Ice fishing, snowmobiling growing more popular with Manitobans

SThe governing body for snowmobiling in Manitoba says the sport is getting more popular this winter, thanks to COVID-19 restrictions. File / Global News

Some organizations say they’re experiencing a renaissance this winter, thanks to COVID-19 restrictions forcing Manitobans outdoors — many of them looking for something to do.

Manitoba’s governing body for snowmobiling (SnoMan) and Ice Fishing Manitoba say they’re seeing an unprecedented number of people trying their respective sports.

Ryan Harper of Ice Fishing Manitoba says the barriers to enter Manitoba’s “social sport” are low and people are looking for ways to get together, safely.

Read more: The Forks launches river skating trail, looks ahead to winter activities in 2021

“There’s a lot of socializing going on,” he tells 680 CJOB. “It’s a good community, and it helps break up the winter. It’s a long time.”

While the financial investment in snowmobiling is significantly higher, SnoMan executive director Yvonne Rideout says that hasn’t stopped avid Manitobans looking for an adrenaline rush during the cold months.

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“We’re getting new riders emailing and calling saying ‘I’ve bought my snowmobile, I’ve bought my SnoPass.'”

“We have riders that used to go down south, but now they’re buying a snowmobile and staying in Manitoba.”

No matter your experience, Rideout says there are some things all prospective riders should do before heading on the trails.

“We want to direct people to our online safety course — that’s good for new riders, and it’s always a refresher (for experienced riders) as well.”

“We ask people to ride within their ability, to slow down and make every trip a round one.”

Read more: Staying safe: Snowmobile organization offers tips during Safety Week

Harper believes COVID-19 restrictions haven’t affected ice fishing as much as snowmobiling in Manitoba, since social distancing is built in.

“Yesterday, there were probably a couple thousand vehicles out there (on Lake Winnipeg). It’s definitely busy.”

Rideout says snowmobilers will have to bundle up — as dressing rooms, warming shacks and other indoor facilities along the trails have been ordered to stay closed.

“When you’re on a snowmobile, (it’s easy to) social distance — and we ask riders to respect public health orders.”

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If there’s one thing Rideout and Harper can agree on, it’s the weather.

While the mild conditions are making it enjoyable to get out on the ice or the trail right now, both are hoping things take a wintry turn to improve safety.

“Our warm, mild winter hasn’t done us any favours. The ice is thickening in some spots, but you have to use caution.”

Read more: Winnipeg family warns others after teen falls through ice on Seine River

Harper himself has only been out a handful of times so far this season.

“I primarily fish the lake (Winnipeg), and the ice isn’t frozen right across yet. It’s still moving, so for me, it’s a comfort level thing.”

Rideout is also hoping for some help from Mother Nature — in the form of precipitation.

“We don’t have enough (snow) in the south. North of the 53rd parallel, there are trails open and groomed — but in the southern part of the province, they’ve had groomers out, signing the trails, but we need more.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 won’t put a freeze on Winnipeg winter activities' COVID-19 won’t put a freeze on Winnipeg winter activities
COVID-19 won’t put a freeze on Winnipeg winter activities – Nov 19, 2020

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