Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Best Place On Earth To Fish

© Othmar Vohringer

Image: Copyright Heidi I. Koehler
It is no secret that British Columbia is one of the most sought after fishing destinations in the world. Annually thousands of anglers from all over the world travel to our province to fulfill their dream to at least once in their lifetime have been here. With over 400 million dollars in revenue annually added to the government coffers from recreational anglers proves that fishing is very popular and important to our economy.

Considering that British Columbia has more than 20,000 kilometers of coastline, tens of thousands of kilometers of streams and rivers and over 50,000 lakes and ponds that hold a large variety of all kinds of fish species you can say without brag: “BC is the best place in the word for fishing”.

Having said that, the best place to fish in British Columbia is without question right here in the Thompson – Nicola District. Be that one of hundreds of lakes and ponds, the rivers Fraser, Thompson, Coldwater or Nicola or any of the many other streams that flow though our region you can be assured there are fish to catch. From the prehistoric sturgeon to salmon, trout and many other fish species we have it all here. It has been said, and I believe this to be true, that you can fish in the Thompson-Nicola Region every day for all of your life and you still have not managed to fish every place.

The long warm season plus nutrient-rich and clean water in our area are a perfect mix to sustain large and healthy fish populations. In addition, many of our lakes are annually stocked by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC with millions of trout of different species. The diversity of fishing opportunities offers a variety of angling experiences for both the beginner and the expert. There are many lakes with a large population of smaller catchable trout that can reach up to four pounds with the average being 15 to 20 inch fish for the angler wanting to catch many fish and for the beginner who is learning how to fish. Then there are the lakes that are managed for large fish, with trout of up to 15 pounds and higher, providing the opportunity to catch the biggest trout of a lifetime. Most of our lakes are easily accessible for fishing from shore and most also feature boat ramps. Some other lakes, often where the best trophy fishing is to be had, are not those easily accessible making a four-wheel drive vehicle a necessity. These lakes also usually have equipment use restrictions (such as fly fishing only) and reduced limits or are catch and release only.

Some years ago Merritt used the slogan “Fish a lake a day for as long you stay.” That was a good slogan because it was factual. It also was a testimony to the fact that the majority of the people living here are avid outdoor enthusiasts. As anglers we’re a truly privileged people to live right here in the best place on earth to fish. Unlike the thousands of anglers traveling hundreds and often thousands of kilometers from all over Canada, the USA and the world to come to British Columbia we are never more than an hour’s drive away from world class fishing. Best of all this has been made possible because anglers provide the millions of dollars needed to keep and manage our fishery. For those of you that are not into fishing and wonder what the long lines of vehicles pulling boat trailers are all about on the highway heading towards Merritt, now you know; they are all coming to the place where fishing dreams come true.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Alien Fish Invading British Columbia

© Othmar Vohringer

© Ken McBroom. ramblingangler. com
The designation “alien fish” is given to any fish species that is not native to British Columbia. If they are not native then how do they get here? Some fish species have been legally introduced many decades ago for a variety of reasons- mostly for commercial purposes. Others have been introduced illegally, meaning they have been transported from their natural habitat and released in our waters or are disposed-of pet fish, such as the snakehead and the Asian carp.

While not all alien fish species pose a problem to our native fish and aquatic animals (such as crappie and other members of the sun fish family), some do. The small and large mouth bass can become problematic if their numbers take over a smaller body of water. Even worse, the Snakehead, a ferocious predatory fish from Asia, can literally wipe out native fish species in a matter of just a few years and pose a serious risk to other species such as ducks, beavers, muskrat and frogs that live a great part of their life in the water or on the water surface.

Angler’s opinions are divided whenever alien fish species come up in a discussion. There are those that accept them as a welcome addition to the angling sport and others that feel the government should undertake every possible effort to destroy these alien species. Interestingly, the latter segment of anglers often refuses to target alien fish. Yet, if they are that concerned they should try to catch as many of these fish as they can thereby doing their part to reduce the population.

I am one of those anglers that welcome some of these alien fish species as an additional fishery to our native species. Having lived for a number of years in America before making Canada my permanent home I became quite fond of fishing for crappies, large and small mouth bass. There are several lakes in our region that hold small to good populations of these two species and if you’re willing to travel to the Lower Mainland there are even more lakes and streams with good populations as well.

Crappies are not only fun to fish they are also among the best-tasting fish and with generous bag limits of up to 20 per day in regions 2 and 8 you’re bound to stock up on your fish supply fast.

