When I first found Ontario’s John Seney on Twitter, I knew very quickly I wanted to interview him. His work to bring awareness about PTSD for first responders and his love of fishing made him an easy choice for an interview. But what stood out most about John was his love and dedication to his children, not only as young anglers but in every aspect of their life. I am so grateful that John took some time to let all of us get to know him. As you will read, this is a great guy committed to all the right things in life.
I don’t normally start off an interview with a non-fishing question. But after looking at your Twitter page, I see how passionate you are about PTSD awareness. Why is this issue so important to you?
Thanks for the question. I have had the pleasure over the last 8 years to be a volunteer firefighter with my local township. Several years ago I was promoted to Captain and since that time I started to see some firefighters struggle afterwards with some of the calls we had been on, things that we had seen and some of the unfortunate trauma. Together with several other members of the department, we started a peer support group creating awareness within the department of the need to recognize warning signs of anxiety, depression and PTSD.
There has long been a stigma within the first responder community not to talk about mental health concerns as you may appear weak, unable to do your job, a liability etc… What we are doing within our own department and what we are seeing throughout the country is breaking those stigma’s down and not only creating awareness of what PTSD is, but speaking out about mental health. Regardless of my position on the department, we need to take care of those who work to take of others during a crisis.
Now to the fishing. You clearly love fishing with your children. What have been the keys to having successful days when fishing with kids?
Great question and I don’t know if there is a simplistic answer to it. I have been fortunate my whole life to have grown up loving the outdoors, whether it be fishing, hunting, canoeing, camping and so forth. I even got married under an arch way of my fishing rods, so I know my wife was the one.
As our family grew to eventually three young boys, I wanted to get them involved in what I was passionate with and fishing was definitely at the forefront. When my oldest was only 3 years old I took him for the first time on a interior canoe trip to Algonquin. During that time we fished for short periods, but his first fish he ever caught was a 3lb Algonquin Lake Trout. Since then he has loved it, as have all my boys.
The keys I think to getting my kids to enjoy fishing was setting yourself up for success. As an avid fisherman, my needs or wants while fishing had to take a back seat to the boys. Our first fishing trips with them, I really focused on trying to catch panfish as they are usually plentiful, easy to catch and provide enjoyment for the sport. Trips usually lasted only an hour or so at first due to attention spans and that was okay. We would end it at that and look forward to the next time. I made sure to read their body cues so not to create boredom, disinterest etc… As well using live bait was also key as many times they would be more interested in playing with minnows or worms versus fishing.
When they got older and were more exposed to fishing trips, I started introducing them to different species of fish but ensured we would always fish for panfish sometime throughout the trip so that they caught fish on a regular basis. With the odd Largemouth Bass or Pike caught, this added to the excitement for love of the sport and wanting to get out and try different things.
When going out, I also made sure that they had ultralight or light action rods, usually 4’7″ to no bigger than 6’6″, so that they got the feel of what fighting a fish can be like. These rods were and are of good quality, same with the reels and line. Allowing my boys to use quality but inexpensive equipment also allows them to start collecting their own equipment as they grow older.
Soon my boys were loving fishing, they wanted to watch shows, look at the pictures of my magazines I would purposely leave around, watch me rig my lines for an adult day out, talk about different species and techniques. The entire time I let them learn at their pace but try to get them to increase their skills. Teaching them how to cast on their own or practicing casting into hula hoops at home was one of the key skills as it allowed me to help them in other areas like taking a fish off a hook or retying a lure/putting bait on. When you have three kids in the boat, you get busy with tasks. But the reward is when you look up and see three kids who are truly loving a sport you are passionate about and know there are more trips to come.
To sum it all up, when taking a child/children fishing, patience is the second thing you need. The first is to accept that the trip isn’t about you, it’s about doing everything you can to ensure they catch fish and are engaged. Read their body language and when they are done, so are you.
Who were some of your earliest fishing influences?
I started fishing when I was very young. My dad grew up on Lake Erie and his family fished their whole life so as I was growing up, my dad introduced to me to the sport. I remember as a child going to the Erieau Pier and fishing for Perch quite a bit or trout ponds in the area at home.
As I have gotten older, my dad and I still get out every once and a while and those trips are always special. One trip in particular with him was a week at Wintering Lake Resort in Geraldton. I had the opportunity to go there the year prior through a friend whose parents were helping run it. Fishing different lakes in the area and catching lots of Walleye and Pike, I knew that I had to show my dad my new love for Northern Ontario.
We went early season and after making it to the lodge, it wasn’t more than 15 minutes after putting our stuff in the cabin that my dad was outside fishing on the dock waiting for me to get my gear together and get in the boat. Once I had some rods rigged, I walked out the back patio and there he was, a 7 pound pike in one hand and a smile plastered on his face that I will never forget. It was like in a split second, that joy fishing can bring to you hit him like he was a little kid catching jumbo Perch off the Erieau Pier. He came running up that dock as proud as a peacock, with his only intention to show me his first catch of the trip.
That entire week we caught lots of Walleye, Pike and Perch ensuring we enjoyed a feed everyday and releasing far more than we both imagined. To this day he still says that was his favourite fishing trip.
