Fishing day and night off the James A. Gifford Causeway results in lost business for Bridgenorth marina

Chemong Shores Marina owner appeals for a fishing ban along causeway section bordering his pier, as an increase in littering adds to his frustration

Chemong Shores Marina in Bridgenorth, which is adjacent to the James A. Gifford Causeway, has seen a large number of people this summer fishing from the bottom of the causeway beside, casting their lines between the large boats moored at the main pier. Not only can errant hooks snag on boat covers and cause damage, but owners are uncomfortable staying on their boats at night with so many people in close proximity. Several boat owners are no longer using the marina because of the issues, resulting in lost business for the marina. The anglers are also leaving their garbage behind. (Photo: Google Maps)
Chemong Shores Marina in Bridgenorth, which is adjacent to the James A. Gifford Causeway, has seen a large number of people this summer fishing from the bottom of the causeway beside, casting their lines between the large boats moored at the main pier. Not only can errant hooks snag on boat covers and cause damage, but owners are uncomfortable staying on their boats at night with so many people in close proximity. Several boat owners are no longer using the marina because of the issues, resulting in lost business for the marina. The anglers are also leaving their garbage behind. (Photo: Google Maps)

An ongoing seasonal problem that tends to settle down, only to return with greater urgency for a permanent solution, is back and at least one Bridgenorth business owner says he’s losing business as a result.

Drew Sinclair, owner and operator of Chemong Shores Marina at 894 Garthone Avenue on the east shore of Chemong Lake, says a large influx of people fishing off the James A. Gifford Causeway and encroaching on his property has resulted in the loss of several of large watercraft that typically dock at his 50-slip facility.

“Our main pier, that runs parallel to the causeway, slips all the large boats, which is the majority of our income,” says Sinclair, noting just three of the 12 slips have been re-booked for next year with the remainder indicating they won’t be back.

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“There are people casting against those boat 24 hours a day in large volumes,” he adds. “That’s having an impact on us financially. A lot of the (owners of) bigger boats are leaving because they don’t want damage done to their boats plus they don’t feel secure sleeping on their boats when there’s so many people wandering around the property all night.”

“I had the OPP out here this week. They want me to put up as many no trespassing signs as possible, so if I do see them as 3 a.m. they can be charged. But what are the odds of that happening? For me to put out signs every 20 feet as requested, one, it looks undesirable and, two, it’s going to have no effect. People fishing don’t obey signs as it is.”

One of the issues is anglers who cast their lines between the boats and sometimes snag their hooks on boat covers.

“A standard canvas on one of these large boats is $6,000 to $10,000. If someone puts a hook in it, the boat owners are going to come to me and say ‘Why are you allowing this?’ Unfortunately Peterborough County owns this property that is literally 30 feet away from my dock.”

“People cast and bang on the boats, over the dock, and under the dock. You can talk to them until you’re blue in the face, but they just wave at you.”

People are fishing from the edge of James A. Gifford Causeway both during the day and during the night, often leaving their garbage behind for local businesses and residents to clean up. (Photo: Wylie Harold)
People are fishing from the edge of James A. Gifford Causeway both during the day and during the night, often leaving their garbage behind for local businesses and residents to clean up. (Photo: Wylie Harold)

Mike Duncan, a conservation officer with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, also met with Sinclair earlier in the week and walked the area.

A phone call placed to him by kawarthaNOW wasn’t returned by this article’s deadline, but Sinclair says he was informed “as long as they have a fishing licence and are taking the proper amount of fish, (the MNR) really have no concerns.”

Sinclair adds he has reached out municipal officials but had received no response as of the writing of this article.

“I have to run a business,” Sinclair says. “I can’t sit on the phone for five hours a day trying to find the right person.”

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But County of Peterborough acting CEO Sheridan Graham tells kawarthaNOW that Sinclair’s concern “is on our radar” and that the matter, along with the related substantial increase in littering in the area, is on the agenda for the next county council meeting on Wednesday (August 26).

