Blue Fish News – January 13th, 2021

In our first issue of the Blue Fish Canada News for 2021, we start with a feature about our relationship with nature and fishing, including a deep dive on angler participation in 2020 with Dr. Steven Cooke from Carleton University. As always, we include a specially curated list of links to timely news about fishing, fish, water and related news. We conclude with part 1 of a multi-part series highlighting the Blue fish Canada “Youth Sustainable Fishing Training Program”.

Editor Lawrence Gunther with his guide dog Moby ice fishing

Special Feature on Health and Angler Participation During the Pandemic

Throughout 2020 Blue Fish Canada published 22 issues of the Blue Fish News that included special features and links to news from across Canada about fishing, fish, and water. Just as importantly, the News featured information about Covid-19 outdoor safety best practices curated from sources around the world and fact-checked as always by our science advisors and local knowledge experts. Blue Fish Canada will continue to ensure our readers have the knowledge to pursue outdoor adventures confidently and safely, and in ways that ensure both the sustainability of both our fisheries, and the environment as a whole.

If there is only one positive thing that came out of 2020, it’s that we deepened our understanding and strengthened our connection with Nature. More importantly, we gained greater awareness of just how much our health and that of nature is interdependent. It’s a connection with nature that means every action generates a reaction, that we need to be healthy to fully appreciate nature, and that we are dependent on nature for our physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing.

The COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding public health mitigation strategies altered many facets of human life. And yet, little is known about how public health measures impacted recreational fisheries. Pandemic-related safety measures were introduced just as anglers were contemplating the re-opening of many recreational fishing seasons across Canada, leading to considerable speculation about the most appropriate path forward – to fish, or not to fish.

Canada’s Federal, Provincial and municipal governments all responded differently with closures, delays, barriers, or encouragement to get outdoors. Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans was one of the only governments in Canada to issue a guidance document advising west coast anglers on how to stay safe. The rest of the world was just as uncertain, but there were several U.S. states that also encouraged their citizens to get outdoors and issued guidance documents of their own. The Blue Fish Canada News reported on these angling safety best practices, and in the May 17 edition of the Blue Fish News issued a comprehensive list of tips to anglers on how to stay safe.

It wasn’t long before governments across Canada fell into line and opened fishing and access to related assets such as boat launches and fishing tackle stores. By early summer it was clear that people were turning to fishing in numbers never before witnessed. Sales of live bait, fishing tackle and boats set new records. What we didn’t know was who were the people doing all this fishing, were they able to stay safe, what was the impact on Canada’s fisheries, and was the economic activity associated with all this fishing benefitting everyone traditionally involved in fishing equally, including guides, local bait and tackle stores, fishing lodges, indigenous communities, and all the other communities that depend on angler activity.

Below are links to two reports that explore the impacts and benefits of angler participation throughout 2020. The first was conducted by Dr. Steven Cooke and his team of researchers at Carleton University’s Cooke lab, and the second is a report out of the U.S. prepared by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. Both reports show that more people fished in 2020 then in any other year, based on available data, and that anglers themselves seemed to have done so without having caused the pandemic to spread, either among anglers, or the places where the fishing took place.

The study undertaken by Carleton University’s Cooke Lab went further and determined that all this fishing wasn’t being undertaken in response to food insecurity. In other words, people weren’t fishing necessarily to avoid going into grocery stores, or to feed their families because they lost their jobs. That’s not to say that there weren’t anglers who approached angling with this in mind, but the studies are clear that people were fishing because they had more time on their hands during shutdowns, they wanted to do something safe with their families where they could easily bubble outside the home, and that they found fishing to be a terrific way to maintain sound mental health. Other than ordering food and other products on-line, recreational fishing was also one of the handful of positive economic drivers during what was otherwise a troublesome year for small business.

Link here to listen to the Blue Fish Radio interview with Dr. Steven Cooke about the survey his team of researchers conducted involving close to 1,000 anglers in the province of Ontario:

More about the Cooke Lab survey on 2020 Impacts of “Covid-19 Restrictions and recreational fisheries in Ontario”, – Center for Open Science

Using a web-based online snowball survey, Carleton University’s Cooke Laboratory targeted resident anglers in Ontario to learn how the pandemic impacted recreational fishing and related activity. Angler perspectives on pandemic-related restrictions and fisheries management were also surveyed. Approximately 20% of the anglers who responded to the Cooke Lab survey self-identified as either beginners or as former anglers returning to the sport. Motivations to fish included free time, to maintain mental and physical health, and a desire to be more self-sufficient. Survey results underscored the value of recreational fishing for maintaining mental and physical well-being, and the overall socio-economic popularity and value of outdoor recreation during a pandemic.

