Stray Casts: Falloff on fishing – a worry – or simply more for us to catch

Good old Statistics Canada has announced that fewer peo­ple are fishing for fun these days.

When the Stray Caster read that report, the first thing that came to mind was, “Good. More for me to catch.” The sec­ond thought was, “No wonder.”

The Stray Caster has heard the stories of kids coming out against fishing and it being cruel and unusual torture of fish. The days of anglers being invited to address school groups have, apparently, been dropping off, too, as anglers get more and more uncomfortable being forced to defend the sport they love against students in grade 5 and up who have been thoroughly brainwashed by ani­mal rights groups.

The Stray Caster gnashes his teeth at the thought of any group that puts “rights” ahead of “responsibilities,” for any species, including human, and he always will. It gets tiresome to have to read or hear of nonsense being preached as gos­pel to kids who know no better but will likely grow up either fanatical believers or complete cynics.

And lets face it, instead of focusing on fishing, many groups of anglers now high­light their environmental work rather than the thrill of care­fully approaching a wily trout or a skittish bass and bringing it in with skill and joy.

Statistics Canada has re­ported that 3.2 million adults bought fishing licences in Canada in 2005, down 25 per cent from the number who hit the water ten years earlier. And, on average, recreational fisher­men are getting older – the average age is 48 for men and 44 for women. It also noted that anglers are tending  to fish for the same number of days that they did ten years ago – about two weeks each – but because of their dwindling numbers, the catch dropped to 156 million fish in 2005, from 196 million back in 1995.

The Stray Caster is proud to note that he did beat the average for the number of days fished, and was not so pleased that he beat the average age. Getting older, as good friend Wally Ward has noted, “Sucks.”

Of course, that comment came as the Stray Caster strug­gled to keep up with Wally after a nice day on the Bighead River in Meaford, fishing for trout. We must have walked three miles upstream, and then were forced to return to reach the car. It was not easy slogging near the end of the day, and we both noted that a few decades earlier we would not have even thought about the trek, let alone mentioned how tired we were.

The Stray Caster also man­aged to beat the average annual catch that Stats Canada claimed was 64 fish for each fisherman, although Prince Edward Island fisherman reeled in an average of 90. Hey, Stats Can, have you noticed all the available water in PEI? Walk any direction for three miles and there is ocean, and lots of fish.

Sadly, Ontario and Quebec – home to the biggest numbers of anglers – showed the biggest drops in anglers on the water and fish being caught. The ranks of Sports fishermen actu­ally rose by seven per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador between 1995 and 2005. Gee, two more places with a little water that allows good fishing.

The survey says trout are still the main target for Sports anglers, making up a quarter of the total catch. Well, yes. Anyone who was out on open­ing day or who hits the popular rivers in the fall can attest to that. Absolutely every angler in the province is desiring to share the drift the Stray Caster has selected, or, at least it seems that way.

The other major target species are walleye, perch, bass, northern pike and salmon. Actually, the Stray Caster finds it hard to believe trout is number one, given the numbers of people he sees fishing for walleye and bass every year.

But the Stray Caster did catch some of each of those species, too, although he ad­mits the perch were caught while angling for walleye. But, what the hey, a fish is a fish.

The final statistic the Stray Caster noted in the report came from spending on fishing gear and on fishing itself. The report noted anglers tended to spend about the same amount on their pastime as they did in the 1990s, but the reduced numbers means that total take from rec­reational fishing dropped to $1.6-billion in 2005 from $1.8-billion in 1995.

That might be true. The Stray Caster has to admit that since a very close lady friend gave him a float reel for his birthday two years ago, he has found little reason to spend a lot of cash on any angling gear for himself. After years of collecting and filling tackle boxes, The Stray Caster has fin­ally declared, “Enough,” with all that new stuff. It will take a great deal of allure to catch him spending major bucks on fishing tackle any longer.

But, that aforementioned lady has two kids that simply love to go fishing. Some are trying to increase the num­ber of new anglers. And the Stray Caster will be making pur­chases for them.

So, if anyone runs into me in the tackle store, realized the Stray Caster is not there for himself. Honest. Really. For sure …