City council members are dusting off their fishing poles following a unanimous decision to go ahead with a one-year trial to stock McGuire Lake with 600 sterile rainbow trout.
With approximately 20 community members filling the council chamber gallery, the atmosphere was a friendly public debate with attendees politely stating their opinions. This is a sight Coun. Alan Harrison said he enjoys seeing in Salmon Arm.
“I hear at times how contrary views are ripping this community apart,” he said. “I don’t see it that way at all. I think it is quite a healthy thing.”
First to address council was Salmon Arm resident Lee Rawn, who said she did not support the proposal.
“It’s an ornamental lake,” she said, commenting on the fountain and habitat that decorate McGuire Lake including flowers, goldfish, birds and ducks.
Rawn argued that McGuire Lake is basically a pond and that it doesn’t make sense to use it as a fishing hole when Shuswap Lake is only a few blocks away.
“This is the proper fisherman for McGuire Lake,” she said, holding a photograph of a blue heron, a move which sparked applause from the gallery.
Sherrie Favell also voiced her concerns with the proposal, presenting a petition with 250 signatures she managed to collect in only a few days.
“I think Salmon Arm is one of the most beautiful towns in the world and one of the things that makes this town so beautiful is McGuire Lake,” she said. “I can’t believe city councillors are thinking about stocking the lake with trout again, when just a few years ago, the people of this town were so against the idea. We haven’t forgotten and we haven’t changed our minds.”
Favell asked why there’s a need to introduce fishing to McGuire Lake when there’s an abundance of lakes and rivers to choose from, and within reasonable driving distances of Salmon Arm.
“There must be a formal scientific study before you introduce the trout to the lake. Do you have all the answers? Will an environmental study be conducted before the window of opportunity to introduce the trout to the lake is closed? Or will the trout simply be introduced to McGuire Lake while you just guess what the environmental impact will be?”
Safety concerns were also addressed by Favell, who asked whether children would be supervised and required to wear lifejackets, if a lifeguard would be on duty, if fishing would be permitted offshore and how nesting birds and other wildlife would be protected.
Other community members expressed a different view, including Todd Hooper, a resident who works in the fishing industry.
“I’m probably not going to get a whole lot of clapping by the sounds of things, but I keep hearing all this stuff, and I call them the ‘no-fun police’ in this town. It’s frustrating and, for once, I came down to speak my mind.”
Hooper said people may suggest fishing on Shuswap Lake as an alternative, but reality is, it isn’t a very practical or economical option.
“We live on one of the most regulated lakes in the whole of B.C.,” he said. “You can’t retain fish. Young kids can, they have their own quota, but their parents can’t. You have to buy tags and they have to be a certain size. You’re only allowed to fish off the Salmon Arm pier for a very short amount of time and basically you’re catching coarse fish.”
Longtime Shuswap resident, Mel Arnold, used his life’s work as a conservationist to argue that fishing on McGuire Lake would be positive, introducing youth to both wildlife and conservation.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet other conservationists across the province and country,” he said. “And to see the work being done by those people, who got their start angling and hunting at an early age, who got into activities that were responsible, taught stewardship, taught conservation, taught land and water use values. This is an opportunity we have in this community to start some young people down that same path.”
After community members were given their chance to speak, city councillors voiced their own comments on the proposal.
“I love McGuire Lake and I think I’ll love it more after we try this,” said Coun. Kevin Flynn, noting that it isn’t a real concern if the trout don’t survive the year.
“That’s the whole idea of stocked fish. They’re not supposed to survive the year anyway, they’re supposed to all get caught in the end,” he said, adding that he agrees the lake should be monitored.
Flynn also addressed the argument that it isn’t the city’s job to get kids out of the house.
“On the contrary, I think that is exactly what we should be doing,” he said, pointing to the skateboard park, soccer fields and recreation centres as past examples. “That is our job. I am passionate about Salmon Arm and I am passionate about McGuire Lake and we owe it to the youth of this community to give this a try.”
Harrison said he feels that the whole issue with this proposal is that everyone’s vision is different.
“Is it going to be a grandpa and a son out on the fishing dock adding to the serenity of the environment? Or is it going to be a ton of kids scampering around making a pile of noise? I don’t think any of us really know,” he said.
For Harrison, the first scenario is what he tends to see as the outcome.
“I say let’s try it. We can conjecture and guess and wonder about how it’s going to be, but we aren’t going to know unless we try it.”