After several years of the Skeena River Quality Waters Strategy consultation process, the provincial government has sped up changes to steelhead fishing regulations, announcing new rules that will take effect for 2012. The process was originally slated to produce changes for 2011, which was later revised to 2013; in mid-October, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations sent out a press release about the new rules.
A number of local residents and fishing guides were included in the process, which split the Skeena watershed into three regions. The Bulkley, Babine and Morice rivers were included in the East Region. The residents and guides on the working group contacted by The Interior News declined to comment or return phone calls regarding the changes.
Endorsed changes include a reduction in guided rod-days on the three rivers. The working group also recommended a distribution of guide efforts over the Classified Waters Period, which is all of September and October for all three rivers in the East Region. The Ministry, however, stated there would be no easy way to implement the change without an approach reached by a consensus of guides and residents.
The biggest change is the addition of two days of resident-only angling, covering anglers from Canada. Although the East Region working group requested Saturdays as resident-only, the Ministry adopted both Saturdays and Sundays, since working groups in the Central and West Regions had requested two days. The Ministry’s official response states that the concern was that the resident-only requirement in the other regions would create increased traffic in the East Region. This change still allows guided non-residents to fish on weekends. The Telkwa River is now resident-only for all of September and October, with no guiding allowed.
In the Central Region, the Suskwa River has changed from a Class 2 to a Class 1 designation. Saturdays and Sundays are resident-only with no guiding allowed on the Suskwa, Kitwanga and Kitseguecla Rivers. The Central working group didn’t manage to reach a consensus on the Kispiox River; however, the Ministry has opted to implement resident-only days on Saturdays and Sundays during September and October, with guiding allowed for non-residents.
Steve Hidber, co-owner of Oscar’s Source For Adventure, said he was somewhat disappointed with the consultation. Businesses were not involved until the final year of the process, and he expects some difficulties will arise from explaining new regulations not covered in the current Ministry fishing regulations guide, which was printed to cover April 2011 to March 2013. He also worried that the changes might affect travel plans already made by foreign anglers, and marketing plans for some local guides, resorts and other businesses catering to steelhead anglers.
As a business serving both resident and foreign anglers, Hidber understands the concerns on both sides, but said more focus on etiquette in the water may help alleviate many of the problems encountered by anglers concerned about crowding.
“We all have to get along, and some of the most important things are river etiquette and knowing how to deal with each other on the river,” he said. “We can all have a good day if we know how to treat each other and give each other the respect due.”