Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dear BC resident anglers:

I am writing you regarding the restriction of non-resident fishing time on the Skeena River and its storied tributaries. As an angler who has spent most of my life fishing in Washington and Oregon I understand your concerns about crowding, however if you think the Skeena is crowded…try fishing the Deschutes in September. The bottom line is we live in a crowded world where wild steelhead are an increasingly scarce and precious resource and while it may seem tempting to exclude non-resident anglers from enjoying this at their leisure in the long run it could be detrimental to the fishery.

I see it like this: BC has a vast and amazing bounty of watersheds and natural resources. Frankly, it is startling to see massive declines in steelhead populations throughout much of the southern part of the province despite low population densities. The bottom line is that BC, like much of Canada, and much of the northern latitudes of the world is sparsely populated and the economy is largely driven by resource extraction, and exploitation. A perfect example is Vancouver Island, which once supported a vast and seemingly endless bounty of salmon and steelhead. Today only a few rivers on the west coast support what can reasonably be called “healthy” salmon and steelhead runs and even those are threatened by ever expanding fish farming operations. Logging and fish farming have taken a heavy toll on fisheries on the Island, and their effects are especially profound in the Georgia Strait. Rivers like the Oyster, Salmon, Nimpkish and Tsitika once were mentioned in the same breath as the Dean, Skeena, Skagit and Clearwater. Today they are nothing, supporting maybe a few hundred fish after rapacious logging, over reliance on hatcheries and massive, disastrous fish farm development have left these watersheds ravaged by man’s insatiable industrial appetite.

Today the Skeena faces many of the same threats and more. Ludicrous fisheries targeting man made sockeye runs, coal bed methane development in the sacred headwaters and the transport of highly toxic oil and solvents to and from the Tar Sands top the long list of potential impacts. Still, the Skeena has hope. The historic diversity and abundance, while reduced remains robust, and as can be expected anglers from around the world come to ply the Skeena's storied waters every year. With all these threats looming the Skeena watershed needs as many friends as she can get. To me it seems a waste of time and energy to focus on crowding when there are so many pressing conservation challenges facing the watershed. How crowded is the Skeena really?

Moricetown Falls, first nations have been fishing there since the dawn of time

Have you tried fishing the Sol Duc, Skagit, or Hoh during peak season? Have you been to the Deschutes in September or the Lower Ronde in October? You have it good my BC friends and please, please don’t forget that we let you fish at relatively little cost on our many steelhead streams. Every year I meet a number of BC residents on the Big Mighty River, or on the Peninsula. I greet them as peers, equals, part of the fabric of our steelhead culture. We’re all chasing the same things folks, a taste of what little remains of that quicksilver brilliance, the energy that can only come from the power and tenacity of a wild steelhead.

10 lbs of pissed off Big River chrome

Last fall was my first time in this amazing region of the world, and I plan to return every year of my life, god willing. Driving 13 hours to experience the awe inspiring beauty of the northcountry is well worth it, and with every swing the chance is there for a fish of a lifetime . The Skeena and her many tributaries host some of the greatest fish on the face of the earth and like all wonderful things should be shared. Anglers from all over the world annually rejoice in the grandeur of the Skeena and her fish and most of us are happy to fight on behalf of the rivers we love. I just moved to BC to start gradschool and as a legal resident of BC I can now fish the Skeena an unlimited number of days, however I can’t say at this moment in my life whether I will be a lifetime resident of BC. The odds are I wont, my family lives in Pugetropolis and that’s where my roots are. While I love my home rivers, the Skeena provides something that they cannot. Fishing for more than just crumbs, and what is truly startling is that the Skeena could be far more productive with changes in how the sockeye fishery is managed. The more people you have lobbying on their behalf, the better off the steelhead are. The current rules as they are proposed (from what I understand) would relegate Americans and other non-resident to a set number of days per year, and would favor guides massively.

Skeena Country, nice view eh?

Since I spend most of my time living under a bridge in steelhead country eating spam, and instant potatoes I am not the guide paying type, never will be. My chosen profession as a fish bum/biologist doesn’t promise to make me a whole lot of money either so the fact is I will probably never be able to afford that upper crust, guided experience. I don’t really have the desire either. As an angler who takes my steelhead fishing very seriously, I take pride in finding water and fish on my own, learning the rivers that I visit to the best of my ability, and experiencing the fishing as the locals do, without the pampering or handholding of a lodge and guide.

There are many ways to regulate crowding without cutting us out altoghether. How about limiting the number of fish anglers are permitted to hook in a given day? What about limiting the number of days consecutive non-resident anglers can fish a given river? We’re already paying our the arse to fish your beautiful northcountry rivers during prime time, why not take that revenue and start buying out sockeye boats? During my trip the most anglers I saw in a given day was 7, that pales in comparison to my day to day fishing experience in the lower 48. Still, I understand the frustration from the anglers who love fishing the Bulkley, Kispiox and Copper during peak season. The recent angling management plan is heavily biased by guides who want the Skeena as their private playground, but lets look at this as a long run problem. The crowding can be controlled through more moderate measures, those which don’t favor only guides and an elite clientele they cater to. Certainly that has to resonate with the hard working, hard fishing types of BC. The Skeena is a treasure, and she needs all the friends she can get. I know I speak for many others when I say, we’re willing to do our part. Just give us the chance.

Reel screaming northcountry henfish. share the wealth brothers

1 comment:

  1. you have some good point. But at the end of the day this rule was mostly put together for locals who work 40 hrs a week to be able to get out on the river in the weekend and not have to deal with the crowd. Also, change over is usually on Saturday so that help too. I personally think they should charge $100 a day for the non residents. People pay $10 000 a week to lodge a week to come fish there. Whats another $100 a day. And make sure that money is going in the right pocket.