While spring and fall are the best times for fishing this species they are active in summer as well. Crappie live and travel in groups, so chances are that if you catch one there will be others around in that vicinity. Crappie love structure such as weed beds, submerged trees, rock piles and other forms of cover. Finding structures like these are a good start to begin your fishing day.

Crappies have a very small mouth and hits are not often that obvious. Choosing the right equipment is important. My favourite is a light seven foot rod fitted with a small reel filled with 4 to 6 pound test line. Hook size should be small too, not larger than a number 8 hook. Crappie can be attracted with a variety of lures ranging from plastic baits over small spoons to spinners and live bait, such as worms, maggots and, where legal, live minnows. My personal favourite are small jig heads in various colors tipped with 1 to 1 ½ inch plastic curly tails and other plastics that imitate live food sources. Depending on the situation I may use the regular jigging method or float jigging. Other methods such as trolling, casting and retrieving or the good old float fishing can work just as well. Give fishing for alien fish a try this summer. Be aware though, you may get hooked on it.

Talking about fishing; I would like to remind you all that this coming Sunday (June 19th) the Nicola Valley Fish & Game Club hosts their annual Father’s Day Fishing event. This great family fishing event is held at the children’s pond between Kentucky and Alleyne Lake. The event begins at 9 am until 2 pm. There will be lots of prizes available for the children plus refreshments and a fish cleaning station where children can learn how to safely clean their catch. At the event there will also be volunteer instructors in attendance to assist newcomers to the fishing sport with useful tips and hands-on-expertise. This is a great event for the entire family to enjoy and have a great time.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Fishing For The Future

© Othmar Vohringer

Here in British Columbia fishing is without a doubt a very popular outdoor activity, perhaps the most popular outdoor activity overall. This did not happen by sheer chance. Sure, we are fortunate in this province to have an abundance of publicly accessible lakes, ponds, streams and rivers covering a total of 19,549 square kilometers of our total landmass. The real reason why fishing has become such a popular activity is largely due to the efforts put forth by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC (FFSBC) in the conservation of the fishery and the promotion of the fishing sport.

The FFSBC is a private organization created in 2003 by concerned anglers as North America’s first private not-for-profit fishing agency. The independent board of directors and professional staff work in partnership with government fishing agencies to ensure the long-term health of our fish population and promote ethical and sustainable fishing practices. In 2015 the BC government announced an agreement that the FFSBC will receive 100% of the annual revenue generated from the sale of freshwater fishing licenses, which amounts to 10 million dollars. The minister for told the media “The additional funding will allow the society to work with provincial biologists to improve angling opportunities in small lakes, large lakes and rivers. This includes angler access improvements, stock assessment to help inform management decisions, and resources to enhance capacity for compliance monitoring and enforcement on both stocked and wild waterbodies.”

Each year the FFSBC stocks thousands of lakes across BC (over 100 lakes alone in the Thomson-Nicola region) with millions of trout. In addition the society stocks many rivers with millions of steelhead. Where do these fish stocks come from? The FFSBC raises over eight million fish annually in six fish hatcheries owned by the society in Duncan, Abbotsford, Summerland, Clearwater, Fort Steele and Vanderhoof. The fish eggs are collected from wild stocks in nine egg collection stations situated throughout the province. The fish eggs are then distributed among the society owned hatcheries. When the fish reach a size that permits them to survive in the wild they are transported in specially outfitted tank trucks to the various lakes and ponds in our province and released.

The money for this large scale operation comes from the licence sale of the 270,000 recreational anglers to the tune of 10 million dollars and though partnerships with other organizations and commercial sponsors. Raising hatchery fish and stocking lakes and rivers with fish is one aspect of the society. The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC also undertakes critical and widespread work and research on fish conservation and habitat programs.

Some may ask “Why stock fish for the purpose of fishing?” The answer to that question is quite simple. Stocking fish goes a very long way towards accommodating recreational anglers who contribute 546 million dollars to the provincial economy and more importantly, it eases the pressure on our wild fish stocks. With such an abundance of fish available through this work the needs of all anglers can be met.

The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC gets support in the promotion of the fishing sport from the hundreds of clubs across our province. Locally, the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club in Merritt organize FFSBC events such as the “Learn Fishing” and “Fishing the City” programs that are an integral part in educating people about fishing and fish conservation while attracting new and young anglers to this family orientated outdoor activity.

