GONE FISHIN': Pandemic has new and returning anglers hooked around Kamloops fishing holes | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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GONE FISHIN': Pandemic has new and returning anglers hooked around Kamloops fishing holes

Some Thompson-Nicola lakes are still open water, so there's sure to be even more to fish reel in as the days get colder.
Image Credit: Pexels/Stock image

As people look for outdoor recreation through the pandemic this winter, it appears many are choosing to dunk a lure into the region’s many fishing lakes.

Perhaps too many. Sandy MacDonald likes Edith Lake, near Kamloops.

“On the Sunday after Christmas, I counted almost 100 cars there,” he said.

And perhaps it’s just his luck, but he thinks it’s having an impact on fish stocks.

“I think it’s dropped a little bit,” he said. “That much traffic and eight to ten fish per person, it doesn’t take long. Now I see the same undersized fish each time, but they probably only move within the same 200-yard radius.”

The number of B.C. residents gone fishing is indeed on the rise. Fishing licence sales were up 16.5% last year over 2019, according to the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C —though there are no statistics on how often those 318,000 licence holders are using those licences.

The society gets provincial license fees to keep Edith and other lakes stocked with fish, so the risk of overfishing is minor, says Kamloops-based biologist Andrew Klassen with Fish and Wildlife B.C. He, too, has seen the increased interest in angling.

“This is directly related to current health restrictions throughout the year,” he said. "While it’s tough to do other sports, people are finding ways to get outside and still be socially distant.”

And the pandemic has done something Freshwater Fisheries has been trying to achieve for years by hosting fishing events and rod loans — get young people fishing.

READ MORE: Cast your line at one of these great ice fishing spots in the Thompson-Okanagan

Among that increase in licences is a 67% rise in 16 to 24 year-olds this year, compared to the 65 and older category saw little to no change. All other age groups rose between 11 and 29%. Together, they more than make up 3.5% drop from out-of-province licences and international licenses which unsurprisingly fell by as much as 94%.

It’s no small economic impact either. B.C. Fish and Wildlife estimates Edith Lake had roughly 7,000 angler days throughout the summer, the highest in the region. “Angler days” are defined as one person spending four hours in a day on the water. Each individual angler day is estimated to inject between $100 to $150 into the local economy, meaning Edith Lake’s is worth $700,000 to $1 million to the Kamloops area economy every year.

READ MORE: Check out our summer fishing spot suggestions if you're planning ahead

Even with the increase in anglers, Kamloops-based biologist Andrew Klassen with Fish and Wildlife B.C. says there’s very little concern about overfishing. He says the FFSBC stocks regional lakes consistently, which they report at over 1.2 million fish in the Thompson-Nicola region, and just nearly 550,000 in the Okanagan.

“Each year we pick about 20 out of 1200 lakes in our Thompson region to study fish habitats and population density, as well as condition and size of the fish,” says Klassen. Those studies are funded by the Freshwater Fisheries Society which then decides on stocking or regulation adjustments.

Andrew Klassen also says that even with the increase in anglers this year, there have been very few incidents involving ice safety. “No one has reported falling through the ice in the Thompson-Nicola region,” he says, and noted that there were a couple reports he’d heard of from other regions.

It’s important to maintain ice safety if you are going to fish this winter and note some lakes have not yet developed a safe layer of ice. You can find a variety of resources online including this article from the FFSBC.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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