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Posted: September 3, 2015

Regulatory changes to angling management

Regulatory changes to Kootenay angling management announced today will help ensure a quality fishing experience, reduce crowding on popular rivers and support trout conservation, says the provincial government.

Wigwam River
Wigwam River

The main change is implementation of a booking system for non-resident anglers on three “classified waters” in the Kootenays: the Wigwam River, Skookumchuck Creek and Michel Creek. All three of these fisheries have seen non-resident, non-guided angler use exceed targets, creating overcrowding on the river as well as pressure on fish populations, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations announced today.

Under the new system, a set amount of non-resident, non-guided angler days will be made available through the existing online angling licensing system. Selections will be made on a first-come, first-serve system, ensuring all non-resident anglers have an equal opportunity.

Once these days are sold, non-resident anglers will have to book through a licensed angling guide to fish on these waters. Angler-guided days have been increased on the Wigwam and Skookumchuck in anticipation of additional interest from non-residents seeking access to these waters. These additional days will become available later in the season.

The new system will ensure resident anglers maintain priority access on streams that have been over-subscribed in recent years, while still allowing non-residents ample opportunity to access these high-demand systems.

Skookumchuck Creek
Skookumchuck Creek

B.C.’s classified waters are productive wild trout streams in wilderness and semi-wilderness settings, which provide unique and high quality fishing opportunities that are in high demand but limited supply. The classified waters system was created to help protect the quality of fishing opportunities these waters provide.

The system includes limits to guided and non-guided angling, reflects resident priority, and requires special classified water licences. Together these measures support stock assessment, habitat protection and enhancement, as well as compliance and enforcement.

The changes are part of the implementation of the Kootenay Angling Management Plan is also being released today.

Other measures being enacted under the Kootenay Angling Management Plan include:

* Enhanced patrols by both conservation officers and river guardians.

* Reviewing opportunities for additional boat launch facilities to improve angler access on the Elk River.

The Kootenay Angling Management Plan and the resulting changes to the Kootenay classified water system is the result of intensive stakeholder engagement over the past decade, and incorporates feedback from First Nations, resident anglers, professional angling guides and the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC.

“The Kootenay Angling Management Plan and the changes to the region’s classified waters together strike the appropriate balance between access and conservation. This will ensure this area remains a quality fishery for all anglers now and in the future,” stated Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett
Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett, who is also Minister of Energy and Mines, added, “I want to thank the East Kootenay angling guides for their commitment to the plan and for their hard work in finding ways to improve a good plan that benefits all of us anglers.”

“The Kootenay Angling Management Plan is a major step forward to maintain resident priority angling in the East Kootenay. We appreciate the efforts of all those who have contributed to this important initiative,” said BC Wildlife Federation president George Wilson.

“It was refreshing to participate in a positive and productive consultation process involving such a diverse group of angling stakeholders. Hopefully the changes made to the plan will ensure these fisheries stay world class for years to come,” said Matt Jennings, executive director, BC Fishing Resorts and Outfitters Association.

The Kootenay-Boundary region receives the highest number of non-B.C. resident anglers in the province, and the second highest number of non-resident alien (international) anglers.

The predominant wild fish species pursued by stream anglers within the East Kootenay are Bull Trout and Westlope Cutthroat Trout (lead image).

The previous classified waters system in the Kootenays was first established in 2006.

In addition to the booking system necessary to provide the available non-guided, non-resident angler days on classified waters, the following changes to the existing Classified Waters regulations are also made:

Michel Creek
Michel Creek

– Michel Creek is established as its own classified water, while simultaneously removing it from the larger Elk River Classified Water.

This will allow for more specific management at a smaller scale for Michel Creek. Michel Creek is currently closed to angling due to low flows and high temperatures, but when it reopens the new regulations will apply.

– Angling guides are now able to use their existing Lower St. Mary allocation of days on both the Upper and Lower St. Mary. This will reduce guided angling pressure on the Lower St. Mary and provide some guiding flexibility in a challenging economy.

Guided days on the Wigwam River and Skookumchuck Creek increased by 80 and 50 days respectively, to more accurately reflect the fishable season and fishable lengths of these waters, which were too conservatively estimated, 10 years ago.

St. Mary River
St. Mary River

Classified waters for the White River, Upper Kootenay River, St. Mary River and Elk River are otherwise unchanged. On these rivers there are maximum angling days in place for angling guides, but non-residents may continue to fish without caps, after paying for their Classified Water licence.

The system for obtaining a Classified Water Licence remains exactly as it was before – users will log into the online angling licence webpage and select the classified water of their choice.

The difference will be that for non-guided non-resident anglers, once the allocation for the streams on the booking system is fully sold, that classified water will no longer appear as an option for purchase for them.

In order to allow reasonable access throughout the season, the allocation will be divided up into two-week periods. If a classified waters licence isn’t available for an angler’s preferred time, there is a good chance it will be available in a different two-week window.

For information on how to obtain a fishing licence, visit: http://www.fishing.gov.bc.ca/

To read the Kootenay Angling Management Plan.

Lead image: Westslope Cutthroat Trout. Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations image

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