News » Whistler

Clearing the way for trophy fish



Whistler Angling Club hopes to work with new Freshwater Fishing Society

Getting out of the management of freshwater fisheries may be the best thing that the provincial government has ever done for fishing says Tom Cole, a director and long-time member of the Whistler Angling Club.

With cutbacks in funding and the cancellation of programs at all levels of government, the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C. was founded in the fall of 2003 to deliver all of the services that were formerly provided by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection’s Fish Culture Division (Provincial Hatcheries). The FFS now receives funding from the Ministry and the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, as well as all the angling license fees collected in the province with a directive to put all of that money back into freshwater sport fishing.

To the Whistler Angling Club, and countless other organizations like it in B.C., it means that anglers, the stewards and volunteers that donate thousands of hours to protecting their fisheries, are finally in charge of the future of freshwater fishing in the province.

"What’s happened is that the government has pawned off all fisheries aspects, saying let’s get the freshwater fishing community and sportsmen involved, and what that has done is expand the opportunities for different programs here," said Cole.

"In the past the government worked to maintain stocks and habitat, which were already quite depleted compared to the past, but there really wasn’t a focus on really developing fisheries, and building them up to where they used to be, and where there were viable fisheries.

"Now, with (the FSS) we have a dedicated small lakes guy for the province who seems genuinely interested in the Whistler area, and who wants to know what the FFS can do to make things better."

Although the quality of fisheries in the Whistler area pales in comparison to other regions of the province, visitors to Whistler generate a lot of revenue for the FFS through licensing fees, says Cole.

The newly formed FFS is now looking to reinvest some of that revenue back into Whistler’s fisheries to put the town back on the map for trophy fisherman. In return, they expect to raise even more money through licensing fees that they can use for other projects.

As well as stocking programs that add about nine million fish to more than 1,000 lakes and streams each year, the FFS provides conservation fish culture services, scientific assessments of waterways and fish stocks, public education programs and funding for habitat enhancement projects. Two of the biggest programs were created to preserve endangered Steelhead and White Sturgeon species.