Self-distancing is the only answer even for fishers and hunters during the COVID-19 crisis.

B.C. ministry announces new fishing and hunting protocol

Province makes fishing and hunting protocol fall in line with health officer’s recommendations

The province’s fishing and hunting guidelines have gotten stricter and safer in light of the sweeping pandemic.

The Resource Stewardship Division of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources (FLNRO) came out with new restictions that fall in line with the Provincial Health Officer’s Guidelines.

FLNRO released an online “Reminder” last week that stated: “If you cannot fish and hunt safely, do not go fishing or hunting. If you cannot meet all the Covid19 orders, guidance, and remain at least 2 meters (6 feet) apart, please defer your plans to fish or hunt.”

Following the closure of all provincial and rec site facilities, camping and parking areas, and boat launches, the province is ramping up its efforts to keep anglers and hunters safe and self-distanced.

FLNRO’s new guidance measures recommend anglers and hunters look for unoccupied areas to fish or hunt, and maintain the six-foot separation protocol when meeting up with others.

Specific guidance include:

  • residents only fish and hunt with members of their immediate family
  • Maintain physical distancing (2 metres or 6 feet) from other individuals you come across.
  • Do not share vehicles with individuals outside of your family
  • fish and hunt locally
  • wash your hands frequently, especially around communal areas such as boat ramps, gates, etc
  • adhere to all travel advisories and self-isolation requirements.
  • Adhere to all municipal, First Nation community, provincial and federal closures (e.g. parks, infrastructure, etc.).

The pandemic has effectively closed many businesses including guiding outfits and tourism companies and attractions, and, while the decision is unpopular with some, many guides see it as a responsible way to deal with the issue.

Fishing guide Graham Cloutier of Chillbilly Charters in Pass Creek cancelled or postponed this year’s bookings.

“I do agree with social distancing and staying home,” said Cloutier. “Safety of my guests, myself and the members of the community are important to me. I understand the strategy imposed is too help lower the infection rate, it’s unfortunate, but necessary.”

In Greater Trail, tourism operators and programs looking to attract visitors have now changed their messaging to reflect the trying times.

The Trail Visitor Centre closed on Mar. 17, and City of Trail’s website says, “We’ve revisited, you should too.”

Greater Trail’s Community Futures WeSportFish program, whose sole purpose is to attract anglers to the Columbia River and support local businesses, has altered its social media reports urging visitors to stay home, adding “See you when it’s safe…” and “something to look forward to.”

“Prior to the pandemic, We Sport Fish was looking forward to a great fishing season,” said Community Futures economic development coordinator Ron Perepolkin. “In 10 months we went from unknown, to hundreds of daily website visitors per day from all around the world. We broke 1,000 daily visitors in late February, and have a daily reach of over 13,000 on Facebook. Two Trail residents became assistant guides to accommodate the growing interest in Trail as a world-class sport fishing destination. Spirits were high, feedback was great, people collaborated, and the goal of a new tourism draw for the region appeared to be coming to fruition.”

Although, the recommendations made by FLNRO are guidance measures, they will have an impact as projects like, local businesses, guides, and tourism operators endeavour to stay safe and follow the protocols suggested by the province.

“When COVID-19 spread, travel became restricted,” added Perepolkin. “Our guides can no longer take visitors or even local residents on guided trips. We Sport Fish now asks people to stay home, and enjoy BC later. We still post fishing reports, news, and stories, but our focus has changed from promoting the region to providing information to keep house-bound anglers interested and dreaming of visiting when it is safe to do so.”

FLNRO also announced the cancellation of the Learn to Fish Program and the rod-loaning programs run by Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC (FFSBC), and notified the public that CORE examiners may suspend in-person examination.

The Conservation Officer Service is continuing to operate across BC and will be enforcing new restrictions and old ones.

Anglers are also allowed to carry digital copies of their fishing licenses, such as a photo or email of original document on their phone or other electronic device, unless fishing for a species where a retention record is required.

The message is clear: enjoy the outdoors, but do so responsibly and follow the recommendations.

“Like so many of us, we look forward to that day we can welcome visitors to fish in our river, eat in our restaurants, stay in our hotels, and shop in our local stores,” added Perepolkin. “The dream of a new tourism sector based on sport fishing is alive and well, it is just on hold until this passes.”

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