And here’s a link to the RBFF Report, US Study Finds Fishing & Boating Rose to Historic Popularity in 2020 – Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation

Millions of Americans took up fishing or boating as new or returning participants during summer 2020. A 2020 research report issued by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation found that New anglers and boaters are younger, more urban and more diverse. They are also highly socially connected. Their reasons for getting started included canceled vacations and summer plans, more flexible schedules while working from home, and inspiration from family and friends.

The Latest Fishing, Fish and Water News


Socially distanced fishing helps life feel a little more normal – The Herald

Like many devoted anglers, I suffered withdrawal symptoms when regional waterways were declared off limits this past spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, the new normal allows for fishing, a sport whose moral principals insist on effective social distancing. Managing a polite distance from others is well-ingrained behavior for fly fishers who swing a Purple Marabou for steelhead. Indeed, most of us fly fishers would prefer never to see another person on our favorite run.

Kokanee return in droves – Kelowna Daily Courier

If you thought you saw more kokanee salmon spawning in local creeks and along the shore of Okanagan Lake than usual this fall, you were right.

When is a trout a salmon and what difference does it make? – Daily Hampshire Gazette – Earth Matters

When I was fly fishing for pink salmon some years ago in the Pacific Northwest, I hooked an enormous steelhead, which is a sea-run rainbow trout. That steelhead was twice the size of the five-pound salmon I’d caught. All salmon migrate to saltwater and many trout do as well, although only steelhead and brown trout spend long periods in the sea. Even some strains of brook trout migrate for a few months to the ocean. Some species die after spawning (the five Pacific salmon) while others return to the sea (Atlantic salmon as well as brown and rainbow trout). So, there’s no real reason to differentiate trout from salmon.

The B.C. fish you’ve likely never heard of that’s confounding trawlers and officials – CBC News.

Bocaccio rockfish have made a huge comeback in B.C. since being deemed endangered in 2013, but the success story is being met with some trepidation. Bocaccio rockfish are found off the coast of British Columbia and often captured by fishermen targeting other groundfish species such as cod, sole or halibut.

New DFO regulations ensure tougher approach to rebuilding fish stocks – CBC News.

Canada is putting rebuilding depleted commercial fish stocks into law, starting with Atlantic cod off Newfoundland, spring spawning herring in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and three Pacific salmon stocks. DFO would have up to three years to come up with a rebuilding plan once a stock has reached what is known as the “lower reference point” — the point where a population is undergoing serious, ongoing harm.

The Old Man and the New Sea – Hakai Magazine (available in print and audio)

Three generations of the Hamada family have fished British Columbia’s coast. Will the latest generation outlive the salmon they seek?


Pacific salmon 2021 outlook – Watershed Watch Salmon Society

Greg Taylor provides a summary of DFO’s preliminary outlook for 2021 Pacific salmon returns in B.C. — and he pulls no punches. The 2020 salmon season was the worst on record for many salmon stocks. In their summary, DFO states, ‘expectations for (2021) salmon returns are low and similar to 2020.’

Piscivory in recovering Lake Michigan cisco – Journal of Great Lakes Research

Contemporary conditions in Lake Michigan where cisco populations are expanding are vastly different from those encountered by the historic fish community. The top three prey items in the diet of Lake Michigan cisco now consists of non-native prey found in the Great Lakes, accounting for 87% of all observed prey mass consumed, such as round Goby, alewife, and B. longimanus.

Concern as Chinook salmon added to endangered species list in British Columbia – Angling International.

Fishery experts are concerned that Chinook salmon have been added to the endangered species list in British Columbia. Of 28 southern groups assessed in the state, only two have been identified as not at risk. Conservation groups and scientists are warning that hatchery fish will pass on inferior traits and that successive generations could be unfit for the wild.

