Pat Kelly has been fishing Kootenay Lake since he was a child and up until now the reward for a good day on the water has always been a delicious trout dinner. That changed this week when the Calgary resident won two $500 gift certificates for his entry into the Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program.
Kelly entered the heads from 55 bull and rainbow trout in January, the bounty from his past two months of fishing.
“I never win anything, but I got the call and I thought, ‘Wow, it can actually happen,’” he said. “There’s still a truck to win, so for the next few months I’ll be trying a bit harder.”
The Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program is a citizen-driven initiative intended to reduce the over-abundance of rainbow and bull trout in the lake and promote the recovery of their main prey, the endangered kokanee salmon. Anglers harvest rainbow and bull trout in the main body of Kootenay Lake and then drop off the heads at local depots to enter a monthly draw for a prize worth $1,000.
All entries are eligible for this year’s grand prize, a 2022 Ford F-150, with the off-road Tremor package, from Nelson Ford. A 2022 Polaris side-by-side ATV from Main Jet Motor Sports has already been awarded.
The lucky Calgarian spends part of every year at his cabin near Sanka Creek, fishing from his Starcraft Chieftain with a hard top in the winter and an open North Craft outfitted for summer. Kelly can also be found fishing in the creek and shore casting.
“I’ve been fishing here since I was a little kid and I just love it,” Kelly said. “A few years ago, I would come for a few weeks here and there, but since Covid, it’s more like a month or two at a time, depending on work.”
Kelly has seen the ups and downs of the Kootenay Lake fisheries over the decades, and he is encouraged by the size of the trout in recent years.
“Four or five years ago, we were catching one and two pounders, then it was two to three pounds,” he said. “Now we are catching three- and four-pound trout. A week ago, I got a seven pounder, so it’s nice to see them bouncing back.”
Kelly is anxiously waiting for the recovery of the Kootenay Lake kokanee population.
“It would be nice to see the government put millions of eggs back into those spawning channels for four or five years and really get things going again,” he said.
In the meantime, Kelly will use his gift certificates from Wynndel Foods & Outdoor Gear and the Crawford Bay Market to buy fuel and fishing gear in his pursuit of the derby’s grand prize pickup truck.
HOW TO ENTER: Anglers must bring an intact fish head (or full fish for Woodbury tissue sample) to one of four return depos operated by co-sponsors Balfour Gill & Gift Gas Station, Woodbury Resort, Crawford Bay Market, or Wynndel Foods & Outdoor Gear.
Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program is managed by the local West Arm Outdoors Club with support from B.C. Wildlife Federation, Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, and several local merchants from around Kootenay Lake.
The Ministry urges anglers to continue to participate in this program and harvest all of their catch within daily quota limits to support the recovery of Kootenay Lake’s kokanee salmon.
More information on the Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program: https://bcwf.bc.ca/kootenay-lake-angler-incentive-program/
Staff from the provincial Ministry of Forests will hold a public meeting on February 21 where they will describe the Kootenay Lake Fishery Recovery Program and answer questions from attendees. The meeting will be focused on the history of the kokanee decline in Kootenay Lake, and what steps have been taken to help in their recovery, as well as proposed future actions. The meeting will include an update on the Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program.
Kootenay Lake Fishery Recovery
Balfour Community Hall
534 Charles Road, Balfour
February 21, 2023, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.