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Books About Lake Simcoe

Books about fisheries of Lake Simcoe

Hook, Line and Spear
The Ice Fishing History of Lake Simcoe
by Robert A. Kirk

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The Ice Fishing History of Lake Simcoe
  • Fishing with the spear
  • Fish decoys and their makers
  • Spears and related historical equipment

Featuring dozens of realated photos, most published for the first time.


News Release Archive

For Immediate Realease


A new book by Beaverton resident Robert Kirk chronicles the fascinating history of ice fishing on Lake Simcoe. Hook, Line and Spear: The Ice Fishing History of Lake Simcoe treats the reader to an informed, in-depth look at fishing through the ice from its earliest days to the present and pays particular attention to the challenges of spear fishing for lake trout and whitefish with the aid of wooden fish decoys, a practice that was banned by the provincial government in 1941.

The volume is illustrated with a profusion of photographs, including dozens of historical pictures, most published for the first time. A collection of striking colour photographs enlivens the several pages devoted to exploring the lives and work of fish decoy makers from Orillia, Beaverton, Atherley and other lakeside communities, most of whom produced decoys primarily for their own use.

"In the early 1900s," the author explains, "Native people passed on their fish decoy designs to the white settlers, who refined them using a variety of materials. During this period, and particularly during the Great Depression of the 1930s, most non-Native fishermen relied upon the lake for their winter livelihood. The more effective their decoy, the more fish they caught and the more money they could make by selling their catch."

The type and quality of their spears also were of the utmost importance, Kirk relates. For that reason, fishermen specified exactly how they wanted their spears made when negotiating with the local blacksmith. A chapter of Hook, Line and Spear is devoted to examining the unequaled workmanship of "the Michelangelo of spear makers," master craftsman William Griffith.

"When compared with spears forged by other early-19th century Canadian blacksmiths, and even with those crafted by present-day spear makers in the states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota (where spear fishing for certain species still exists today), Griffith’s work deserves recognition as the very best of its kind," Kirk writes. "Today, this skilled artisan’s work, ranging from his spears and beautifully designed and forged gates to well-made children’s hand sleighs, is to be found in several private collections."

Hook, Line and Spear also looks at the arsenal of other highly specialized equipment employed by the Lake Simcoe spear fisherman, everything from a dependable "jigging stick" and trustworthy fishing line to a sharp ice chisel. "The ice hut in which he sheltered, the sleigh he used to haul the hut to the fishing site and the ice creepers he strapped to his feet to prevent slipping on the glare ice all were unique to the ice fishing trade," notes the author.

The book boasts several entertaining anecdotes about the exploits of the men who fished through the ice in the early decades of the last century and the conservation officers responsible for enforcing the provincial fish and game laws.

Kirk’s book has garnered early praise from the likes of respected outdoor writer John Power and Ontario Out of Doors magazine editor Burt Myers and managing editor John Kerr.

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The publishing date for Hook, Line & Spear: The Ice Fishing History of Lake Simcoe is October 26, 2001.

Hook, Line & Spear is the first in-depth book on the subject of spear fishing and ice fishing in general on Lake Simcoe. Author Bob Kirk has devoted considerable time and effort to gathering the material for the book, much of it gleaned from interviews with fishermen and their family and friends.

The author is a successful businessman and family man, living in Beaverton, Ontario. He is an ardent ice fisherman, conservationist and historian of ice fishing on Lake Simcoe, and has written a number of newspaper and magazine articles on the lake’s unique ice fishing history.

Bob Kirk carves decorative and working fish decoys, and sells them at art shows and fishing shows in Ontario and the United States. His customers include collectors from across Canada, the U.S., England and Japan.

Kirk also has amassed an impressive collection of ice fishing artifacts that is probably the largest of its kind anywhere. He travels to fairs and exhibitions in communities around Lake Simcoe to share this valuable fishing heritage with others.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY: "We can’t all be fortunate enough to spend a day in an ice hut with Bob, being enriched with tales of bygone years, but through this book, we can all get to share his passion for the history of a lake and the men who each winter called it home." - Burt Myers, Editor/Associate Publisher, Ontario Out Of Doors magazine.

"For old Lake Simcoe buffs like me, it’s a one-of-a-kind chronicle of the lake’s ice-fishing history." - John Kerr, Managing Editor, Ontario Out of Doors magazine.

"Just as Hook, Line & Spear: The Ice Fishing History of Lake Simcoe is more than an historical account of winter angling on Ontario’s premier inland lake, author Bob Kirk is more than a historian. … (His) personal collection of ancient decoys and spears may be the most extensive to be seen anywhere. Moreover, the renowned fisherman’s handcarved facsimiles are lifelike objets d’art coveted by collectors. When two mysteriously disappeared, it was rumoured one swam away and the cat got the other."

John Power, Popular Outdoor Writer


1940 Ford parked on frozen Lake Simcoe

(1) Custom fish hut: This picture of a 1940 Ford parked on the frozen lake by an ingenious fisherman is one of dozens of historical and full-color photographs in Hook, Line & Spear, Beaverton author Bob Kirk’s new book about the history of ice fishing on Lake Simcoe.

Lake Simcoe spear fishermen

(2) Lake Simcoe spear fishermen: The spear protruding from the fish hut roof and the ice chisel in the foreground were essential tools of the winter fishing trade in the early 1900s. This rare 1938 photo is one of dozens of historical and full-colour photographs in Beaverton author Bob Kirk’s new book about the history of ice fishing on Lake Simcoe.

The Fisheries of Lake Simcoe

Published in 1970
by Hugh R. MacCrimmon, Professor of Zoology, University of Guleph and Elemars Skobe, Biologist, Lake Simcoe Fisheries Management Unit

The Fisheries of Lake Simcoe

Information on the history, biology, and utilization the aquatic resources of Lake Simcoe

Table of Contents:

  • Description of Lake Simcoe
  • Early Exploration and Settlement
  • The Fishery
  • Fishes of the Lake
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Last modified on Thursday, 03 December 2020 19:48
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