British Columbia Fishing Blog

Fishing Trip Stories, Video Blog, Website Updates...

Welcome to our fishing blog, which takes you along on our fishing trips around British Columbia. This is also where we provide you updates on changes to our website and other related projects.

Smallmouth Bass in Cultus Lake

Published on September 19th, 2018 by admin

A couple of months ago, we published an alert notice on the presence of smallmouth bass in Cultus Lake when the northern pikeminnow capture crew encountered a couple during the program in the spring. There was surprisingly fair amount of skepticism of this news even though the notice came from BC’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

This morning, I accompanied Region 2 biologist Colin Schwindt, and Martina Beck from Ministry’s invasive fauna unit head who spent the day sampling the lake for specimens. Several smallmouth bass were captured, including both juveniles (1 year old) and adults (3 ~ 5 year old). Their stomach samples were collected and their age will be determined at the lab.

Smallmouth bass in Cultus Lake

How smallmouth bass will impact native species in Cultus Lake including endangered sockeye salmon is unknown at this point, because there simply isn’t enough information to determine that.

Colin has asked anglers who fish the lake to retain smallmouth bass if you encounter them (the current daily quota is 20), and bring them to DFO’s Cultus Lake Salmon Research Lab (4222 Columbia Valley Highway).

More information can be found on this page.

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Fish Selectively During Sockeye Salmon Fishing Closures

Published on September 4th, 2018 by admin

The non-tidal portion of the Fraser River is closed to sockeye salmon fishing after today. This year’s opening was almost a month long, so I hope everyone has had a chance to bring home some of the finest eating salmon. The good news is that the river will remain open for two salmon species – Chinook and chum salmon. Traditionally, the Lower Fraser River is closed to all salmon fishing throughout September, so several vulnerable runs, including Interior coho salmon and steelhead, can be protected. To still have some salmon recreational fishing opportunities available on the Fraser River this month is a bonus.

The key point that anglers should remember is to selectively target chinook and chum salmon only. In the past ten years, my colleagues and I in the Sport Fishing Advisory Committee have repeatedly asked Fisheries and Oceans Canada to define selective angling methods so they can be enforced during specific species closures. By doing so, it would result in more fishing opportunities for you if by-catches can be avoided. Instead, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has chosen not to do so, and continued to issue a “request” for selective fishing in fishery notices. This puts the recreational fishing community in a difficult place. While most anglers abide to that request, some would still choose to bottom bounce for chinook salmon and incidentally hook sockeye salmon in the process. When Fisheries and Oceans Canada observes and determines that by-catches of sockeye salmon and other closed species become too frequent, the entire fishery is shut down due to the lack of compliance of a “request” which cannot be enforced in the first place. It is a frustrating scenario and it needs to be changed, so your fishing opportunities would not be lost while conservation goals could be met.

The directors of the Fraser River Sportfishing Alliance and other business owners of the Fraser Valley recreational fishing community have been working hard on this issue. Starting tomorrow as sockeye salmon fishing closes, we are asking all anglers to stop bottom bouncing and practice selective fishing methods only. We are not asking you to do so because you should comply to a loosely defined request by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. We are asking you so the recreational fishing community can take the lead on proper fishery management, to avoid by-catches of species which we are trying to protect while enjoying the opportunities available. We want to see anglers out bar fishing for chinook salmon, and practice safe catch and release when a closed species is caught. You can also cast and retrieve lures in waters which are appropriate for the method. The take home message is that we should all avoid catching sockeye salmon, coho salmon and steelhead in the next several weeks. Thank you for the support.

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Ice Fishing in BC, a Fun Family Pastime!

Published on December 17th, 2017 by Rodney

In the past several winters, I have been doing more and more ice fishing. What started out as part of my work with the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC to promote winter fishing opportunities, has turned into one of our family’s favourite pastimes. Last February, we gave Tunkwa Lake a go in February. While others caught some fish, I was unsuccessful so I was quite determined to return and redeem myself.

