Reconnecting was the best part of the fishing season
As the open water fishing season draws to a close, I recently had the opportunity to reflect on what the past five months have meant for me. In June, being fully vaccinated made it possible to venture again to new destinations. More importantly, it was the opportunity to visit old friends and make new ones.
For a year and a half when COVID hit, it all stopped. There was very little human interaction and the trips came to a screeching halt. During my 40 years as a professional fisherman, social interaction has been the most important part of what I have done. Whether it’s talking to a school fishing club, giving a seminar at an outdoor show, or talking to other anglers at a boat launch, it’s what I liked the most.
I had a recent conversation with a Free press reader who asked me how long I have been writing this column. It was an easy answer since I remember how it happened so far. It was in 1992 and I had just won a national CanPro award for my TV show, The complete fisherman. I had sent a press release to Free press to see if they would put it in the newspaper. The entertainment publisher of the day rejected the idea; not so the editor of the Destinations and Outdoors section. He called me for a meeting and the following week I was writing a bi-weekly column.
That has changed over the years, and I’ve had a lot of editors coming and going. At one time we had both a hunting and a fishing page. Then we lost the hunting section and there was talk that the fishing section would be the next one. Terry Robinson, who at the time owned Winnipeg’s former outdoor gear store, SIR, lobbied the newspaper to keep the column. He understood the value of having the outdoor industry represented in the newspaper.
It happened at the turn of this century, when many newspapers across the country cut everything about the outdoors.
Since that time, I have tried to be true to the trust Robinson has placed in me, representing the industry as best I can. I’ve tried to highlight the latest issues affecting the industry in specific ways, but I especially like to introduce the people who make the industry better. I want to thank the Free press for having always published this column even in the most difficult times.
When COVID closed many of our lodges, it was difficult to hear about the hardships these people were going through. I have traveled all over this great province and know almost all of the tourism operators. We have some of the most professional people in the world and they deserve our support.
In almost 30 years, it has been a challenge to keep things fresh and interesting. Fortunately for me, I have managed to stay in close contact with the industry through my work as the editor of Hooked magazine. I deal with a wide variety of people in this role, many of whom work full time in the industry. Some are writers, biologists and educators, while others are passionate fishermen or simply passionate about the outdoors and the resource. I must say that over the past five years, fishermen and hunters have become much more involved in game and fish management. Knowledge is a powerful tool, and stakeholder groups have funded important research to understand the economic impact of fishing and hunting for this province.
This is a good thing because the provincial government has been listening for five years and major changes are on the way for the good.
While I don’t fish the 200 days a year I did when I first started in this industry, I have still managed to return this open water season to some great destinations. I took a trip to northern Saskatchewan to a lodge accessible by air in late June. I was hesitant to go at first as it meant getting on a plane. I have to admit I was nervous, but I made it home safe and sound. During the trip, I reunited with many media friends that I had known from my beginnings in this profession. It’s hard to put into words the joy we felt to be able to share a boat together and then sit around the table like in the good old days. This joy was transferred to a trip I took to Tobin Lake, Saskatchewan in mid-July with my fishing partner and longtime friend Jim Price. We fished with another old friend from Carrot River, Saskatchewan, Russ Heatherington. Normally we would fish together twice a year and it was great to be back in that part of the world.
I also managed to get back to Northwestern Ontario. During the August long weekend, we had a family reunion at Rainbow Point Lodge on Lac Perreault. I was able to share a lot of time on the boat with my family as well as many special memories.
Each fall I was planning a fishing trip with three friends I knew while working on TV and radio in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Two years out of the cycle, this fall, we did Lac des Prairies again. The fishing was exceptional and I probably landed my biggest pike ever. It was a beast of fish and it was the hardest battle I have ever had in freshwater.
These trips were all very special: meeting up with old friends and family. Fishing was the bonus.