Are Fish Getting a Break This Summer?

The economy across Northwest Ontario is taking a big hit this year thanks to COVID-19 and the closure of the border to our U.S. neighbours. My friends in the tourism sector who are resort owners as well as guides and retail store owners are all suffering the effects of our situation right now.
Across the region, over 90 per cent of the clientele who visit our fishing resorts and camps are U.S. residents. These people come to Sunset Country to experience the fantastic fishing and scenery of our waters and they enjoy our communities. Most come year after year. It’s big business for the hundreds of camps scattered across the region. These camps then support food and fuel services, float plane operators, skilled tradespeople, provide jobs to youth in our communities and many others. This whole pandemic has not been convenient for anybody but for me it’s really sad to see all of the hardship that these fishing camp owners are going through that rely so heavily on U.S. visitors.
Because there are thousands of U.S. anglers who are not fishing Ontario waters this years, are we going to notice it in the fishing? I have had quite a few people mention this over the summer, asking my thoughts on this topic. 
In some waters yes, the fish are getting a break from typical angling pressure this summer. To be clear, on most waters across NW Ontario, American anglers can only keep one or two walleye per day so it’s not like they are coming here and taking all of our fish. Sure, some anglers might keep bass, pike, trout or panfish but most anglers are coming here to catch walleyes. They eat a few over the course of their trip and the majority no longer any bring fish home.
On waters where there is significant fishing pressure from “camp boats” like the central section of Lake of the Woods, I think we can expect to see better fishing overall this summer and into next year simply because these fish are not being targeted as much. On a good spot, many fish are caught and then released but as this occurs, often the school of fish is broken up and fish that are caught might get smarter and may not bite as easily the next time or they could move on to another location.
I have had friends who have spent the day fishing on Rainy Lake or exploring the south end of Lake of the Woods and they have reported back saying they didn’t see another boat fishing all day. Obviously, these are big bodies of water with plenty of places to hide but that is saying something. The fish are getting a break from angling pressures this summer for sure.
Locally, I think people are fishing as much or more than ever right now, which is great. Fishing is a good activity for folks to get away from everything else going on in our World and it is a great opportunity to spend time with a friend or family member. There is also the option to put a nice dinner on the table.
Fishing is always pretty good in Sunset Country but you might find it to be a little bit better than normal this year because of less angling pressure from all of our visiting anglers. Get out there and enjoy it as we head into the home stretch of the summer.