Fishing regulations for trout and char in streams could change to catch and release only on April 1.
Mark Beere, senior fisheries biologist for the Skeena region, says a decision will be made by the end of March.
Regulation changes for trout and char fishing in streams were proposed last spring and opened last month for feedback.
Information about trout and char populations is limited and the proposal was inspired by reports from Conservation Officers, biologists and anglers that trout and char populations were significantly decreasing.
Beere explains that trying to get a handle on an underwater species is very difficult and uncertainty is just part of the nature of fisheries management.
“The branch’s position on this is similar to not knowing how much money you’ve got in the bank and making some withdrawals anyways,” said Beere.
“The precautionary approach states that if you are uncertain, then you err on the side of caution because it’s really hard to build populations back, but it’s not so hard to allocate fisheries later,” he added.
Since the proposal came out last month, Beere says 20 to 30 people responded to the proposed change and the feedback was pretty mixed, just about even on both sides.
Several people responded saying they fully supported the regulation change, trout needs to be protected more, but there were also several who opposed the changes.
“Some of the people in the Houston area that are opposed to this are opposed because it’s one of the only games in town so to speak,” Beere said, adding that salmon are harder to find because it’s farther from the sea.
“[Those opposing] usually say that you have to know that there’s a problem and then close it,” said Beere, adding that by that point, it’s usually too late to maintain fish populations and the resulting collapses then lead to public criticism.
Beere says if the catch and release regulation goes through, the plan is to make assessments and then start having openings based on the population information, instead of just constantly taking away and having bit by bit closures.
“It’s a really difficult situation with trout and char, because all over their distributions there have been widespread declines with few exceptions,” said Beere, adding that Vancouver Island, Lower Mainland, Omineca and Peace regions have already taken the similar measures.
“The idea is to say, ‘okay, we don’t know what’s in the bank account, so right now let’s stop and assess and then have openings,’” Beere said.
Beere adds that trout and char catch and release only applies only to rivers and streams, and does not include lake fishing.