Nice Rainbow Trout from Tunkwa Lake while Ice Fishing

Contrary to what most people think, ice fishing is in fact quite challenging and physically demanding. You are limited by what little daylight you have in the winter. It is often a guessing game when trying to find out where the fish might be at the very beginning. You drill a hole, look for the right depth and bottom structure, then you wait. If there are no fish, you pack everything up, move, drill more holes and wait some more. When the fish do show up, they often can be picky. Three scenarios could happen, they will either completely ignore your bait and swim off, peck at it a few times and move on, or grab the entire offering right away. This fishery is unpredictable, which makes having consistent results difficult if you have not done it often.

With that said, a challenge is always fun! According to our good friend Al Patton at Tunkwa Lake Resort, the fishing is typically best at the very beginning of the ice fishing season. This time, rather than venturing to the lake in February, we decided to make a trip there in December.

Last weekend, I popped into Cabela’s in Abbotsford, where it is well stocked with ice fishing gear so I could be prepared this time. With a proper ice fishing shelter, lighter rods, an auger that drills bigger holes, I was quite confident that we would catch more fish this time!

The Waiting Game

The weather was on our side as we drove up to the lake last Sunday. Sunny, yet not too cold, conditions were perfect for both anglers and fish. We arrived late in the day so settled in the warm cabin so we could be up early for the morning bite.

The first morning, we headed to the bay where Al had been doing well lately. Our first order of business was to get the ice fishing shelter up once the holes were drilled. The shelter serves several purposes. It keeps us warm, creates a dark environment so we could see the fish through the holes, and lastly it keeps the kids comfortable. As soon as we set everything up for fishing, I spotted a few nice rainbow trout cruising by below us! These fish looked to be around 16 to 18 inches long. They swam in and out of our field of view, but were not interested in our bait.

Ice Fishing Shelter

By mid afternoon, the mood of these fish suddenly changed. Instead of simply swimming by, they were finally stopping and chomping down the worms on our jigs. The first fish coming out of the hole was a fat 16 inch Pennask rainbow trout. This was followed by several more fish which all aggressively grabbed our offerings until it became too dark to see by 4:30pm.

The next day was a slow one, the bite was simply not on for whatever reason. Fish could be seen swimming by occasionally, but the numbers were not there. Instead, we spent the day wandering on the ice, shuttling between the ice shelter and the cabin, mixing a bit of sledding. One great thing about ice fishing is all the other fun activities which come with it, so the kids rarely get bored.

On our final day, my oldest son and I decided to return to the ice shelter at 9:00am to see if there’d be some early morning biters. As soon as we had everything set up, both of us could see fish circling around us. Big and small, they appeared to be hungry. One particular fish, was swimming just below the ice, feeding on scuds. I first dropped the worm down, but it was not interested at all. After several attempts, it was time for a switch. Next up, a few single eggs were threaded onto the hook. It took a glance, but once again the bait was ignored. After about 30 minutes, I had one more option in my box. I took out a jar of Pautzke Bait’s Fire Bait, which worked really well on brook trout while I was fishing at Edith Lake last season. I rolled a ball of the chartreuse dough bait onto the hook, shaped it into a worm. I dropped it down to just one foot below the ice where the fish had been suspending. Both of us had our eyes on the bait as the fish approached, and to our surprise, it sucked in the entire jig with no hesitation! This 18 inch fish went for a robust run as I handed the rod to junior, who was screaming in excitement while cranking the reel handle. Eventually both of us brought the fish out of the hole, which was the highlight of the entire trip.

Nice Rainbow Trout!

Overall, our second ice fishing trip to Tunkwa Lake was a successful one. While only about half a dozen fish were caught, it was a really fun experience for everyone in the family! It’s important to note that the fishing is best early in the morning and late in the afternoon when lighting is still low, so invest your fishing effort during those two periods, and spend the rest of your day on other fun activities.

Now, unlike soft water fisheries, there are particular items you must have when going on an ice fishing trip, and here is a list which I’ve come up with so there’d be no surprises while out on the ice.