Ennismore deputy-mayor Sherry Senis notes there’s been a similar littering issue at Gannons Narrows that will be broached in the report to council.

“We’re aware of it … we’ve had complaints from various people and we intend to deal with it,” says Senis, pledging if the causeway matter isn’t covered specifically in that report “I’m certainly going to bring it up.”

“We put in place some bylaw enforcement signs,” she adds. “We’ve put up signs saying that people shouldn’t fishing on certain parts of the causeway because it’s dangerous. That seemed to work fine last year. There weren’t a lot of issues.”

“But this is 2020, and COVID seems to have altered the way some people act. I’m not sure if it’s cabin fever where pretty much everyone was forced to stay inside for a long period of time but now that they have been released, a lot of them have lost their perspective. This kind of thing is happening all across Canada in vacation areas. We don’t want to see our local businesses suffer. They’ve suffered enough this year already.”

Asked if a fishing ban could be put in place on the causeway, or at least on the section that borders Sinclair’s marina, Sheridan says “That’s part and parcel of what we’re taking to council to review. It’s really about enforcement and whether or not we need to expand our current bylaws.”

“We empathize with their (business owners’) situation and we’re trying to address it as best we can. It’s very frustrating for the county too. We don’t want to take away from people enjoying the area.”

At present, Kawartha Guard Service is contracted by Peterborough County to monitor the causeway for littering offences. In addition, seasonal county waste management staff attend the area on weekends.

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Sheridan says both have been asked to step up their attendance on the causeway and at Gannon’s Narrows.

In addition to Chemong Shores Marina, neighbouring Great Outdoors Landing has also experienced adverse effects from the influx of anglers. kawarthaNOW reached out to its owners for comment but they couldn’t be reached.

For his part, Sinclair says he has sought legal advice.

“If this continues and it affects us financially, I’ll have to try and go after Peterborough County,” he says.

“I’m not asking for them (the county) to re-invent the wheel. These people come down and they litter all over the place. I have to shovel garbage pretty much on a weekly basis from Garthorne Avenue — diapers, gloves, whatever they want to drop. We’re trying to run a business here. We have to clean up after these people. That isn’t right. If I lose 50 per cent of my income then I’ll be looking for restitution. And it won’t just be me. There are a lot of people on this street that will jump on board.”

Specifically, Sinclair wants to see fishing off the causeway limited to the south limit of the bridge.

People are fishing from the edge of James A. Gifford Causeway day and night, often leaving their garbage behind for local businesses and residents to clean up. (Photo: Wylie Harold)
People are fishing from the edge of James A. Gifford Causeway day and night, often leaving their garbage behind for local businesses and residents to clean up. (Photo: Wylie Harold)

In the background is the recent announcement of federal and provincial funding for improvements to 1.4 kilometres of the causeway, including repairs to the bridge. Sinclair says inaction on the situation he has raised is giving him pause for thought.

“They would like to take a portion of my land to facilitate that, which I’m all for, but it’s going to boil down to if I’m still having financial repercussions because they don’t want to step up to the plate. Obviously I’m not going to be that willing to go along with whatever plans they have.”

New bylaws and increased enforcement aside, Ennismore Mayor Andy Mitchell says, at the end of the day, this is all about people — both local and those visiting — respecting the land and waters they enjoy so much.

“Put your garbage away, be courteous to the people around you,” urges Mitchell, promising that Sinclair’s request for a fishing restriction won’t be ignored.

“It’s not unusual that a particular ratepayer has a specific request. It’s important to take a look and see what you can do. If someone has a particular idea, we’ll take a look at it. That’s what we do.”

“But I’ll go back to what I said. When you’re interacting in public spaces, it is absolutely important that everybody be courteous to the next person. We live in a wonderful community. I understand why people want to visit, whey they want to recreate here, but when we’re going about that we need to do it in a respectful and courteous way. If everyone does that, then things will work well.”