Fishing and Game in Upper Canada

Editor's Note: This excerpt of a letter from a young pioneer to his father in Liverpool is taken from Early Days in Upper Canada, Letters of John Langton (1926). John Langton immigrated to Canada in the spring of 1833 and eventually served a long career in the Canadian government.

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31 October 1833, Peterborough

I am much obliged to you for the fishing tackle. I fear that much of it will be of little use to me upon our lakes, neither salmon nor trout making their appearance so high up; but the lines at any rate will be useful to me, and the rest perhaps to fishers on the lower lakes.

Our fish are the bass, the maskinonge -- a more excellent species of pike, as fat almost as an eel -- and the eel itself; the sunfish I believe we have, but I have never seen nor tasted any; the whitefish abound above and salmon trout below. The bass is our staple commodity, and a most excellent one it is; if you are on the lake, tie a line, baited with apiece of red cloth, round your wrist and proceed on your journey, and it is ten to one that, before you have got a quarter of a mile, you will feel your prize. In some parts of the lake, if you are short of meat for dinner, you may put the potatoes on to boil and before they are done enough, you may have ten or twenty bass on the gridiron. Maskinonge and eel are generally speared, a very difficult matter till one has studied the laws of refraction a little. I have bought some seine twine and mean to net a net this winter which I expect will supply me pretty well with fish next summer; and I do not know whether it may not be worth while to take up an old pork barrel with the brine to Lake Kinashgingquash, some vacant week in the summer, and bring back a cargo of whitefish, which, salted in that manner, are almost as good as herrings. At any rate I cannot afford salt pork at present prices; I am selling it to my choppers at £4-12-6 p. barrel of 200 lb., and I do not make a half-penny by it.

For game -- we have abundance of venison, which is becoming more plentiful as the clearings increase, affording them more food and driving off the wolves; you may buy it from the Indians at 1 ½ d. p. lb., and sometimes for less. Partridge and rabbits are pretty plentiful, but the former difficult to get without a dog. Ducks, in thousands and tens of thousands, frequent the rice beds at the mouth of the Scugog, about four or five miles from me. These, together with a bear, two wolves, martens, racoons, muskrats and squirrels, are my only acquaintances as yet....


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