Will Sampson, a 31-year-old fishing guide who runs Detour Fishing Charters in Toronto, Canada, recently landed a nice muskie. Local conservationists are hailing it as the first documented muskie in city waters in recent memory.
Sampson and his friend, Kacper Golinski, were fishing last weekend on Lake Ontario between Toronto Island and the downtown waterfront when he hooked the muskie. “When it first hit, we knew it was a good fish, but not until it got to the boat and we saw it was a muskie – that’s when the adrenaline kicked in,” Sampson told local news station CP24 . The fisherman has fished in the harbor all his life. He says his knees buckled when he realized exactly what he had on the end of his line.
Catching a big muskellunge, widely known as “the fish of 10,000 casts”, is a thrill no matter where you do it. Catching one that’s 43 inches long in the shadow of downtown Toronto is, apparently, downright mythical. “It was definitely a shock,” Sampson told CBC News. “We knew we had caught a unicorn.”
Experts who monitor fish species in the area confirmed the rarity of Sampson’s feat. “Catching a muskie in Toronto Harbor is very uncommon,” said Rick Portis, senior director of aquatic monitoring and management for the Toronto Region Conservation Authority. “We’ve never had one in our catch in 30 years of environmental monitoring on the Toronto waterfront.”
— blogTO (@blogTO) November 1, 2022
Muskies are commonly found in other parts of Lake Ontario, and since the 1800s, there has been a thriving population in the Toronto area. But the urbanization of the seafront in the center of the city gradually destroyed the habitat that once supported the fish.
In recent decades, conservation projects, including the creation of wetlands and waterfront parks with naturalized areas, have focused on restoring natural habitat and improving the lake’s water quality.
“Finding a fish like this is a real sign of improved habitat and restoration activity on the Toronto waterfront,” says Portis. He predicts that muskies and walleyes, another rare fish in the area, could soon become more commonplace in Toronto waters.
Golinski, who marked the fish for Sampson, posted a video on Twitter of the pair releasing the muskie after photographing and measuring it. “We took good care of it,” Sampson told the Toronto Star, “and sent it back into the water so it could reproduce.”