For the Townsman
CRANBROOK — Regulatory changes to Kootenay angling management announced last week will help ensure a quality fishing experience, reduce crowding on popular rivers and support trout conservation, a press release from the Government of British Columbia said.
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 main regulation 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.
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 Kootenay Angling Management Plan is a major step forward to maintain resident priority angling in the East Kootenay,” said George Wilson, President of the BC Wildlife Federation. “We appreciate the efforts of all those who have contributed to this important initiative.”
The previous classified waters system in the Kootenays was first established in 2006. The predominant wild fish species pursued by stream anglers within the East Kootenay are Bull Trout and Westlope Cutthroat Trout.
The new system aims to 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.
“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,” said Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines and MLA for Kootenay East.
Other measures being enacted under the Kootenay Angling Management Plan include enhanced patrols by both conservation officers and river guardians, and reviewing opportunities for additional boat launch facilities to improve angler access on the Elk 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.