Long line-ups are expected Saturday morning at des Rapids Park on the waterfront south of 7th Avenue in LaSalle. Registration begins at 8 a.m. for the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources’ popular introductory fishing course. Only 125 spots are available for resident youth, and the course includes a free fishing rod and a fishing permit that lasts until participants’ 18th birthdays.
The event forms part of the 12th annual Fishing Festival in which Quebec residents can fish without a permit all weekend.
“The Provincial Ministry of National Resources holds this event every June,” says Patrick Asch, the director of Héritage Laurentian, one of the many partners in the weekend-long LaSalle borough celebration. “There are fish stocked in the central basin (800 Rainbow trout) to make sure that everyone can take part. In a world where people are always looking at screens, this gives people a chance to try a sport that’s good for socializing, it’s good for food and it relaxes you.”
Volunteers and staff with Héritage Laurentian patrol the des Rapids Park to ensure that people fish without endangering the ecosystem or their own safety. “At the outer perimeter of the Park, the water goes at 4 metres a second so everyone fishing within those zones must wear a life jacket,” says Asch.
This isn’t the only weekend that the organization teaches people about fishing in the St. Lawrence River, either. Thanks to a $175,000 stipend approved by the LaSalle Borough last February, Héritage Laurentian members are on site at Park des Rapids every Sunday from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m., between May and October. They use a hundred-foot net to scientifically inventory fish while treating visitors to a description of the fish found, the inventory process and background about the St. Lawrence River.
Asch says that the organization usually collects 12 or so species every weekend and has found a total of 47 species since they began in 2009. Unfortunately, every year they find more gobies, an introduced species. They only found a few individuals in 2009 and more last year, but of the 176 fish they caught last weekend, 106 were gobies. On the other hand, they usually find lots of carp, another introduced species, but they haven’t found any this year, something that pleases Asch. He’s also particularly happy about the multiple protected red horses species found so far this year, because the rate is significantly higher than either of their previous years. Asch thinks that the high water may make it easier for these fish to breed.
“We would like to educate people that there is more biodiversity in the Saint Lawrence than people expect,” says Asch. “Things are getting better. In Verdun and LaSalle, they’ve been cleaning things up. There used to be sewage pipes straight into the water, but you don’t have that anymore. As far as eating the fish goes, if you follow the standards of the Ministry of Natural Resources, you can eat the fish you catch.”
(A version of this article appeared on page 12 of the June 8, 2011 city edition of The Suburban.)