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Toronto Star: Ontario's First Salmon Hatchery
Carola Vyhnak | March 18, 2018

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Its no fish tale: Samuel Wilmot started Ontarios first salmon hatchery in his basement

From Issue No. 267 | April 1, 2018

Samuel Wilmot's House, Replaced an earlier structure


It was an unusual project to do in a house basement: hatch salmon eggs and raise the small fry on a diet of minced liver.

But Samuel Wilmot’s experiment succeeded and in 1868, he opened Ontario’s first full-scale fish hatchery in the Village of Newcastle, 80 kilometres east of Toronto.

By the time the facility closed almost 50 years later, it had produced 155 million baby fish and served as a model for hatcheries across Canada and in other countries.

Wilmot himself earned a global reputation as an accomplished pisciculturist. The Canadian Geographical Journal called his work possibly the “greatest single contribution ever made to the North American fish culture.”

But things didn’t always go swimmingly for either salmon or their would-be saviour, who hoped to restore Lake Ontario’s depleted Atlantic salmon stocks.

Back in the early 1800s, overfishing along with environmental damage from agriculture and industry took a big bite out of the piscine population.

Wilmot Creek, a noted spawning stream named for Wilmot’s father that skirted Newcastle, was a popular fishing spot among early settlers and First Nations people. By the mid-19th century, salmon were headed for extinction after wagonloads were taken by spearing and clubbing. (Nets were prohibited.)

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