|Time For A Reality Check:|
|They say itís not over til the fat lady sings. Thank God the fat lady never sang, but about two months ago I thought I had both Kate Smith and Aretha Franklin sitting on my chest and ready to begin singing.|
It started out as a typical morning for me. I got up and walked the dog at 6 a.m., jumped in the shower, raced out to get a couple of papers and cups of Timís and then back at the computer to work, worry and ponder the future of this fishery of ours.
On this morning I was particularly interested in New York Stateís progressive Great Lakesí rainbow/steelhead stocking program and comparing it to Ontarioís dismal efforts at providing anglers with a sport fishery they deserve and arenít getting. I had the wife working the adding machine as I called out numbers being generated on my computer.
Just amazing. Did you know that the State of New York raises and releases more than 500,000 wild steelhead annually for properly stocking Lake Ontario so their anglers can catch fish, enjoy the sport of fishing and at the same time inject hundreds of millions of dollars into the local south shore economy? The province of Ontario definitely doesnít do that!
On this morning I was also ranting and raving over the fact that a handful of anglers were being given the special privilege of fishing in a sanctuary below the Streetsville Dam on the Credit River, while the rest of the thousands of anglers in Ontario could only stay on shore and watch. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources say they only give out the these Ďspecialí permits in the name of science. Itís always been my opinion that handing out Ďspecialí fishing permits to a handful of individuals to fish sanctuaries in urban regions is nothing short of idiocy on the part of the Ministry of Natural Resources, but whatís that only saying... the inmates are running the insane asylum?
It was the second week in November and I was in a rush. The steelhead were charging up Lake Huronís Saugeen River. My float rods were in the back of the Expedition and my old Airstream on the banks of the river was waiting for me. I was looking forward to taking a few days off and enjoying a little rest and relaxation matching wits with hungry trout.
But I still had work to do. Trout totals had to be added up and my poor wife would have to stay seated and listen to my rants about stupid ministry rules and those Ďspecialí individuals fishing in Ďspecialí sanctuaries with Ďfishingí permits.
And it was then that the fat lady began to warm her vocals. No, like I said, it was like two fat ladies. Thinking it was a touch of heartburn from the morning meal of bacon and eggs, I said I was going to lie down for a few minutes before heading for the river. The only trouble being, that as soon as I was on my back on the bed, Kate and Aretha climbed up on my chest and attempted to put me away. No doubt about it, the fat lady was beginning to sing.
Exit stage left. I painfully crawled to the truck and made tracks for the hospital. Within an hour I was being wheeled into the Cardiac Care Unit with drippers being pumped into one arm and wires attached to the other. Let me tell you it was more than just a scary experience. A week in the local CCU, talk of quadruple bypasses, a rapid ambulance trip down to the big city, a camera run up the groin and through the heart.
Save me Lord. Donít let her sing. Iíll repent my ways. Iíll go on a diet. Iíll cut out the Coors. I wonít scream, bitch and yell no more.
Well, itís been six weeks since the heart specialist noted that if I would have gone to the river for a stay in the Airstream, it would have been my final resting place. Honestly, Iím starting to change some of my ways. Not even saying which. But let me tell you that screaming, bitching and yelling doesnít seem to be one of them... especially when it comes to our fishery.
|Steelhead and Atlantic Folly|
For starters, letís look at Ontario and a few idiotic ways our provincial Ministry of Natural Resources goes about operating and protecting our fishery. Now again, a lot of what Iím going to mention here is what put me in the hospital in the first place.
In my opinion, we should be raising fish in Ontario hatcheries to create, expand and provide a sport fishery, which in turn provides fishing opportunities, which in turn generates funding for the economy. Here in Ontario weíve been experimenting for far too long, wasting fish stocks, wasting hatchery space, wasting fishing opportunities and in turn wasting funding that should be directed back into the economy.
Thirty years ago we wasted away a sport fishery on the infamous Ďsplakeí experiment. Today I believe we are doing the same wasting away with the present ĎAtlanticí salmon experiment.
