MEET OUR CREW
John O' Foods is made up of people who love what they do. Our fishermen have spent most of their lives in the fishing industry and believe in protecting our Great Lakes for future generations to come. We could not ask for a team with more integrity.
Scott, is a second-generation fisherman, following in his father Willie's footsteps, even fishing from the same boat , the Lasher O.
Like his father Don Rutgers, Scott is one of our younger fishermen and has gained plenty of experience and a passion for fishing by growing up in a fishing family.
Scott says, "I started fishing full time when I was 18 years old out of high school. I come from a fishing family and I worked at a fishery as a kid, so I've been on and off the boats my whole life." For Scott, one of the benefits of being a fisherman is all about breathing in the fresh air and seeing the sunrise.
As far as quality is concerned, Scott thinks it important for people to know that they’re getting the best quality fish that Lake Erie provides.
Early Spring and late fall when the water is really cold, are his favourite time to fish. "The fish are typically more active this time of year. I also enjoy some of the crazy weather the fall brings. Usually, the fall winds bring heavy fishing."
If you're looking to try something new Scott recommends dipping your Lake Erie fish in an egg and milk mixture, then coating them in pancake flour and then deep frying!
The values of JOF really align with what's important to Scott, he says, "What I like most about working for Johnny O's is that they are innovative and passionate about their product. They’re a hard-working family just like mine. They treat people with honesty and respect and are definitely the best in the business."
Don Rutgers has been fishing for over 25 years and says that the best time to fish is in the spring, "I enjoy spring fishing. Fishing’s good. We’re usually not far from home. The season is new again, and it’s a fresh start."
Like the rest of our team, Don knows the value of an honest day's work. For him, fishing means, "going out every day and earning your keep. You’re out there and battling the elements, and you’re on your own."
He believes that good fishermen respect and value the resource saying that the last thing anyone wants is for something bad to happen to the lake. "We’re good stewards of the resource. It’s our livelihood, so we don’t want to do anything to hurt the resource, because that’s what has to be there to sustain us in the future."
Don recommends a deep-fried yellow perch and a cold beer...doesn’t get any better than that.
They have the same work ethic and they have the same values as I do
Todd didn't dream of becoming a fisherman, but he was fortunate to grow up in a fishing family and learned grit, hard work, respect for the resource and developed a strong passion for fishing early on.
Todd, a third-generation fisherman says, "I flunked out of school so I had no choice (laughs). I was thinking of going to school for freighters, but my grades weren’t high enough. Fishing has worked out to be a good thing though."
We can only provide the quality and the excellence that you expect at JOF when we have the right people... Our success is thanks to fishermen like Todd who brings 37 years of experience fishing on Lake Erie & Huron, paired with years in the retail industry, an honest character and a drive to work hard.
Winner of the Ontario Commercial “Fisherman of the Year Award” in January 2018, is proof not only of his hard work and dedication to the industry but that he puts everything he has into his craft.
Todd wants people to know that to him and his crew, this is more than just fishing, he says, " We put our life into it."
From a man who loves to eat fish just as much as he loves to catch it, he recommends a lightly battered & deep fried perch and pickerel.
Jerry & Lori Hatt
Jerry is another one of our fishermen who never intended to be a fisherman but rather fell into the profession.
It was the fall of Jerry's first year of college when his school had gone on strike. Lori's dad, a fisherman, offered him a job on the boat to pass the time. Jerry accepted with the intention that he would return to school when the strike was over.
Jerry says "It took me a long time to get my sea legs and I was seasick for the first 3 years." Years later, when Lori’s father passed away, Jerry was running one of the boats, so naturally, he took over running the company.
Lori, his wife, has been fishing since 1985, but her family has a long history of being in the fishing business. "My great-grandfather was one of the original families that fished on Lake Erie. They brought them over from Hastings, England since nobody knew how to fish here. My family was practically starving in England, so they came on the boat with their families. I think it was 1913 when I came over."
Jerry and Lori take great pride in their catch. They look forward to getting back on the boat each spring. "Fishing has given us a very good life. It’s hard work. Everybody likes doing it. Once you like doing it, it’s hard to imagine doing anything else."
They enjoy the health benefits of fish, encouraging their friends to not eat other fish options such as tilapia (which is raised in over-crowded in-land ponds). They make sure to bring Perch (which Lori says she considers a delicacy) and Walleye to share with their friends in Florida each year.
"We like to do a little bit of cajun seasoning on some Walleye in a pan. And really, you just have to deep-fry Yellow Perch. We have a lot of fish-frys and you get very little by dinner because the guys have been eating them at the deep-fryer."
When asked why Jerry & Lori choose to fish for John O's they said that reputation has a lot to do with it, "he’s honest and he’s not just about himself. He’s about everybody that we should all be able to succeed. He’s been in the industry for a long time too and has a good history in it."
At the age of 19, Joe emigrated from his home in Sicily,Italy. He found work at Omstead Fisheries, starting in the production plant, which he says was not for him. As a result, he found work he was more excited about on a fishing boat, the San Vito.
In 6 years he was promoted to boat captain. and still captains his family's boat, the Jo-Anna to this day, giving him 46 years of captaining experience and over 50 years on the lake.
Joe's favorite seasons to fish are the spring & fall, when there are lots of fish to be caught.
When it comes to cooking, Joe says there is not better than deep-fried Pickerel fillets that are on the smaller side.
When asked why he chose to bring his fish to John O's Foods, him and his wife Anna say it is all about respect. John Omstead's father, Jake, is who helped Joe get started at Omstead’s Fisheries when he immigrated to Canada in 1970. His wife Anna even watched Jake’s kids, including John. They have known the Omstead family for a long time and trust them
Willie is a first-generation fishermen who fell in love with the job at the young age of 12 in 1970. Willie says, "I started fishing around 1970/71 in Port Stanley at 12 years old. I would go down to the harbour when the boats started coming in to help pick fish for some spending money. Fifty years later I still like the job."
Though he's no longer out on the lake, Willie is still an integral part of the work that we do at JOF.
You can find Willie mending nets in the wintertime, attending fishermen conferences and often discussing matters of the Lake with JOF's owner, John Omstead. His passion for fishing has been passed down to his son Scott, who now uses the family boat, Lasher O, to bring in their fresh catch to John O's Foods.
Fishing is one of Willie's true loves, explaining,"I've had a few other part-time jobs but I've always come back to fishing, it gets in your blood."
Like his son, Willie agrees that early spring and late fall are the best fishing seasons as the cold water makes for great fishing. But no matter what season the fish are caught Willie wants people to know "They're [the fish] are as fresh as it gets and they come from a sustainable resource."
When it comes to freshwater fish, he recommends a deep fried Yellow Perch lightly battered and Walleye!
It's been over 5 years that JOF has been working together with the Crohnheimer family and Willie explains that, "supplying fish for John O Foods has been a great fit for my family business as they are one of the most innovative hard working processors and family’s in the business."