Column: Waiting for return of fishing season

The Great Outdoors/James Murray

As we come to the end of one year, we look forward to the next with hope and optimism.

For anglers, it is more like the closing of one fishing season with the opening of another not all that far off. Unless of course you are into ice fishing, which means that the calendar year may be ending, but you are still fishing so the actual season of the year may have change but the fishing season hasn’t really – it is a bit confusing. My point is that for many anglers, the past fishing season is but a fond memory and the coming of the new, spring fishing season is still some months away. Something that many of us, who don’t ice fish, can only look forward to during the long winter months that lie ahead. But then again, anglers are by their very nature ever the optimists. We have to be.

Which brings me to the state of some of our fisheries. This is where hope and optimism come in. While far too many of our salmon stocks are in serious trouble, trout stocks have been faring up fairly well. This is in large part because of a well maintained, organized and structured fish stocking program in the province. As far back as the 1920’s, rainbow trout were being introduced into a number of so-called ‘fishless’ lakes that were located close to populated areas. The end result being that today many of the province’s most popular interior trout fisheries have come about because of government sponsored fish stocking initiatives.

Related: Thompson, Chilcotin Steelhead Trout in danger of extinction

Lurking within the depths of a fair number of B.C.’s Interior lakes are a unique strain of trout that are strong, hard hitting and fight like crazy all the way to the boat. They commonly will leap out of the water shaking their heads in an attempt to free themselves from the hook, and are every bit as scrappy and exciting to catch as any fish out there.

Triploids are a strain of rainbow trout which were developed by fisheries biologists with the idea of putting them into lakes where there were no natural spawning channels, or, where there were already existing resident populations of natural wild trout, but, where increased fishing pressure had put existing fish numbers into decline. Triploid trout are the same as other hatchery-raised trout, except that they have been sterilized. Since many fish die when they cannot “spawn out,” the triploid strain of trout was a fairly simple solution to a relatively complex problem, as they do not suffer the ill effects of unsuccessful spawning. Because triploids cannot reproduce, they cannot dilute or alter the gene pool of existing wild stocks.

Trout eggs are collected from wild trout on site and then subjected to high pressure “heat shocking” for a given period of time at the hatchery. The shocking usually takes place within 40 minutes of the fertilization process. The triploid trout are not genetically altered by the shocking process and cannot be distinguished in appearance from other reproductive fish stocks. They are raised and reared the same as non-sterilized fish stocks and display the same physical and behavioural attributes.

Triploid trout do, however, have the potential to grow considerably larger than wild stocks because they do not have to devote any energy or calories to the reproductive processes. Typically, fish such as rainbow trout grow for two to three years, mature, and then stop growing. Triploid trout never stop growing. When triploid trout are put into lakes with a fair abundance of food they can, and often do, attain weights in excess of 10 pounds.

In recent years, the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC has taken over responsibility for the implementation of all fish stocking programs within the province. The society works in conjunction with the provincial Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection to manage existing and create new fisheries.

Related: Column: Reflecting on past anglers and their written works

According to the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, stocked fish currently account for half of the fish taken by anglers in the approximately 1,000 lakes and streams that are stocked with hatchery fish in the province. The triploid strain of trout serves to provide quality sport fishing in many lakes that would otherwise not be able to sustain a stable wild fish population.

The triploid strain of rainbow trout are aggressive, feisty and can grow to a more than respectable size. Certainly something to look forward to catching this coming spring – which at this point in time just seems so terribly far off. I don’t know; maybe ice fishing wouldn’t be such a bad idea.


@SalmonArm
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