April 26, 2018

Catching Trout Could Pay Off with Tag Rewards

It’s hard to beat a day fishing on one of B.C.’s many large lakes. The settings can be breathtaking: crystal-clear water, majestic mountains, not to mention excellent wildlife-viewing. Sometimes fishing just seems like an excuse to get out on the water to take it all in. However, perspectives change dramatically when you hook into one of these lakes’ fine specimens – which could pay off handsomely if it’s tagged with a high-reward tag.

There are about 200 large lakes over 10 km2 in area in the province. Depending on the system, it may contain fish-eating species of rainbow, cutthroat, bull, Dolly Varden, or lake trout. The presence of sockeye salmon and/or kokanee (their freshwater counterpart) in coastal and interior large lakes provides eggs and juvenile fish for these predatory trout to feed on, and the potential to grow to trophy proportions. But these conditions are not so common; in fact, only a handful of lakes in the entire province support wild populations of trophy-sized trout.

The Provincial Fisheries Program wants to ensure that these special trout populations are protected and managed to optimize quality angling as well as meet conservation needs. Without adequate information about how big the populations are, or what habitats they use, fishing regulations may be too restrictive, resulting in lost harvest; or too generous, leading to over-harvest of a vulnerable population.

Try your luck and help science

Right now, six high-reward tagging programs are underway across the province to help generate much-needed biological information on selected trout populations. With funding assistance from the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, provincial fisheries biologists are capturing wild trout in priority lakes and tagging them with removable, high-reward tags. It is hoped that anglers who catch a tagged fish will take the time – with a nice cash reward as incentive – to report their catch. In this way, biologists can gain reliable information on how many fish are caught, along with fish behaviour and movement. The more fish reported, the better our understanding.

Where can you catch one of these fish in 2018?

• Vancouver Island Region – coastal cutthroat trout in Horne and Comox lakes
• Cariboo Region – rainbow, lake, and bull trout in Quesnel Lake; bull trout in Chilko Lake; and lake trout in Horse Lake
• Skeena Region – bull trout in Meziadin Lake

This is what the tags look like:

Comox Lake cutthroat trout with reward tag in dorsal fin (photo: Brendan Anderson)

Tagged rainbow trout released back into Quesnel lake (photo: Adrian Clarke)

What to do when you see a tag on your catch

Depending on the lake-specific regulations and your own harvest preferences, you may choose to keep the fish or release it. Either way, these tags are easily cut off without harm to the fish, and can be returned to your local provincial fish and wildlife office to claim the reward identified on the tag. Be sure to record the species of fish, when and where you caught it, and whether you kept or released it.

For further information on the tagging programs please contact:

  • Vancouver Island (Region 1) – Scott Silvestri or Brendan Anderson, Fish and Wildlife Regional Office, Nanaimo, 250-751-7220
  • Cariboo (Region 5) – Russell Bobrowski or Lee Williston, Fish and Wildlife Regional Office, Williams Lake, 250-398-4530
  • Skeena (Region 6) – Joe De Gisi, Fish and Wildlife Regional Office, Smithers, 250-847-7260

This series has been established as a way to inform freshwater anglers in B.C. about projects that their angling licence dollars support. In 2015, the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC began receiving 100% (up from 70%) of all freshwater angling licence fees. With this additional funding, the Society committed to broadening the scope of its activities to include joint initiatives with the Provincial Government to support projects that benefit freshwater recreational fishing around B.C.

Author: Sue Pollard, Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC
Photo Credits: Brendan Anderson, Adrian Clarke, Tina Dykstra