Monday, September 4, 2017

Less XBoxes and more Tackle Boxes- Gamers to Anglers

It’s the last weekend of the summer and if you have a preteen- teenager- tweenager boy in the house you might also be at your wits end with the amount of screen time this summer.

George Foxworthy has the redneck jokes, but if you could change that to Parent of a Gamers jokes it might go like this.

If by Labour Day your child’s skin colour is still white as snow, you might be Parent of a Gamer.

If your son asks to get more AA batteries for the wii remotes but the grass is two weeks over due for a cut and the lawnmower needs no gas, you might be a Parent of a Gamer.

If your home internet usage is more after 2 am than at 10 am, you might be a Parent of a Gamer.

I come from a generation where gaming was first introduced. Pong, Pacman, and Frogger. In grade school I had only a few friends who liked to play video games and there were many hours burned up looking at tube style TVs and hyped up on Jolt Cola. It was a novelty though as it would be a bit of a flash in the pan and then we were back out to play doing whatever else indoors or outside.

I do think things have changed since 30 years ago when it comes to the number of young gamers, particularly young boys from maybe 7 to 27 that are to call video games a novelty with a short shelf life. Instead more and more treat video games as a decent way to pass time. Or worst yet, can be considered addicted to gaming and find friends with very similar interests.

An interesting stat compared to my childhood the 1970s and 80’s, children now spend 50 percent less time in unstructured outdoor activities. Children ages 10 to 16 now spend, on average, only 12.6 minutes per day in vigorous physical activity. Yet they spend an average of 10.4 waking hours each day relatively motionless.

A pole showed these following reasons as the top excuses why kids prefer not going outside.

• 80 percent said it was uncomfortable to be outdoors due to things like bugs and heat • 62 percent said they did not have transportation to natural areas, and • 61 percent said there were not natural areas near their homes.

Let’s not put the blame entirely on the kids, additionally a survey of Parents of Gamers showed that 50% were worried they might get hit in traffic when playing outside and 40% fear kidnapping by strangers.

Let’s instead think of Gamers as potential anglers of the future. I think there is an opportunity here if we look at it slightly different. Kids that are Gamers have what attributes? I think they are driven to find the ways to win. They will find enjoyment when they do succeed. They essentially are not scared of a challenge. If looking at fishing and what it takes to catch fish, it is about being persistent to try and catch fish. Where fishing doesn’t match up, it’s where you can try very hard, even do everything correctly, but you might not succeed. You might not catch a fish or as many fish as last time. Measuring success is not about how many levels you made to get where you are. It like starting a new video game every day.

In July I had to pleasure in having returning guests to the boat. A father and son annual fishing trip. This time, however, the son invited his friend to come along for a fishing trip. His first time ever fishing. The two late teenager boys are self-proclaimed gamers. So much so that in the past I remember the teenager arriving at the dock in the morning without sleeping after hours of gaming throughout the night. No pity we said, “fish will not wait for us, lets get out there”

This year was very interesting because his friend Steven was seeing fishing for the first time. This was like starting a brand new video game, to him. After fitting lifejackets and explaining the safety items on the boat and what to expect for fishing that morning, we motored out to our fishing grounds. In a side conversation I was told he suffers from anxiety and gaming is one of the many triggers that sets him off. Steven is addicted to gaming but also addicted to his school work. Second addiction doesn’t sound too bad right? It is bad. He doesn’t except having anything less than perfect and he works and works until it is.

His anxieties over the dangers of water, the fear of losing a fish and wondered if his inexperience will take away from the experience of others throughout the trip, had him bashful of participating fully. Having new to fishing people on a trip I try to explain that we don’t catch every fish we hook and sometimes we don’t always hook a fish to begin with. Its fishing. Measuring success is not possible. Each day we are handed a new units of measure. A big fish to one person is a small fish to another. 1 fish is a lot of fish some days, and 20 fish can be less than expected on some days. Success in fishing is not equally calibrated by measured by levels in a video game, or number of points. Maybe the lack of true measure is exactly what a gamer needs as an alternative to see success differently?