Unlike the State of New York on the opposite side of the lake, we havenít really taken advantage of our Pacific salmon and steelhead fishery for decades. We continue to waste chinook, coho and steelhead stocks with asinine waterfront stockings instead of putting all our fish far upstream at release sites where the fish will properly imprint, properly return and provide a better fishery.
|Minutes prior to the arrival of my symptoms of an approaching heart attack I had discovered that New York State was in fact stocking more than 500,000 ďwildĒ strain steelhead annually, in prime upstream locations for proper imprinting. By the way, New York long ago acknowledged that removing belly fins for identification was detrimental to steelhead survival. Except for approximately 35,000 Skamania strain summer run steelhead, all other 500,000 plus steelhead were released with all their fins intact.|
The province of Ontario on the other hand only stocks approximately 50,000 Ďhomogenizedí Ganaraska strain rainbow trout in two or three streams. What alarmed me on this morning was the fact that the province wasted a similar number (approx. 50,000) by dumping them off breakwalls and beaches where little imprinting would be achieved and sportfishing success would be minimal. Just as insane, all Ontario steelhead had been crippled and deformed with the removal of one or more of those important belly fins.
If the steelhead problem wasnít agitating enough, I received a call from Randy Scott and we broached the subject of Atlantic Salmon. Now Randy is one of the best, if not the best guide on the Ontario side of the Great Lakes. For forty years, the pro has been keeping track of each and every salmon and trout his customers catch. In the last 8 years Randy has caught 2,818 salmon and trout. The scary fact is only three of those fish were Atlantic salmon. Randy fished almost entirely out from rivers that have been stocked by the boys in the Atlantic salmon experiment. These same doctors of fish knowledge have been boasting that they have already stocked more than a million Atlantics in the last couple of years alone. Wow! Is that success? No, in my opinion itís plain stupidity, a waste of money, a waste of hatchery space and a waste of fishing opportunities for the residents of Ontario. I made a quick call to Captain Wayne Andrew a long time professional angling ace out of Port Credit and discovered the same results, thousands of trout and salmon in his annual catches over the same period, but this time absolutely no Atlantics were caught.
Now here are two of the biggest and best charter boat skippers in Ontario and more than a million Atlantic salmon later they have caught three Atlantics in total.
|Special Permits for Special People|
Then to top off an already frustrating morning, both Scott and Andrew had to bring up the subject of the Credit River, fish sanctuaries and special fishing permits. Now, Iíve been working on volunteer fisheries improvement programs as long as or longer than anyone reading this newsletter. In all that time, Iíve never once heard anything about volunteers being allowed to fish in sanctuaries here in Southern Ontario to collect eggs, fish or carry out scientific studies. In the far northern wilderness, where itís out of sight and out of mind yes, but not in urban Ontario. Me and the rest of the volunteers I work with here in Southern Ontario (see pic) work the fish ways and work the fish traps to collect our fish. But, itís obvious now that all that seems to be changing.
For the last number of years the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources in their Ďwisdomí have been passing out a small number of scientific fishing permits to a select group of anglers to fish a section of river in the mid-stretches of the Credit River near Streetsville, Ontario, in the vicinity of the Streetsville dam. Seems the Ministry of Natural Resources lets these boys drift roe bags and flies, where no others can fish, so the MNR and its cohorts can collect data on the Ďexperimentalí Atlantic salmon program. They also transport Atlantics and steelhead caught below the dam up and over the Streetsville dam to spawning waters above.
This practise of Ďspecialí fishing rights for a Ďspecialí few has generated more than its share of controversy in the last little while. The big question is why the MNR would even think to allow a Ďspecialí few, these Ďspecialí fishing rights in the first place? It seems Iíve heard every excuse imaginable to explain the reasoning behind this blunder. Letís see, for starters the fishway that already exists on the Streetsville dam is kept closed under lock and key. Then thereís the excuse that the itty bitty Atlantics donít want to enter the fishway with big, bad chinook salmon. Oh, and when it comes to chinook salmon, the MNR just doesnít want these fish up river above the Streetsville dam. As for the steelhead, the magnificent fighters are only to be allowed spawning access between Streetsville and Norval and no farther. Seems the prime waters above Norval are exclusive mating grounds for Atlantics only.
What a crock!
For starters look around the province of Ontario. We have sanctuaries on a dozen or more major Great Lakes tributaries that have dams, fishways and fish traps. These include the Ganarasaka, Credit, Grand, Bighead, Beaver, Nottawasaga, Sydenham and Saugeen. At all of these sites egg taking, monitoring and the transferring of adult fish takes place. At none of these other locations are club members or Ďspecialí individuals given the opportunity to fish inside the fish sanctuaries. At all the other locations, traps are utilized to hold and collect the adult fish.
Hereís my suggestion to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Discontinue these Ďspecialí permits to Ďspecialí people immediately. Do whatís done on all those other rivers. Utilize the traps to collect rainbow trout and your Ďspecialí Atlantic salmon. If these Atlantics are too dumb or too timid to utilize fishways, then get them out of the provincial program altogether.
