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In case you haven’t heard, the fur is really flying up in British Columbia over some proposed rule changes on the Skeena River, one of Canada’s most accessible and productive steelhead rivers. As we understand the controversy, the Ministry of Environment in British Columbia, reacting to on-going complaints about angler overcrowding and other issues on the river, has put forth a draft proposal of an Angling Management Plan designed to reduce conflict on the river. Basically, the plan proposes to limit access to the river for non-resident anglers by restricting them to fishing with a registered guide in numbers that are capped at a specific level, or by entering a lottery for a license which allows the angler to fish unguided for eight consecutive days in a season. We are posting a copy of this draft proposal on the home page of our website for anyone interested in getting the larger picture.
Until now, angler access to the Skeena has basically been unrestricted. The new proposed restrictions are strictly targeted at limiting non-residents. Resident anglers are not restricted in any way. A similar set of restrictions has been in place on the more remote Dean River for years now. Since the Dean is only accessible by helicopter or plane, the restrictions affect fewer anglers and are seen as “business as usual.”
In this case, a substantial number of non-resident anglers who spend a lot of time on the Skeena (and a lot of money with lodges, restaurants and tackle shops in the area) feel they are being unfairly targeted. Some are suggesting a boycott of British Columbia, including the upcoming 2010 winter Olympics.
Here at The Angling Report, we are not about to take a hard and fast position on this issue. For sure, though, we do not support a measure as extreme as a boycott, and we see absolutely no need to penalize legitimate lodges and guides who are offering services on the Skeena, the Dean and elsewhere in BC. What I do support personally, as Managing Editor of The Angling Report, are common sense efforts to protect fisheries from overuse. I say that having seen on the Salmon River in New York the truly ugly face of unrestricted access to a world-class fishery within a few hours of a major population center. I have also fished Atlantic salmon waters in Quebec under more limited lotteries and in New Brunswick under more onerous guide requirements for non-residents than those proposed in BC.
This is not to say non-resident anglers have no grievance. Anyone wishing to push that point of view is urged to do so, by getting in touch with me at: [email protected]. If there is sufficient push and pull of opinion, I will see that a forum is created on our web site. In the meantime, you can rest assured that I am keeping an eye on the situation in BC.