As this seemingly never-ending, brutal pandemic continues to wreak havoc on all of us, there has been one bright side for the fishing community in that more people than ever before are going fishing. Over the past several months there have been a bunch of different states and provinces who have bragged that their fishing license sales have increased dramatically in 2021.
The thing about fishing is that even though everybody can do it, it’s a sport where if somebody doesn’t take a kid or a person who has never had the experience, they will probably never go. There is a commitment to having the gear, even though it can be basic in nature to simply get out and catch a few fish. I’m sure there is plenty of anxiety for anybody who pulls up the boat ramp for the first time and has to launch a boat in front of experienced boaters or even drive a boat for the first time.
As this pandemic shuttered many of the activities that we enjoy over the past year, fishing has remained an acceptable activity because it’s an outdoor activity where social distancing is natural. So more people have gone fishing in this past year than at any point in recent history. I think it’s great.
It’s been good for the fishing industry, in that sales of everything from tackle to electronics to boats and motors have all boomed. The problem has been that most of these manufacturers were not prepared for this acceleration in sales so there have been issues with keeping product in stock. Most companies are still not caught up as fishing continues to be a hot activity.
For me, more new people being introduced to fishing makes me happy because I am all for everybody experiencing the thrill of feeling a bite and reeling in a fish. There does have to be more responsibility from all of us to respect the resource. As more people hit the water, our fisheries will be strained a little bit, especially with the knowledge and equipment that exists for anglers today. That being said, more people are conservation minded and take care of the fish better than they did years ago. That is an important component to teach these anglers that are new to fishing.
In talking to my friend Bryan Gustafson from LOTW Sports Headquarters, he has seen sales of ice fishing gear this winter that have greatly exceeded his expectations based on what he has sold in recent years. He told me that he would have stocked more augers, shelters and ice fishing accessories, and he would have sold them, could he have foreseen this explosion. I’ve long said that we have some of the finest ice fishing in the World in NW Ontario. When you consider all of the great multi-species options that we have, it’s rivalled by few places. More people enjoying that is great.
If you have the opportunity to take someone fishing who might not otherwise get the chance, go for it. Teach them how to drill a hole in the ice, drive a boat, use a depth finder/GPS unit and most of all, teach them to respect our resources. Keep a few fish to eat and let most of them go. Teach them not to litter around our waterways. We all owe it to this great activity that we love.