By Sarah McMichael
Gord Pyzer is a staple in the Canadian fishing community. Having worked for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources for 31 years, he is known for his science-based approach to fishing. Currently, he is the Fishing Editor for Outdoor Canada, and Field Editor for In-Fisherman. We caught up with Gord to hear about about his career and his love of fishing.
Clearly you have a passion for fishing. How long have you been fishing for?
“Obviously my entire life. I’ve grown up fishing, and that lead to an academic interest when I went to university. I did my post graduate research in Algonquin Park living in the Park. I lived for the better part of six months out of a canoe, working on the first major wilderness management plan for Algonquin Park. I got a masters in resource management, and I then spent 31 years with the Ministry of Natural Resources managing the fish and wildlife in Ontario.
But the neat thing about it is it’s given me kind of a foot in both camps. One of the comments that I get the most is I try to see things from the angler’s point of view, but I think from also the science side, and that’s what intrigues people.
Bob Izumi and I have our radio show, and this is our 29th season upcoming. When Bob is with me and we’re filming or just fishing and having fun, one of the questions he’s always saying is how old do you think that walleye is? Or how fast does that smallmouth bass grow? I think having the science background and the interest in fishing compliments itself. So when I’m writing I tend to do it from that perspective.”
With fishing being such a big part of your career, do you still find time to do it for fun?
“I finished my early retirement package after 31 years with the MNR, and I was the District Manager here in Kenora in Northwest Ontario. It’s a pretty large district, we’ve got 3 and a half thousand lakes in the district including Lake of the Woods which is internationally renowned. I live probably 100 feet from Lake of the Woods, and then being with Outdoor Canada magazine, I’m probably fishing over 200 days a year. On the water or on the ice somewhere in the world, I’m fishing probably 2 out of every 3 days.”
When did you start fishing?
“I grew up in Toronto, literally downtown Toronto, and I can remember in heavy rainstorms, you know how we often get water running down the sidewalk gutters? I can remember when I was probably 4 four years old sitting on the edge of the street, with a stick in my hand with some line attached to it fishing in that water.
My parents had a cottage up in Haliburton Highlands so literally the day school ended we’d go up to the cottage and spend all summer there. And I remember as a youngster I kept detailed notes when we’d be fishing. In one six year period of the summers, there was not a single day for six years that I did not go fishing. Not the entire day, maybe just in the evening or in the morning for four hours, but there was not a summer for six years in those formative years that I did not go fishing.”
What is it about fishing that, pardon my pun, got you hooked?
“This will sound corny, but I’ve got a couple grandsons, in fact my oldest grandson is still pretty young, and he’s my best fishing partner. You know the kids today seem so locked into iPads and iPhones, and fishing gets you outdoors. When you really think about it fishing is just a phenomenal activity that gets you outdoors, communing with nature understanding how man is really a part of the ecology. We are not separate from the outdoors, we are the outdoors. We are part of the ecology, so when we’re talking about acid rain, climate change, fish introduction, exotic species in the great lakes, that is us… And I don’t think there is a better activity that pulls all of that together, I don’t believe there is anything better than fishing.”
“When you really think about it fishing is just a phenomenal activity that gets you outdoors, communing with nature understanding how man is really a part of the ecology. We are not separate from the outdoors, we are the outdoors.”
Definitely. And so much of it is about that connection with the outdoors, I hear that over and over from anglers.
“For part of my career with the MNR, I was actually the policy advisor to the assistant deputy minister. I spent 2 and a half years in Thunder Bay, and I averaged 3 days a week for 2 and a half years flying down to Toronto. I was in cabinet briefings and briefings in Queen’s Park and dealing on some pretty heavy issues. And when I was in Kenora here as the district manager we had the whole part of sharing resources if you will, the border water issues with the United States, and some very complex native issues on aboriginal rights and those sorts of things.
But at the end of the day I could come home at 5 at night, jump in the boat, and every second as I pulled away from the dock I left everything I’d been dealing with behind. And that’s the neat thing about fishing. For me personally, and for those folks who do it, it takes you away from the drudgery of everyday life.”
Stay tuned for part two of our interview with Gord!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. All photos courtesy of Gord Pyzer.