With many northern pike and walleye harvest limits reduced to zero, anglers may be asking themselves why they choose to fish. In the 2019 Alberta Guide to Sportfishing Regulations there were new lake closures in the Lakeland Region, including Lac La Biche, Pinehurst, Heart, Elinor, Fork, Jackson, Blackett, Kinnaird, Ironwood, Elinor, Whitefish and Goodfish, but always check your local fishing regulations before heading out. For anglers whose primary purpose for fishing is to take fish home, this change impacted them significantly. However, other anglers who enjoy catch-and-release may not have been affected by the change.
In talking with anglers, there seem to be unanswered questions as to why the lakes have been closed: What direction is the province taking? Is this the right approach? Are we on the right path to sustaining our fisheries?
I am not here to debate the regulations, but rather to talk about the many reasons why fishermen and women cast a lure into the water in hopes of landing a fish.
There are countless reasons why we take the time to pack up all our fishing gear and spend several hours getting the boat ready, calling friends or family to join us as we head out onto the water before the sun has even spread its rays of sunshine, and I believe it goes beyond just catching a fish to take home.
For some, it’s the smell of the early-morning dew coupled with the cool breeze, reminding you warmth from the sun will be embracing you shortly and the bite will be on. As you back your boat down the launch, you can’t help but feel excited about what the day will bring. Will today be the day you battle your personal-best fish? Or will it be a day you discover a new fishing spot on your favourite lake? You cast your line out for the thrill and adventure of what the day will uncover.
For others, it’s all about the camaraderie with family and friends: tossing a line out, telling stories, sharing moments and creating lasting memories. If you catch a fish it’s a bonus, but it’s not the focal point of the day’s adventures. It’s the laughter and time spent together that will be shared again over campfire stories later in the evening.
For many, it is the ability to let the world temporarily slip away and allow yourself to disappear to a place that's filled with excitement and wonder beneath the water. You allow yourself, in that moment, to let go of all the unfinished work that needs to be done, the phone calls that need to be made and the paperwork waiting for attention. This is when it is possible to become totally absorbed in the journey you are on with the fish. It’s not about the biggest fish or how many fish are caught; this journey is about catch-and-release. You are thrilled to have the fish hit your lure and enjoy every twist and turn he sends you on as you reel him in, but then you are just as excited to release him back into the water for another day, another angler.
And for others, it’s about the ability to catch a fish or two to take home to feed their families or share during a shore lunch. This is about passing down a tradition and enjoying the full fishing experience from the catch, the cleaning and the cooking of the fish with your family and friends. It’s a culture, a way of providing and a way of life. It’s a celebration of the day’s catch and sharing a meal together.
With all the changes to the 2019 Alberta Guide to Sportfishing Regulations, I encourage you to continue to find your fishing passion. I believe proper handling and successful catch-and-release of fish is a healthy way to contribute to maintaining our fisheries so that future generations can enjoy their time on the water.
Fishing to me will always be so much more than catching fish. It’s about the determination to try again tomorrow when I came up short today. It’s about traditions, relationships, adventures and the thrill of having a fish on my line – it’s those moments I remember forever. It’s the opportunity to, hopefully, inspire and encourage other people to appreciate and respect the outdoors and all that fishing has to offer.