Blue Fish News – April 03, 2023

What’s new at Blue Fish Canada: After one of the most sunless winters in a while, we start by exploring the connection between fishing and mental health, mental preparedness, and mindfulness with three experts in the field. Also included is a closer look at the $420 million the federal government pledged to clean up the Great Lakes, and so much more. Otherwise, Blue Fish Canada is putting final touches to youth fishing and conservation programs, knowing open water fishing season isn’t far off.

Editor Lawrence Gunther and his son Theo on Charleston Lake

This Week’s Feature – Mental Health and Recreational Fishing

By L. Gunther

Much needed discussion about mental health is permeating not just media but conversations among families, friends and colleagues. While causing discomfort, it’s a whole lot better than how things use to be when the consequences of people reaching their limits were written off as a failure of character. Thankfully, growing awareness of the relationship between sound mental health and the health of the environment is resulting in people becoming more mindful about time and place.

Therapists like Paul Michael White, author and contributor to his new book “Tales of the Great Outdoors”, are speaking openly about their mental health experience and insights. Competitive anglers like Morgan McLean, a member of Canada’s fly fishing team about to represent Canada at the next Commonwealth Games, understand the importance of team spirit and maintaining a “winning” attitude. And then there are registered psychotherapists like Alexandra Euteneier who are including in their practice mindfulness best practices and the benefits of time spent in the outdoors. All three are guests on my latest episode of The Blue Fish Radio Show. Link below to watch the episode “Mental Health, Positive Thinking and Mindfulness in the Outdoors” on YouTube: Or, link to the podcast:

What draws many of us to fishing is the excitement of the chase. The pre-fishing preparation of our equipment, the planning of the adventure itself, and the anticipation of the early morning alarm that signals the beginning of the adventure can be both exciting and terrifying. But we do it because we feel so much better afterwards. What is it that causes this feeling of bliss and accomplishment, even if we come home empty handed?

Maybe it’s the stress reduction we experience while fishing. Fishing is almost always relaxing and peaceful, two essential elements needed to reduce stress levels. Just the act of casting a line can calm the mind.

Fishing also requires concentration and focus, which can help to promote mindfulness. This can be beneficial for people who struggle with negative thoughts or have difficulty staying in the present moment. We all know what it’s like to spend a day on a boat with someone who can’t stop talking about their spouse, their job, their health issues, etc., it’s all one can do to try to get the person to focus on what’s right in front of them.

Regardless of how a fellow angler ends up on our boat, fishing is still a social activity. Understandably, for some, fishing is an opportunity to get away from people and charge their batteries, but for many others, fishing provides much needed social connection and temporary relief from loneliness, especially as we are increasingly working alone from our homes.

To just go fishing is often more than enough to perk us up, but to actually catch fish can provide a tremendous sense of accomplishment. It triggers that innate feeling of what our early ancestors experienced when returning from the hunt with game-in-hand. Even if we are practicing catch-and-release, fishing can still boost our self-esteem.

And last but certainly not least, fishing provides outdoor exercise, and given that “sitting is the new smoking”, getting away from the desk and into the outdoors can leave us feeling pleasantly exhausted at the end of the day.

So if recreational fishing can be a beneficial activity for improving mental health and well-being, why do some put all this at risk by introducing a competitiveness aspect to the activity? Never mind the fishing partner that feels compelled to count every fish they catch throughout the day, taking time to measure the bigger ones, and expecting you to do the same in order to keep a scoreboard of sorts.

I’m talking about people who travel incredible distances, hand over large amounts of money to register for a competitive event, are willing to take time off work to pre-fish the water body in advance, and then suffer the humiliation when they end up near the back of the pack. What is it that drives competitive anglers to turn what for many is an escape from the pressures of life, into something that far exceeds normal levels of stress and anxiety? People who risk it all for the thrill of competing against others, and the recognition of being crowned the best of the bunch when their stars align.

Having fished in over 150 competitive events myself for everything from salmon to perch, muskie to carp, trout to snook, and more, I must admit, competitive fishing is a thrill that can become somewhat addictive. But to be successful, you first need to accept that competitive fishing requires a totally different mental approach compared to recreational fishing.

As a good friend and highly successful competitive bass angler once told me while the two of us were fishing a tournament, “if you’re having fun, you aren’t fishing hard enough”. Here are some key mental factors to consider when it comes to competitive fishing.

Competitive fishing requires intense focus and concentration for extended periods of time. Anglers need to stay focused on the water, their equipment, and their strategy to be successful. As someone without sight, I have an advantage over sighted competitors when it comes to visual distractions.