But enough of this idiotic practise for a Ďspecialí few to carry Ďspecialí permits, while the vast majority of provincial anglers just have to stand by and watch.
|More Problems With Dams|
If youíve been following the last couple of newsletters, you realize that Iím more than high on the work of the Ontario Steelheaders and the Lake Huron Fishing Club. The labour intensive fisheries rehabilitation work they are doing on the Saugeen River is mind boggling to say the least. The results of their efforts are also mind boggling. Five years in to the project and returning steelhead are everywhere. These guys continue to amaze me. They put in thousands of hours of work in collecting fish at traps on fishways, transporting adult spawners miles up the Saugeen River, stripping eggs and rearing and releasing yearling smolt. Their efforts are paying big dividends in the creation of hundreds of the thousands of recreational angling hours and a multi-million dollar boost to the local economy.
But, hereís the puzzling dilemma that these volunteers and the returning adult steelhead and salmon are now faced with. Everyone by now should realize that dams on rivers are detrimental to fish stocks everywhere. On the Saugeen a pair of downstream dams located at Walkerton, Ontario are preventing the majority of steelhead and salmon from reaching prime spawning grounds. If the dams were breached, a salmon and steelhead population explosion would happen almost immediately. In fact, the volunteer sportsmen could take a well deserved rest and sit back and watch as Mother Nature takes over.
Surprisingly, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and anglers seem to be thinking the same. Both parties agree that the dams are outdated, meaningless and should be removed. Even local politicians think the same. It should be a no brainer, breech the dams and let the fish reproduce and flourish naturally. The river and the fish are just waiting to create one of the best steelhead and salmon river sport fishery to be had anywhere on the continent.
But still we wait to see the dams breached. A few biologists that should be pushing for the removals and moving full steam ahead seem to be either dodging their responsibilities on this issue, possibly are over-worked and understaffed or for whatever other reason or reasons are treading water. Confronted with the direct questions on why or when, the answers are many, never assuring, but always puzzling.
It doesnít take a rocket scientist to acknowledge that the dams have to go and the river needs to flow. But again, this is Ontario and this is the way the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources goes about improving our sport fishery, our fish stocks and the economy the comes with it.
|British Columbia, It Might Be Getting Better:|
|A Fraser River Sockeye Inquiry|
It seems that they are finally listening to Alexandra Morton www.adopt-a-fry.org. Itís taken a while, but the Harper government has been finally shamed into calling a federal judicial inquiry into the almost total collapse of the famed Fraser River sockeye fishery. Sources in the know believe it will be two years before the inquiry completes its findings.
One thing is for certain, conclusions have to come quickly and action taken immediately to save the Fraser and other river stocks. This is not just a problem facing sockeye salmon, but every species of salmon found on the west coast.
I honestly believe that Alexandra Morton is the major cog in the wheel that brought the problem of the sockeye salmon to national attention, which in turn is the reason for the inquiry. Others should also be given credit. The Wild Salmon Circle www.wildsalmoncircle.com of British Columbia deserves an honourable mention. Please visit their site as well as Alexandraís and learn and pass the word to your friends of the frightening problems presently facing our wild British Columbia salmon stocks.
Thereís also the Pacific Salmon Foundation (www.psf.ca) an organization, who for the last 20 years has raise funds and direct funding to volunteer and community driving projects on conservation and improving and protecting wild Pacific salmon stocks.
Commercial fish farms definitely are not the only problem facing wild salmon stocks, but it is becoming more and more obvious that commercial salmon pens in their present locations could be a major culprit in the problems facing the salmon. To many, itís also obvious that Federal Fisheries and Oceans needs a drastic housecleaning and it has to come quickly. My personal opinion is that these pens should never have been located out in saltwater and that Atlantic salmon should have stayed just thereÖ.in the Atlantic.
If the wild salmon of the Pacific are to survive, heads have to roll.
