As the year draws to a close, time to reflect on the effect the pandemic had on the Outdoor Community. I can remember being at the Winnipeg Boat Show in early March when things really started to get serious. I was in a booth selling copies of my book, The Complete Angler, 40 years of Angling Adventures.
As I autographed books, shook hands, and met hundreds of people, there was a bit of concern in the back of my mind. Little did I know what would happen shortly thereafter. Suddenly the world came to a screeching halt. For two months most of us did not know what was to come. Luckily, as editor of Hooked I was able to work from home.
AGE OF INFORMATION
I, like many, had to change focus. Suddenly, it became so important to let people know what was available to them. Information on how to access our resources became top of mind, which was reflected in everything we did on the digital platform at Hooked. With travel restricted, there was a huge regional demand from people to know what was available around them.
Two of the biggest breakthroughs on that front were the digital maps that became available to the angling public in Manitoba. One was released by Humminbird this past month, titled Lakemaster Manitoba.
For more information on the new Lakemaster chip check out this from Matt Gelley.
In late November, Angler’s Edge Mapping released their early ice chip for Lowrance models. It features 17 new lakes from across the province – Anton’s, Barbe, Beautiful, Corstophine, East & West Goose, Footprint, Hunt, Laurie, McHugh, Mid, Patterson, Scotty, Tokaryk, Twin, Wasp, & Webster lakes. It also a big chunk of Clearwater Lake, aka lake trout paradise. Existing AEM users will have the option to upgrade their chips to get the new maps.
THE NEW NORMAL
A recent conversation with friend Paul Conchatre confirmed what I was feeling during this year like no other. Paul owns a successful waterfowl outfitting business that was closed due to the pandemic. Rather than bemoaning his loss of business, he decided to deal with it on his own terms. Like many, this meant a whole lot of time with his family enjoying the great outdoors. Paul also told me he finally got some time to himself, to catch up on many things he had missed when he was working non-stop to make his business successful.
Personally, my visits to lodges and regions were on hold. We did get one family fly in fishing trip on the August long weekend that was the highlight of the summer. It was a blissful four days of fishing, games, great food, wildlife, all while enjoying the power of nature, but most of all my family.
One of more interesting moments occurred on a trip to Delta Beach in late June with my wife. We were going to head out for a day walleye fishing but when we got to the boat launch, we found a very steep ramp. My wife was worried about backing the boat in, so I tied my launch rope to the dock nearby. As the boat slipped off the trailer with no one in it, the rope broke. A strong current in the channel, fueled by a brisk south wind, was pushing it out to Lake Manitoba. It was a sick feeling watching your boat drift out to sea. Luckily, my skeg got hung up on a sandbar at the mouth and I was able to get a ride out to secure it!
Every time I headed out with my wife or son to fish locally; the boat launches were packed with people desperate to get out. This was reflected in fishing license sales across North America as many people rediscovered this important pastime with their loved ones along for the ride.
NEW ECONOMIC IMPACT STUDY RELEASED
A recently released Economic and Social Impact Study reflects that. Commissioned by Travel Manitoba, Probe Research interviewed countless and anglers and hunters over the past year to try and get a handle on the impact this industry has on the province.
For those of us in the industry the finding were not surprising. In the year 2019, the 245,000 anglers and hunters spent nearly $500 million in the province. When you included capital expenditures like boats and UTV’s that number climbed to over $1 billion dollars. This up about 41 per cent when the survey was last done in 2010. Travel on fishing and hunting trips was up 61 per cent. Angling license sales also jumped to almost 186,000. Part of this increase can be attributed to social media. You can view the report here.
Never has there been so much information on where to go and what to catch in province, lead by an aggressive Hunt/Fish Campaign through Travel Manitoba. With success comes increased demand on the resource. The survey of more than 2,100 hunters, anglers and outfitters uncovered concerns for the future, particularly the need to invest in sound fish and wildlife management practices as well as infrastructure.
Far too long this incredibly value resource has been neglected by government cuts to staff and research, until the staff left is without the tools to do the job. Many that make their living in this industry will tell you not to expect to get a return on your investment if there is nothing left to invest in.
POSITIVE CHANGES FOR 2021!
Over the last four years, the tide has slowly started to turn. These include a commercial fishing license buyout on Lake Winnipeg and the establishment of a trust fund for the Fisheries and Wildlife Enhancement Fund. These are just two of several positive changes brought on by the current government. We have three regional biologists in the province, and one is totally dedicated to Lake Winnipeg. That will change in 2021 with the hiring of more staff. The province recently announced the appointments of Erin Dunbar and Maria Arlt as Section Managers for Regional Fisheries and Regional Wildlife, respectively. Director Rob Olson also announced that Dunbar and Arlt will be moving forward with hiring priority positions within the Regional Wildlife and Regional Fisheries sections for 2021.
Non-profit groups like the Manitoba Wildlife Federation continue to lobby for the resource with a fair degree of success. In fact, we have many dedicated user groups in this province that work non-stop to improve resource management. These include the Swan Valley Sportfishing Enhancement Inc. and a relatively new group called Pembina Valley Fish Enhancement. This group looks after several different enhancement efforts in the southwest part of the province. In fact, we have these types of efforts in almost every part of Manitoba.
CAN WE GET BACK TO A MORE NORMAL LIFE?
I am encouraged that we can get back to a more normal life when spring rolls around and more and more people get vaccinated for COVID-19. Hopefully we will be able to visit and travel again. Here is to a great 2021!