Steven’s anxiety was interrupted 10 minutes into our trip when I handed him the rod with a fish on the other end, taking line off the reel while it was in his hands. He was no longer anxious as his concentration was fully on the task at hand. The feeling of a powerful fish, the sound of the reel drag screaming for mercy was obviously like no video controller could ever simulate.

“What do I do? what do I do?” he said. We smiled and like it was already understood by the rest of us on the boat, “welcome to fishing, enjoy this, this doesn’t happen every day”. He learned quickly while working the rod and reel to fight the fish toward the boat and it was nearly within sight at the back of the boat when the line broke.

Steven had no time to be disappointed, the other downrigger rod popped up and I hand over another rod to place in his hand. This time he worked the rod like he was experienced. I wondered if the quick learning and dexterity was from gaming. Maybe a gamer’s brain is trained to adjust and learn quickly or you lose the game. He brought in his first fish an 11 lbs Lake Trout.

If you are a Parent of a Gamer, you might be frustrated, maybe even disappointed that the summer has slipped by without your son participating in constructive things. Your family vacation to the cottage for a week might have provided the much needed break from all that screen time. Consider other opportunities to try other outdoor activities. My son is enrolled in Scouts, it’s a wonderful program I recommend. It is possible to distract your son away from video games outside your scheduled summer holidays. Consider fishing, a hike in the woods, or maybe a day canoe trip. If you like to try fishing but don’t have fishing equipment or feel like you might not be able to find a good spot to catch fish, hire a guide.

Steven, along with many other young boys, that have been gamers for far too long, have many attributes that would make them great fisherman. Let them try fishing. I think it can be the needed outdoor activity to reduce curb screen time.

Shane Thombs

Friday, July 14, 2017

High Water, Fishing on a High in 2017

Environmental conditions are pivotal to providing good fishing. It’s a known fact, but describing what makes good vs bad environmental conditions can sometimes be misconstrued. Some of the most common things I hear, and my responses from Captain Obvious would include some of these:

Q: “When it’s hot out, doesn’t the fish go deep?”

A: Air temperature and water temperature are not the same. Lake Ontario is a deep lake, and yes the fish will at times go deep, but the air temperature is not the reason to go deep. Although Lake Erie is shallower, it also has enough depth to provide its own levels of water temperature comfort.

Q: “Don’t fish come up to the surface to feed during a rainfall?”

A: Sometimes, but it’s likely not the rain that brings them up in the water column. Low light conditions, a low pressure barometer and the benefit of less anglers around (fair weather fisherman) will make the fish rise in the water column. I use the word rise rather then come up to the surface. The surface water might not be what the fish want to be in if the water temperatures are too warm.

Q: “Why are the fish deep when the baitfish are seen near the surface?”

A: The large expanse of open water of the Great Lakes, fish can't hide for safety or hide to ambush. it’s a tug-of-war between baitfish (prey) and the Salmon, Trout or Walleye (predators). Some conditions provide baitfish with the advantage to avoid being eaten; other conditions provide the predators the advantage over prey. Where prey have the advantage, predators usually prefer not to use energy and rather wait for conditions that put them in the advantage. If baitfish can see the predatory fish coming, they have the advantage. If predators can sneak up on them without being seen, predators have the advantage. Low Light conditions, made by early mornings or late evenings, overcast conditions, or waves to break up the sunlight penetration, can provide salmon, trout or walleye with the advantage over baitfish.

Q:“Wouldn’t the fish prefer the clear water over dirty water?”

A: Building on the previous question, predators will usually find the advantage over baitfish when they are disguised in colour (turbid) water. In the spring, coloured water is literally the most important location factor to find catchable hungry fish. Clear water is also most often the colder water and sometimes called lifeless since most anglers will see the SONAR graph display empty and void of any life. The need for coloured dirty water becomes less the scenario in the Summer months since coloured water is less prevalent miles offshore. Instead the benefit to find green water is the goal. Green water is nutrient rich with phytoplankton (microscopic plants) to provide the foundation for a productive food chain, making it full of life as opposed to the clear lifeless water aforementioned.

Q:“The sun is out, the fish should be up sun bathing.”

A: It’s like an urban myth that seems to circulate. Unless we are talking about Carp, I don’t think I had ever seen a fish swim just beneath the surface to soak up the sun. Its not a situation on Lake Ontario or Lake Erie for salmon, trout or walleye.