The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC is a shining example of how to manage a sustainable resource (our freshwater fisheries) by funding acquired through end user license fees rather than the tax payer. The FFSBC is continually working towards ensuring a viable fishery far into the future for generations to come. To learn more about the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and the important work they do visit their website;

Monday, February 22, 2016

Lyman Lures

© By Othmar Vohringer

About a year ago a fishing buddy of mine introduced me to Lyman Lures. Until then I was not aware of this company and the lures they produce, despite the fact that they are just one city over from where I live. For me the introduction to Lyman lures has made a huge difference in that this is now one of my favourite lures to use, simply because they work so well on many fish species and for many different applications.

The Lyman lure is basically a wooden plug that comes in many sizes and colours. The lure can be used for trolling and casting techniques and works also well as a top water lure. Lyman lures are widely used on lake trout, rainbow trout, salmon, steelhead and bass, but also for musky and pike fishing. Now that is what I call a versatile lure.

The Lyman lure is all made in Canada and is now sold all over North America and Europe. For me the Lyman lure has become an essential part of my tackle box that I would not want to miss.

In the video below you can learn more about the Lyman lure company and see the lure in action.To see the large assortment of Lyman lures and colours available visit their website.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sturgeons - British Columbia's Very Own River Monster

© Othmar Vohringer

Sturgeons are truly unique creatures believed to be on earth in their present form for the last 200 million years, the end of the Triassic period, ranking them among the most ancient animals to inhabit earth.

There are 25 different species of sturgeons around the globe from China to Russia, Europe and North America. North America is home to the species “White Sturgeon” which also happens to be the only sturgeon species listed LC (least concern), whereas all other species are either listed as “critically endangered”, “endangered”, “threatened” or “vulnerable”. The white sturgeon is North America’s largest fresh water fish that can reach an age of over 150 years and weigh as much as 816 kg (1,700 lb) and reach a size of 6.1 m (20 ft.) The largest sturgeon ever caught on record weighed 498.9 kg (1,100 lb.) and measured 3.76 (12 ft. 4 inches).

An important reason why the white sturgeon is doing so well here is British Columbia is because sturgeon fishing is big business. Annually thousands of anglers from around the world and across Canada come to British Columbia to pursue this prehistoric river monster. Anglers going for a sturgeon must use barbless hooks that do not harm the animal and it must be released again. Sturgeon anglers also must obtain a special sturgeon conservation licence costing eight dollars per day for British Columbians and 15 dollars per day for all non-residents.

The money from this fee goes in its entirety to sturgeon conservation. It was last year when a friend asked me “Have ever gone sturgeon fishing?” To his utter surprise I answered “No!” which led him to comment “How can that be, thousands of anglers pay top dollar to travel to BC to fish sturgeon and you practically live in the middle of the action.”

That got me to thinking that as an angler and a hunter I probably owed it to myself to at least try sturgeon fishing once in my lifetime and began to give some serious consideration and planning on catching a BC river monster. It just so happened that I knew somebody to ask for advice on sturgeon fishing and he was most helpful and even offered to assist me on the trip. Originally I set the sturgeon fishing date to coincide with the annual sturgeon fishing derby held in Lillooet, but a change in work schedule nullified that idea, which turned out to be a very good thing. I rescheduled the fishing trip for the last weekend of August; that way I could share this unique experience with my brother who was visiting us from Switzerland and with my wife.

On Sunday, August 31st, we met my sturgeon expert friend and followed him to his secret sturgeon fishing place. The weather was mixed with light rain and sun periods, just perfect for some good fishing, although at times heavy winds made it difficult to cast far enough out into the deep water of the mighty Fraser River, where big sturgeons swim. After several hours of watching for the tell-tale twitch on the rod tip it finally happened: “Fish on!!” My sturgeon expert friend Clay hooked the fish and asked “Who wants to real the beast in?” We quickly decided that this honour should belong to the guest and so my brother had the task of getting the sturgeon on land and have the pictures taken. It was not a big fish by any means, maybe 4ft at most, but it was the first BC river monster that I ever have seen close-up and touched with my own hands. I am thankful for everything Clay did in assisting us on the trip with his advice and tips. It was for sure one of the best outdoor experiences I had in many years and best of all I was able to share it with my wife Heidi and my brother Roland and it doesn’t get any better than that.

Friday, February 19, 2016

You do not have to be a flyfisher to catch trout

© Othmar Vohringer

A few weeks ago I received what seemed to me a somewhat puzzling question from a newcomer to the angling sport: “Is it true that you only can catch trout with flyfishing gear?” I had to read the email twice and then again to make sure it was not a much belated April fools. joke. I even did a search on the internet just to try and find out where the writer might have got the idea from that led him to the question. Sure enough, when I searched “trout fishing” on the internet over 90 percent of the information pertained to fly fishing so no wonder that the e-mail writer was under a false impression.