Competitive fishing is also mentally challenging, especially if the fish aren’t biting or if conditions are difficult. Anglers need to be mentally tough and resilient to keep their focus and not get discouraged. I don’t know how many times I’ve fished with others who mentally fall apart within 30 minutes of the start of a competition because they haven’t caught a fish, or a big fish got off, or their equipment failed. I even asked one such angler why they persist in competing when it’s obvious they are miserable for most of the time. It’s not easy to maintain a positive attitude no matter how difficult the conditions are, and especially when other anglers are catching fish and you aren’t.

In competitive fishing, conditions can change quickly, and anglers need to be able to adapt their strategy and techniques accordingly. This requires mental flexibility and the ability to think on your feet. It also justifies our immense amounts of tackle and fishing rods. I like to point out that even golfers head out on the course with a golf bag full of clubs.

Without doubt, anglers who are confident in their abilities and their strategy are more likely to be successful in competitive fishing. Confidence comes from practice, preparation, and past successes, and isn’t something that can be bought with money – premier fishing boats, the best rods and reels, the most tackle — a confident angler can catch fish with a cane pole.

At the end of the day, even if you aren’t crowned as the top dog, it’s important to undergo an objective re-cap of the day. Simply writing off your loss to bad luck, or the winner getting lucky isn’t constructive. Learning to pass through these feelings and out the other side is essential if you’re going to learn something from the loss. Remember, we celebrate our wins, we learn from our failures.

I know sometimes my fishing partners find it annoying that I want to talk about a crappy day of fishing we just experienced when they would rather forget about the day and move on. But, it’s crucial to learn from our mistakes so we don’t keep making the same ones — the definition of “crazy”.

In the next issue of the Blue Fish News I’ll examine the linkage between our wellbeing and that of nature. Accepting, understanding and respecting this relationship is more important than ever as threats to biodiversity and the planet as a whole continue to increase.

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Fish Habitat News


Canadian Jeff Gustafson finds $300,000 of BASSMASTER CLASSIC GOLD with Mega Live Imaging / FishingWire
After a dominating event in 2021 which saw Humminbird and Minn Kota pro Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson secure his first Bassmaster Elite Series win, a return to the Tennessee River out of Knoxville, Tennessee was all the more rewarding for the Kenora, Ontario native. Through three days of intense competition and changing conditions, Gustafson saw light at the end of the tunnel on his Humminbird MEGA Live™ imaging and became the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic champion. “To come back to the place where I was able to win an Elite Series event fishing how I like, and do virtually the same thing during the Bassmaster Classic, it feels awesome,” said Gustafson.

How does a fisherman know when his industry is in trouble? The shower is closed / West Coast Now
Joel Collier’s experience last summer made him realize that B.C.’s small-boat fishery will disappear without drastic action.

DFO slaps 3 B.C. men with combined $113K in illegal fishing fines / Global News
Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced more than $100,000 in fines against three men for separate illegal fishing incidents dating back to 2018. The largest set of fines, totaling $49,704.68, was issued against Adrian Slavko Kern, a commercial fisherman the DFO said illegally deployed fishing gear to catch halibut and sablefish in the Chatham Sound area near Prince Rupert in September 2018.

The Alberta Conservation Authority Wants to Hear From You / ACA
The ACA wants to hear your opinions and experiences about angling in Alberta. They need your insights to help enhance Alberta’s fishing experience regarding locations, frequency, and target species. Fill out the short survey and be entered to win a prize!

The inside story of how DFO officers caught and prosecuted a repeat poacher near Prince Rupert / West Coast Now
Three-time convicted Prince Rupert poacher Adrian Slavko Kern received an eight-month fishing ban and $49,704.68 in fines for a fourth offence last October. The Kern case, based on the illegal catch of 154 halibut and 467 sablefish in Chatham Sound near Prince Rupert, highlighted all the human, technical, and legal complexities of modern fisheries enforcement.

Men Plead Guilty in Erie Walleye Tournament Scandal / FishingWire
Last fall the tournament fishing world was set ablaze by the scandalous activity of a couple of walleye tournament anglers cheating to win a tournament on Sept. 30, 2022 by adding lead to their fish. Last fall the two men, Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominsky pleaded not guilty in their first court date. However on Monday, March 27, 2023 just moments before their trial in Cuyahoga County Court was set to start, the pair changed their tune and admitted to the charges of cheating, a fifth-degree felony, and unlawful ownership of wild animals, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

Lake Erie Committee Sets Yellow Perch and Walleye Total Allowable Catches for 2023 / GLFC
THE setting of TOTAL ALLOWABLE CATCHES by commercial fishers on Lake Erie for Perch and Walleye is facilitated by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, a Canada and U.S. treaty organization.

