Jackfish first came to life as a fishing village in the late-1880s. That changed quickly when the CPR moved in. While the railway was under construction, the CPR took note of Jackfish’s excellent natural harbor. Shortly thereafter, they established a coaling facility.
Ships arrived regularly throughout the summer bringing in shipments of coal from the coalfields in Pittsburgh. The railway stored the coal in a huge coalfield in Jackfish ensuring a sufficient supply of coal during the winter.
Although Jackfish was never large, it supported a church, school, general store and a popular hotel and bar. Its average population hovered around 200. People came to the bar from all over the area. The restaurant had a reputation for serving excellent food despite the rough and raucous behavior in the drinking area.
The railway maintained a year-round staff of about 15. However during the summer, Jackfish’s population swelled to between 300 and 500 as the railway hired numerous temporary employees to help with unloading the coal. Other means of employment included logging, berry picking, and fishing.
Jackfish was a close-knit community that was home to a number of special events, including the popular summer fishing derby. Although commercial activities were limited, communities like Schreiber and Thunder Bay were only a short train ride away.
It only took about 15 years to put a complete end to Jackfish. The invasion of the sea lamprey in the 1950s killed the commercial fishing industry. Dreams of a tourist industry vanished after the Trans-Canada Highway completely bypassed the community. The final blow came in 1963 when the CPR closed the coaling facility following full dieselization of the railway. For years afterwards, old time residents held an annual summer event to reconnect with old friends and share their memories of Jackfish. Learn more