmon that run in the Fall. I’m proud that Marc enjoys fishing the St. Mary’s river and hope he continues to enjoy great many catches throughout his life and passes the special technique on to many generations to come. The Stt. Mary’s river is the best fishing in the world, especially since it’s in our own back yard.

The Poetry of Ellen Van Laar, The Algoma Rhymer

The Great Lakes Waterway

The Great Lakes are fed by a watershed basin.
Rivers collect run-off from two nations.
The U.S. and Canada share regulatory tools.
Together, they watch diversions and environmental rules.

From Lakes: Michigan, Superior, and Huron,
Saint Claire, Erie, Ontario, and Laurentien.
This continent was settled using water motion.
Boaters explored rivers on out to the Ocean.

Canoeing Natives, then the Voyageurs,
They traded furs for European beads and gear.
Roads and trains were not yet progressed.
So, water transport was key to economic success.

The Lakes became the international border.
The line is a shared resource, not wire or mortar.
The value of this is more than we can think.
Two countries are nourished by a common drink.

Water Cycles

The spring melt is filling low lying niches.
The thaw is seeping to puddles and ditches.
Rivers and lakes flow from the interior.
In watery veins, there's a heavenly mirror.
When the liquid is deep, our vision is deflected.
For light is held on a threshold, reflected.
Air and water often kiss and mingle,
Unified where they cannot remain single.
Evaporation rises, like birds gently winging.
Clouds absorb moisture, and later start wringing.
Rain then drips to the watershed, flowing.
Fluid gathers, whether coming or going.
How dependant we are on this water, sharing.
Within of our bodies, H2O we are carrying.
We drink and pee like the land and the sky.
Water keeps cycling, from the wet to the dry.

Canada from St. Mary's Bridge

As we wait on the bridge to be searched and grilled,
We smell the stench of St. Mary's Mill.
The plume of Essar Steel adds flavor,
As we gaze down on the log yard's neighbor.
Slag piles and dirt, with the Casino ahead,
The strip joint exploitation, bar and bed.
Uncut lawns, junk, and oily essence,
Drab, 100 year old, industrial presence.

We see this questionable side of the Sault,
As we wait in the line-up for customs due.
If this city is green and morally well,
Then appearance must be part of the sell.
I commend Essar's leadership in healing,
For city image effects business dealing.
The process of making our city inviting,
Will reap payment and pride, very reviving!

US Border Restrictions

The U.S. border has most folks confused.
They may steal your lunch! You may feel abused!
Plants need certificates, and soil is prohibited.
Root crops and fruits are often restricted.
If there is doubt about where a seed was grown--
They'll dispose them to the "can of the unknown".
Pet food from Canada is a definite "no".
Uncooked rice and unmarked citrus cannot go.
Food must be marked, or you're courting a snatch.
A crop out of season looks bad in your hatch.
Animal by-products from cows, sheep and goats-
are not allowed in your car, truck or boat.
Don't bring flowers, firewood, or garlic.
Keep all these rules in your glove compartment.
Or else, you could get a three hundred dollar fine--
If you are found ignorant on the border line.

The Wonders of Algoma
Waterfalls, Montreal River Dams, the Locks,
My favorite thing may be the varieties of rock.
There are islands and caves near my piece of shore.
Lake Superior dances 30 feet from my door.
Wolves, bear, cougar and moose,
I love the birds, sometimes a rare goose.
Highway 17 is an inspiration.
It has awesome sights and construction.
Canoeing and hiking, the edge of our coast:
Parks deserve credit, opportunity to boast.
Our history of logging, fishing, and mines,
People arrived on boats and train lines.
Native stories provide a mythological base.
A dragon mystery resides on Superior’s face.
The Group of Seven has loudly declared,
Algoma is rich with beauty, that’s rare.

Swerve--By Phil Dansdill

Lucretius writes that the soul bears the finest and smoothest atoms,
but what of that boy who drowned at Four Mile Beach
four years gone now? He couldn’t swim, but would that have
mattered in the current’s swerve that took him down?
Was it the dreaded underwater panther, Mishibizhiw,
dragging him into the path of souls, dispersing him later
among the deep currents, Kitchi-Manitou nudging him
to the surface, eddied and spiraled into a soft night sky?

Epicurus writes that death is nothing to us, since when we are,
death has not come, and when death has come, we are not,
so I push off from Rotary Park, glad for drift, away from
the absolutes of ground, of heat, of words that echo like whispers in a void.
My river kayak slices southeast, coming fast on Island No.1
as I lean into first strokes, seeking a proper riverborne
rhythm, mindless, artless, necessary as breath.
A slight chop, sun allied to bow, paddles dip and drip in blue-green song.
Riverside’s houses slip by on the south, Island No. 2 glides close on the north.

Eliot writes, I do not know much about gods, but I think that the river is a strong
brown god—sullen, untamed, intractable, but this river takes a teal green turn
to the wider channel, Sugar Island maples and birches front lit in heat.
The ribbon of river widens to a tapestry of silver northwest wind and water.
Here is another river—wilder, colder, deeper, channeling three-story freighters,
silent as stones, displacing all gods, seeking release in Huron’s wide-boned coast.

But Gandhi said that God has no religion, and did you know there’s another
St. Marys River, another border water, rising in Georgia swamp, flowing east
across Florida, sweeping its gods to the sea.
Someday I’ll kayak that sister river with her heated kindred gods,
listen to her drift, her chop, her talk of the dead.

The wind lifts, warm at my back. I slide by the beacon with that mother
osprey evil-eyeing me coming and going as I turn back into the chop.
Now I dig into the strokes, thinking too much, working too hard,
like a voyageur portaging the weight of his gift.

Nietzsche asks, Is man only a blunder of God, or God only a blunder of man?
I cut quickly across the channel to hug the Sugar Island shore,
sun on my back, wind in my face, still digging into the chop,
bouncing west, easier to track a line into the wind. Shadows edge the shore.
I cup my hand in the river and it’s still cold, even in late summer.

Scraping through shallows, I turn into the inlet between Island No. 1 and 2,
seeking an easier path. It’s a different river, close isolate shores,
pines shading sweep, driftwood entwining banks in rioting brocade.
It’s a sadder river too, a century and more of chromium carbide weighting
the bed, tannery leavings, wasted overflow roiling the waters,
stunning the pike, walleye, and bass.

Melville writes, Yes, as everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded forever.
Two hours on the river is not enough to shed scales from my eyes, from my heart.
My fine and smooth atoms hum their song, silenced by the Sugar Island ferry’s
crossing blare. American Integrity heads downbound.

At dusk the river quiets, the wind drops into currents, Manitous nestle deeper in muck. Perhaps they’ll rise in dark, rustling the waters as they sweep across the channel,
or perhaps they’ll dig deeper, sleep longer in this colder year, remapping
the path of souls, waiting in silence to be reborn on the river.