Fishing Soothes The Soul During Unprecedented Times










Fishing Soothes The Soul During Unprecedented Times
by Jeffrey Reed, Editor,

As a youngster growing up in the extreme northeast corner of London, I was fortunate enough to live just a five-minute bike ride to Fanshawe Conservation Area. Fishing below Fanshawe Dam and along the banks of the Thames River was just as important to me as were minor baseball and junior golf.

Angling of all types – whether at the local fishing hole or in a boat on Lake Erie – is a passion of an estimated eight million Canadians, according to Keep Canada Fishing, an initiative from the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association. Dedicated to promoting the importance and benefits of recreational fishing to Canadians and the economy, Keep Canada Fishing estimates more Canadians fish than play golf and hockey combined.

During this time of uncertainty and physical distancing, enjoying the outdoors while practicing all of the guidelines presented by our health authorities is of the utmost importance to our physical and mental health. And while the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down our outdoor recreational amenities such as sports fields and playgrounds, fishing is open for business.

Things change by the day, but currently Ontarians are permitted to fish. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry reports that fishing and hunting regulations are unaffected by the pandemic.

Concurrently, some retailers report busy online says of outdoor gear, while most bricks and mortar shops are closed. In fact, not only are U.S.-based retailers reporting a larger than usual demand for firearms and ammunition, but also here in Ontario the same applies, since many of those goods are sourced from the U.S. and consumers fear a shortage of their outdoor provisions.

Some boat ramps are closing in Ontario, and further fishing restrictions are likely to be enforced as we battle the pandemic. But the sport of fishing, and outdoors enjoyment, marches on.

In fact, Steve Sauder of Upper Thames River Conservation Authority said by midweek there were three times as many people hiking through Fanshawe Conservation Authority roads and trails than what is typical for early April.

“There has been a lot of confusion about who is open and who is not, in terms of conservation authorities,” explained Sauder, “so that is why we put out our media release March 27 to tell people, Fanshawe, Wildwood (St. Marys) and Pittock (Woodstock) conservation authorities continue to be available for walking and nature viewing – and for fishing.”

With designated parking areas, daylight hours only, children’s parks closed and physical distancing restrictions in place, and with UTRCA offices closed, the trio of conservation authorities – as of today – are open. That includes fishing at Fanshawe Lake and the Thames River, where Sauder said more than 90 fish species live.

Fanshawe Dam, Fanshawe Conservation Area

“The Thames is one of the most diverse rivers in Canada,” said Sauder. “At our three large properties, we are encouraging fishing. This is a great time to rediscover nature. As long as people are respectful of the land and of the health guidelines – which they have been to-date – then we would like to continue to allow people to enjoy fishing, nature watching and photography.”

As with retailers, the Ontario fishing industry has taken a hit, with events including local pike tournaments, education seminars and the mid-March Toronto Sportsmen’s Show cancelled. But that hasn’t dampened the spirits of anglers, according to Robert Pye, manager of business development and corporate messaging with the Ontario Federation of Angling and Hunting (OFAH). Read our previously-published story on OFAH here.

“What’s interesting about this crisis we’re experiencing is people are turning to nature-based expression more than ever before,” Pye said. “Fishing and hunting have always been an escape from the stress of life. And as anglers and hunters, we need to talk more about that.

“During the recession of 2008, we were concerned about (OFAH) membership numbers, and about the outdoors. It certainly wasn’t a pandemic, but it was a bad time economically. But in 2008, (outdoors) participation numbers rose. When the going gets tough, the tough go out hunting and fishing. Outdoor retailers saw an increase in sales, and we saw an increase in our membership.”

Pye said the pandemic is taking a toll on families, from a mental health point of view. But he said escaping to the outdoors with activities like fishing and hunting is “really good for the mind and soul.

“Escaping outdoors lines up perfectly with mental health awareness, and nature deficit disorder. Everyone talks in medical terms today, which is important. The outdoors is part of the solution,” he said.

Robert Pye

Pye is bullish on the health of outdoors participation, and points to past experiences when fishing and hunting soothed the soul.

“The outdoors will always be that expression of family, and of life. That’s not just a current mindset. If you go back to when my grandfather came back from WW II and his father returned from WW I, they immediately went out fishing and hunting.

“In my family, fishing and hunting means social interaction, getting together with family and friends,” he explained. “It also includes getting together for a big breakfast after the turkey hunt, and stopping into some of the local retailers to shoot the breeze. The outdoors world is a real community.”

Like Sauder, Pye preaches physical distancing while fishing. He said, “We need to be smart about the kind of fishing activity we’re doing. It can’t be shoulder-to-shoulder on a stream bank. We need to be respectful of the outdoors, and of other outdoor users.”

Life as we know it is in perpetual change, and temporarily that could mean no more fishing. But in the meantime, it’s fishing rod in hand while practicing physical distancing for local anglers.

Sauder said there’s no better place to fish and take in nature’s glories than Fanshawe Conservation Area, which he agrees remains one of London’s best-kept secrets.

“We have miles of roads and trails for visitors to enjoy, and there are so many benefits to being out in nature. Even if you just park and look over the lake, there is a calming effect. So we would hate to take that away from people,” said Sauder of possible changes to park admissions.

Those who have already embraced the outdoors don’t take it for granted during these unprecedented times. Those have yet to do so would benefit embracing Mother Nature’s secrets, including fishing – a big part of so many Canadians’ lives, and one of the driving engines of the Ontario economy which will need all the help it can get as we rebuild our lives.

For information on Canada’s National Fishing Week July 4-12, click here.


Jeffrey Reed is an avid outdoorsman who has been writing about sports and leisure for 40 years. Reach him at

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and

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