There’s a new face at the helm of the Kootenay Trout Hatchery.
Lance Page has taken over managerial duties from Ken Scheer, who retired in July, and is embarking on a new chapter in his career.
Growing up on Vancouver Island, sport fishing had always consumed his free time, but he toured a provincial government fish hatchery in Duncan many years ago that piqued his interest, and he left with the goal of obtaining the necessary education that would allow him to get into fish aquaculture.
After bouncing around private and commercial fisheries and farming operations on the West Coast, he landed the job out at the Kootenay Trout Hatchery.
“Basically, it took me 22 years to make the full circle and get the job I wanted originally,” Page joked.
That job includes managing fish culture and sturgeon programs out at the Kootenay Trout Hatchery, which are vital to maintaining healthy fish stock populations in lakes and rivers across the region.
“The society is trying to grow only fish from this region—Region 4—at this hatchery, and they’re trying to do that with hatcheries across the province,” Page said. “For the most part, fish stocks, as far as I can tell, from the lakes that I’ve been to, are super-healthy.”
Then there’s the hatchery facility itself, which has an interpretive tour area, administration offices and work shops, along with the fish and sturgeon culture operations and a learn-to-fish pond.
“The people around here sure love it,” said Page. “The grounds are kept beautiful, people like to come out and picnic—it’s a great feeling. The staff are super-proud of the place.”
In terms of tourism, the learn-to-fish pond and the interpretive tours, which include the option of going behind the scenes and see how the hatchery operates, are a big draw.
But it’s the sturgeon that tend to be a popular fixture, as the FFSBC and partner organizations across the province and northwestern U.S. work towards rebuilding the population in the Columbia River, which is considered endangered.
“Behind the scenes for the sturgeon is a huge draw,” Page said. “It’s culture you’re only going to see a couple places in the province. You’re never going to see baby sturgeon [anywhere else]. Very interesting to see what can be mammoth fish growing in a little tiny tank and need so much care.”
They are housed right in the facility buildings, as hatchery staff catch mature sturgeon out in the Columbia River and bring them back for the spawning process.
“It’s a pretty neat feeling,” Page added. “You take this fish, bring it here, spawn it for it’s offspring, and then take it back completely unharmed. Now we can raise it’s offspring and let it go.”
There will be some changes coming in the near future to the facility itself, as renovations are in the works to remove some of the concrete raceway lanes, which have been around since the building was originally built in the 1960s, and replace them with fibreglass tanks.
“Fibreglass ponds will use much less water, that’s really big,” said Page. “Fish health is better, fish growth is better in a round tank. They’ll get much more current, they’ll be more active. We’ll get a better product out of them, for sure.”
Fostering and growing sport fishing is part of the FFSBC’s mandate, and since his arrival in early summer, Page has already had a taste of what lakes and rivers in the area have to offer.
“Since moving here, I miss the ocean a bit, because I was a big ocean fisherman, but the amount of opportunities to fish different places around here is incredible,” said Page. “Within 30 minutes of my door, I could probably fish a hundred different places if I wanted to, probably more.”