Wil Wegman was one of the great ambassadors of Canadian sportfishing
There’s a story I like to tell about Wil Wegman that to me succinctly sums up his character. It was around 2005, and I was driving along with my then young son when I got into some car trouble. Since we weren’t far from Wil’s office at the local Ministry of Natural Resources office, I called him to ask if he could give us a lift back home, which was also in Aurora at the time, while I sorted things out. Wil was there in just minutes—he didn’t even think twice. I’d only known him for a few years at the time, but I knew he who would only be too happy to help folks in need.
It was that very mindset that, in large part, made Wil such an important and cherished member of the Canadian sportfishing community, and why that same community was so devastated when Wil passed away from cancer on May 21 at age 63. As our fishing editor, Gord Pyzer, remarked, “He was such a gentleman, such a kind and thoughtful person. If we all had friends the calibre of Wil, the world would be such a better place.” Not surprisingly, similar words of praise were echoed endless times across social media by his many friends and colleagues.
If we all had friends the calibre of Wil, the world would be such a better place — Gord Pyzer
Perhaps more important than Wil’s wonderful disposition, though, were his immense contributions to sportfishing and fisheries conservation. For those of you who didn’t know Wil, he worked for more than 30 years for the Ontario government on a wide variety of fish and wildlife conservation programs, among them Lake Simcoe’s muskie restoration project. He also organized numerous outreach initiatives aimed at getting families and kids engaged in fishing.
His day job aside, Wil was also one of the co-founders of the Aurora Bassmasters, where he was the long-serving conservation director working on everything from stream restoration to fish-tagging projects. He also wrote about fishing and conservation for numerous publications—this one included—and conducted countless seminars to help others become better anglers, including a bass-fishing course at Seneca College.
Of course, Wil was also a rabid recreational angler himself, and a long-time fixture on the Ontario Bass Nation tournament circuit. And when he wasn’t fishing? One of his favourite non-angling pursuits was to join in the “Swim with the Fishes” event, front-crawling across Lake Couchiching to help raise money for the Child Advocacy Centre of Simcoe/Muskoka. Remember what I said about the kind of guy he was?
There will always be a void in our angling community — John Whyte
In 2017, it was my great privilege to introduce Wil when he was inducted into the Canadian Angler Hall Fame, one of many accolades he earned for his contributions to fishing and conservation. That same year, Wil also received the National Recreational Fisheries Award from Fisheries and Oceans Canada for his tireless conservation efforts, as well as the Rick Morgan Professional Conservation Award from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. One can only wonder what more Wil would have accomplished if not for this cruel disease. As Wil’s good friend and fellow Lake Simcoe angler John Whyte wrote in his touching tribute to Wil on Facebook, “There will always be a void in our angling community.”
To read more about Wil Wegman and his fishing adventures, check out his Focus on Fishing website at www.wilwegman.com