📝 by Chris Faber | AHL On The Beat
When hockey is your job, you need a hobby away from the rink to calm your mind.
For many of the Abbotsford Canucks players and coaches, that offseason hobby is done on lakes and rivers, with a fishing rod in hand.
It’s the invigorating feeling that you get when you set a hook and feel the fish pulling back instead of reeling in a salad or snagging bottom.
With the Fraser River being home to the mammoth sturgeon fish, the Canucks’ locker room has been abuzz about reeling in one of these prehistoric-looking river monsters. Sturgeon is on the mind, and head coach Trent Cull may be the man leading the charge.
“A fishing trip or something along those lines is a thing we are definitely going to entertain here in the Fraser Valley,” said Cull. “We will definitely need a guide for sturgeon fishing. I would love to get out with the team.”
Cull spends his offseasons around the Utica, N.Y., area, the former home of the AHL team. He and his son had some luck that resulted in his 10-year-old hauling in a monster bass. Cull and his family were visiting Old Forge, which is about an hour north of Utica, when his son hit the jackpot.
“My son Sam threw his first cast out and hauled in a largemouth bass that was over five pounds,” said Cull. “At the time, he was lucky to be 60 pounds soaking wet. He was fighting this thing and was jacked right up, he was so excited. He ended up winning the fishing derby for his age group with that fish. He was so excited, Sam got his name in the local paper and he got this plaque. It was a really cool moment for sure.”
There are a handful of players who spent their offseasons enjoying the calm waters and occasional bites at the end of their line.
And then there’s Vincent Arseneau.
The team’s tough guy and veteran presence has grown up around the water. Arseneau’s grandfather was a fisherman and Arseneau reminisced on being a kid and riding his bike down to the water to catch mackerel that he would sell on the street to make a little cash. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Arseneau has been out on a crabbing boat for the past two summers.
“I’ve got to make sure to get a paycheck,” said Arseneau as he chuckled. “I’ve done the crab season for the last two years. It’s kind of like the ‘Deadliest Catch’ show. We get out there and run the boat and do everything like the show. It’s just part of me. It’s part of where I’m from and part of my blood. I just love doing it.”
Many of the Canucks say that it’s hard to stop Arseneau once he starts talking about fishing, with stories about catching a 230-pound halibut, his dad catching an 800-pound tuna, or even how Quebec lobster is better than New Brunswick lobster because of the difference in sand and rocks. Arseneau has recently taken up scuba diving and is just a lover of the water who wants to share that with his teammates on a team fishing trip.
He’s excited to talk fishing with some of the Canucks’ other anglers on the team but does believe that a big sturgeon may freak out winger Justin Bailey. But one player who is not scared to catch and hold a sturgeon is local kid Jarid Lukosevicius.
Lukosevicius is from Squamish, B.C., but wasn’t much of a fisherman growing up. He was more focused on playing hockey or linking up with his buddies for some video games. Though he spent all his childhood smashing pucks and buttons, he lit up at the idea of catching a monster fish.
“I am 100 percent willing to go sturgeon fishing,” said Lukosevicius with a massive smile on his face. “I know some guys are actually looking into it right now. I know Will Lockwood loves fishing. He will have to come and teach us all of his tricks. There are lots of options out here in the Fraser Valley and I’m willing to do whatever, I would love to hold up a massive sturgeon for a picture. They’re creepy looking, it’s like catching an alien.”
Second-year defenseman Jett Woo is a new angler but is excited to get out and try to catch a monster sturgeon.
“I’ve heard about the sturgeon fishing here in the Fraser Valley and I’d love to try that,” said Woo. “Apparently, I’m going to need to get some bigger rods though. I’m not scared of a six-foot fish, I’d love to get out and try that.”
Woo spends his summers in Manitoba and even has his photo on Manitoba’s master angler website with a monster catfish in hand.
“I love fishing,” said Woo. “I just got started this past summer. I actually brought all my rods, gear and tackle with me to Abbotsford. Back home, we catch a lot of catfish but also fish pike and walleye too. I’ll fish whatever’s there but we fish a lot of cat. The first cat I caught ended up being on Manitoba’s master angler page. I took a photo and sent it and got my master angler plaque. I spent quite a bit of money this summer on tackle and rods but now it’s a great hobby. I love to fish now.”
It’s not just the Canadians who appreciate fishing, Michigan-born Will Lockwood has been fishing all his life and was able to finally experience some fall fishing last year due to COVID-19 shutting down the hockey season in the fall.
“I got to go king salmon fishing last fall and got a great picture with a fish in Michigan,” said Lockwood. “It’s actually the first time I was able to do the salmon run. It’s always in the fall and I’m typically playing hockey but last year with COVID going on, I was home and really had nothing to do. So, a couple of our buddies shot up north to get some king salmon, they run in the rivers and come to Lake Michigan.”
Lockwood was ecstatic to finally fish for salmon last fall but spends a ton of time fishing largemouth bass during his offseasons. His family lives a few minutes from a notable bass fishing lake in Michigan and spent countless days of his childhood reeling in bass. Lockwood says he has been fishing for bass since he was three years old.
When it comes to fishing around Abbotsford, Lockwood is still looking for some hidden bass hotspots but has his eye on the monsters in the Fraser River.
“Sturgeon fishing is absolutely a bucket-list thing for me to do,” said Lockwood.
The record for a sturgeon out of the Fraser River is 11 feet long and Lockwood is confident that his teammates wouldn’t be scared to hold one of the gigantic fish.
“I think everyone on the team would be jumping in to hold one of those things,” said Lockwood. “They are pretty frightening, though; I would kind of go in there slowly and be a little intimidated by a fish like that.”
Lockwood is hoping that a team fishing trip is on the horizon for the Abbotsford Canucks. He spoke about the excitement to fish the area when he found out about the organization’s move from Utica to Abbotsford.
“I like to talk about fishing a lot,” said Lockwood. “Especially this area, you can get outside and be by the river or on a lake and see the beautiful mountains that surround you. I think everyone will enjoy a team fishing trip. You know how it is, a lot of time when you go fishing, you don’t even catch anything but it’s just nice to get out with friends and especially with this great group of guys — it would be a lot of fun.”
The Abbotsford Canucks are just beginning to get settled into their new home. The group have all found permanent homes for the season and the search for the best fishing spot is just beginning.
The team hopes to be able to find a fishing guide that can get them out on the Fraser River to search for the prehistoric beasts that are sturgeon. When the trip comes to fruition, there are surely going to be pictures of the Canucks holding up their proud catch.
Be sure to follow the Abbotsford Canucks on all their social media accounts for updates!