Like Fish in a Pool: Toronto's Indoor Trout Pond Returns
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Like Fish in a Pool: Toronto’s Indoor Trout Pond Returns

A community pool turns into the city's best fishing hole.

Tabitha Turk

Tabitha Turk and other fishers try their luck in the indoor pool at Scadding Court Community Centre.

Shortly after 3 p.m. on Saturday, Tabitha Turk caught her fifth rainbow trout of the day from the indoor pool at Scadding Court Community Centre. The previous four she’d already cooked and eaten, and this last one would be gutted and grilled, just like the others.

It was the opening day of the annual Gone Fishin’ event and the pool was lined with eager fishers trying their luck with a rod and line, many for the first time. They were hoping to catch one of the 750 fish that had been shipped to this unconventional downtown trout pond from Mimosa Springs Rainbow Trout Farm north of the city (another 750 are scheduled to arrive on Wednesday, June 17).

Not many had the same luck as Turk. Despite the abundance of wormy snacks dangling before them, very few of the fish were taking the bait. The general sentiment on the deck was that they’d had seen their friends go and now knew the score.

Even so, the crowd persisted. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder along the pool’s edge, casting willfully into the cobweb of fishing lines that stretched over the water. Below the surface, the fish mainly congregated in the deep end, bellying down as low as they could. Bright yellow rubber worms and dirty brown real ones drifted down to the pool’s bottom and bobbed among the swirling mass of trout, who seemed trapped in an agony of suspicion and desire.

Over in the shallow end, where a dozen potted plants were clustered to create a more arboreal atmosphere, Gordon Chin and his son felt discouraged. They hadn’t caught any yet, and their allotted timeslot of 40 minutes had run out. “It’s better to come in the morning,” suggested one volunteer, who’d attended the event for the last 11 years. “They haven’t eaten all night and they bite more.”

Scadding Court Community Centre executive Director Kevin Lee offers another reason for coming early: “It’s quieter. When there’s a lot of noise and movement, the fish know that something’s gong on.”

The trick, according to Turk, is to taunt the fish. Drop the bait close to where the trout is swimming and bounce the line a bit so it looks like it’s…a worm that fell into a pool? Fish can spit, so you have to give an extra tug on the line at just the right moment, or it’ll spew the bait. Once you yank the barbed hook through the fish’s face, simply reel it in.

The next step is less suspenseful and takes place over in the community centre’s kitchen, where cheerful volunteers wait to “clean” the fish. For this, all you need are a pair of scissors and a gritty willingness to confront life’s hard realities.

First, stick two fingers up under the gills so they poke out the fish’s mouth. Then, stab the scissors into the fish’s belly close to the tail and snip upwards toward the mouth, as though cutting a thick, gelatinous piece of paper wrapped around bloody entrails. Finally, put down the scissors and use your free hand to scoop out the fish’s innards into the nearest garbage can. If you’re an inexperienced adult, contort your face into expressions of horror and disgust. If you’re a child, look stunned.

If that sounds a little too life-and-death, Scadding Court partnered with PETA this year to provide an alternative for fish sympathizers. The American organization is sending 2,000 toy fish, which will be set loose in the wading pool. Those ones can be caught with nets.

The main reason that people give for why they like fishing is that it’s peaceful, which is strange, because fishing is actually really exciting and also a bit terrifying. It’s also hard. “If you don’t have patience, you’re not going to like fishing,” says Turk. The mood at Scadding Court was more gleeful than serene, however. Patient or not, pool-fishing is super fun.

Gone Fishin’ runs June 13th to June 20th, 2015 from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The entry fee is $3.00 per person with a limit of one fish; each fish over the limit is $3.50. A $1.00 fee will be charged for each fish cleaned.