Apathy over reeling in fishing title seems symptomatic

I suppose I got my hopes up a little bit when Fort Frances was nominated for the World Fishing Network’s “Ultimate Fishing Town.”
The online contest, which is halfway through its first round of voting, is offering a top prize of $25,000 to the winning community, as well as a half-hour program produced by WFN.
Initially, it was a point of pride that an outsider —14-year-old Nathan Ryan of Thunder Bay—was the first person to nominate Fort Frances for the title.
Maybe the town was just too modest to make the first move, I thought. But that sentiment faded as I began to piece together some other tidbits I’d picked up from around town.
This past winter (my first in town), I heard the refrain that Muskie hockey games were the place to be during the 1980s. And while it’s hard to call many of their games sparsely-attended, the current crowd allegedly pales in comparison to the numbers from 20-25 years ago, when the on-ice product was in its heyday and the team was an all-Ontario contender year in and year out.
While the Muskie squads from last year weren’t doormats in any sense, they weren’t the juggernauts of earlier years and that could have led to the drop in attendance.
Fair enough.
As the spring progressed, I began to hear similar things about the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship—some of it associated with the change in venue from the Sorting Gap Marina to the Memorial Sports Centre; some of it not, though.
The willingness to stay away was particularly noticeable with headliner George Canyon on the Friday night of the tournament, although attendance nearly doubled for the Saturday night performance by “Pushing Daisies” and “A is A.”
Perhaps Canyon’s $40 ducats were the issue, or maybe the fact that anglers had to be up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed early the next morning led them to partying on the Saturday night instead.
At least it shows that local residents can be interested every once in a while.
But going out on the town has left me with the impression that most people just aren’t interested in doing much of anything anymore.
Mind you, many activities take at least time and effort, if not money. And with things not getting any cheaper, and time more and more easily taken away, there certainly are reasons beyond apathy as to why these events aren’t quite what they used to be.
But still, computers and Internet access aren’t too difficult to find these days.
It’s a little puzzling, especially with such an enthusiastic angling community here and across the district, that Fort Frances only has been able to scrape together a few hundred measly votes so far in the “Ultimate Fishing Town” contest.
That’s a far cry from the gauntlet set down by Nestor Falls with nearly 6,000 votes to make it the far-and-away leader in the Ontario region to date.
It helps that Maureen Hanson, who nominated the community of roughly 300, has offered to take e-mail addresses and get those votes into the system. Unfortunately, that same enthusiasm and drive hasn’t been seen here given no individual or group has opted to pick up the ball and run with it in an attempt to solidify Fort Frances as a prime fishing destination.
The situation here is a little different than in Nestor Falls, where Hanson is a local and can rally support a little bit more easily than young Nathan Ryan can from the Lakehead.
But as efficient as Hanson and the Nestor Falls crew have been in tallying up votes, an organized effort easily could have put Fort Frances in contention for one of the top two spots in the region.
Given our population of about 7,500, if even a 10th of that number had voted every 12 hours (which is within the rules), this round would have been a piece of cake. If those voters used more than one e-mail address, then that would have confirmed things very early on.
By comparison, Nestor Falls already has about 21 times its own population in votes, and several other towns sitting ahead of Fort Frances already have a much higher percentage of the population voting than our community would have needed to be in the thick of things.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda, though.
With a week remaining in the first-round voting (it closes at 4 p.m. local time on Sept. 1), it’s hard to say absolutely that the title of “Ultimate Fishing Town” is well out of our reach. But unless the miracle comeback starts immediately, Nestor Falls and rival Kenora (currently in 10th place nationally, good for the final “wild card” slot) will advance while Fort Frances will remain on the sideline.
And if things don’t start to drastically change in the next hours, or the next day or two, it might be worth throwing our support behind Nestor Falls.
It’s become apparent that they want it—bad. Hanson said the community really could use the $25,000 community donation and the extra publicity wouldn’t hurt, either.
If Fort Frances won’t help itself, it may as well help someone else that’s done all it can to put itself in a great position—and will need a little extra juice once it gets to the final round of voting, where Port Alberni, B.C. and Dauphin, Man. both appear poised to do some serious damage having already collected more than 10,000 votes so far in the first round.

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