As mentioned in the previous blog, my fishing buddies and I arrived at the Canadian border with contraband eggs and fishing bait. Since the Canadian customs office is on Canadian soil, officials there were not allowed to simply confiscate our prohibited goods. Instead they wanted us to turn around, drive back to the United States, dispose of our eggs and minnows, then get back into the long line of trucks and cars waiting to enter Canada. 

When my vacation in France got extended by nearly two weeks (because of COVID), my Canada fishing trip was pushed back by a day. With our late departure, our drive north coincided exactly with the opening of Ontario’s walleye season, and American fishermen and women were cued up at the border crossing fifty or sixty vehicles deep. We’d just finished sitting in line for over an hour, so we nicely told the customs agent we didn’t want to turn around and do it all over again. She told us our only other option was to park our two pickup trucks where they could be seen from the Canadian customs office and have someone walk our banned goods back to the United States. I got out of one truck and carried five dozen eggs to America. Tom’s son Victor got out of the other truck and did the same with a big bag of salted minnows. When we stepped into the American immigration office to ask what to do with the stuff, they looked at us like we were carrying human body parts. We were told that eggs and minnows were Canada’s problem, not theirs. Victor had to wander International Falls until he found a dumpster for the minnows. I was lucky, as the woman at the border tollbooth was collecting eggs and donating them to the local food bank. 

Once in Canada, we needed to restock our bait and our breakfast supplies. We assumed the grocery store in Fort Frances would be out of eggs, but just the opposite was true. The store had enough eggs to meet the needs of every American who hadn’t read Canada’s latest border crossing guidelines. The Ontario Egg Growers Association was taking full advantage of its windfall. Then, in the tourist town of Sioux Narrows, Tom and I went into a general store to replenish our minnows. A big storefront sign had listed “live bait” as one of the items sold in the store, but the guy at the counter didn’t seem to know what minnows were. Only after Tom pointed out the small water tanks in the sporting goods section did he know where to find them. When I went to pay, he couldn’t get the cash register to ring them up. It turned out he had to type the word “minnows” into the register, but was spelling it m-i-n-o-s. He was a nice guy, but it might have been his first day on the job.

Almost every time my fishing pals and I go to Canada, we make a mistake somewhere along the way. One year we misread the Ontario fishing regulations and were reprimanded by a game warden. We weren’t fined, but were dismayed to be in violation after we tried hard not to be. Another year Tom put a treble hook in his thumb. A third year we spent a night at Clint’s Canadian cabin before heading into the backcountry. Clint turned on the cabin’s water heater without first turning on the water and burned out the heating elements. Considering our past record, losing eggs and minnows at the border was actually a good thing. It was better to have our annual mishap early in the trip and get it over with. The rest of our Canadian adventure was without incident, but that is content for next week’s blog. 

Steven Simpson