Sunday January 25, 2015

Spences Bridge to meet on steelhead

A Spences Bridge representative will meet in September with B.C.'s Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources in a bid to push for traditional reopening of the steelhead fishery.

Steve Rice, a rural director with Thompson-Nicola Regional District, said his meeting with Steve Thomson is scheduled during September's Union of B.C. Municipalities annual general meeting.

"We need to, basically, not stay the course - as the ministry wants to do. We're pushing . . . to open it as it was pre-2003."

The steelhead fishery in fall on the Thompson River was a traditional mainstay of the community's economy. The province, which oversees management of steelhead, has closed the Thompson River to steelhead fishing unless sufficient numbers are counted downstream.

Opening the river to steelhead fishing, even if it does occur, typically isn't done until the day of the decision. That leaves no time for big-spending international anglers to book vacations.

Before 2004 the fishery was considered open until biologists ordered a closure based on insufficient returning numbers.

On Thursday, a Skeetchestn Indian Band official said it has been told a sport fishery for steelhead will reopen this year. But Rice discounted that, noting those decisions are typically months away.

"They haven't given any indication at all. Last year we knew (of the opening) the day it happened."

While Skeetchestn opposes any opening for steelhead, Rice said he feels more First Nations should be involved in decision-making around steelhead.

"They (First Nations) don't feel the ministry is including them in the process. If that's the way they feel, it's a problem. Government needs to revisit this and get them involved."

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