Hooked on the idea of fishing? Here's what first-timers need to know in Manitoba
Fishing is a great way to get outside and maintain physical distancing: Manitoba Wildlife Federation
Manitobans might be scaling back their travel plans in favour of new activities closer to home this summer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you're looking for some reel fun, fishing one of Manitoba's beautiful lakes and rivers could be just the thing for you, says Kathleen Melnychuk, the program and events coordinator for the Manitoba Wildlife Federation.
"It's very low-risk for being around people — you can social distance along the shore bank if you're going with friends. It's a great way to get away from the weight of the world," she said.
For those who haven't tried their hand at fishing, though, the idea might seem daunting.
That's why expert anglers say the best place to start is to go back to school.
Where do I start?
People who want to fish need to get licensed to do so. Now, it's easier than ever and people can get an e-license online.
From there, the wildlife federation offers fishing clinics for novices to learn the basics, and this year there's more interest than ever, Melnychuk says.
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"The whole goal is to take people who maybe have never gone fishing before and make them so that they're comfortable to do the activity themselves," she said.
This year, fishing clinic class sizes will be smaller for everyone's safety, plus the federation is considering offering fish filleting and cooking seminars.
Rylee White of Brandon, Man., has been fishing since she was a child and does everything from angling to fly fishing to ice fishing.
"We usually like to take fishing trips every weekend, if we can. We've been all over Manitoba," she said.
White says beginners should do their research before heading out on the water, to know what kind of fish they can expect to see in which body of water, which lures are most effective and what kind of fishing line to use.
Best spots to fish
Melnychuk says as long as you're near water and on public land, you can fish, and it can be as easy as heading to The Forks.
Keevin Erickson from Hunt Fish Manitoba agrees and says Winnipeggers are lucky there are so many spots right in their backyards.
"Fishing the Assiniboine River right at The Forks offers a very close and easily accessible option for anglers to get fishing," he said.
Just outside of the city, inexperienced anglers can also try the portion of the Red River between Lockport and Selkirk, Man., he suggests.
"This stretch of the river offers world class cat[fish] fishing only a few minutes out of the city," Erickson said.
White agrees and urges newbies not to be turned off by the look of catfish.
"If you keep the small ones they're actually pretty good to eat even though it looks disgusting," she says.
Melnychuk recommends taking a quick trip out of the city to La Barriere Park, where she teaches novice anglers.
The large park just south of the city lies along the La Salle River, which is home to walleye, sauger, catfish and even sometimes crappie.
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White likes to fish for trout around Brandon and in the Turtle Mountain area, including Patterson Lake.
"It's a world-renowned trout fishing lake," she said.
White also goes fishing on Lake Winnipeg — in a boat in the summer or ice fishing in the middle of winter.
Fishing rules and etiquette
Along with tackle and a rod, Melnychuk says new anglers should ensure they have their Angler's Guide on hand.
The guide lists regulations for each region of the province and species of fish. When regulations for a specific body of water are different than the overarching regulations for the region, that information can be found in the guide.
Anglers in Manitoba need to make sure that they push down the barbs on fish hooks before going out to fish because barbed hooks are illegal in the province.
Some fish that are smaller must be thrown back, so it's important for anglers to bring something to measure their catch and pliers to quickly unhook it, Erickson says.
These fishers say, pandemic or not, new anglers should be mindful of their space and to give neighbouring fishers some room.
Especially if you're on a boat, it's important to protect yourself, Melnychuk says.
"I want to stress the importance of personal floatation devices ... We have a very high drowning rate in Manitoba," she says.
On land, she recommends wearing sun screen and bug spray and bringing lots of water along.
Lastly, White has a word of encouragement.
"Don't be afraid to try something new. A lot of the time you strike out and don't touch anything, so just don't get discouraged if you don't catch anything the first couple of times and just keep trying," she said.
Melnychuk adds: "Even if you don't catch anything, it's relaxing to sit out there!"