Walpole, Fish Sanctuary Closed to Public Fishing – NEW 2018

| June 21, 2018

Photo: Bill Benson

(The following information was provided by J.R. Wetlands Outfitters and representatives of the Walpole Island First Nation authority. There is a task force in place to make a final determination on how the borders are defined in the hunting/fishing club lease. There is no date set for a resolution of this issue.)

A new “fish sanctuary” is being established in the Walpole First Nation jurisdiction. It is supposed to be well marked with signs, possibly starting as soon as next week. Anglers are being advised to avoid this area, with the possible exception of some native residents who may claim treaty rights. This restriction applies year-round, and to all species.

We are told that the range of the restricted waters will coincide with the land leased by J.R. Wetlands Outfitters. It has been stated that the boundaries run from halfway up the Bassett Channel (from the Lake), over to the Chematogan, then at the end of both, 300 to 400 yards out into the Lake. Neither principal has provided a graphic representation of this, so St. Clair Report has created a rough version of the boundaries. Again, the affected area is supposed to be well marked with signs, like the one shown above.

This is an unofficial representation of the sanctuary boundaries

Angling in the Bassett and Chematogan Channels will remain unchanged. As best as we can determine from J.R. Wetlands Outfitters statements, fishing the visible shoreline is allowed unless you find yourself inside the signs.

Josh White – Co-Owner, Marsh Manager and Guide for J.R. Wetlands Outfitters tells us, “My intention is to create a fish sanctuary, and give back to Walpole.” He also said:

  • They want to rebuild the bass fishery
  • He estimates that the changes should increase the bass population by 6%, to 7% per year.
  • The land is under a 20-year lease
  • Established rules for navigable waters do not apply. Area under Walpole Island First Nation jurisdiction.

This issue for anglers who purchase the Walpole Island First Nation waters was first brought to our attention by Bill Benson. The process to create this sanctuary was apparently in its early stages as far back as 2015. Bill was stopped in the Lake in 2015 and in 2016 and told, “This is private property, you can’t be fishing here.” There was no way to know who he came in contact with. In 2017, Bill took a picture of the sign that was posted.

What should you expect if confronted by someone in the restricted zone?

  • J.R. Outfitters says that they will only notify someone who is trespassing
  • They have asked for a letter from Walpole Island First Nation that states the authority governing the regulated area
  • If there is any dispute, the Walpole Island First Nation Conservation authority should be called to get involved

Response and position of the Walpole Island First Nation office

“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.” Native American saying

Mr. Michael Dashner of Walpole Island First Nation referenced a quote just like that above when summarizing the philosophy his nation lives by. “Its about managing the resource. Keeping it as pristine as possible,” he says. He also stated that, “It is in the best interest of everybody, if we preserve the environment.”

He points out that as you look at an overview of Lake St. Clair, the U.S. and Canadian sides are heavily developed. The Walpole Island territory remains the most natural shoreline, and home to a large contingent of spawning bass. “We have an unspoken practice of releasing bass with eggs back into the water from where they came,” he said. He also said, “We want to lower the harvest levels on bass.”

He continued with a perspective on what happened to the walleye fishery in Red Lake, MN. He says that the First Nation people there saw a collapse in the fishery because the fish were spawning on one side of the fishery, yet being harvested in the other (Upper and Lower Red Lake).

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As for Lake St. Clair, and what that means to anglers with a Walpole Fishing License…

  • There is no final determination on the boundaries of the leased area, and posted fish sanctuary. A task force is in place to clarify the placement of the boundaries.
  • The rules that govern “navigable waters” to fish in for Ontario and the U.S. are not being considered inside of the First Nation territory.
  • When in doubt, get the Walpole Island First Nation Resource Protection involved to clarify any issue.

Contact information:

J.R. Wetlands Outfitters


Walpole Island First Nation


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Category: Bass Fishing Articles, Feature, Local

About the Author ()

Wayne Carpenter is the owner of Xtreme Bass Tackle and Combat Fishing, and author of No Secrets on Lake St. Clair.

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