Miramichi watershed Smallmouth eradication update – Atlantic Salmon Federation

Partners behind the effort to eradicate invasive smallmouth bass from the Miramichi watershed are awaiting a decision from the New Brunswick government that will determine if the project can proceed this year, or at all. This article offers a rundown of the major elements of the plan.

The rise of the land salmon – The Narwhal

Canada’s Narwhal online magazine recently published a 3-part series on the future of Atlantic salmon aquaculture, including an in-depth look at the growing trend to move salmon farming out of the ocean and on to land. Over 75 land-based salmon farms are now operational or being built around the world, including two in Canada, and the new operation near Miami Florida expected to meet over half of the demand in the U.S. – twice the number of salmon currently being farmed along Canada’s west coast.

BC’s Discovery Island Salmon farm sites to be removed over next 18 months – Atlantic Salmon Federation

In a major victory for the future of Pacific salmon, DFO has announced it will phase out some open net-pen salmon aquaculture sites off Vancouver Island.

Big Fish: The Aquacultural Revolution – Hakai Magazine (available in print and audio)

As the world’s population swells to 9.7 billion, industry and governments say aquaculture is the way to provide protein to the people—if that’s true, can we learn from the past and avoid screwing over the planet and each other?

Canada’s GMO salmon: frankenfish or food of the future? – The Narwhal

As the aquaculture industry tinkers with fish DNA to feed the world’s growing population more efficiently, critics say we’re moving too far, too fast without adequate transparency. Canadians with an appetite for salmon may have already consumed the world’s first genetically modified food animal without even knowing it.


Alberta to allow new coal strip mines that could kill four blue-ribbon trout rivers – Outdoor Canada.

Proposed new coal strip mines now threaten some of Alberta’s best trout streams—the Ram, Livingstone, Oldman and Crowsnest Rivers—with toxic waste. Angling and environmental groups have joined with ranchers, farmers and rural municipal governments to fight these proposals, but the outcome is far from certain.

NB Power files for removal of Milltown Dam on St. Croix River – Atlantic Salmon Federation

On December 21st the power utility submitted its Milltown Dam removal project to provincial regulators, kicking off a public and agency review process. The dam removal is a major piece of an international river restoration effort on the St. Croix which runs along the Maine-New Brunswick border.

Michigan/Illinois Invasive Carp Project Moves Forward – The Fishing Wire

The project to fight Asian carp invasion is made possible by funding from both states as well as the Federal Government. The governors of Illinois and Michigan today agreed to work jointly to protect the Great Lakes from invasive Asian carp species. The Brandon Road Lock and Dam in the Chicago Area Waterway System near Joliet, Illinois, is a critical pinch point for keeping bighead, silver and black carp – the invasive Asian carp species of greatest concern – out of the Great Lakes. The Brandon Road project would install layered technologies including an electric barrier, underwater sound, an air bubble curtain and a flushing lock in a newly engineered channel designed to prevent invasive carp movement while allowing barge passage.

Migratory fish corridors planned in dismantling of Montreal’s old Champlain Bridge – CTV News.

Workers will soon complete the construction of migratory corridors for fish in the St. Lawrence River as dismantling work on the old Champlain Bridge between Montreal and the South Shore continues. The project will reduce the impact on fish in the river. The two migratory corridors should be operational for the fish migration and the spawning season, next spring. More than forty species frequent the area where the St. Lawrence River widens between the Lachine Rapids and the Victoria Bridge, including bass, lake sturgeon, walleye and black perch. These species are all likely to inhabit the area of the river where the construction work for the jetty and the dismantling of the old bridge are located.

The Great Lakes, North America’s greatest resource, faces many threats – National Geographic.

Almost 40 million Americans and Canadians live in the Great Lakes watershed. We drink from the lakes, fish on them, transport goods over them, farm their shores, and work in cities that wouldn’t exist without the lakes. And of course, we pollute them. We’ve introduced invasive species that have permanently altered the lakes. The fertilizers we use to grow the corn we feed to the animals we eat and to make the biofuels we pump into our vehicles have contributed to the resurgence of algal blooms so large they can be seen from space. And with our ongoing emission of greenhouse gases, we’ve even managed to reengineer the weather over vast stretches of the Great Lakes watershed, increasing the frequency of severe storms.


