Well, I’m not sure how I feel about this, but the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, the Honourable John Yakabuski, announced this past weekend on Outdoor Journal Radio that he has decided not to postpone or delay the opening of Trout season in Ontario as scheduled for April 25th.
I wrote this piece immediately after interviewing the Minister on the show, and I honestly don’t know what to make of it. I swear I could almost hear the audience whooping and hollering as the announcement was being made. I could practically see my fellow anglers rushing out to the garage, packing up the fishing gear, and filling the cooler with beer. I got the sense that all was forgotten.
On the one hand, I’m elated with the fact that we can go out and enjoy this wonderful pastime called fishing.
God only knows we needed a little bit of good news for a change. Not to mention, we can all use some airing out after weeks of this isolation business.
On the other hand, I’m very disappointed with our Ford-led provincial government, who has so far made many difficult and right decisions but has got this one so terribly wrong.
Even in the most farfetched scenario, how can anyone justify saying it’s okay to drive from Scarborough to Port Hope to go fishing on the banks of the Ganaraska River, but it’s not okay to go skateboarding at Ashbridges Bay Skateboard Park in Toronto?
How can it be all right for a group of five family members to go to the Credit River in Mississauga (with lawn chairs and picnic baskets in tow) to enjoy a day outside fishing for steelhead, but it’s not okay for that same family to go camping at Emily Provincial Park next weekend?
It’s okay to fish the Niagara River but not Algonquin Park. I just don’t get it! This is all insanity as far as I’m concerned.
Listen, I’m all about our fishing rights. I’m all about the freedom to come and go in our wilderness areas for fishing and hunting. I’m all about being Canadian and enjoying all of the perks that go along with that.
Still, I’ll be damned if I’m going to endure all of the hardships and make all the sacrifices that my family, friends, co-workers and I have made to adhere to this pandemic quarantine protocol, just so some whining, snivelling brat can go stand on the banks of Duffins Creek at midnight on April 25th to get his fishing fix (and risk perpetuating the spread of this deadly virus in the process).
Whether you believe that self-isolation and social distancing is the solution or not, most of us have been following the protocol and doing what we feel is right, not just for our own health but for the greater good of our society. Some of us will lose our loved ones, our homes, our businesses, maybe even our lives to this scourge before it’s all over. And now we need to worry about someone’s fishing fetish?
I just don’t get it. What is the Ontario government thinking? Other jurisdictions like Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI, and Quebec (soon to be followed by B.C. and Alberta) have all delayed, suspended or postponed all recreational fishing activities.
At a time when we need to hold the pedal to the metal on ridding ourselves of this ruthless killer COVID-19… really? We’re going fishing?
Maybe the government thinks that suddenly people are not going to be people just because fishing is involved. Have any of the decision-makers ever been on the shores of Duffins Creek on the opening night of the Trout season?
For that matter, have any of them ever been to the Bay of Quinte for the Walleye opener? Anglers who participate in these annual rituals will be the first ones to admit these are less than ideal places to be if you are concerned with the spread of a virus. Hell, I’ll go one step further and say these are the perfect places to be if you want to infect or be infected.
Even under normal conditions, every river, creek and tributary that dumps into Lake Ontario, Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and surrounding communities are jam-packed with anglers. But this year, with the extraordinary conditions that this pandemic has bestowed on us, those visitor numbers could easily swell to double or triple the normal size. It could be the perfect storm: overcrowding, less-than-ideal hygiene, and lots of socializing with endless reasons to celebrate with a drink or two.
All that, and fewer available frontline emergency workers in the event of accidents and fewer law enforcement officers to patrol it all. Do we really need to catch a fish that badly?
This is no time to be selfish. A lot of outlying towns and villages are already suffering from shortages in food and other essential products due to higher-than-normal cottager traffic. Do they really need the additional complications that we anglers are going to bring to their community on April 25th?
Let’s wake up, fellow anglers. This is as real as it gets. We are in the greatest fight of the modern era, and if you don’t understand this, you need a lot more than a day on Wilmot Creek chasing steelhead to help you.
We need to bear down and put an end to this nightmare that is affecting all our lives in ways that we never could’ve expected. Let’s mature up a little bit. Going fishing is not the answer; it’s a detriment.
Think of it this way: If only one more infection occurs due to the opening of Trout season on April 25th, and that one infection turns out to be fatal, and you knew all you needed to do to prevent it from happening was to stay home on April 25th, would you make the right decision?
Obviously, the policymakers of this current government feel obligated to not tamper with our fishing. They’ve already tampered with our children’s education, with our businesses, jobs, churches, and even with our food supplies. But for some reason, they’re afraid to mess with our fishing. Am I the only one who sees this as weird? I hope not.
We’ve all suffered so much already, some of us may never recover. It’s time to take control.
So here is what I would like to suggest: Given this latest decision by the government of Ontario to maintain the status quo regarding the opening of Trout season, we, as responsible citizens and intelligent anglers, apply extreme pressure to the MNRF and tell them, “No. This is not acceptable, and it’s not the right thing to do. You cannot allow Ontarians to go fishing on April 25th or any time soon. We need to put an end to COVID-19. Say NO To Fishing!”
If you agree, sign our petition, together can we stop the spread of COVID-19!