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Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

2015/2016 Lower Mainland Freshwater Fishing Regulation Changes

Published on Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

As we enter another new fishing licence year, some freshwater regulation changes have been implemented in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley (Region Two). Regulations are reviewed every year and some changes are often made to accommodate angling quality and conservation. Here are some major changes which you should be aware of before going fishing:

Night Time Fishing Closures

Until now, daylight only fishing regulations have only been limited to salmon in some streams. Starting on April 1st 2015, daylight only fishing will also apply to all species for the non-tidal portion of the Fraser River, Lower Pitt River and Harrison River. This means you can no longer fish at night from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise.

Fraser River night time fishing closure

This change was first proposed late last year as a way to reduce poaching of white sturgeon, which often takes place at night. By having complete night time fishing closures in these three main systems where sturgeon fishing usually takes place, conservation officers hope to catch poachers more easily and see a significant reduction on sturgeon poaching.

The changes have been controversial because representatives of most sport fishing organizations have opposed it, believing this is yet another loss of sport fishing opportunities which the community will never get back. By having a blanket fishing closure, families can no longer enjoy fishing for other species such as Northern pikeminnow by the camp fire at night in the summer. Most of the poaching also take place in the tidal portion of the Fraser River (downstream from Mission, regulated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada), where it remains open for night time sturgeon fishing. It is hoped that Fisheries and Oceans Canada will soon follow these changes which the province has made, otherwise it kind of defeats the purpose of this closure.

Releasing Big Wild Trout and Char in Selected Lakes

Wild trout and char over 50cm long now have to be released at Chehalis, Chilliwack, Cultus, Harrison, Lillooet Lakes. There has been very little understanding on the trout and char populations of these lakes, which are connected to the Lower Fraser River. Some have long believed that anadromous coastal cutthroat trout and bull trout travel between these lakes and the Fraser River.

Cultus Lake coastal cutthroat trout

A good example is this hatchery-marked cutthroat trout caught at Cultus Lake during the pikeminnow fishing derby several years ago (above photo). Hatchery-marked coastal cutthroat trout are only released in several Northern tributaries of the Lower Fraser River, therefore this fish must have travelled from one of these tributaries, through the Fraser River, up the Chilliwack/Vedder River before it reached the lake.

By requiring anglers to release large wild trout and char at these lakes, we can further protect the vulnerable anadromous trout and char stocks of the Lower Fraser River.

Ross Lake Brook Trout Retention

Until now, anglers are required to release all native char (bull trout) at Ross Lake where the Skagit River drains into. In recent years, brook trout, which have been stocked in a couple of lakes connected to Ross Lake in United States, have become more abundant. They can now be found in both Ross Lake and Skagit River when targeting rainbow trout and bull trout.

Ross Lake brook trout

Biologists fear that these introduced fish will have a significant negative impact on the native fish populations, therefore retention of brook trout is now allowed at Ross Lake, up to five fish can be kept by one angler per day. The challenge now is to make sure anglers will identify the chars which they catch correctly. Bull trout and brook trout can look somewhat similar to those who have never caught them before. If bull trout are mistakenly retained, then this regulation change can potentially backfire.

Other Region Two regulation changes can be found in this PDF file (highlighted in blue in the water-specific table).

Fraser River Salmon Regulation Changes for September

Published on Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Fraser River Coho Salmon

While the Fraser River remains open for sockeye salmon fishing, anglers should note that a couple of management measures will come in effect in the upcoming weeks. These regulation changes are put in place to protect the vulnerable interior coho salmon runs. The changes are:

  • Bait ban
  • No fishing for coho salmon (including both wild and hatchery-marked coho salmon)

These regulations are in effects for the following sections:

If you are fishing for sockeye salmon in September, please be sure to identify your fish correctly before bringing it on land instead of dragging it up. You can accomplish this easily by using a landing net with soft mesh. Unlike a spotless sockeye salmon, a coho salmon has small spots across the dorsal section of its body as well as the top section of its tail.

