Fredericton shelters seek gear so homeless clients can fish along St. John River

·4 min read
Shelter outreach worker Dara Rector is an avid bass fisherman and eager to take more fishing trips with shelter guests this season. (Jennifer Sweet/CBC - image credit)
Shelter outreach worker Dara Rector is an avid bass fisherman and eager to take more fishing trips with shelter guests this season. (Jennifer Sweet/CBC - image credit)

Fredericton Homeless Shelters has issued an unusual appeal for donations.

Executive director Warren Maddox says the shelters are looking for fishing gear that their guests can use along riverbanks in the city and for a couple of group fishing trips to Lower Lincoln.

There's a "great spot" on Thatch Road that has a boat launch, barbecue pit and picnic tables, Maddox said.

"We'll probably do a couple of these events, where we go out with the guys and some hotdogs and burgers and have a day out and some relaxing time."

"We'll just sort of make a bit of a day of it for our residents," said Maddox, "to get out of town a little bit and spend some time at the river, take the guys and gals out for fresh air and to enjoy nature. It's great — good for the soul."

Warren Maddox is the executive director of the Fredericton Homeless Shelters.
Warren Maddox is the executive director of the Fredericton Homeless Shelters.(Jennifer Sweet/CBC)

The items they're looking for are rods, reels and basic bass tackle, he said. They don't really need nets because they aren't going out in boats.

"I know as a fisherman it's really hard to say that you have 'excess gear,'" said Maddox, but he's asking anyone who does to drop it off at St. John House, located behind the Victoria Health Centre at Smythe Street and Woodstock Road.

Ideally, they'd like to have 12 to 15 sets.

They've done fishing trips for the past few years. And shelter staff say it's been a great experience.

"It's just a great day out for everybody."

"Spirits are lifted."

Maddox said he and some of his co-workers are avid "fisher folk."

"There's nothing better than spending some time on the river," he said.

Items that have been donated to the Fredericton Homeless Shelters so far are being kept in this bin.
Items that have been donated to the Fredericton Homeless Shelters so far are being kept in this bin.(Joe McDonald/CBC)

"It's a really great place to go and de-stress and relax and be in nature. It just sort of focuses and it's good for your overall mental health and well-being, I think."

"That's my reality check and my sanity — standing out in the middle of the Miramichi River and just watching the birds and the fish and all that sort of stuff."

Some of the shelter guests like fishing, too.

"It's some of the first normalcy they've had in a long time," Maddox said.

"For some of them, it might be the first or second time they fished. Other ones, they've been fishing all their lives."

They're "thrilled" to be able to get out of the city, he said, and to take a break from everything going on around them.

Maddox expects the excursions will be especially welcome after the past year of pandemic restrictions.

Lures were donated and they can be used to fish for perch and bass.
Lures were donated and they can be used to fish for perch and bass.(Joe McDonald/CBC)

It's also a very COVID-safe activity, he said.

"You've got great ventilation. You've got UV rays. And physical distancing is real easy because you don't want anybody too close to you when you're throwing a hook around. So it's ideal."

Maddox says the plan is to fish for bass and perch. They'll be using spinners or lures. And they will release anything they catch. That means they don't have to worry about buying 15 fishing licences, since the waters are tidal.

The shelters haven't picked dates yet for the trips but will wait for a nice, sunny day once they've collected enough gear.

"We'll use some of our cars or if there's a whole bunch of us we'll go out and rent a 15-passenger van."

Maddox expects some of the shelter guests will continue to make use of the fishing gear throughout the summer.

"The guys will tend to use them."

There are plenty of good fishing spots around the city, he noted.

One is where the Nashwaak River runs into the St. John.

Dara Rector and Warren Maddox on the riverside just behind the men's shelter.
Dara Rector and Warren Maddox on the riverside just behind the men's shelter.(Joe Mcdonald/CBC)

"With bass fishing you tend to fish around the weeds a bit because that's where bass will hang out."

There are some "monstrously" big fish in the St. John River, he said, including "scary big" pike and 12-foot sturgeon. And fishermen are permitted to keep perch, bass, pickerel, and "pretty much anything as long as it's not a salmon."

He's not sure what the shelter guests would do with the fish if they kept it, though.

"We don't have a kitchen. So they're on their own."

Maddox assured anyone who donates gear that it will be given a good home.

"If they're really sort of into it, when they find their own housing and we get them moved in we'll make sure a fishing rod goes with them."

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