(Originally published December, 2010)
By Pamela Steel
Huntsville’s Tommy Waldock is a fisherman. Four seasons, he can be found out on the lakes of Muskoka.
And he has a dream. The 24-year-old has founded his own charity, Shots for Kids; an ecologically minded outdoor education business, Hooked Young; and he dreams of opening a world-class aquarium in Huntsville some day.
“My cousin is an engineer and we are working with some architects to help design a state-of-the-art educational facility,” he says. “To be built in the Huntsville area, the aquarium will cater to educational studies, class trips, supporting companies with green initiatives, and the public at large. The focus is to promote environmental education and practice looking towards a brighter, greener future.”
He envisions an indoor/outdoor facility with a large greenhouse section, an indoor fishing pond/river with underwater viewing area, a fish hatchery section, and tanks highlighting the ecology of lakes of Ontario including lakes like Vernon, Lake of Bays, Bright, Simcoe, Lake of the Woods, Scugog, and Lake Ontario.
“Some are in trouble and natural habitats, invasive species, and species at risk will be depicted accurately,” he says. “The constantly updated sets of Ministry of Natural Resources regulations for each lake will be shown as well to promote fisheries education and conservation.”
Looking toward a greener tomorrow is paramount for Waldock. Everything he does is a building block toward a career spent spreading his enthusiasm for the Muskoka environment in all its seasons.
Waldock graduated from Nipissing University in 2008. After four years of studying biology, he moved to British Columbia to work at a fish hatchery in Sechelt.
For a year he gained valuable experience working in the aquaculture and fisheries industry before returning home to Huntsville.
“I missed home so I came back,” he says. “After returning, I tried to no avail to get on with a government hatchery here in Ontario or land a similar job in my field. After months of working as a lifeguard for the town of Huntsville and an inbox full of rejection letters from the MNR, I decided to go after the fisheries from my own angle. After all, you’ve got to do what you love. It’s a huge passion of mine – the only one really – all this,” he says of his many projects.
Waldock has been a foster brother for 18 years, and his father is very involved with the Children’s Aid Society. His mother was orphaned at 13 and grew up in foster homes.
“I was 6 or 7 when we started fostering kids. I can’t even begin to count how many kids there have been over the years,” he says.
Waldock liked taking his foster siblings out fishing the lakes.
“I take these kids fishing, often for their first time ever. Their eyes get big when we’re reeling in the fish — they love it. They’re hooked. That’s how I started chartering and guiding,” he says. “I love taking people out and giving them an experience they’ll never forget.”
He has also taken the time to take a couple of Community Living’s clients fishing on Lake Vernon.
“It was awesome,” he says. “I was going slow in the boat because they were nervous. I always like for people on the boat to catch fish so before I went out I caught four pike. When they weren’t looking, I hooked the fish so they could reel in a six-pound pike. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.”
His experience as a foster brother has also inspired him to set up his own ongoing fundraiser, Shots for Kids. Waldock is an avid photographer and, of course, it’s fish and fishing and the pristine lakes of the region he loves to shoot. The profits from any photos he sells go to the Children’s Aid Society.
“That’s something I love doing,” he says. “It’s all about education, youth and good times on the water with family and friends”
Fishing for Waldock is about more than sport. It’s about ecology, it’s about the environment and it’s about community. He’s hoping to encourage his passion in young people across the region.
He has founded a grassroots business, Hooked Young. Through his website, he offers tours, education and photography. He takes pretty fish pictures and videos.
He employs social media to spread his ecological message and his joy of fishing through great videos on Youtube, through Facebook and on his website at hookedyoung.com.
And the boy can fish. Last year alone he won first place in both the Huntsville Pike Challenge and the Top 50 Pike Tournament, second place in the Mary Lake Lions smallmouth bass tournie and sixth in the Top 50 Pike Classic on Lake Nipissing.
His partner in fishing tournaments is younger brother Chip.
In 2008 they showed up to fish the Huntsville Pike Tournament in their old tin boat, much to the derision of the more elaborately equipped competitors.
“When we showed up our boat got laughed at so hard. We were pretty ghetto,” he says.
Still, the boys came home with the $2,226 prize for most length that day. Measuring in 186 inches for five fish.
And now that they have upgraded their equipment, they’re a double threat — talent and technology.
Eventually Waldock hopes to become a major player in the fishing media scene.
“Every fishing show and company is geared toward an older generation. You see an older dude like Bob Izumi reeling in a monster. These guys are heroes. We’re more directed toward family – getting the kids and the moms out; fishing together as a family.”
It all comes together for Waldock. And it’s all comes back to family and the environment.
“Without the environment, we wouldn’t have anything,” he says. “ The environment comes first, people come second, and business comes third.”