You should also note that steelhead travelling through the Fraser River also are required to be released. These large steelhead, which are also heading up to the interior tributaries of the Fraser River, can often be misidentified as a chinook salmon so be sure to look twice. Every single endangered steelhead and coho salmon counts, so lets ensure this fishery is sustainable by minimizing mortality in by-catches.

The end of the sockeye salmon fishing opening has not been announced, but we will make sure the fishery notice is posted on our website and Facebook page when it is announced.

Fraser River Sockeye Opening, What You Should Know

Published on Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Fraser River Sockeye Salmon

Whether you are into fishing or not, by now you most likely have heard about the anticipated large Fraser River sockeye salmon return this year. Fish returning this year are offsprings of the exceptionally large run in 2010, so it should not be a surprise to see another high return in the same cycle.

The current estimated range of this year’s return is 7.5 million to 75 million fish. 7.5 million fish being the most likely number, while 75 million fish is least likely achieved. Most reports prefer the 75 million number, but realistically the more accurate predicted return size is between 20 and 30 million fish. The large range of estimates is the result of uncertainties caused by the much larger return in 2010.

Recreational sockeye salmon fishing in the non-tidal portion of the Fraser River in Region Two begins on August 6th. Most consider this as a harvest fishery, as the fish rarely bite due to poor water visibility so they are mostly flossed (accidentally hooked in the mouth) and retained. It is a popular fishery, and on a good return year like this all participants can enjoy taking home some fresh sockeye salmon. Here are some important notes which I think you should be aware of before trying this fishery out.

Before heading out to catch your sockeye salmon, the very first thing you should be doing is to buy a freshwater fishing licence and salmon conservation surcharge, which allows you to retain your catches. You can do so by going to www.fishing.gov.bc.ca. The money you spend gives you access to all freshwater fisheries in British Columbia and it is also good investments for the recreational fishing community. Funds from the licences are allocated to the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation. Both organizations are responsible for the development of BC’s freshwater recreational fisheries and conservation projects.

If the return becomes as large as predicted, then it is possible that the daily quota will be raised from the current 2 fish per day to 4 fish per day. Earlier this year, members of the Sport Fishing Advisory Committee in the Fraser Valley have made this recommendation to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. By raising the limit to 4 fish per day, it allows participants to quickly catch their limit and leave, so other participants can also have a chance to fish. Secondly, when the daily quota is kept at two, participants are likely to continue fishing after retaining the limit for a chance to retain a chinook salmon. In the process, too many sockeye salmon are often caught and released, which only does more harm than good. By raising the limit to four sockeye salmon per day, hopefully it can eliminate this behaviour. If the daily quota is changed during the season, we will have it published on the website or Facebook page so be sure to check back often before each trip.

If you decide to partake in this fishery, you should know that there are other species migrating among these sockeye salmon. Wild coho salmon and steelhead, are encountered sometimes and they need to be released with extreme care. Too often fish are dragged onto the beach immediately prior to being identified. In some cases, fish are not identified correctly and protected species are killed. Wild coho salmon and steelhead travelling in the Fraser River often come from endangered stocks, so it is up to every participant to ensure the survival of these fish. To do so, you should carry a landing net so the fish can be scooped and kept in the water prior to being identified. Know your fish species so you can identify each fish correctly. When a fish cannot be identified, please release it.

The Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery can be a family friendly, but whenever fishing pressure is high, an unpleasant environment can develop quickly. In the past, conflicts among recreational fishery participants and with First Nation fishers have occurred. In 2009, a serious incident between a band chief and two recreational participants resulted in the creation of the Fraser River Fisheries Peacemakers. This group is made of key representatives from the recreational fishing communities and First Nations in the Fraser Valley. Together, the group has developed many excellent initiatives in the past four years. One of these accomplishments is the document Fishing Together on the Fraser, which is designed for those who are trying out the Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery for the first time. One important resource available in this document is the fishing map produced by the Fraser Basin Council, which shows various fishing spots, First Nations’ land, boat launches, and other important landmarks. You can download these resources at the following links.

