Chris Zhang has never gone ice fishing before.
Despite that, the Edmonton man, who moved from China in 2009, brought his wife and two children to Wabamun Lake Saturday to take part in the Alberta Conservation Association’s (ACA) Kids Can Catch Event – a program aimed to get young people interested in fishing.
“We are in Canada so, I guess, ice fishing is a pretty good hobby for many people. My colleagues, my friends and family friends, they talk about this. Some of them have done this quite a bit so we’re curious.”
Zhang’s two young sons were given a quick ice fishing tutorial by a fish and wildlife officer before they started the task of reeling in a big one.
“So far, it’s fun. We learned something. We got hot chocolate, all the snacks, all this equipment,” Zhang said.
This is the fifth time the association has held the event at Wabamun Lake. Donations from corporate sponsors that provide fishing gear and other amenities mean the event is free for families.
“The big thing we find is people are really losing touch with the outdoors. Everybody knows we spend a lot of time on our computers and our games and sitting on the couch. We’re just not getting outside very much,” ACA president Todd Zimmerling said.
More time spent outside fishing could get more young people interested in the world around them, he said.
“We want more people to realize the importance of fisheries, the importance of clean water and healthy fish populations out there. The more people who are into fishing, the more people who care about those issues in the province,” Zimmerling said.
About 1,200 people were expected at the event Saturday; Zimmerling said the slightly colder temperatures could explain why numbers are down from last year, which saw roughly 1,600 people.
Crystal Wright of Edmonton and her husband brought their nine-year-old son Will to the event. Wright, who grew up in Truro, N.S., said she spent her childhood ice fishing but admits it has been a long time since she’s done it.
“This is huge for me to get outside and do this again. It takes me back to my roots,” she said.
“I’m happy. I’m so happy right now. I don’t feel the cold. I’m just ecstatic to do it and just to get my son out to do it is really cool. He’s learning something new – something we used to do growing up.”
No licence is needed this Family Day long weekend to fish in any lake in the province.