An extremely early spring in southern Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario actually has some anglers out already in boats on open water. In fact in Manitoba some anglers have been trailering their boats to Pine Falls before the season closes March 31st. When that closure happens many will just change their destination to Northwestern Ontario or target trout, a species that knows no closure. In Northwestern Ontario, anglers can not only fish for trout but pretty much any other species except walleye at this time of the year. This discrepancy has rankled some tourism operators in southern Manitoba for a long time. In a year like this one, it will cost them a month and a half of doing business. In a tough economy, they say it is a harsh penalty for antiquated legislation.
Below is a letter sent to government outlining their concerns.
Early spring smallmouth caught in Northwestern Ontario
To whom it may concern:
This letter is being written to address a major concern affecting all tourism operators, and business's in Southern Manitoba. In fact, it effects all Manitoban's in a negative way.
Statistic's show that the sport fishing industry generates approximately 200 million dollars in Manitoba annually. These numbers could dramatically be increased, which in turn would serve to benefit all Manitoban's.
Since 1948 the provincial government has had a "General Closure" policy on spring angling which takes effect on March 31st till the middle of May, or normally the "Mother's Day" weekend.
This grossly out dated closure, in effect, brings a stagnant period of time into play for any business that is associated with the angling industry in this province.
From tourism operations, to the local gas stations, to hotels and motels, and to generally any business that is associated with the angling industry.
There are dozens of small towns that are located in "cottage country" and across southern Manitoba who suffer the effects of this unnecessary closure. Then miraculously, when the fishing season opens, these areas are again generating much needed sales revenue and employing hard working Manitobans. Other business's in the "big city" would even greatly benefit if anglers could get out as soon as the "ice was off". The "Canadian Tire's", and "Cabela's" so to speak would see huge spikes in revenue due to the added benefit of the extra month and a half of open water angling being opened up. Once again, this also spills over to gas bars, motels and many others commercial establishments who offer their service to the public.
Our province once again lags behind other area's that are right next door, such as Ontario, whom we directly compete with. Ontario has got it right. They have incorporated a closure by species policy, not a general closure policy. In Ontario, the walleye season ends on April 15th. However, this does not prevent the angling community to pursue other worth while and entertaining species such as northern pike, smallmouth bass etc. By doing so, the Ontario economy is allowed to continue to thrive and it continues to create employment opportunities associated with the sport fishing industry.
The issue is not tied to any science or common sense approach. If protecting the spawn is at stake, then make the area's that are critical "catch and release". Most anglers wouldn't care about that and would just be happy to be out on the water.
It's time that this province stopped being at the "rear end" of the industry and was proactive in increasing angling opportunities.
It's time that we as Manitobans who are involved in the tourism industry must take a stand.
It's time to end the spring angling closure so all Manitoban's can benefit!