Fishing Club to Cottagers Association

The history of the Lake Bernard Fishing Club and Lake Bernard Cottagers Association

This information was compiled in 1998 from available old minutes of meetings, letters and other documents held in our Archives by Don Jones, Executive Member. Additional information has been added at the end of the document regarding membership in other organizations.

The Lake Bernard Fishing Club (LBFC) obtained a lease for fishing from the Government of Quebec after the club was formed in 1882.  There were 20 charter members including an Executive and licensed Game Warden, and the cost of the lease was paid annually to Quebec.

Over the years, the number of cottage owners around the lake increased and in 1937 or 1938, the Lake Bernard Cottagers Association (LBCA) was formed to “protect the rights of cottagers while preserving the natural beauty, and the game, fishing and other amenities of the Lake Bernard area”.  This meant that the LBFC remained at its authorized membership of 20, while the LBCA kept growing.

In 1948, land was obtained from Harry McClelland by the LBFC and a Clubhouse was built by members of both the LBFC and LBCA, as named on the plaque erected in the Clubhouse.  A twenty foot wide right-of-way was included in the deed allowing attendees at Clubhouse events access from the nearest point on the lake across Harry McClelland‘s land.  The Clubhouse was used by children and adult members of both Clubs for social events from that time on.  The Lake lease held by the LBFC became more expensive yearly and the LBCA helped to pay for it, as there many more members of the LBCA who were paying modest dues to the club.  A regatta had also been organized by the LBCA on a shoreline lot between the LeBlanc and Kropp cottages (later to become the Durie and Markell cottages), with evening prize-giving at the now popular Clubhouse.  The regatta site was later purchased from Harry McClelland in 1963 by the LBCA and the Regatta continues to be a major social event for Lake Bernard each year..

By 1954, the LBCA members were made eligible to fish in the lake following the guidance offered by the LBFC and their game warden, providing they held valid Quebec fishing licenses.  LBCA member “guests” could also fish for a fee of $2.00 per day.  Both Clubs attended a common Annual General Meeting in the spring of the year, gave committee reports, and elected their Executives for the year.

In 1955, the president of the LBFC in his report at the AGM stated “the Fishing Club was a subsidiary of the LBCA but planned to continue operations as it had done previously” (Reference A).  The Annual Financial Statement made at that AGM showed that the LBCA had paid the annual lake lease cost of $225.00, which had previously been the responsibility of the LBFC, and transfer was also made of Fishing Club funds to be included in the LBCA funds (Ref. B)

An updated LBCA Constitution was issued in 1956 in card form.  It explained the responsibilities and authority held by each Club and both Clubs continued to operate together (Ref. C).

By 1959, the LBCA had developed an information sheet for new cottage owners and prepared an updated map and membership list for those that joined the Association (Ref. D).  In 1963, things were going well and at the 24th April AGM, the LBFC President  presented a typical annual report (Ref. E).

The Quebec government advised the Fishing Club by letter on February 4, 1964 of its intention to make all waters in Quebec open to the public, which would result in the cancellation of all lake leases.  An official reply was prepared by the LBFC President for that year (Ref. F) pointing out that our lease covered mediocre fishing by licensed members only, nothing commercial, and that since all the lakeshore property was privately owned, charges of trespass could be laid against members of the public attempting to gain access to the lake.  This discussion continued until the Quebec government announced in 1969, that leases would be discontinued.  However, a special trip was made to Quebec City the LaSalle Academy brothers (the religious sect living on the north side of the lake), on behalf of the LBFC to appeal this ruling for one more year and the request was granted.

On October 15, 1971, the president of the LBFC called a meeting of Fishing Club members to discuss the future in view of the loss of the lease (Ref. G) but, unfortunately, we have not yet found the minutes of that meeting.  The Game Warden position disappeared but fortunately the incumbent, Leyton Woods, was willing to become Lake Custodian for the protection of cottagers and their lakeshore properties and has continued to perform these duties to the present.

The two clubs carried on as before under the 1956 Constitution except that the LBFC had become more like a LBCA Committee.  Interest in fishing had decreased as did the number of Fishing club members.  The LBCA annual President’s letter for 1973 (Ref. H)indicates how much ecological factors were thought to be starting to affect the lake life because of acid rain, garbage dumping, washing in the lake and build up of phosphates, etc.

In 1976, we lost Brigadier Topp and Max Kuhring, both of whom had been very influential for years in the operation of the LBFC and LBCA.  Fishing Club interests and activities such as water levels, weeds, fish counts, etc. were gradually taken over and dealt with the LBCA committees that dealt with water quality, environment, navigation, property management and pollution.  However as can be seen by a membership ticket for 1976 (Ref. J), both clubs were still in evidence, at least on paper.