1. Proper clothings and footwear
The very first time I went ice fishing, I wore gum boots. My feet didn’t last very long even with two pairs of wool socks on. A pair of good winter boots can keep your feet out on the ice all day long. Our preference has been Sorel. They are comfortable, and keep the feet dry and warm regardless how snowy and cold it is. Proper waterproof outerwear are also needed. There’ll be times when you need to kneel or lay down on the ice. The key word here is dry. If you can stay dry, then you will can keep fishing throughout the day.

2. Augers and ice scoops
It is good to bring two augers with you just in case one breaks. This important tool is what gives you access to the water through the ice, so without a functional one your fishing day is over. There are generally two different sizes available – 6” and 8”. We use the 8” auger from Eskimo because the bigger hole allows you to see more, and makes landing fish a lot easier. An ice scoop is needed to remove the excess slush in your hole. The last thing you want to be doing is to use your hands for this. I have been using a Frabill ice scoop. It’s long, so I don’t have to bend down to scoop, which makes a huge difference on your back when the weather is cold. The large scoop also gets the job done a lot faster.

3. Ice fishing rods
Don’t use a conventional spinning rod. An ice fishing rod is much shorter because it is difficult to aim with a longer rod when your fishing space is only 8 inches wide. I have been using these Frabill Bro series ice fishing rods, which are fantastic for both rainbow and brook trout as the tip is incredibly sensitive yet the blank is still fast enough to handle bigger fish. Coupling with the rods are my trusty Shimano Stradic 1000CI4+, which are light, smooth and durable. I spool my reels with Seaguar STS 6lb test fluorocarbon line, which is stiff and does not stretch, making it ideal for ice fishing.

4. Ice fishing shelter
As mentioned earlier, an ice fishing shelter makes your ice fishing experience a lot more comfortable. The tent keeps you away from the elements when the weather is bad. A heater in the tent also means no frozen fingers and icy lines. When sitting in the tent, it is completely dark above the ice while the water body remains bright from the surrounding light. This allows you to see every single fish in the water. We have been using Cabela’s Two-Person Hub ice shelter. This tent only weighs 30lb so can easily be set up and packed up by one person. Once popped up, the inside space is 36 square feet, enough to fit up to 3 people comfortably.

5. Bait, lures and flies
Be sure to carry a variety of offerings in your box when ice fishing. In spring time, trout usually key in on particular aquatic insects and catching them is a lot easier once you “match the hatch”. When ice fishing, fish can in fact be incredibly picky. What works one day is often ignored on the next, so it’s important to constantly switch up and work them differently by either keeping it stationary or jigging it lightly. The must-haves in my box include Pautzke Bait’s Fire Bait and pink shrimp eggs, 1/8oz or 1/16oz Gibbs Croc spoons (for jigging alone), Ironhead spoons (used as a flasher), deli shrimp, and of course dew worm.

6. Food and drink
When sitting in your ice fishing shelter, you’ll find that there can be a lot of down time if the fishing is slow. Food and warm drinks in a thermos can really make your outing much more enjoyable.

7. Sled
Finally, make sure you have a sled to carry all the above items! The last thing you want to do is to carry everything by hand from your vehicle to where you want to fish. There are different sizes of sleds to choose from, so make sure you choose one that can fit your ice shelter and everything else in.

Ice fishing is a very social activity. Spend a bit of time planning out what to bring can improve the experience for both you and your partners. The theme in the list above is time saving. Because your total fishing time during the day is perhaps six hours long, it’s rather important to be efficient, and the above tools can help you to achieve that. Between December and early March, many lakes in Interior British Columbia offer these fantastic opportunities so be sure to take advantage of them if you have a freshwater fishing licence.

Videos:

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Save the Interior Fraser Steelhead this Christmas!

Published on December 15th, 2017 by Rodney

Can you fulfill my Christmas wish this year?