I was out of the office only two weeks and I met with my doctor for permission to fly out to British Columbia to sit in on a couple of fisheries meetings, especially those concerning the Fraser River problems. Theories are running rampant and fingers are being pointed everywhere. Please take the time to review the previous links. Itís as much your fishery as it is mine and let me tell you, I hope youíre as concerned about the future of our fishery as I am.
|More than a few years ago, I sat with Tom Bedell, the then president of Berkley, which in turn transformed into Pure Fishing as we know it today. Bedell had commissioned a short video promoting the importance of promoting fishing and its values of the day. Itís as important today as it was yesterday. Pass It On, the video (www.youtube.com) is a message I hope you will all pass on to kids everywhere.|
In today's world there is absolutely nothing more important than family. I honestly believe that the family that fishes together not only enjoys time in the outdoors, but understands the importance of family values and the outdoors around them as well. I don't believe there is a better place for kids to be than the outdoors. In this age of computers, i-pods and nintendo, it worries me a lot that youngsters are missing out on that introduction and love for the outdoors.
|I've also seen too many adults, wait too long and miss out on the opportunity to go fishing with kids. Introduce the youngsters at an early age to love a sport they will carry with them the rest of their lives.|
Do me a favour, yourself a favour and kids everywhere a favour, take kids fishing. At this festive time think about buying kids fishing tackle and take them fishing.
|A Tip of the Hat to Alan Pope|
|Itís been so long that Iíve come across a competent Natural Resources minister I can hardly remember what one looks like. Because I live in Ontario, I really can only judge the ones that have come and gone in Queenís Park. Frank Miller a conservative and Vince Kerrio a liberal both did pretty good. Miller was the head of fishing and hunting in Ontario almost 40 years ago and if I check my records Kerrio has come and gone more than a few years ago.|
|Trust me, over the years Iíve witnessed some real boneheads take the throne over our woods and waters. Not just in Ontario, but a number of the other provinces as well.|
The one Natural Resources minister that really moved to the head of his class and impressed me was a then young man from Timmins, Ontario, named Alan Pope. Pope was an articulate, honest young lawyer when he first assumed the role. I donít know if it was more that he loved and cared for the outdoors, whether it was because he came from the north country, whether he was intelligent and hard headed or a combination of all these traits, but in my opinion he was the best Minister of Natural Resources that Ontario ever had. By the way, he would often listen to me and take me into his confidence and certainly raised my opinion of the minister, but then again myself and other concerned anglers and hunters could always approach Pope with both our concerns and our advice.
Just as important though, was the fact that Pope never fell for most of the crap a lot of bureaucrats continually seem to throw at the minister of the day. Matter of fact, in most cases the bureaucrats are the ones that really run and ruin the show and in turn tarnish the legacy of the ministers that listen to them.
For the most part, Pope would have none of that. Like I said, he could be hard headed, but, he knew his facts, spoke his mind, made his own decisions and was never afraid of shutting down any interference from bureaucrats. God I wish I had Pope around these days.
Without crying wolf, I have to state that Iím concerned about the Canadian sport fishery and the fish themselves from coast to coast. The Federal Fisheries and Oceans can mess up enough of our saltwater sport on their own, but trust me some of the provinces and especially Ontario are in big trouble these days as well. And like any other business, you have to blame the boss at the top when the business is in trouble.
Did I say business? Youíre damn right. Fishing and hunting is big business and that means protecting and improving the status of our fish and wildlife is a business as well. Look at almost any province and youíll find that the Ministry of Natural Resources is one of the few ministries to actually pay for itself and show a big profit.
Anyways, back home to Ontario. Presently, the Minister of Natural Resources is Donna Cansfield. To be honest, I would love to see her go away as soon as possible. She admitted when she arrived that she was not a hunter and itís evident from her press appearances that take place annually on Lake Ontario, sheís also not really a fisherman. After watching her performance in the Legislature, listening to her speeches and reviewing her press releases, she definitely doesnít impress me with her knowledge of Natural Resources or the concerns facing fishing and hunting today.
Worst of all, due to the fact that she is inexperienced in the basics of our sport or the fish and wildlife that support it, she has to depend even more on the bureaucrats and biologists for her decisions.
The Ontario Liberals and Ms. Cansfield can be held responsible for closing hatcheries, cutting expenses, supporting the Atlantic salmon decision and allowing our fish managers and biologists to mismanage our multi-million dollar Great Lakes sport fishery.
I want Ms. Cansfield to go away. I want certain managers to go away. I want certain biologists to go away. For the sake of our outdoor industry and our outdoors as a whole, I want another Alan Pope to arrive on the scene. But I donít know if there is another Alan Pope out there.
|Fishing Products To Watch Out For:|
|Yamaha Still Leading the way|
Just when I thought that Yamaha (www.yamaha-motor.ca ) couldnít do it any better, they went and did it. The leader in 4 stroke technology for 2010 is introducing the V6 VMAX SHO. Available in 200, 225, and 250 horsepower versions, the SHO promises to be faster, lighter, more fuel efficient, and reliable than any comparable two stroke engine. The Super High Output 4.2 litre V6 power head provides the best power to weight ratio in its class. This will relate to quicker hole shot, faster speeds, and superior torque.