Fishing however really took off for me in grade 10. I attended a new high school and on the first day I showed up early for my math class as I didn’t know where the rooms were. The door was locked so I waited outside and up walked another student who introduced himself to me “Hi my name is Lincoln, do you like to fish?” Immediately I had a friend for life and since that day, Lincoln has been a best friend, a fishing partner and the biggest influence to my love of fishing.
As teenagers we went everywhere, exploring new lakes, trying new techniques, talking fishing all the time. During lunch breaks at school we would go down to Lake Simcoe and cast Cotton Cordell Big O’s catching Rock Bass, Smallmouth and Perch. We spent a lot of time on the water fishing, setting minnow traps, making worm beds, creating new lures. There were even times when we would sign out the high school video camera and go film ourselves like we were hosting our own television show.
As we grew up and went to separate high schools in different cities, we remained close and fishing was the constant that always gave us an excuse to get together. I remember spending hours playing Dick Olsen’s Bass Tour together the night before we were going to go fishing, sometimes not even sleeping because were so excited. I could write a book about the hundreds of fishing trips we have spent catching salmon in small rivers, fly in trip north of Nakina for giant pike, throwing topwater for largemouth on Lake Dalrymple, ice fishing for the first out of a newly purchased $50 ice hut not knowing how were going to take it off the lake at seasons end, sleeping in a on ice bungalow at Rob Hyatt’s on Lake Nipissing and so many more. To this day, Lincoln continues to be a huge inspiration and any time we get together on the water or just talk fishing is amazing.
I was particularly interested in your trips with the family into the Algonquin. Where do you like to go in the Algonquin?
The story of fishing Algonquin is quite interesting. When growing up I worked in a couple of Provincial Parks as a Park Warden. One day I overheard a conversation taking place between a couple of co-workers about a lake in Algonquin that they go to, where on the lake they consistently caught fish and what they were using. Right away I called Lincoln and said I had a place we needed to try.
Shortly there after, Lincoln and I grabbed my canoe and headed for an interior trip to the lake to explore the possibilities of catching our first Algonquin Lake Trout. Campsites on the lake were booked so we camped on the lake prior but made our way to the area we suspected the two co-workers were talking about. Fortunately for us, we found the Lakers and little did I know at the time, a tradition was created that has expanded over 15 years annually.
Although I refrain from naming the lake, since that initial trip I have brought family and friends every year for at least one trip. Now we currently have our closest friends join us for a first ice out fishing trip, adults only, usually in May and then have a family trip in the summer for a longer period of time with all the kids.
As for the fishing, there have been days where we have caught 60+ Lake Trout in half a day out on the water. We have started to also explore another lake a medium portage away that has some nice Brookies in it. Algonquin is my sanctuary…no technology, total relaxation and a chance to reconnect with nature.
What are the keys to a successful fishing/camping trip with kids into the Algonquin?
As I previously mentioned earlier, having a successful fishing trip with the kids in Algonquin was something that I had to build up to over time through creating a love for the sport. The first trips with the kids were done when we knew they could handle being in the bush, have the ability to sit in a canoe and of course carry some of their own stuff on a portage. But as they have gotten older, their love of exploring nature, seeing such beautiful sights and learning about camping has made it really easy for our trips to be successful.
Again, understanding as a parent that I am on their time table and have to read their body language when we go out is so important. When we are out fishing…and of course catching Lakers is not as frequent as catching Perch…if they start to lose interest we would head back to the site and do something they enjoyed or wanted to do. Ensuring that they didn’t lose interest and engaging them is really important. Sure I would have loved to sit in the canoe and fish all day for Lake Trout and all night for Ling but not a 6 year old.
The other thing is we also make sure we bring stuff for them to do like pack a soccer ball or some cards. I remember last year on our family trip our close friends children and ours played a baseball game for hours with a log they found and used as a bat along with a soccer ball for a baseball.
Another key to a successful trip with not only the adults but also with the kids to have the right equipment. We have learned over the years what to bring to minimize how much we have to carry but also what is the most effective. A water pump, backpack cookstove, headlamps, compact tents, dry bags, barrel packs and many other things are essential to reducing how much you have to do but making sure you have all the equipment you need.
When it comes to fishing now, my oldest who is now 8 years old, spent 12 hours in one day in a canoe fishing with an adult because he had not caught a lake trout yet and his brothers had. Just before dark on the day before we were preparing to leave and after losing several fish, he finally caught one. I realized then that the competition factor is soon going to take fishing to another level for them.
Fishing and camping with the right people is also so important when going with kids. Our amazing friends, Amber and Dave, have experienced the trip with the kids for years and their love for the outdoors has transferred to their two girls as well. They understand what camping in Algonquin is all about, have the right equipment, bring great snacks and have really transferred the love of fishing to their kids too. This has made long trips in the canoe catching lake trout fun and enjoyable for everyone.
When not fishing with kids, who are your other favorite fishing partners?