Q: “How can there be currents in the lake with no river or inlet for many miles?

A: The Great Lakes are much different than a small lake or pond. We are talking about massive bodies of water with a lake surface that can be influenced by winds. Winds and waves move the water and localized winds can influence the currents of other areas not subject to winds. Three other factors are added to creating currents. 1.) Water temperatures will create variations of where the currents will move. Cold water is more dense and often slower moving. Cold water can be imaged in exaggeration as thick molasses where warmer water would have to move around it and slip past it. Vertically we see this between the warmer water above the thermocline vs. the colder water below. Horizontally you may see the smooth surface water with debris gathered alongside the colder wavy water that it meets. 2.) Point sources to add current into the lake. Niagara River for Lake Ontario is the largest catalyst to currents in the Lake Ontario. It is often referred to as the engine that turns currents in the lake in a counterclockwise direction. Lake Erie has the Detroit River at one end and the Niagara River at the other end. In three years the volume of Lake Erie is changed over. 3.) tides are minimal in freshwater but have a slight current created. It is more of a factor during the full moon in September and fishing for salmon staged to move up the river. Tides will move the water around the piers and night time glow spoon chucker’s will see the currents moving when there isn’t any wind. Less a concern for current changes in the main lake, but the tide times or Solunar gravitational pull can influence the times fish feed. Winds, water temperature differences, river water point sources and the effects of the tides are all examples of how the Lake currents are always moving.

Q: “If there’s a current, do fish like the current?”

A: They like the current to bring them food. They don’t like to spend energy fighting the current. The question can instead be asked what is the current bringing to the fish. Is the water rich with baitfish and warmer coloured water, or is it cold, clear and lifeless? Will the current not only move the water, but also move the fish to your area or away? As a fisherman, what consideration would you have to combat currents? Is your trolling speed at the depth of your presentation correct? Are there differences in bottom structure that will change or deflect the lake currents that will provide predators with an advantage to prey on baitfish that might pass by in the current?

Q: “Has this year’s high water made the fishing better?”

A: Yes and No. I think. ?!? Fishing has been exceptional this year, but its hard to say its entirely because of the higher water levels. Certainly the rising water of the Great Lakes has changed the scenario that fisherman have had to adapt. Some might say the fishing is good if they could actually get out fishing. Some boat launches are/were closed and limited fishing pressure in some areas. Some bigger boats were/are waiting for lake levels to subside to gain access to docks that are left submerged. The increased volume of water from runoff might have added a greater amount of nutrients in the lake that will generate a good growing environment for plankton and provide more fuel to the food chain and sustain more baitfish. There is also the thought that the warm winter we had in 2016-2017 along with the increase in water levels has added lots of warmer water to help the lake’s productivity. Localized fishing success as a result of higher water levels might be linked as well. The higher water levels and increased flow from the Niagara River might have changed how the Niagara River has continued to be a draw for fish into the start of Summer. When the river water usually draws fish in May and then warms too fast and fishing slows in the area, the river water still continues to draw fish well into July (thus far). That might be because of the increased water levels and water volume. Areas that seem to be great fishing spots in July have struggled to find consistent fishing, namely Grimsby has seen a slower summer start for reasons unknown to me. The fish are still subject to where the water goes and the baitfish follows. Higher water levels don’t seem to change off shore locations of fish. Whether the water is 210 feet or 214 feet in the same spot has less concern for the salmon swimming 50 feet down.

Describing how good the fishing is from one season to the next is not usually related to the current weather, but the overall climate of the season and past seasons. Cold winters and summers are bad for fishing for Lake Ontario Salmon and Trout and less concerning for Lake Erie Walleye fishing. Water levels as high as they are this year, might or might not be the reason for this year’s great Lake Ontario fishing. There are likely many other similar environmental conditions that tend to be confused with how it might make fish react and how good the fishing will be.

If the fishing is good, Make Hay while the sun shines. If the fishing is slow, When handed Lemons make Lemonaid. Environmental conditions and fishing success have very confusing outcome interactions. Get out fishing and find out if the old sayings are an urban myth.

Shane Thombs