A Calgarian is the most recent fisherman to reel in the rewards of the Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program.
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.
“I’ve been fishing here since I was a little kid and I just love it,” Kelly said.
His luck changed in January when he entered the bounty from his past two months of fishing – the heads of 55 bull and rainbow trout.
He won two $500 gift certificates from Wynndel Foods & Outdoor Gear and the Crawford Bay Market, which he plans to use towards fuel and fishing gear in his pursuit of the grand prize.
“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 an 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 has seen the ups and downs of the Kootenay Lake fisheries over the decades and 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.”
He is happy to support the cause and see the recovery of the Kootenay Lake kokanee salmon 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.
How to enter:
Anglers must bring an intact fish head (or full fish for Woodbury tissue sample) to one of four return depots operated by co-sponsors Balfour Gill & Gift Gas Station, Woodbury Resort, Crawford Bay Market, or Wynndel Foods & Outdoor Gear.
For more information on the Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program, visit bcwf.bc.ca/kootenay-lake-angler-incentive-program.
Next week, staff from the provincial Ministry of Forests will hold a public meeting to discuss the Kootenay Lake Fishery Recovery and Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive programs as well as 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.
Stop by the meeting on Feb. 21 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Balfour Community Hall located at 534 Charles Road.