While there is a lot of attention on the good fishing, too often water safety is neglected. Quite often we see participants standing in waist deep water and forgetting how turbulent and dirty the Fraser River is during this time of the year. One slip can sweep you away and help is not always nearby. Personal floatation devices are inexpensive and can keep you alive if you are swept away. Better yet, you can avoid getting into these situations by not wading too far out. Observe the current in the river prior to walking in the water.

The high abundance of returning sockeye salmon is not the only good news. This large biomass will have both direct and indirect effects on other inhabitants in the Fraser River watersheds and other fisheries. Rainbow trout and bull trout which reside in large lakes such as Shuswap Lake, will be able to enjoy feasting on the abundance of eggs being deposited by these sockeye salmon. By this fall, these trout and char can be anywhere from 1lb to 8lb and actually provide an excellent catch and release fishery for anglers. Because there isn’t a lack of food, these will be some of the strongest trout and char you can encounter. Bears and other predatory mammals also benefit from the return. The feeding process also brings well needed nutrients to the forests when these animals drag their catches into them. The feasting continues next spring when juvenile sockeye salmon hatch from these eggs. Overall, a salmon return at this magnitude is not only welcoming news for the all fishery sectors, but more importantly it revives all the ecosystems connected to the Fraser River.

Finally, if you are lucky enough to catch a couple of sockeye salmon for dinner, be sure to dispatch and bleed the fish immediately. The fish should also be placed in a cooler full of ice. Any fish being kept in the river will lose its freshness fast, as the water temperature is quite high in the shallow parts of the river right now. Have fun, be safe and please share your experiences of this fishery on our website.

Chilliwack River Juvenile Steelhead Release

Published on Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC has spent the past three days releasing juvenile steelhead into the Chilliwack Vedder River. This is always a three-day operation because fish have to be transported from the Chilliwack Hatchery to various location in the lower river downstream from the Vedder Crossing. They are released in the lower river for a couple of reasons. One is to ensure returning adults do not move upstream too fast so more angling opportunities are provided. Two is to prevent any direct competition between released hatchery fish and wild fish in the upper watershed where wild juvenile fish typically rear. 115,239 fish were released in three days and their average size was 70g. Hopefully in a couple of years from now, we will be seeing these returning as large, chrome fish which we all enjoy catching every winter.

Releasing Juvenile Steelhead into Chilliwack River

Releasing Juvenile Steelhead into Chilliwack River

Releasing Juvenile Steelhead into Chilliwack River

You can find out more about this project by watching this video.

Your Freshwater Fishing Licence, Investment Well Spent

Published on Monday, April 28th, 2014

If you fish in British Columbia’s lakes and rivers, then you need to renew your annual freshwater fishing licence on April 1st every year. At $36 per year for an adult who resides in this province, freshwater fishing is one of the cheapest recreational activities you can participate in. The general licence fee has remained the same for many years now, despite of the rise in cost for everything else.

Quite often, the question “where does that money go to?” is raised and the general angling public rarely has the right answer. Many believe the licence fees we pay are deposited into general revenue for the provincial government, which is in fact not correct. Most of the general licence fee is used to fund Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC‘s operations. These operations include the production of trout and char at five of their hatcheries, and the stockings of these fish into hundreds of lakes in this province for anglers to enjoy.

The conservation surcharges which you pay, as well as a small percentage of your general licence fee, are used to fund Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation. HCTF is a not-for-profit organization which funds many conservation related projects in BC. In 2013, the foundation spent 2.5 million dollars on 60 different fish conservation projects.

Beside conservation projects, the foundation also spends money on recreational fishing development projects which the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC has initiated. These projects include fishing infrastructures at various urban lakes in Regions 1 and 2 to make your fishing experience more enjoyable, the learn to fish program which introduces fishing to youngsters.

Not only is your licence fees and conservation surcharges helping our freshwater fish populations, they are also investments which will result in better fishing experiences. It is money well spent!

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