Yellow perch Total Allowable Catch for 2023 is 6.573 million pounds, a 9% decrease from 2022. Poor recruitment of yellow perch in the central basin of Lake Erie continues to be a challenge. Ontario will receive 3.155 million pounds, Ohio 2.480 million pounds, Michigan 0.221 million pounds, New York 0.181 million pounds, and Pennsylvania 0.536 million pounds. The decision is the result of deliberations among scientists, managers, and consultation with stakeholders through the Lake Erie Percid Management Advisory Group.

The Lake Erie walleye total allowable catch for 2023 is 13.526 million fish, a 7% decrease from 2022 of 14.533 million fish. Overall, the walleye populations have increased compared to last year’s abundance, the average size of fish is smaller, resulting in a lower population biomass. Ohio will be entitled to 6.913 million fish, Ontario 5.824 million fish, and Michigan 0.789 million fish. THE LAKE ERIE PERCID MANAGEMENT ADVISORY GROUP consists of senior representatives from all provincial and state jurisdictions on the lake, recreational fishers, commercial fishers, and other interested organizations.


Football-sized goldfish cloning themselves in B.C., Ontario waters / Weather Network
The fish are hardy and reproduce quickly – releasing up to 50,000 eggs at a time, three times a summer. Out west, experts are tracking goldfish invasions in lakes near Terrace, Quesnel, and Whistler.

Study: Lake Erie fish safe to eat, but still suffering / Food and Environment Reporting Network
A study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment shows that while Lake Erie fish fillets are safe to eat, the fish themselves may not be doing so well. In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers over multiple years gathered samples of walleye, yellow perch, white bass, and white perch before, during, and after harmful algal blooms appeared in the lake’s western, west-central and east-central basins. They then measured the amount of microcystins — a class of toxins produced during some algal blooms — in the animals’ livers.

Changing salmon hatchery release practices can improve survival rates, study finds / CBC
A first-of-its kind study in British Columbia suggests salmon hatcheries could improve survival rates by optimizing the weight of the juvenile fish and the timing of their release.

Federal Researchers Say Two Widely Used Pesticides Harm Many Endangered Fish Species / OPP.Org
The National Marine Fisheries Service issued a draft of its biological opinion Thursday concluding that continued use of insect-killing chemicals containing carbaryl or methomyl likely jeopardizes dozens of endangered fish species — including Chinook salmon, coho salmon, sockeye, and steelhead in the Columbia, Willamette, and Snake rivers.

Investigation into how Fisheries and Oceans Canada conducts and communicates science / National Observer
An investigation into how Fisheries and Oceans Canada conducts and communicates science culminated in 49 recommendations. Among them is a call to nix a mandate to promote aquaculture since that can compete with conservation.

Why sea creatures are washing up dead around the world / Washington Post
Dead fish in Florida. Beached whales in New Jersey. Sea urchins, starfish and crayfish washing ashore in New Zealand. Millions of rotting fish clogging up a river in the Australian outback. A mass fish die-off in Poland. Around the world, freshwater and marine creatures are dying in large numbers, leaving experts to puzzle over the cause. Here’s a look at some of the events that led to the deaths of swaths of aquatic creatures around the globe in the past year.

For the First Time, Scientists Can Predict Traits for All Fish Worldwide / NOAA
The combination of traits a given species has developed to adapt to its niche and  environment makes up its life history strategy. The new model uses 33 traits—describing size, growth, reproduction, parental care, lifespan and more— to classify more than 34,000 fish species among three dominant strategy types. The results will inform ecosystem-based fisheries management, help forecast consequences of climate change, and advance our understanding of evolutionary relationships.

A Look Into the World of Electrofishing / FishingWire
Do you ever wonder how biologists are able to catch and sample so many fish? They cheat! Biologists commonly use electrofishing methods to “stun” fish so that they can easily be caught.


New UBC water treatment zaps ‘forever chemicals’ for good / Water Canada
Engineers at the University of British Columbia have developed a new water treatment that removes “forever chemicals” from drinking water safely, efficiently – and for good. There are more than 4,700 PFAS in use, mostly in raingear, non-stick cookware, stain repellents and firefighting foam. Research links these chemicals to a wide range of health problems including hormonal disruption, cardiovascular disease, developmental delays and cancer.

Report Synthesizing Scientific and Fishing Industry Knowledge on Fishing And Offshore Wind Energy / RODA
The “Synthesis of the Science” project was a key first step toward jointly building a regional fisheries and offshore science agenda. RODA brought together fishermen, fishing industry representatives, federal and state agency experts, wind energy developers, academics, and other prominent scientists from the U.S. and Europe to attend the workshop and contribute to the report. The report enhances understanding of existing science and data gaps related to offshore wind energy development interactions with fish and fisheries on regional and broader levels. Ecological knowledge of the fishing industry participants was incorporated into all of the report topics covering: ecosystem effects , fisheries socioeconomics, fisheries management and data collection, methods and approaches, and regional science planning. The stakeholder symposium and subsequent report were Funded by NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center. The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance is a broad membership-based coalition of fishing industry associations and fishing companies — across the United States — committed to improving the compatibility of new offshore development with their businesses.

