Catch and release regulation pass

Starting this fishing season, Skeena-area anglers will no longer be allowed to harvest any Dolly Varden or bull trout in area streams.

Starting this fishing season, Skeena-area anglers will no longer be allowed to harvest any Dolly Varden or bull trout caught in area streams.

The provincial Department of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources (DFLNO) released its 2013-2015 fishing regulations last week, and they’ve locked in place a proposal made public late last year to move to catch and release only for trout and char caught in Skeena-area streams. The keeping of trout and char caught in area lakes is still permitted.

“Trout/char quotas from Skeena streams have been revised. It is now prohibited to retain Dolly Varden or bull trout from any stream in the Skeena Region. One rainbow trout or cutthroat trout 30 cm or larger per day may be retained from Skeena Region streams from July 1-Oct. 31, however from Nov. 1-June 30 all trout from streams must be released to protect populations during particular vulnerable overwintering, spawning and post-spawning periods,” reads the new regulation guide.

The proposal was released quietly just prior to Christmas last year, resulting in anglers charging the period for public commenting was too short, that a small proportion of anglers had an unfair proportion of influence, and that it would violate traditions of parents teaching their children how to catch, dress, and cook fish.

The DFLNO ended up accepting public comments beyond the initial commenting period.

The proposal “really originated from proposals in Terrace at our angling advisory committee meeting, where people said we’re not seeing larger trout and char in the Kalum, Lakelse and the Copper River like we used to. If you go north or places where there isn’t much out there, then you start to see lots, and large fish, but not so much in and around [the Terrace area],” said Smithers-based fisheries biologist Mark Beere earlier this year, noting a precautionary approach is necessary because there simply aren’t enough fisheries officials to assess each and every stream.

The proposal also cited worries that increased industrial development would harm fish habitats and lead to over-fishing.

Vancouver Island and Peace-Omineca have similar bans in place.

A petition by those opposed to the regulation change was circulated around the Terrace area during the first few months of the year. The local BCWF chapter sent a letter to DFLNO minister Steve Thomson urging him to reconsider the proposal and both Terrace city council and the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine wrote letters of opposition, as well.