As much as I love fishing with my family, I really enjoy getting out fishing with friends. Work has slowed things down over the last little while but I find at times fishing with friends brings me back to my childhood. Lincoln continues to be a great friend and fishing partner that inspires me to not only get out but continue to learn about fishing. I have some awesome friends and family as well like Dave, Dawson, Frank, my dad John, my father in law Donny, my brother Shane and of course my wife Shannon. Fishing with each of them is special and fun in its own way.
I saw you took a trip to Lake Ontario with We Pound’em Sport Fishing. How was your day on the water with them?
I was talking one day with a friend on the Fire Department who had just went out with Ryan from We Pound’em Sport Fishing and he gave a glowing review of his first experience fishing Lake Ontario for Salmon. He talked about how the boat was comfortable, Ryan knew fishing and his equipment was up to date. They had caught lots of fish and highly recommended I try it sometime.
The problem I always have with Charters is that I feel I don’t need to spend the money and go out with someone to catch fish when I can just do it myself and learn. This charter however changed that mentality for me in a few ways. First, Ryan took us out on his very comfortable boat and explained a lot about lake Ontario’s ecology, fish patterns, his experiences on the water and was very knowledgeable about catching fish. Secondly, he had a guarantee that if we didn’t get into any fish, which does happen, he would take us out again at no charge on another day that worked for all of us. Finally, all of his equipment was top notch and well maintained. Lines were just spooled on most of the reels, lures were coming out of packages. Too many times, especially near season’s end, charters cheap out and don’t replace equipment like line so to save cost but usually at the expense of losing fish. Ryan made sure he invested in his clients.
Our first trip out with my Uncle Ron from Nova Scotia, my Dad, Lincoln and I was an great trip but we only managed a couple of shakers. Ryan refused to count them as fish and as promised, took us out a on another day. The second outing was just as relaxing and enjoyable but this time we managed to hook into some nice Chinook and Rainbows. Ryan filleted all the fish for us and kept them cold until we were ready to head home.
That trip led to my Dad, my step-mom, my wife and I getting out this past year. My wife had never caught a fish bigger than 5 or 6 pounds so I knew this would allow her to experience the joy of catching and landing something of size but in an environment that was relaxed and care free. What I didn’t know was that we were going to have a great day catching lots of Chinooks and one of hers being the biggest of the trip. Still hear about that one. In all seriousness though, there are many charters out there that offer or guarantee a great fishing experience for Salmon and Rainbows on Lake Ontario. As someone who is an avid fisherman and very skeptical about Charter fishing, I would highly recommend We Pound Em Charters! Ryan has a very comfortable set up, is very knowledgeable about fishing, is easy to talk to, will ensure you have a great experience and promises you fish or he will book another trip out.
Beside Algonquin Park and Lake Ontario, what are your favorite Ontario fishing waters to fish?
Hands down, my annual trip into Algonquin Park is my favourite fishing trip in my life. There is something about it that can’t be described and the fishing has always been good to amazing. Lake Ontario is really new water for me and somewhere I am learning more about.
Growing up there was a lake that Lincoln and I use to fish on a regular basis and became a body of water that advanced our love for fishing and learning how to fish. Lake Dalrymple provided us with many opportunities to hone our skills, try new techniques, understand the importance of structure, develop fishing patterns and begin to really appreciate what fishing was all about.
Lake Simcoe has been an amazing body of water as well. From fishing for Perch with the kids on Cook’s Bay to catching whitefish and lake trout throughout, it has been a lake that has consistently produced and taught me a lot of targeting species while looking for variable structure and understanding lake contour.
Adjoining it is Lake Couchiching. When growing up catching Perch during off the dock during the Orillia Perch Festival, it is a lake close to home that we bring the family to for a fun and usually successful day on the water. I also like the variety of species that can be caught as the boys never really know what they have on the line.
Another consistent body of water I like to fish in the winter time is Lake Nipissing. For the last 10 years we have rented an ice bungalow from Rob Hyatt’s and fished for a variety of species including Walleye, Pike, Herring, Perch, Ling and Whitefish. The bungalows are very comfortable, the fishing is usually great and there is something to be said about lying in bed, having a drink and catching fish all at the same time.
I have also really enjoyed fishing Northern Ontario. Doing a fly in with Eddie North’s Adventures out of Nakina catching big Pike and Walleye to fishing all the back lakes while moose hunting in Geraldton. Northern Ontario has so much water to explore. A little farther south, my great friends Dave, Dawson and Frank have shown Lincoln and I some great lakes north of Sudbury that hold large numbers of Walleye and Pike. This year we are going to be taking our boys on a camping/fishing trip on some of the back lakes we have been to with them. Our official “moose meeting” of getting the guys together and planning our moose hunting trip now takes place every year on these lakes.
I have had the opportunity to fish a lot of lakes and there are so many more I would love to explore. Traditions are being built, memories are being created and my family continues to grow closer together because of our passion for fishing. I love seeing a body of water when driving around and my boys asking if there are fish in that lake, my response usually is yes. Without skipping a beat they are quick to say “we should fish it then.”
Out of all my interviews, I don’t think I have had a better line than:
Traditions are being built, memories are being created and my family continues to grow closer together because of our passion for fishing.
Amen John! I am not only impressed with your fishing but moved by your dedication to your colleagues, friends and family.