How the health of a river is influenced by what’s happening on land / CBC
The North Saskatchewan River and its surrounding watershed covers almost 100,000 square-kilometres across Alberta and Saskatcehewan and is home to 1.7 million people. What factors affect the health of the North Saskatchewan watershed, and what is being done to improve water quality and quantity as we continue to feel the effects of climate change?

SMRA awarded $1.56 million for habitat restoration / Guysborough Journal
The St. Mary’s River Association (SMRA) has received $1.56 million from the federal government to further its decade-long work of restoring the fabled river, where Babe Ruth once cast a line for salmon.

What happened to The Ocean Cleanup — the system that would rid the oceans of plastic? / ABC
The Ocean Cleanup, brainchild of young Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat, was feted as the beginning of the end for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Ten years from its inception, is it any closer to achieving its goal?


When Indigenous Rights, Conservation, and a Very Lucrative Fishery Collide / Sierra Club
Alagum Kanuux is one of five marine sanctuaries proposed by Indigenous groups that are currently in progress; others are in waters off California, New York, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Each sanctuary has a unique history, politics, and legal setup. Out of all the applicants, only the St. Paul Aleuts are a federally recognized tribe. Pollock is America’s biggest fishery by volume, and in 2019, Bering Sea trawlers’ catch fetched $1.55 billion wholesale. Highly consolidated and mainly controlled by out-of-state owners, the pollock sector exerts a whale-size influence on both the area’s small communities and its regulator, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.


Blue Fish Radio: Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson’s formula for fishing success / Outdoor Canada
Kenora, Ontario’s Jeff Gustafson, known throughout the fishing world as “Gussy”, wins the 53rd annual Bassmaster Classic Championship in Knoxville, Tennessee. After three days of intense competition and varying conditions, Gussy emerged victorious, catching a total of 42 pounds and 7 ounces of Tennessee River smallmouth bass. Gussy guided his first paying angling client at age 14, and remains highly regarded for his good nature and humility. On this episode of Blue Fish Radio, recorded in 2019, Gussy talks about the keys to his fishing success including hard work, having a conservation mindset and staying focussed on your goals. Link below to listen to the interview:

Scientists and Local Champions:

Sign up to be a Water Steward this Summer! / ISC
The best way to manage invasive species is to prevent them from establishing in the first place, and that’s where you can help. The Invading Species Awareness Program (ISAP) is looking for new and returning volunteers in the Durham, Haliburton, Kawartha, and Pine Ridge regions, to join our Water Steward Program.

Water Canada Advisory Board New Appointee / FOCA
Federation of Ontario Cottagers Aassociation’s Executive Director Terry Rees has been named to the 2023-24 Water Canada Advisory Board. FOCA represents thousands of cottage associations and over 50,000 cottage and shoreline property owners. Learn more from Water Canada’s extensive online resources.

Coming Up:

2023 St Lawrence River Muskie Anglers Workshop / Muskies Canada
Muskies Canada has organized a webinar to inform St Lawrence River Muskie Anglers about significant work supporting muskie management, and how Musky anglers can get involved. Guest Speakers include Dr. John Farrell from the Thousand Islands Biological Station, and Matt Windle from the St. Lawrence River Institute. A representative from the Lake Ontario Management Unit of MNRF Ontario will address Muskellunge programming for 2023. To participate please send your name and email to: Timing is Saturday, April 8th at 9: am – 12: pm.

Special Guest Feature – Canada commits $420 million for Great Lakes

(notes from the Canadian Press)

On March 24, 2023, Canada committed to spend $420 million to Clean-Up the Great Lakes. This follows an earlier pledge made by the U.S. in 2021 to spend $1 billion over five years to improve Great Lakes ecosystems.

Canada plans to use the money to clean up a series of pollution hot spots. Three in Lake Superior and four in Lake Ontario are in Canadian waters, while another four are in waters shared by both countries.

Total Areas Of Concern in the Great Lakes total 43:

  • 12 in Canada
  • Five that are shared binationally
  • 26 in the U.S.

With three sites already remediated, it’s part of the Canadian government’s plan to clean up 12 of the 14 worst sites in the lakes by 2030.

In addition to mounting a big push on invasive species involving the efforts of anglers, the government’s goals include reducing phosphorus going into Lake Erie from Canadian sources by more than 200 tonnes within 15 years. Funding will also go to efforts to stop harmful algae blooms generated by agricultural run-off, as well as preventing harmful chemicals from entering those waters, which represent 20 per cent of world’s surface freshwater and provide drinking water for 40 million people.

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