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March 10, 2008

Now, now, the Canadian Government has apologized for Bryan Adams on several occasions!

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We did a post late in February about the Canadian Ministry of the Environment's, "Quality Waters Strategy" for the Skeena watershed. The strategy basically to limits access for non-resident fisherman and does nothing to address the quality of the fishery. As we pointed out it won't matter who gets to fish the steelhead rivers of BC if all the fish are gone.

Since that post we were copied on a letter by Dr. James Adams who has some serious credentials when it comes to fisheries and fishing for steelhead in BC. His personal experience and observations regarding the decline of these fisheries should inspire you to raise your voice in protest.

Dr. Adams has been kind enough to allow us to reprint his letter in its entirety.

February 27, 2008

Re: SKEENA REGIONAL QUALITY WATERS STRATEGY

My name is Dr. James R. Adams. I have worked as a Fishery Biologist for the State of California, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and private industry for all of my adult life. I received my BS and MS in Fisheries from Humboldt State University, California, and my PhD in Fisheries from University of Washington.

I took my first steelhead in California in 1948, and took my first fly-caught steelhead in 1951. By 1952, I was releasing most of the steelhead and salmon that I caught on the fly.

I first fished the Kispiox River in 1960, when I spent the months of October and November staying in a cabin at Drew Wookey’s in the Kispiox Valley. I took First Place Fly Division in the FIELD & STREAM Fishing Contest that year with a 20 lb. 4 oz. Steelhead. I returned to the Kispiox in 1962 and 1964 for several weeks. In 1978, I started to return to BC for several weeks to a month or so each year. I have done this nearly every year since 1978. I have fished the Kispiox, Morice, Bulkley, Babine, Copper, Skeena, and other rivers, plus many trips to the Dean River.  I fell in love with British Columbia, its people, wildlife, scenery, and the fishery.
I have also kept a diary of my fishing dating back to the 1950’s. My diary records for my trips to BC date back 47 years.

I have attended many professional meetings of Fishery Biologists up and down the West Coast. I talked with many biologists in the BC Fish & Wildlife Branch [BC F&W] and in the Department of Fisheries & Oceans Canada [DFO] about the management, or lack thereof, of steelhead stocks in British Columbia. Many were very concerned about the commercial fishery causing the near-extermination of entire races of steelhead in the Skeena, Dean, and Thompson Rivers. For example, in 1986, the commercial fishery killed 12,289 steelhead in the Dean & Bella Coola channels , while the Dean sport fishery caught 4,767 fish, of which only 353 were killed. Other years were even worse, to the point where the commercial fishery took 80% or more of the total Dean River run. Many of my Canadian biologist friends were appalled at the mismanagement of steelhead stocks in BC.

I have seen the August steelhead runs in the Morice River go from a superlative fishery in the 1960’s to a complete failure by the 1980’s. I knew Karl Mausser of Burlingame since I was in grade school, and started to fish various rivers with him in 1951. I listened to Karl tell me with tears in his eyes about the devastation of his favorite August dry-fly fishery for steelhead on the Morice. Karl kept a diary of his fish caught & released for many years. His August fishing on the Morice  went from over a 100 fish landed for the month down to less than a half-dozen.

There is a hue and cry on the part of the Skeena Quality Waters group to restrict the numbers of non-resident aliens to a specified number of days on any one water to “save the river” for BC residents. They cite the increase in non-resident use of the rivers compared to the decrease in use by BC residents.

The “increase” in non-residents that occurred in the 1990’s took place because BC F&W wisely declared a Catch & Release fishery for steelhead at that time. A large portion of resident BC “anglers” voiced their opposition to Catch & Release by not fishing for steelhead that could not be killed. Thus, the percentage of BC anglers on the Bulkley River went from 81.5% in the 1980’s [pre-Catch & Release] to 66.5% in early 1990’s, & to 49.2% in 1997. The number of rod days on the Bulkley went from 10,698 in the 1980’s [pre-Catch & Release] to 6,213 rod days in the 1990’s [Catch & Release]. Actually, the BC F&W statistics show a continued decline in angler use since 2000 for most rivers in the Skeena.  For 2002 to 2005, rod days on the Bulkley declined 34.6%; on the Morice, 51.6%; and on the Kispiox, 33%. Based on my 1 ½ months in BC for the 2006 and 2007 seasons, this decline has continued. I see far fewer fishermen on the Kispiox, Bulkley, and Morice now than I saw in the 1980’s. And with high water that can occur at any time, the chance of fishing for even a week on one river are not very likely. I have spent many days waiting for waters to clear in BC.

I have been driving from California to BC every year since 1972 to fish for steelhead. I put around 6000 miles Round Trip on my van. I stay in motels, lodges, or cabins in BC for a month or more, and eat my meals at local restaurants. My costs in BC are about $6000 for food & lodging. My car expenses are around $1500. I have seen many businesses close in the last 10 years because of the poor quality of the steelhead fishery, and the reduced number of fishermen. You have a hard time finding a place to buy dinner if you are fishing in the Kispiox Valley, even if you drive into Hazelton or New Hazelton. The village of Telkwa used to have some fine dining places, but they are all closed now because they could not make a living.

If I were restricted to only 8 days fishing on the Kispiox, plus 8 days on other rivers like the Bulkley, Morice, and Copper, I would not come to BC. I would spend my money and time steelhead fishing in Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, Washington, or California. I hope it never comes to this.

James R. Adams

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