Outfitting in Labrador West has certainly seen many changes over the years that have passed for Yves Ste Marie. He has invested many years of his life, money and passion in operating his Northern Lights Fishing Lodge.
The lodge is located on the shore of Shaw Lake on one side, and the Ashuanipi River on the other side. It is approximately 100 miles north by float plane from Labrador City.
Northern Lights Fishing Lodge has, since 1989, catered to fishermen, hunters and eco-tourism guests from their location. Labrador has brook trout that provides world class trophy fishing to all who come. Quality Lake Trout, Ouananiche, Northern Pike and Whitefish are also a regular part of a day’s fishing. Black bears also make up a significant amount of the hunting activities at the lodge in both the spring and the fall hunts.
Ste Marie, has over the years, continued to make significant investments of money and efforts in his lodge. Investments in the facility, quality accommodations, boats, motors, snowmobiles and all of the service delivery gear necessary, is an ongoing commitment in the delivery of a final product that is a first class and quality experience for the clients.
Time and circumstances have seen significant changes in the delivery of the many adventures that are available from the outfitting industry in Labrador. The challenges for Ste Marie and all outfitters in Labrador has seen a number of changes that has made it more difficult to fill the lodge with clients.
A big hit to the outfitting industry came with the crash of the George River caribou herd. The caribou hunt, both the early fall trophy hunt and the winter meat hunt, has left a big hole in the number of clients that pass through the lodge each year.
Another issue is the cost of airline flights to get clients into Labrador. Clients travelling into Labrador arrive from across Canada, the U.S.A. and from around the globe. Labrador is in direct competition with the outfitting sector in the north across all of Canada. Direct, one-day flights are available to many other locations across the north in Canada without overnight on route stays and at a significantly less cost while end use products and services are similar.
Float plane services have seen very significant increases in fees and the cost of boat travel with the time and expensive fuel costs in an effort to deliver a more cost saving service has also seen significant increases in operational costs.
In St Marie’s case, travel to participate in industry trade shows to access clients in Canada, the U.S.A. and Europe has been more difficult to book fewer clients with increased costs. The demographics of the client base is also shrinking. The increase in all of the associated costs in booking one of these trips has also seen a decrease in the number of younger clients who are unable to commit to these trips.
The negative spinoff to the outfitting businesses and their ability to book more clients results in fewer staff members, cooks, guides and logistical support people. The amount of money spent on fuel, groceries and all other supplies also has a negative impact on the local economy.
Each year that passes puts added challenges in coming up with creative ideas by the outfitting fraternity in Labrador. Co-operation in a possible deal with a commercial airline provider to get the clients in to Labrador at a more cost-effective rate and a very proactive engagement by our provincial government’s Tourism Department would give us a better chance of sharing the many wonderful adventures that Labrador has to offer to a far greater audience.
At the end of the day 30 years later, Yves Ste Marie is an outfitter for the long haul. He has an undeniable passion for the Big Land “and all of the many adventures it holds.” His desire to share these many adventures with as many people as possible comes from his very heart and soul and is the driving force that guides him through the many challenges that are the reality of outfitting in the wilds of Labrador.