Muskie or Mayhem on the Ottawa River?

The year 2019 will go down as one of the least promising starts to a Muskie season eastern Canada’s legendary Ottawa River has ever witnessed. The combination of 100-year spring floods, and then  the four consecutive fish kills that took place just upstream on one of the Ottawa’s tributaries during the month of July, had anglers more than just a bit worried about the River’s revered Muskie population.

No doubt, measuring fish health is extremely difficult given that it involves the capture, observation and sampling of many hundreds of fish. But, this is exactly what recreational anglers do, and if fish and their habitat were in serious decline, there would have been a huge outcry. The fact that recreational anglers haven’t sounded the warning bell is a good sign, and the numerous positive early fall Muskie-capture reports backs this up.

Sadly, it’s become normal for people to think we humans have irrevocably messed things up. So much bad news inundates us daily – floods, raw sewage releases, fish kills, nuclear waste, warming temperatures, invasive species, micro plastics, extreme weather — the list of issues that need to be monitored and fixed is growing daily. But just maybe, people should go look for themselves.

It’s up to all of us anglers to convince others to put their screens down, pick up a fishing rod, and have a feel. People are always amazed just how much life is thriving below the surface out-of-sight. Fishing is one of the few ways people are able to “see-it-to-believe-it”, and then, like all anglers, they become a steward of the resource.

Blue Fish Canada is working hard to inform and inspire anglers to serve as stewards to ensure the largely unseen voiceless creatures that reside in Canada’s many lakes, rivers and three oceans are able to get on with the business of eating and spawning. So the next time you hear in the media that we busted yet another aquatic or marine ecosystem, grab a fishing rod and get down to your favorite fishing hole to see for yourself. Those who do the science, enforcement and regulations depend on anglers for real-time citizen observations to know when actions are required to sort things out.

Lawrence Gunther is North America’s only blind professional angler, outdoor writer, podcaster and film maker, and the founder and president of Blue Fish Canada. Catch his Blue Fish Radio podcast each week.