Coronavirus makes start of angling season a risky proposition

By Jim Brown

So far, I haven’t read anything about plans to cancel one of the biggest events of the spring in this country, an event that brings millions of people together in the same week. It’s the opening of trout season, which on PEI starts April 15.

On PEI there are hundreds of places to drop a worm on the opening day of the recreational fishery, but it seems anglers gather at a few favoured hotspots. There is something magical about that first day of the season. Many anglers only fish a few days a year and opening day of trout season is the mother of all festivals. Everyone wants to be out opening day. You only have to drive a few minutes in the Stanley Bridge, Trout River Road and North Granville area to find dozens of anglers clustered together seeking warmth and sharing stories about the big one that got away. It would be like cancelling Christmas Day, but I believe scraping the start of the recreational fishery is essential to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Not worried yet? Angling licenses can be purchased online but there are many fishermen who will still go to grocery and bait and tackle stores to buy them. They’ve always done that and always will. So that means more people lining up at checkout counters as April 15 nears and how many of those will be standing two metres apart?

On April 15, if the season goes ahead, thousands of anglers, from toddlers to doting parents and grandparents, will be gathering at streams, rivers and ponds. And despite pleas from public health authorities they will be drawn to places others are casting a line. Many will be sorely tempted to throw off the shackles of isolation.

It’s just a bad idea to continue this rite of spring in 2020, when a deadly pandemic is stalking the land. Do we want to vastly increase the chances of community spread?

Why did the provincial government close so many non-essential businesses and even threaten to fine Islanders who gathered in numbers that are fewer than what can be found at traditional fishing haunts all across the Island?

There is an urgency to make the announcement as soon as possible, since many grocery stores will likely start stocking worms and tackle. Do we want them spending money they can’t afford to, if a late cancellation to the season means they lose the customers they were counting on?

Fortunately there will be a silver lining or two to cancelling the opening. Perhaps the biggest one is that there will be far fewer cigarette butts, foam coffee cups and beer and liquor bottles near stream beds and far fewer nests of tangled fishing line to ensnare helpless birds and other wildlife. Trout populations could also see a welcome boost in numbers, which could lead to better luck for many anglers next season.