Of course you do not have to be a flyfisherman to catch trout.

Spinning reel set ups provide an angler with a lot more options to catch trout than is possible with flyfishing gear. “Lure and bait chuckers”, as we’re often referred to, have a huge arsenal of rods, lines, lures, baits and tactics at our disposal that lets us fish from dawn to dusk. On a typical day on the lake I have as many as five rods with me in the boat, each one being set up differently and ready to be used for a specific tactic. In the early morning I may cast spoons, rooster tails and Panther Martins at fish I can see just under the water surface or explore underwater structures like submerged rocks and trees where big trout lay in wait for prey to swim by.

Such lures come in various sizes and colours that let you match the food source that the trout are eating in a specific body of water. If you do not know what the fish eat try a variety of different lures, sizes and colours until the fish start to hit them. When it gets warmer and the fish head deeper down in the lake trolling a wedding band or Lyman plug can yield great results.

During midday hours and early afternoon when the sun is heating the water’s surface the trout head for the deepest holes at the bottom of the lake. In this case I make use of an electronic fish finder. Once I’ve found them it is time to try some jigging with small shiny spoons just of off the lake bottom. The rod for this job is spooled with braided line that has no give whatsoever. In deep water , like in Nicola Lake where 80 to 100 feet depths are common, you need that type of line as the regular monofilament line will act far too slow to set the hook on the fish.

And then of course there is the simple yet very effective fishing method of worm and bobber fishing. Countless trout have fallen for this very simple tactic which works particularly well on the many stocked lakes around the Nicola Valley. So you see, it does not matter whether you use a fly rod or spinning reel rod to catch trout. What does matter is that you go out and have fun fishing. In this regard I wish you always tight lines.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Mild winter could spell disaster for salmon return

© Othmar Vohringer

According to the River Forecast Centre, the mild winter in southwestern British Columbia and on Vancouver Island resulted in extremely low snowpack in the mountains. This could cause lower water levels in the rivers. Lower water levels in the rivers mean warmer water and less oxygen. This, in turn, can have negative consequences on the returning salmon.

Low water levels and warm water makes what is for salmon an already difficult journey from the ocean upstream to the river or creek where they were born even more challenging and hazardous.

“The warmer water makes the fish weaker,” David Campbell of the River Forecast Centre has said. “It impairs their immune system, it impairs their health and it makes them far more susceptible to things like diseases.”

This means fewer salmon than forecast will make it to the spawning grounds.

In addition, according to Dr. Craig Orr of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, above normal sea surface temperatures along the north Pacific coast could mean that salmon are likely arriving at the rivers in an already weakened state, just as they are about to embark on the most difficult and dangerous journey of their lives.

Last year British Columbia experienced a record year with the highest numbers of sockeye salmon returning to the rivers. An estimated 72 million salmon entered the Fraser River; more than double the number that returned into the river system in 2010, when 30 million salmon began their journey upstream.
My wife Heidi and I went to watch the salmon “homecoming” on a visit to the Adams River that year. It was an impressive manifestation of survival, millions of fish fighting their way to the exact spot in the river and its tributaries where they hatched a few years previously. But that was nothing compared to the images and videos I have seen from the salmon returns last year. At times there were so many fish coming upstream that one probably could have walked over them to the other side of the river without getting wet feet.

The salmon migration is one of many natural wonders that still is not fully understood. Salmon are born in rivers and streams but spend most of their adult life (two to five years, depending on the species) in the ocean. From there they migrate for thousands of kilometers back to their natal stream and the exact spot where they were born to lay their eggs and then die.

To adjust from the saltwater to freshwater and the long journey upstream fighting against strong currents, rapids and jumping up waterfalls, the fish undergoes a complete physical transformation.

Salmon returns are constantly fluctuating; there are years when we have numbers like last year, followed by years where we see fewer salmon. Fishery scientists are still trying to figure out all the details of why this is so.

While some blame mild winters and climate change, others believe that with growing populations, disease among the fish spreads faster and kills more fish. Still others think salmon returns, or their lack, has to do with rising predator numbers during good salmon years and perhaps even over-fishing.
We may never know for sure why salmon migration numbers can fluctuate so drastically from one year to the next. One thing is for certain though: when the salmon start to show up here, I will be somewhere on a river to enjoy one of the most spectacular wonders nature has designed: the annual salmon migration.