The use of innovative materials and manufacturing processes, such as plasma fused sleeveless cylinders and a composite engine pan and cowl, help make the SHO engine 34 pounds lighter than its two stroke predecessors.
Iím not an engineer, but I know that Yamaha is shaking up the industry with these latest introductions.
|Walker Downriggers Pro Collapsible Planer Boards:|
I love and respect Canadian tackle entrepreneurs and that could be one reason why I respect Walker Downrigger president Randy Ford. Okay, letís look at just a little part of what he is presently accomplishing in todayís tackle industry. For starters, heís been supplying quality downriggers to North American fishermen for the last 20 years. Recently, Randy has introduced his line of Deeper Divers, those incredible directional diving devices that take your lure not only down to the level of feeding fish, but also out and away from the disturbance of your boat. Just a few months ago he released another diving model the TripZ Diver, which, as the name implies, takes your bait down as a diving device, but also has a built-in tripping device that removes all weight and drag between the diver and the fish are you are fighting.
Now though, Randy is providing the guys in the planer board fishery with a new re-introduction of his fabled collapsible Walker Planer Board. For those in the know, planer boards often catch a lot more salmon, trout and walleye than downriggers and these planer boards are just the ticket to catching those fish. They track out and away long distances from the boat and just as quickly collapsible for easy and convenient storage.
Now hereís a tip for a lot more hook ups between you and big fish. Utilize the Walker Collapsible Planer Boards in conjunction with either or both of his Deeper Divers or TripZ Divers. They definitely are a one, two, three connection for more fishing excitement.
|The Shark CannonballÖ.The Shark Extreme Cannonball:|
Hereís another Canadian tackle company that needs to be congratulated for manufacturing a great fishing product. The Shark Cannonball is distinctively different from all those other weights out there. And according to the pros and this fisherman as well, they are the best downrigger cannonball found anywhere on the globe. Yes, you pay a little, or what some believe to be a lot more for a Shark Cannonball, but do you want to catch more fish or not? Listen up, you get what you pay for and with a Shark Cannonball you get the best and thatís a fact.
|Now before I go any further be certain to also visit the Shark Cannonball website listed above. For years Iíve been telling folks about this website. It totally amazes me. Itís also the best designed fishing tackle website Iíve ever come across.|
Anyways, back to Shark Cannonballs. They are the finest. Designed in the image of a shark, the originals are available in chrome, sapphire, and black. They come in weights of 8, 10, 12, 15 and 20 pounds. Most important, all Shark Cannonballs are covered in facets or multi-indentations. Now, like I said, take the time to review their excellent website. The great animation on this site will explain the importance of sound and vibration in attracting feeding finned predators and in turn the importance of these facets that cover all Shark Cannonballs.
So now what have the Shark Cannonball engineers come up with? How about the EXTEME Shark Cannonball. This baby comes in just one simple colour combination of chrome silver with a purple haze sprayed across its back from head to tail. Now the colour combination should be an eye pleaser in the eye of any angler, but itís the facets that are really the fish getter on this cannonball weight. It has triple the number of facets of the regular sharks and this means it has three times the amplified sound signature to call in the big ones.
The folks at Shark Downriggers have put together a great Canadian fishing Tackle company. And please visit the website and watch the. Itís a must for catching more fish.
|The Napoleon Travel Q:|
Okay, so itís winter and here I am pushing a barbecue. But trust me, itís not just any barbecue, but the Napoleon Travel Q. Besides, Christmas is only a few days away and even though it wonít fit in your stocking, will slide neatly under the tree. Matter of fact, I just bought and wrapped one for the wife. She will definitely like it for around the house but I think it will be better used out at the old antique Airstream at the river or tucked in the center console of the Mako.
The Travel Q has a great compact design along with folding legs for easy storage. It has 225 square inches of cooking space and a 9,450 BTU circular stainless steel burner for even cooking. Itís simple to clean and comes with a removable grease tray. It will run off one of the large portable propane tanks, but will sizzle your steaks with the aid of those handy little portable propane cylinders as well.
Trust me, the Napoleon Travel Q is perfect for boating, camping, RVing, tailgating or condo living... and remember it will slip under that Xmas Tree.
|Like I said the Fat Lady hasnít started singing.....|
|Have a Very Merry Christmas and a Fantastic New Year!!|