Rocky year ahead for fish stocks

How many times have I bumped my way along some back road as I made my way into a new fishing hole?

How many times have I bumped my way along some back road, missing one pothole just so that I could hit another, as I made my way into a new fishing hole? You know the type of roads where you invariably lose at least one part of your vehicle along the way, or hit a bump and have everything stashed in your visor fall into your lap as you’re driving along. It would seem that most really good fishing lakes/streams in the southern Interior are usually only accessible by such roads.

On the other hand, there are more than 800 lakes in this province that are stocked each year with trout fry and fingerlings as part of the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC’s efforts to improve accessible recreational fishing opportunities.

The FFSBC is responsible for stocking some eight million fish in lakes and streams throughout the province. (Approximately 53 per cent of freshwater angling licence revenues go towards fish stocking programs.)

The FFSBC operates five hatcheries and up to 10 field stations in B.C. as well as a number of egg collection stations at various lakes and streams where, for two to four weeks every spring and fall, traps are set to capture wild trout as they head out to spawn in order to attain brood stock from which eggs are collected.

All of these facts have upon occasion, as I sat out in my boat casting a line, letting my mind wander as it is often prone to do, brought to the surface the question of just how the FFSBC gets all those little fry into some of the more inaccessible lakes – you know, the really good lakes that are full of hungry, gullible 16- to 24-inch rainbow trout.

Actually it only took going into the FFSBC website to find out that when designated lakes are not easily accessible by road, the fish are released by air. Each year approximately 200 lakes in our province are stocked with fish by helicopter. A 100-foot-long cable is hung below the helicopter with a “fry mover” container dangling at the end. The pilot controls the release of the fish with an electronic switch and the fry are dropped about 20 feet above the water’s surface.

While on their website, I also learned that a number of fish population recovery initiatives are being planned/implemented by the FFSBC for specific fish species to prevent extinction in the short-term and to rebuild these fish populations over the longer term.

In some cases, changes to the regulations and/or fish habitat restoration and protection is all that would be required to ensure the recovery of some fish populations, especially where fish numbers are extremely low or no natural reproduction is occurring.

Where fish populations face more immediate danger of extinction, more intensive measures may be required, including conservation fish culture methods and a more tailored restocking program. (Conservation fish culture differs from more traditional fish culture in that the goal is to preserve genetic integrity and aid in rebuilding native populations, rather than augmenting existing fish populations, or simply providing angling opportunities.)

Of course there are currently already any number changes to regulations pertaining to the protection of fish habitat that are a direct result of the federal government slipping them past with their Omnibus Bill C-38 – none of which are all that beneficial to the poor fish.

Any way you look at it, the proverbial road ahead for fish stocks in our province appears to be a relatively rocky one, and I for one am thankful that the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC is working hard to maintain and preserve both the wild and stocked fish populations in our lakes and streams.