Editorial: Anglers Not Taking Coronavirus Seriously











Editorial: Anglers Not Taking Coronavirus Seriously
by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioSports.com

Few leisure opportunities offer the perfect twinning of social distancing and outdoor activity as does fishing. Yet as I discovered today, even fishing at a secluded spot along the bank of Fanshawe Lake can reveal how some refuse to take the coronavirus and concurrently physical distancing seriously.

How sad is it that today’s incident falls on National Go Fishing Day?

This spring, I’ve rediscovered my love of fishing. Growing up in the most extreme northeast corner of London during the 1970s, the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority’s (UTRCA) Fanshawe Conservation Area was only a five-minute bike ride from my suburban home. Fanshawe Lake is where the fishing bug bit me hard during my youth.

Without exaggeration, I fished more than I played Little League baseball and golf combined – for those of you who know me well, that was a ton of fishing. I can tell my mother now, I missed a lot of school in order to catch giant carp, large and smallmouth bass, catfish and any variety of fish swimming in the Thames River below Fanshawe Dam.

Fanshawe Conservation Authority. Photo: UTRCA.

This season, I’ve put golf on the shelf for the first time since I was 7 years old. The unprecedented procedures put in place as the COVID-19 pandemic grips the game have made it very challenging for disabled golfers – yours truly included – to follow our own strict regiments. This, combined with the fact I suffered a serious back injury stemming from my worsened scoliosis in 2019, made my decision an easier one than I thought: take some time away from the game, and get outdoors – replace the Titleist clubs and adidas Golf shoes with ABU Garcia reels, Ugly Stik and Duckett fishing rods and Timberland hiking boots.

Today, that came to a crashing halt.

Here’s what took place.

For a second time, I was fishing on the west bank of Fanshawe Lake, just north of where the main beach rests. I recall when, on a warm June day like today, that grassy knoll and roped-off water area was wall-to-wall with sun worshipers who couldn’t make the trek to Grand Bend or Port Stanley. Years later, because of water quality, that beach was closed to swimmers. It’s now a ghost town – fitting, since it rests in the shadow of Fanshawe Pioneer Village.

My fishing nook this week couldn’t have been better. It was away from the busier fishing haunt at the damn, and for someone like me who has a compromised immune system, the more social distancing the better. I live with chronic bronchitis, and I am a stroke survivor.

The writer’s fishing spot at Fanshawe Lake.

The area I fished at is, ironically, no bigger than a tee box at any golf course, and it is off the beaten track. I exchanged pleasant conversations with boaters and paddlers who passed by – they asked about the fishing, and I asked about their water craft. These were idyllic scenes.

A few hours into my fishing adventure this morning, two older gentlemen, arms full of fishing gear, walked down the path to my spot, and then stopped dead in their tracks. They were both visibly and verbally upset that another angler was fishing in this area.

This wasn’t the first time my space was invaded. Today, an unattended youngster bolted towards my fishing line, but his mother coaxed him back before he invaded my space. Twice, very large dogs – not on leashes – have walked along the shore near my lines. They left without incident, but their owners broke a rule strictly enforced by the UTRCA.

Yet, that’s my point: how do you enforce social distancing on a piece of property heavily used by the public and measuring 3,000 acres? Short answer: you can’t, not even if you strapped a GoPro camera onto every carp, crane or groundhog inhabiting the conservation area.

Just as it is out on the streets or in any retail outlet, you cannot enforce physical distancing with 100 per cent success at any conservation area. Especially now, said assistant superintendent Ben Dafoe, whom I spoke with for a half hour after today’s incident. He said with such a large land mass, and with a smaller staff on board during the pandemic, it’s an impossible task.

Jeffrey Reed at Fanshawe Lake June 18.

UTRCA media relations officer Steve Sauder was not available for comment today. However, his office has offered me a full refund for my UTRCA season’s pass.

I have been impressed with the way UTRCA and Fanshawe Conservation Authority have been accountable during the pandemic. Their use of social media, combined with strict adherence to government regulations and medical advice, has been commendable. And, during my first fishing trip at Fanshawe Lake this spring, there was no incident.

Today was a different story. When the two gentlemen – approximately in their late-60s – approached my area, they refused to physical distant themselves. As I saw them approaching my area in order to squeeze between me and my gear, I told them to stop: respect my space. What happened next shocked me.

One of the two gentlemen unleashed a verbal attack at me while aggressively approaching my space, and went as far as to say, “I have to stay away from you. I don’t have to stay away from your things.” He was within two feet of me and he rested his hand on the back of my chair, beside my cooler and my phone.

For whatever reason, this gentleman refused to immediately walk through the brush and fish about 12 metres to my left, as did his fishing buddy. He continued to walk towards me, almost backing me into the lake, and attacked me for, in his words, accusing him of something “ridiculous.”

This was, quite simply, an unprovoked attack.

“I have to stay away from you. I don’t have to stay away from your things.” – Angry angler

For 15 minutes, as I telephoned UTRCA with my concerns, both of these gentleman unleashed a verbal attack at me – their language would make a sailor blush. Not feeling safe, I packed up my gear, and met Dafoe at the conservation area’s office parking lot to air my concerns. He promised to approach the two gentlemen in question and to take their names, following my complaint.

In fact, this is not a simple complaint. People are dying from COVID-19 – 8,300 in Canada and 2,550 in Ontario alone. More than eight million people around the globe have been infected; 446,000 have died. There is no cure, no vaccine, no medicines attached to coronavirus. It is highly contagious.

And there is absolutely no excuse for the irresponsible behaviour of those two gentlemen today. Whether they were angered at the fact I had stolen their fishing spot – and Dafoe agreed this was part of the equation – or simply upset I confronted them (and I should have – they did not follow physical distancing, clearly outlined by UTRCA, not to mention the entire world), they should be banned from fishing at any UTRCA conservation area.

I don’t take this incident lightly, which is why I have written this editorial.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spoken with people who work in a variety of sectors. They’ve been yelled at, had their space invaded and, like me today, have been bullied by strangers.

People will be people. Not even this damn virus will change that.

I recall a time when, as a 12-year-old, two of my friends and I were bullied out of a fishing hole near the Thames River, just west of Fanshawe Damn. The bullies were bigger and older than us, so we had no choice but to find another spot.

Not in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen to me at age 58.

But unfortunately, I did know that there are many people still not taking the coronavirus seriously.

And that is sad.

I hope UTRCA did the right thing today.


Award-winning print and broadcast journalist Jeffrey Reed has been reporting on news, sports and entertainment in London and Southwestern Ontario since 1980. He is publisher and editor of LondonOntarioSports.com, London’s Trusted Source for Sports News & Information, and LondonOntarioGolf.com, The Voice of Golf in Southwestern Ontario. His corporate website is JeffreyReedReporting.com. Reach him at jeff@londonontariosports.com.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office http://www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and https://londonontariogolf.com.

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