Fresh, local fish aim of new processing plant in Thunder Bay

There's a bit of a smell in a new business on Simpson St. in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Plant currently processing 1,000 lb. of fish per day

The CBC's Jeff Walters goes behind the scenes at Thunder Bay's fish processing plant 2:01

There's a bit of a smell in a new business on Simpson St. in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Canadian Freshwater Fish, owned by Brent Forsyth and Jordan Shannon, aims to be a local buyer for many species of fish caught in Lake Superior, Lake Nipigon and Lake of the Woods.

"Everything from walleye, pickerel, lake trout, whitefish," said Shannon, a partner in the business.

"The majority of our fish is going to be whitefish. [There's] large quotas. There's a lot of demand for whitefish, especially outside of northwestern Ontario."

Brent Forsyth and Jordan Shannon (l to r) are the partners in Canadian Freshwater Fish on Simpson St. in Thunder Bay, Ont. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Currently, the plant processes up to 1,000 pounds of fresh fish per day. About 15 full and part-time staff work at the plant, de-boning, filleting, de-scaling and processing the fish.

The concept for the business started just about a year ago for Forsyth and Shannon, who started renovating the plant on the city's south side in mid-March.

While the plant is just getting up and running, the partners admit there have been challenges. One is securing the local product.

"It's been pretty positive," said Shannon. "I mean, there's other buyers, and because there hasn't been a local buyer in quite some time, the fishermen are quite excited about that. But, they also have their allegiances, their relationships with the other buyers as well."
Staff de-scale, de-bone and fillet pickerel, perch, crappie, lake trout and whitefish at Canadian Freshwater Fish in Thunder Bay, Ont. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The focus, for now, is supplying fresh or frozen fish to consumers who walk into the storefront, but also those who want to order fish online.

Forsyth said fish can be shipped across Canada using dry ice, in fillets, whole fish, or by the case.

His next goal is to find a use for all of the entrails.

"Every time we throw out a fishhead, I feel like we're wasting an opportunity," Forsyth said. "So, if we can take the heads, the bones, whatever's leftover, now we're using 100 per cent of the fish  — I don't know if you can have a better story than that."

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