Guest View from Bill Schneider
I confess to being a lowly, “non-resident alien” angler (as defined by B.C. fishing regulations) who comes to B.C. twice a year to fly fish for steelhead, spending several thousands of dollars each year. If I were a Syrian refugee, I’d be welcomed and steered toward equality, at considerable expense to Canadian taxpayers, but as a fisherman from our close neighbour, Montana, I’m scorned and treated like an invasive species, even though I contribute significantly to the B.C. economy.
I’ve often noted how proud Canadians are of their core values such as fairness, equality and non-discrimination. When it comes to fishing regulations, however, those values seem hilarious, if not hypocritical.
Here in Montana, we welcome all anglers to enjoy our world-famous trout fishing. B.C. resident anglers pay only US$70 per year, including unrestricted days on our “classified” rivers (called “blue ribbon rivers” here). All non-residents (from other U.S. states or foreign countries) can fish 365 days per year with no extra fees or restrictions.
But when I, a despised “non-resident alien,” come to B.C. for steelhead, it costs me $540 to fish 20 days (about what I do each year) on Class II rivers ($400 more for Class I rivers), and I can only fish weekdays.
If I were a B.C. resident 65 or older, which I am, I’d pay $45 annually to fish steelhead on classified rivers 365 days per year.
But the money is not even the biggest problem. I’m okay paying a reasonable premium over resident fees.
Like most steelheaders, I fish from dawn to dusk. And I move from river to river based on water flow, visibility and fishing success. Yet, I have to buy daily, river-specific, classified permits in advance and have a printed, signed paper copy of the licence with me at all times. Note to B.C. residents — try to get a daily, classified licence at 9 p.m. in Small Town, B.C. or on Sunday. This process is unreasonably cumbersome and inconsiderate.
And how unfair and discriminatory is it that I travel 1,800 kilometres (one way) from Montana for three or four weeks of steelhead fishing, but I have to sit around on the weekends and watch the locals fish? This is insulting, unprecedented discrimination, and completely counter to those values Canadians hold so dear.
The good news is this problem seems fairly easy to fix without hurting the “non-resident alien” revenue stream.
1. Allow “non-resident aliens” the option of buying an annual classified river licence for a reasonable cost, something like $100. This would apply to all classified rivers, so I wouldn’t have to choose which river to fish in advance. The $20-per-day fee can be remain an option for anglers who plan to fish only a few days per year, but the daily fee should also apply to all classified rivers.
2. If the annual classified licence is too big of a pill to swallow, at least stop requiring a signed paper copy of the daily, river-specific classified licences. This would allow me to go online with a laptop or smartphone and pay my $20 anytime during the night for fishing the following day. After checking my signed paper basic licence, Conservation officers can go online to make sure I paid for that river.
3. River Guardians have told me the government wants to gather data on how many angler days per river. Okay, no problem, but require we “aliens” to send this information in after we finish fishing. I have to wonder, however, how valuable this information is because it doesn’t include resident anglers.
4. Allow all anglers to fish on weekends.
5. Stop calling us “Non-resident Aliens.” How about “International Anglers”?
I’m not sure how things get fixed in Canada, but I hope somebody who can solve this problem is reading this.