We’ve all seen the cars parked on the shoulder near a bridge, with an angler unloading a tackle box from the trunk, then making their way down a steep hill to get to the river or creek.
Whether in Bloomingdale, Elmira, Conestogo, West Montrose, Winterbourne or anywhere else along the Grand River and its tributaries, fishing is a popular pastime. Enthusiasts can catch plenty of species like smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, walleye and more just by dipping their lures into the water system that spreads out all over the township and neighbouring municipalities.
Fishing buddies will gather at the side of the road and make their way down to the rivers and streams, but they aren’t always using Grand River Conservation Authority-sanctioned entrances. Robert Messier, an ecologist at the GRCA, says those who are looking for an afternoon of fishing on the Grand have plenty of places they can access the water without having to scale a steep hill, or trespass onto private property.
“We do hear about that (happening). I am sure there are always isolated incidents where someone has intentionally or accidentally trespassed, but for the most part, things seem to work out quite well,” he said, adding that fishers should look for a parking lot. “There are a number of public access points up and down the river system throughout the grand river watershed. Some are official on municipal property or GRCA properties, where parking access has been prearranged, and constructed.”
The GRCA has a map with public access points marked, and there are quite a few. Otherwise, anglers are on their own.
“We have a map in our brochure called Fishing the Grand River and it has a map of the watershed [that] identifies all the spots on the Grand from Lake Erie to Dundalk where the public can access the river with public access points,” said Messier, mentioning that if someone chooses not to access the river at those points, there are other options. “Everything else, being southern Ontario, is private land and if you approach the private landowners and ask for permission, some may grant it and some may not. In other situations, you have to find a safe place on the shoulder of the road. You can’t park on a bridge or anything like that, [as] that would create a hazard.”
A community group involved in negotiating river and water access is the Friends of the Grand organization, based in Elora. It’s just one of the member organizations involved in the Grand River Fisheries Management Planning Committee.
“It is made up of watershed agencies, and the strength is the community groups. We have local angling clubs up and down the river system, up in Woolwich area, the Friends of the Grand have been a very powerful group – they are local citizens and they talk to their neighbours and that is where a lot of these public access points, and that is where that has been negotiated,” explained Messier.
Some fishing on the Grand has been limited, possibly changing fishing plans for anglers in the area.
“On Whiteman’s Creek down in Brant County, just because of the lack of rain down there and the soils and all that, there is very little water in the creek,” said Messier. “With the lack of water, higher temperatures, fish can get a bit more concentrated and have additional stresses.”
He says the GRCA is in constant contact with government agencies and keeping an eye on the state of local waterways to see if further restrictions are required, but generally, anglers can tell when their fishing practices are doing more harm than good.
“Just speaking with anglers on a regular basis, they themselves, the ones that are fishing a lot, they will curtail their opportunities. Or if they do want to go out, they will go out early in the morning, or later in the evening when it isn’t as hot, or they will find other waters where the flow is better,” said Messier. “We have had spotty rain, so some parts of the watershed have had some short storms, and others have not, it looks like that is going to be the trend this year. That is where some of the anglers, on their own, they may decide to go on to a different section of the river, or switch their angling techniques and target different species that won’t be as stressed.”
For more information on fishing opportunities in the Grand River watershed area, visit the GRCA website at www.grandriver.ca.