Finally a break in the weather, and anglers are heading out all over the province to get some time on the ice. Conditions are tough, though, with a lot of snow making travel on the lakes and rivers possible by snowmobile only in most cases. There are some winter roads on Lake of the Woods, with anglers heading out in search of lake trout.
East Shoal Lake in the Interlake and Oak Lake in western Manitoba has been producing some decent action for pike, perch and some walleye. Let's hope the warmer temperatures hold for a bit and we can get rid of that cabin fever!
I had the opportunity to attend the Manitoba Lodge and Outfitters Conference last month in Winnipeg to listen to a panel headed by Manitoba Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Chuck Davidson titled "Getting tourism on the government's radar."
Having worked in the past as outdoor product manager for Travel Manitoba, even I was surprised at the small amount the province reinvests to promote tourism. Travel Manitoba has a budget in the neighborhood of $7 million a year; a drop in the bucket considering tourism brings in more than $1.4 billion a year.
Davidson is advocating more reinvestment of this money to reverse the declining number of tourists that come to this province every year.
He says for every dollar spent promoting, the province receives at least $10 in return on investment.
Davidson is encouraged by a new tourism campaign announced last month by Travel Manitoba. Colin Ferguson, the organization's president, says it will launch the new brand this month. He believes it will "inspire a sense of awe in our target audiences and pride in the hearts of all Manitobans. The tourism industry's new catchphrase is "Manitoba: Canada's Heart Beats."
Davidson says the Chamber's job is to work with different stakeholder groups to provide a clear plan to government on how it should reinvest.
Paul Turenne, executive director of Manitoba Lodge and Outfitters Association, says the influx of anglers to Manitoba lodges has a ripple effect on rural communities all over Manitoba and agrees with Davidson that more of a reinvestment would greatly benefit the province overall. We have a number of angling stakeholder groups in Manitoba and it's time to get these organizations around the table again, so we can be part of the solution.
Lodge owners over the last two years say Canadian anglers now make up a large portion of their clientele, covering for the loss of U.S. business. While not the case for every lodge operator, it seems to be the way of the future. Research verifies that more and more people are coming to fish in Manitoba from Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario. Certainly, I know a lot of people from Winnipeg who book a fly-in fishing trip at least once a year.
ANGLER NOTES: I would like to remind everyone that you still have time to nominate Manitoba's official provincial fish. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to nominate a fish you think best represents Manitoba's fisheries resource to the rest of the world. We have more than 80 native fish species in our many lakes and rivers.
As chairman of the volunteer committee that will review nominations, I really want to see the votes pour in from all over the province. The selected fish will be recommended for official adoption as an amendment to The Coat of Arms, Emblems and the Manitoba Tartan Act.
To date, the top five fish nominations in no particular order are: lake sturgeon, goldeye, walleye (pickerel), northern pike, and channel catfish.
To nominate a fish, please visit www.manitobafisheries.com and provide us with a short fish story on why you think your choice should be Manitoba's official provincial fish. Nomination deadline is Feb. 1, 2014.