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Dedicated angler wins provincial conservation award

Published on

Cathy Dobson

Jake van Rooyen recalls the crisis faced by the Great Lakes sport fishery in 2004 when infestations of zebra mussels threatened the fish food supplies.

That same year he was shocked when he placed first in the Bluewater Anglers’ salmon derby. His winning fish weighed just 10.64 pounds, tiny by salmon standards yet the biggest one caught that year.

That’s when he and fellow anglers doubled down on efforts to strengthen local fish populations through the hatchery in Point Edward.

“From a fisherman’s point of view, there’s nothing more exciting than landing a big silver (salmon or trout),” said the 79-year-old van Rooyen.

He has volunteered at the fish hatchery for two decades, serving on its board of directors, as president, and manager. He and a dedicated team raise and release about 150,000 Chinook salmon and more than 50,000 rainbow and brown trout annually.

Now, those efforts have been recognized with a prestigious award from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH). van Rooyen was recently presented with the Gord Blake Memorial Award, named for a former federation president and given to a member who has done the most for conservation.

“It is really pleasing to be recognized this way,” he said.

Van Rooyen grow up in Sarnia’s south end and has fished local waters from 70 years.

“We used to bike down to the government docks and hope for the best,” he said with a laugh.

These days, when not out in his 16-foot aluminum boat fishing near the Sarnia Yacht Club, he’s at the hatchery ensuring all is well with the tanks filled with fingerlings.

Last week, he was up in Owen Sound collecting eggs from spawning salmon to bring back to Point Edward and begin the process anew.

“This is the busiest time of year for it,” said van Rooyen, a Dow Chemical retiree. “There was a time when it was almost a full-time job for me, but we’ve had a real good supply of volunteers lately.”

In 2019 he was recognized by the OFAH with an outstanding achievement award for Zone J. Once again, he was lauded for his outstanding effort in stewardship, conservation, and the promotion of angling in Southwestern Ontario.

“I think of it as recognition of our whole group,” he said. “I really am just the leader.”



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