Fishing in an Indoor Swimming Pool
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Fishing in an Indoor Swimming Pool

For some, an annual indoor fishing event at Scadding Court is the next best thing to the cottage.

Try as he might, Ian Sit just wasn’t getting any bites. With his arm out, he made a graceful arc, and his fishing rod splashed in the centre of the pool. But still, no luck.

“Maybe I’ll have chicken for dinner,” he said.

Sit was at Scadding Court on Wednesday night, trying his hand at fishing in the community centre’s indoor pool, which had been filled with live trout. For the past 10 years, Scadding Court has done this in an attempt to give Torontonians the chance to learn about ecology and food systems, and maybe a new hobby.

Gone Fishin’, as the week is known, traditionally coincides with the end of the school year in mid-June. Kevin Lee, executive director of Scadding Court, said that’s done to provide some fun for those with busy schedules, and those who don’t have access to a cottage, like many newcomers and inner-city families. This year’s edition ended on Saturday.

Each year, Gone Fishin’ reels in several thousand Torontonians who want to learn to catch their dinner. During the week, four local schools are invited to the pool each day. All the students leave with trout that they caught themselves (or with a little help from Scadding Court volunteers). In the afternoons, the pool is open to anyone interested in giving the fishing rod a spin. In the evenings, the pool is saved for community groups, like Holland Bloorview MacMillan, the children’s rehabilitation hospital.

Many families at the pool on Wednesday evening were there as a result of one of their children having visited during a school trip earlier in the week. Sisters Latisha and Jateya, both 10, had come Monday with their Clinton Public School classes. On Wednesday evening, Latisha carried her fish in a plastic bag as her sister and father tried to lure some bites in the deep end.

“This program is good for kids,” Latisha said. She finds fishing relaxing.

Doug Hodge agrees. He has been volunteering with Gone Fishin’ since the start of the program, and has recruited his entire family to help out during the week. He grew up in downtown Toronto and has been fishing his whole life.

“If I didn’t like doing this, I wouldn’t be doing it,” Hodge said, as he chopped up a worm for bait. He lauded the program for educating youth about ecosystems, and for giving them the chance to try his favourite sport—one that has been a controversial topic in Toronto lately, thanks to efforts by City parks staff to prevent anglers from casting their lines from public parks along the downtown waterfront.

Around the edge of the pool, all sorts of emotions filled the air. An elated teenager caught his first fish ever and watched as a volunteer squirmed to kill it quickly. Some people gazed at the hundreds of trout zigzagging in the clear water. Several fishing rods got tangled in the middle of the pool and an unlucky volunteer had to unravel the knot with infinite patience. Hodge had a hearty laugh as someone grimaced at the wiggling worms in his bait bucket.

For those interested in participating next year, Scadding Court charges $4 for a license. Should you get a nibble, it’s possible to get the fish cleaned for just 75 cents. Watching the fish get gutted by Walter Quan, the Scadding Court program coordinator, is optional.

The trout come from a fish farm north of Caledon and are raised in the nearby Credit River watershed. “We bring in 1,500 and I gut about two-thirds of them,” said Quan.

In addition to promoting health and ecology, Scadding Court also promotes the local economy. Several of the cafes in the shipping containers along Dundas Street have bought fish for their menus, as have restaurants in the area. The cafe in the community centre serves frozen Gone Fishin’ trout year-round. One staff member even asked for fish heads to give to her cat.

“There’s no waste,” said Quan.

Back on the edge of the shallow end, Sit was still working on his technique, hoping to catch a prize-sized trout. He knew exactly what he’d do, if he caught one.

“Pan sear with lemons, butter, and capers,” he said, as another one got away.