Indigenous Systems of Management for Culturally and Ecologically Resilient Pacific Salmon – Oxford University Press

Traditional technologies, harvesting practices and management systems could bring endangered populations back from the brink. More than 20 co-authors, including scientists and community leaders, conclude that revitalizing Indigenous fishing management systems and technologies — such as dip nets, fish traps and weirs — could support the sustainable harvest of salmon and strengthen Indigenous governance, unlike contemporary management systems, which have contributed to declining populations.


Buzz Ramsey calls it a day after fifty years – Angling International.

One of the fishing tackle industry’s best-known figures has retired after five decades and three leading brands. Buzz Ramsey, 70, left his job as Brand Manager with Yakima Bait on New Year’s Day. Ramsey is an accomplished lure designer and had considerable influence on baits including Luhr Jensen’s KwikFish and Yakima Bait’s Mag Lip and FlatFish. The 30lb 5oz steelhead he caught in the Thompson River, British Columbia, was a world record at the time. In retirement, Buzz plans to continue working to find a solution for removing the four Snake River dams and recovering the fishery’s salmon stock.

Bass Pro outlines its plans for Sportsman’s Warehouse – Angling International.

The Great American Outdoors Group, parent company of Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s and White River Marine, added the 112-store chain to its portfolio in a deal valued at around $800 million.


Closure of new funding round totaling $37.5m for New Electric Outboard – Angling International.

Seattle’s Pure Watercraft first product is an electric outboard motor system with the propulsion equivalent of up to 50HP gas outboards. Its long-life lithium-ion battery has the most energy for weight of any battery pack in marine – about the same as that of a Tesla Model 3. “The quiet power offers a big advantage to catch more fish,” says TV host and pro bass angler, Troy Lindner.

Boat Licensing Changes proposed by Transport Canada – OFAH.

Do you use a boat with an outboard motor (10 horsepower or greater) that requires a Pleasure Craft Licence (PCL)? Or are you planning on applying for a Pleasure Craft Operator Card? If so, Transport Canada is proposing changes that will impact you.

NMMA Reports U.S. Boat Sales Reached 13-Year High in 2020 – Fishing Wire.

The NMMA reported today that retail unit sales of new powerboats in the U.S. increased last year by an estimated 12 percent compared to 2019. More than 310,000 new powerboats were sold in 2020. Sales of personal watercraft, including Jet Ski, Sea Doo and WaveRunner are up 8%, wake boat sales are up 20%, and sales of freshwater fishing boats and pontoons boats, which accounted for 50 percent of new powerboats sold in 2020, are up 12%.

Special Focus on the Blue Fish Canada “Youth Sustainable Fishing Training Program” – Part 1

Throughout 2021 Blue Fish Canada will continue to provide biweekly news with a focus on what we need to know and do to ensure we can strengthen and maintain our respective and collective one health relationships with nature now and into the future. This includes up-dates on actions underway to mitigate climate change, and measures being taken to improve both human and nature’s resilience to the impacts already being felt because of these changes. In addition to presenting in depth specials and links to relevant news, we will be including calls to action, both collectively and individually.

Now more than ever the future of our fisheries and nature depends on us doing things smarter. Traditions are important, but given the level of pollution, climate change, development, and advancements in innovations, it’s up to all of us to adopt science-based best practices in ways that make sense using our tremendous local knowledge. Learn more about the Blue Fish Canada “Youth Sustainable Fishing Training Program” to make sure the next generation of recreational anglers and their mentors have the tools needed to carry on the ancient practice of fishing confidently knowing that they are using the best available knowledge.

About us:

You can read current and back issues of Blue Fish Canada’s Newsletters by visiting:

For more about Lawrence Gunther, North America’s only blind professional angler, conservationist, writer, blogger, podcaster, film maker and TV personality, visit:

Gunther founded the charity Blue Fish Canada in 2012 and launched the podcast Blue Fish Radio in 2013.

Please rate The Blue fish Radio Show on Apple Podcast so others will learn of this unique Canadian resource by visiting:

Should you have a podcast suggestion or resource you would like to share, please send us a message to:

Blue Fish Canada is a federally incorporated registered Canadian charity. Please consider making a small monthly donation to off-set the costs of this Newsletter and our other Blue Fish Canada programs by visiting: