Missing Port Dover, Ont. fisherman embraced sunrises and the water, cousin recalls

Fisherman Michael Smith has been missing since Monday, says cousin. Jame Misner / Facebook

Fisherman Michael Smith lived for the mornings he could venture on to the water with the Donna F and watch the sunrise, according to cousin and fellow fisherman, James Misner.

“There’s no trees and nothing in our way. It comes right over the water and we get to see a beautiful, perfect sunrise every morning.”

Misner says both he and Smith spent many an early morning admiring the sun coming up over the water on Lake Erie and sharing photos of what they saw with the community of Port Dover over Facebook.

“We’d go on there and say ‘good morning, Port Dover! It’s 5:30 a.m. Look at the sun coming up over the water,’ and a ‘we love our town’ type of thing.”

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Ontario Provincial Police are still searching the frigid waters of the lake for Smith.

It’s believed the 50-year-old father of two fell overboard from the commercial fishing vessel, the ‘Donna F,’ late Monday morning about 13 kilometres west of Long Point.

Norfolk OPP said they were notified around noon Monday about the incident by the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Trenton. They believe Smith went overboard sometime between 10:10 a.m. and 10:20 a.m.

Const. Ed Sanchcuk told Global News that two vessels searched the water on Monday, while OPP and emergency response teams checked the shoreline with no results.

Sanchuck said the underwater search and recovery unit, along with the OPP Marine Unit have been in the water everyday during daylight since Tuesday.

Misner says Smith was in going into his fifth year as a fisherman after jobs with Norfolk Disposal Services and Misner’s uncle’s shipyard.

“He’d had a lot of other jobs, but I don’t know if he had any that were specifically long,” Misner said.

“I think he’d much rather be remembered as being a fisherman, for sure.”

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Both Smith and Misner are smelt fishermen. As such, the two were often required to set large nets into the water to skim the bottom of Lake Erie.

“It looks like a big snake with a big mouth open on the bottom. It sits along the bottom of the water and just kind of skims the bottom,” said Misner.

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On Monday, Smith set out early on the Donna F and did not return.

OPP says they are now on a recovery mission which is expected to continue on Friday.

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Misner says Smith’s disappearance comes at tough time as the family is not sure what kind of service and memorial they will have for Smith in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is prohibiting large gatherings just about everywhere.

“When you’re young like that, you’re gonna have a thousand people,” said Misner. “You haven’t outlived any of your friends. You’re going to have to have a huge ceremony.”

After a few days sharing tears with family, Misner says he’s ready to remember nothing but the good things about his cousin.

“He would want us to joke and tell night stories about him and stuff. He was like the best guy in the world.”

“He’s like my big brother because we’re only four years apart.”

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