December 12, 2018

Enhanced Patrols Catch Non-Compliant Anglers

Are you one of the thousands of anglers who has been checked by a Conservation Officer (CO) conducting a fisheries patrol on one of B.C.’s many lakes and rivers? A CO traditionally checks that anglers are properly licensed, and compliant with the applicable fishing and boating regulations.

In our conversations with anglers from across the province, we heard concerns that they were seeing contraventions of the fishing regulations. In response to this, the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC entered into an agreement with the BC Conservation Officer Service (COS) in 2015 to enhance enforcement on some of the province’s most popular lake and river fisheries. Each year since, we have provided partnership funding to assist the COS to get out on-water.

For the past four years, it has been a hugely successful partnership between the two agencies. The program has focussed its activities in the highest-traffic regions of the province: South Coast, Okanagan, Kootenay-Boundary, Thompson-Cariboo, and Skeena. Each year, the COS has provided more than 2,000 hours and over 600 patrols, and has checked in excess of 4,000 anglers. These patrols have covered B.C.’s diverse offerings of fisheries – steelhead in the Lower Mainland, Thompson, Chilcotin, and Skeena; trout in the Kootenays, Thompson-Cariboo and Okanagan; sturgeon on the Lower Fraser; and the myriad fisheries of small and large lakes that occur province-wide. 

What have we learned?  

In addition to the traditional “flying the enforcement flag” and having an enforcement presence on many of B.C.’s waters, the COs have generated a first-ever dataset on how compliant freshwater anglers are in B.C. Over the four years, some interesting patterns have emerged. 

  • The overall provincial non-compliance rate (NCR) ranged from a low of 14.9% (2015) to a high of 20.9% (2016). This means that between 15% and 21% of anglers checked were out of compliance either with a fishing licence, and/or with fishing or boating safety regulations. The NCR was 16.2% in 2017, and is preliminarily estimated at 15.1% to the end of November 2018. This was slightly higher than the fisheries NCR reported by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, as their fisheries non-compliance rates ranged from 13.4% to 14.3% during the early 2000s.  
  • There were differences between regions as well. The Okanagan Region consistently had the worst NCR, which varied from 26.0% (in 2015) to 38.7% (in 2016). The Kootenay-Boundary Region had the second-worst NCR in three of the four years (ranging from 17.3% to 22.6%). The South Coast Region had the best compliance of all the regions in three of the four years (ranging 5.4% to 16.4%). 
  • There was no clear pattern in the non-compliance rates for lake fisheries and river fisheries either between regions or between years. In some regions and in some years, compliance was either better or worse between these two water-types. 
  • Anglers found in non-compliance were given a verbal warning, issued a warning ticket, or issued a violation ticket. In rare circumstances (usually for a very serious offence), an alleged violator could even be issued a summons to appear in court. 

Feedback from the Conservation Officers was that anglers were generally very supportive and happy to be checked by a CO (unless they were doing something wrong). We all know that the COs can’t be everywhere, so please do your part. When you are out enjoying one of B.C.’s high-quality fisheries and you observe or encounter someone apparently doing something wrong, please help your local game warden by reporting the alleged infraction to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP), or #7277 on the TELUS Mobility Network. If the situation is not an emergency, report the incident online, or contact the nearest Conservation Officer Service district office. Alternatively, you can use your smartphone and BC Wildlife Federation’s conservation app to report an alleged incident or poacher. 

For more information on this partnership or this project, please contact the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC at 

Author: Dana Atagi, Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC 
Photo Credit: Tanya Laird and Jessica Yarwood, Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC