Canada’s commercial lake-fish industry is the world’s largest - valued at about $3 billion annually. Much like the lobster trade, most lake fish are exported fresh, daily to the U.S. marketplace. Commercial fishing on the south side of the Great Lakes has all but disappeared. In the 1980s, a powerful government lobby effort by Recreational Anglers legislated the American industry into near-oblivion.
Commercial lake-fishing is permitted year-round, but peak seasons are in the spring after the ice thaw, and in the fall when the water gets colder before freeze-up.
Carson Miner operates a fishing tug. His processors told him to stop fishing in mid-March when Canada and the US issued their State of Emergency orders. For Carson Miner the shut-down could not have come at a worse time.
“The spring is a big time for eating fish, especially days like Good Friday. It’s our Super Bowl of selling fish. When you see some restaurants that sell, usually, a thousand pounds going down to a taking a hundred or less, what scares us, what will be the demand for our product when we can start fishing again?”
Some restaurants have relied on take-out business, but a ‘fish and chips’ trade is built on frozen Ocean fish: halibut, cod and haddock. Much like the lobster trade, lake-fish is primarily a fresh-market business.