Some of us rare beings are in the annual fishing doldrums of this spring season. I understand that it is a new year for angling, as even the die-hard ice fisherman are wary to get out on the last remaining “hard water” on Lake Manitou. Therefore, by the regulations, after March 31, there is little fishing to be had unless you are fishing on the “Big Water” of Lake Huron.
I used to be a legitimate full-time, four seasons fisherman here on Manitoulin. I was inspired to fish the legal limits of the (then) MNR’s established seasons and rules. It meant braving those shoulder seasons where nobody with common sense should be fishing, either out on the ice or on our shores to catch, something. For some of us, the success ratio was relatively high, especially if you consider catching rocks, stumps, cold and hunger. To me, a lack of success never deterred me from the challenge.
At some point, I lost the drive to continue to be that spring-fall fisherperson. Of course there was the inevitable battle with expendable free time, not to mention fingertips and toes. I’m not sure then if it was the possible loss of extremities or quality family time, but there were several negative experiences over the years that may have soured me.
Of course, I must preface this by claiming that this is not “sour grapes” based on my infamous lack of landed fish success. However, there were other sad episodes. There were actual fights that broke out between fishermen down in Prov because of an errant cast, crowding or not reeling in quick enough when someone yells, “fish on!”
There were many other less “innocent” incidents to be sure. On many occasions in the fall, I came across beautiful female salmon lying on the river bank to rot, stripped only of their eggs. I witnessed many “fishermen” insisting that they buy a young person’s salmon that they just caught. There were also the salmon poachers who went quietly way, upstream with massive outfits including bottom weighted treble hooks to haul in fish. In the spring, us “youngsters” were accosted by fishermen as we made our way downstream to find fish to cast to. We didn’t have a chance to even get close to a pool before an adult buffer would climb the bank to yell us off prime 100-foot river sections.
Fast forward to this month. I thought I would get back out to the old early spring fishing spots I used to haunt. Unfortunately, the old bad taste was still there in my mouth. I saw people fishing in clearly marked fishing sanctuaries. There were people openly littering on pristine shores. Quads ripping up beaches where nesting birds were obviously cavorting. People trespassing over obviously posted private property.
I know, as a teen, there was the standard local mindset that it was those “from away” that were the main offenders, and that was the easy lie. It has been apparent, in my re-introduction at least, to early Manitoulin spring fishing, however, that the blame has to be more widespread. Ok yes, in my admittedly, small sample size I will claim that there are still shenanigans going on. There have been very local poachers who may or may not know that they been apart from the law.
Come on, people!
Assiginack has been well recognized in this spot for their efforts to advocate for their community fitness support, and they continue to do so! For instance, they got people wandering all over Assiginack in their annual Easter egg hunt and, amazingly, quite a few people actually got out and did it. They also have plans for a scavenger hunt that is to happen over the (new) April (school) break that will again get people going and be active.
Additionally, their race track has been kept groomed and they have had a significant increase in walkers. How about their efforts in McLean’s Park? They have had an approximate 200 percent increase over the winter in usage with cross-country skiers, snowshoers and now “fat bikers” (those enthusiasts that use fat-tired bikes)! There has to be a huge shout out to Rob Mellan who kept the trails groomed all winter long. McLean’s Park admittedly is breathtaking out there, at any time of the year, yet especially this time of the year. What a good way to remind everyone they we still do things even in lockdown to stay active.
A good sport is good for sports.