Fishing History

Commercial fishing in the Brighton area from 1850-1900 as told to me by my great grandfather, my father and other fishermen.

Fishing was mainly done in this period by sail boats about 25 ft to 35 ft. Nets used were made of cotton and were handmade. All meshes were seamed by women in the long winters and strung on sidelines by the men. The floats were made of white cedar, treated with boiled linseed oil, and varnished leads for weights were made from lead melted in pots and poured in blacksmith-made moulds.

Fish caught in this period were Lake Trout, Herring, Whitefish, Pike, Perch, Sunfish, Suckers and Bullheads. In the early years the fish were salted in oak barrels for shipment across the lake to Oswego, Rochester, New York and Toronto. Some fish were taken by horse and wagon with ice and sold or bartered to farmers for meat, chickens, vegetables, etc. in Brighton Township, Cramahe Township, Murray Township, and Trenton. Fishing families involved in this period were the Semples, Quicks, Coopers, Covells, Lumleys and Gerows.


This period was a real growth time in the commercial fishery. Fish were boxed in crushed ice, taken in the winter and stored in ice houses with sawdust. In this period all fish were shipped by railroad. In express cars service was so good that product could be loaded at the old CNR station at night and delivered to Toronto and Montreal the next morning. Shipping to New York City, Detroit, Michigan, Chicago and Illinois would take only two days.

Species produced were Whitefish, Lake Trout, Pike, Perch, Ciscoes, Herring, Sunfish and Bullheads. Nets used were gill nets, hoop nets, seines and hooklines. Boats used were built from local timber and the keels and ribs from white oak planking (either white pine or white cedar). All were built by The Shewans, local boat builders.

Dow Claus boats were 30 ft to 45 ft in length and powered by single-cylinder engines first and later by four cylinder motors made by Durant Buchanan, Ford, Dodge. Top speed of these boats was about 12 mph. Hoop net boats, called punts, were flat bottomed and rowed. There were fish buyers and packing plants in Gosport. Snelgroves were at the town launching ramp. Russ Covell was where the Harbourview Motel is, and Grant Quick's fishhouse is today. In this period there were up to 35 boats fishing out of Brighton.


This period brought many changes. Gill nets changed from cotton-linen to nylon and no more treating with coal-tar lime. Also, a lot less time is spent reeling and drying nets. Boats changed from wood to steel and the aluminum engines got larger. Boats ran faster, net pullers and ice makers were invented. There is no more storing ice in the winter thanks to refrigerated trucks delivering fish caught today to the markets and processors.

In the 1960's, contaminants in Lake Ontario started affecting some species. These were restricted -- Eels, Lake Trout and Pickerel over 23". Today testing of all Lake Ontario fish finds the contaminant levels are dropping, thanks to the clean-up. The future looks better and we hope and pray that Governments both provincially and federally look at us as a viable industry, proud in tradition, of hard-working people who produce fish to feed the people who enjoy mother nature's most self-sustaining resource on the earth.

Today there is about 3-1/2 million dollars worth of fish produced in Eastern Lake Ontario commercially and one million going through Quick Fisheries yearly. This could go to 20 million dollars and make hundreds of jobs for Northumberland and Prince Edward Counties.


Glen Quick, is the owner and manager of Quick Fisheries.

25 Bay East

Brighton, K0K1H0

(613) 475-1053