In 1974, the Province of Quebec had started to stir the pot as far as Municipal government was concerned.  The word “Regional” became well known and countless numbers of towns, villages, and municipalities were being herded together according to some type of criteria.  The Outaouais Regional Community (CRO) Master Plan was then published by the Le Droit newspaper and issued on May 1, 1976 (Ref. K) forecasting populations, roads, etc. to year 2001.  The La Peche Master Development Plan soon flowed and this is still being amended and updates as times and situations demand.

The LBCA continued to run its normal events such as the Regatta, the Clubhouse activities with the help of volunteers, the lake map and cottagers lists, water safety, weed control, and water sampling, etc. during this period.  “Pollution Probe” was glad to help us out for a time until duty called them elsewhere.  We also joined the Quebec Environmental Protection Services Program. At the same time, the LBCA executive was observing and reporting changes from North Masham and La Peche, liaising with and La Peche’s and Low’s town administrations and various other Lake Associations, supporting La Peche in decisions regarding changes in zoning and bylaws, watching the NCC expansion and as well as building progress of the A5 highway from Hull.  At the lake, fish were scarce as were surviving members of the LBFC.  Over the years, many LBFC members became active in the LBCA Executive resulting in a decreased need for a separate Fishing Club Committee.

By 1979, the LBCA Executive decided that, since membership had increased to well over 200 and more members and guests were attending the Regatta, clubhouse and other events such as small boat races, the Club should be more business-like, address liability concerns and be recognized as an active Cottagers’ Association.  Therefore, the decision was made to incorporate and update the liability insurance, etc.  Under guidance of Mr. Paul Coderre, an executive member and lawyer, the application was made to the Quebec government (Ref. L).

In 1980, at the Spring AGM, the proposed incorporation was explained to the members, discussed, voted on and passed.  Then, since some LBCA members had already paid their dues for 1980, a separate AGM for the LBCA was held on the same evening to elect the same persons that had been named to the new Incorporated Club Executive, and then officially transfer Funds and other holdings to “The Owners’ and Residents’ Association of Lake Bernard”.  Those who purchased memberships at the AGM became members of the Corporation that evening.  Regarding the insurance update, Mr. Coderre sent an official letter to the Baker and Brownlee Insurance Agency for the Halifax Insurance Company stating “that the name of the Insured should read wherever relevant in the said revised policy The Lake Bernard Fishing Club, The Lake Bernard Cottagers Association, The Owners’ and Residents’ Association of Lake Bernard” (Ref. M).

Early in the 1980’s, ice fishermen descended on the lake during the winter season in large numbers and managed to remove the majority of large fish, such as up to a 25 lb. pike, etc. over a few years.  Eventually it was discovered that an official Lake Bernard Ice Fishing Club had been formed in the Farm Point area using Lake Bernard, but without permission or discussion with the Owners’ and Residents’ Association.  This intense activity ceased for a time when investigation began into various cases of stolen boat engines, firewood, vandalism, etc. as reported by the Lake Custodian and cottagers to the police and when lake access was curtailed and the large fish population was reduced drastically or eliminated.  The problem has resurfaced in the past few years and the Association’s Executive continue to work with the Association members, police and Lake Custodian to monitor the problem and identifying solutions.

After applying to the Quebec Minister of Environment and backed by letters from our Owners and Residents, Lake Bernard was one of 8 lakes accepted into the Quebec Lakes Program for 1986-87-88.  This included a comprehensive septic system classification for all properties, a water quality survey, a geological survey of building lots, a shoreline restoration program in 1988 with the FAPEL organization, that lasted for several years and has continued in a reduced fashion through MAPLE Inc., a not-for profit group based in the Perth, Ontario area (Ref. N). The connection continues today through membership with both groups and the opportunity to gather free plants that are indigenous to lakefront areas when volunteer assistance is given to prepare cuttings and plantings twice per year.

As a result of all of the testing and the water quality survey, it appeared that the lake was in fair shape and continued to support fish life.  With ongoing advice obtained during the 1990’s from various Quebec fishery experts, several Association members assumed responsibility for stocking the lake with rainbow trout for sport fishing. The stocking program began and money was raised to purchase fish eggs that were placed at strategic locations in the lake to foster population growth. Interest grew and the Executive was pleased to reinstate the LBFC in 1996. As before, it was expected that the LBFC would abide by the Quebec Fish ad Game rules and regulations, provide reports of stocking and fishing procedures and results to the Association Executive at the Spring and Fall General meetings of the Owners’ and Residents’ Association of Lake Bernard (Ref. O and P). Fishing Club membership continues although the stocking program was suspended in 2007. There have been few reports of trout caught and suspicions that ice fishing in winter, and pike fish populations have had a negative impact on the trout population.

Submitted by Don and Alison Jones

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