Before Aurora Trout Were Called Anything

My father-in-law loved to fish for trout. He wouldn’t eat ’em, but my mother-in-law would, and often did. He was a fascinating fellow born in 1910 Cobalt in Northern Ontario. I’ve always loved the North, and his tales of childhood adventure (which he took for granted) held me spellbound. He didn’t often speak of “the old days” except when we were alone with a few drinks.

I remember some of his favourite stories, but particularly I remember his facts. Dad wasn’t one to embellish, nor warp a fact to make a good story. He didn’t need to. I could tell the stories were real ’cause the best ones he rarely repeated. But the one about paddling his canoe in a slalom course to thwart a heron intent upon “bombing him” with excrement (my word, not his) was told many, many times. Enough times that I still watch for herons when they fly overhead. Apparently, this particular heron was defending it’s nest. The stream of sh!t narrowly missed his canoe (and him) so the story had a happy ending anyway.

I recall some of his songs :

Ooooh the sink,

The sink,

They sank the kitchen sink.

Awww but who in the Hell wants water,

When we’re dying for a drink ?

I recall some of his expressions :

The man hadn’t a pot to pee in.

They were (whatever) to beat the band.

I also recall some of his colourfull adjectives :

Loonsh!t Lake – meaning any unnamed lake or pond found while wandering about the bush looking for food.

Aurora Trout – didn’t mean much to me as I assumed the name was an unofficial local monicker for some common type of trout. But Dad was quite adamant that he and his friends had caught something quite different than just brook trout. He described the coloration and told me that someone had officially named them Aurora trout at the time of his childhood in the early 1920’s. He only saw them in a couple of lakes and had never seen nor heard of them since.

That was all I thought of it until I saw the name Aurora Trout in one of the numerous wildlife magazines I used to subscribe to back in the 70’s. I took the magazine, showed Dad the pictures and he positively identified it as the fish he used to catch sixty years earlier.

The Aurora Trout was over-zealously identified as a distinct species in 1925. But by 1967 it was determined to be at most, a subspecies of the brook trout and twenty years later they were classed as endangered. They were only known in a couple of lakes and the rivers feeding them. The original two lakes are within the borders of Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park now. They differ from brook trout only in coloration which is what caught my father-in-law’s eye. I have never seen one to take a picture of, and I never will, as the restrictions on them are quite impressive so you’ll need to Google if you want to look one over.

We nearly lost them forever in the late 1950’s when acid rain wiped out the natural populations in the two lakes they originally came from. Were it not for the efforts of MNR staff who held onto a brood stock, they would’ve passed into extinction. Populations have been introduced into a number of alternate lakes since, and also in their original habitats (after some pH adjustments). So, the good news is that they’re doing well enough now, to allow a limited fishing season on only a few specific lakes, in specific years.

In all this, I gotta wonder … why ? Why that particular variant, and why in only those two lakes when there are thousands more? What causes a subspecies, to what purpose, by what requirement, or to address which natural issue ?

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Yes, I’m a conservationist. No, I don’t believe “harvesters” of our natural resources oughta be shot. Yes, I do believe there’s a balance we need to maintain. But you know, somewhere back there in my distant memories, I shook the hand of, married the daughter of, and tipped back a few drinks with, a man who innocently fished, caught, and ate a species which was damn-near born with an “endangered” designation.

Mind you, back in those days they would’ve simply been called … food.


One comment

  1. bushwhacker's Lil Sis · · Reply

    Mr. “Dad” was a nice man. Love this story. I googled the Aurora trout found a really good picture of one. Beautiful colouration! Here’s the link.


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