There’s a proposal to reopen the Revelstoke Reach of the Columbia River to angling.
Since 2015, the section of the river from Revelstoke Dam to the power line crossing approximately 300 metres upstream of the Illecillewaet River confluence has been closed to fishing. This area of the river is along the banks of the City of Revelstoke.
The change meant that fishing from the shoreline in Centennial Park or along the Big Eddy Greenbelt was prohibited.
Prior to 2015, this section was open to angling. The proposal says that the area was closed based on the Revelstoke Rod and Gun club concerns for excess bull trout harvesting, compliance and enforcement as there is no conservation officer in Revelstoke.
At the time of the closure, Gary Krestinsky president of the Rod and Gun Club said, “These new regulations are welcome but they only go partway to conservation.”
Krestinky said the club would have liked a larger area closed to fishing.
Since the closure the B.C. government says they have received a large response from the public.
“The Ministry received a petition from the community (more than 200 signatories, on file) and other affected residents to rescind the closure due to impacts to youth and disabled anglers who lost most of their opportunity to fish,” says the proposal.
In 2017, the annual Arrow Lakes creel survey included harvest estimates for Revelstoke Reach. The survey determined roughly one per cent of bull trout caught in Upper Arrow Lakes is in the Revelstoke Reach.
“We think the bull trout population is in good shape,” says Matt Neufeld, fish biologist for Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
Neufeld says bull trout populations fluctuate. In 2013 there was a full lake survey which determined there was 1,400 spawners in Upper Arrow Lake.
“Which is a good number,” says Neufeld.
The proposal notes that the recent survey determined that the concerns brought forward on excess fishing in 2015 were “biologically insignificant.”
It further stated that “anecdotal concerns of excess effort and harvest, which led to the original closure, are unlikely.”
The North Columbia Environmental Society wrote in an email response to the Review that one difficulty is that the reservoir is being managed like a lake rather than as a river.
“Unfortunately the Revelstoke Reach, although most of the time functioning as a river, is being managed as a lake with year round open seasons and harvest limits.”
They further write, “Many reports have been received of anglers catching large spawning rainbow trout in the spring and large spawning bull trout in the fall when the Revelstoke Reach is functioning as a river.”
The North Columbia Environmental Society writes that the fluctuation of the Reservoir can be problematic, such as when at low levels there is shallow water and few deeper holes for fish to wait until the dam releases more water.
“Anglers take advantage of this ‘fish in a barrel’ scenario that occurs most every evening and early morning and especially on week-ends when electricity demand is low.”
Current regulations for the Revelstoke Reach allow daily quotas of two trout/char that cannot be under 60 cm and only one bull trout over 60 cm. Anglers can only use single barbless hooks.
Neufeld says a number of people want an easy place to access for fishing, in particular for youth and people with disabilities.
He says the bank along the city, “can be easy to access. You don’t need a vehicle.”
However, the North Columbia Environmental Society noted, “the reversal is being toted as an opportunity for youth and disabled anglers, although all anglers will have the same opportunity. The best angling locations in this section of river have very steep, rocky shorelines and fast flowing cold water so safety issues should also be considered for all anglers.”
“When angling opportunity takes priority over conservation the outcome is not sustainable and the end results will impact anglers, fish, and the birds and mammals that rely upon healthy fish population.”
The public can view and provide feedback until Jan. 11, 2019 on this proposal at: https://apps.nrs.gov.bc.ca/ahte/content/re-open-revelstoke-reach-columbia-river-angling?fbclid=IwAR1pWPaHdilaDVJEPdazFtuPmgtMT4gb8uYDoQFiZekVPloAfNt96OCFIGY
Neufeld says the province will make a final decision sometime next year.
The Review did reach out to the Rod and Gun Club but did not get a response in time before publication. This story will be updated once the Club responds.