Around a month ago, I talked about the current demise of the Interior Fraser River steelhead populations (Thompson and Chilcotin Rivers) and asked you to sign a petition so the angling community can come together to do something about it. That particular petition has gained tremendous amount of media attention in the past four weeks. It is bitter sweet. On one hand, it’s fantastic to finally see the public being concerned about a species that really don’t have a whole lot of value to human beside sportfishing. On the other hand, it is sad that we had to wait until this stage to finally take action.

This week, my colleague Eric Taylor at UBC has also shared his concerns on these steelhead populations. Dr Taylor is an avid angler as well as a zoologist who specializes on several native fish species in the Pacific Northwest. He is also the chairman of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, and has launched an emergency assessment for these steelhead. We are losing the genetic components of some rather special populations of steelhead at a rapid rate, so we need to move fast to save what’s left.

This Christmas, I have one last request for all of you to do, which is to sign the official e-petition at Canada’s House of Commons. This petition, initiated by The Steelhead Society of B.C.’s member Poul Bech and sponsored by MP Fin Donnelly, is asking the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to suspend ALL non-selective gill net fisheries in the Fraser River during the migratory time of these steelhead. Once the number of signatures reaches 500, it will be brought up to the House of Commons next year. Lets get it done so we can finally keep these nets out of the water next fall!

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The Unnecessary Demise of an Iconic Species

Published on November 20th, 2017 by Rodney

Steelhead

By now if you do some kind of recreational fishing in British Columbia, you must have heard about the predicted return numbers for this year’s Interior Fraser River steelhead, which are pretty dismal. The expected number of steelhead returning to the Thompson River is 145 fish, while Chilcotin River’s return is expected to be 45 fish. The number of fish spawning in the spring will most likely be even lower than that once overwintering mortality is taken into account.

The Thompson River returns, just one decade ago, were still in the thousands. Lets pause for a minute and think about the rate of this decline. If an iconic species of animal in British Columbia, take grizzly bear, or bald eagle for example, had a 50%+ decrease after one breeding cycle, imagine what the public outrage would be.

The trouble with fish is that, they are in the water. You can’t see them and you don’t know how they’re doing. Once a fish species loses its commercial value, it no longer is a public interest. A handful of lucky steelhead anglers who have had the privilege to shake hands with these fish, have a sentimental connection with them and will be their advocates, but their voices are not enough to bring these populations back to what they used to be. The recovery of a species requires the support of ALL British Columbians, and this is where you come in.

Now, I can’t sit here and tell you what a magnificent sportfish the Thompson River steelhead is or that we are saving them so future generations can enjoy catching them. Firstly, I’ve never fished for them so I wouldn’t know, and this is not about fishing anymore. The loss of a species is tragic, especially when it is preventable. The goal is no longer to save an iconic fish so some fishermen can feel the tug again. This is about saving genetically distinct populations of fish which cannot be replaced once they are gone.

The Interior Fraser River steelhead’s endemic range is huge. From the streams where they hatch to the Pacific Ocean, too many things can go wrong in tens of thousands squared kilometres. On top of natural challenges such as predation and unfavourable oceanic conditions, their survival is impacted by plenty of human activities. Some of these human-caused problems take time to resolve, while others can be eliminated immediately.

The commercial chum salmon gill net fishery in the Lower Fraser River, which takes place during these steelhead’s returns, is one of them. When there are only 200 fish returning, it is absurd to suggest some of them can be considered as incidental by-catches so a fishery can be allowed. With a post-release mortality at over 60%, you can see how fast the population can be pushed to extinction. The trouble with saving a species, is the race against time. The rate of decline accelerates as the species approaches extinction. Ten years ago, losing 20 fish meant a 1% loss of the population. Today, it becomes 10%. Time is running out.

Our immediate action should be to pressure this government to end a commercial fishery that puts money in a few pockets at the expense of a species’ survival. You can do so by signing this current petition that has been circulating. By signing this petition, it does not guarantee the recovery of the Interior Fraser River steelhead populations, far from it. This recovery will most likely take decades so your ongoing action and support are required. Sign, share and inform others who are still unaware.

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