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Quesnel Lake Tagging Program Receives Top Honours HCTF Silver Award winner Lee Wiliston's project was recently featured in the 2016 Cariboo-Chilcotin Fishing Guide. Angie Mindus, editor of the Williams Lake Tribune, wrote the following article about the Quesnel Lake tagging program, and has kindly agreed to let us republish the story here.   High-Tech Tagging Program Unravels Mysteries of Quesnel Lake   A five-year study examining the effects of angling pressures on resident rainbow, bull and lake trout in Quesnel Lake has netted a prestigious provincial award, accolades from professionals in the field and critical information to ensure the long-term survival of the species. The Quesnel Lake fish tagging program, which was launched in 2013 in response to public reports of improved fish numbers in the lake and requests to review the restricted fishing regulations, is entering its fourth year and relies on a winning combination of a high tech fish-tracking system and good oldfashioned reporting from anglers. Lee Williston, study leader and senior fisheries biologist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, said he couldn't be happier with the results. "The knowledge we have gained over the last three years has really exceeded all our expectations:' Williston said. "The number one priority is to ensure the long term sustainability of Quesnel Lake trout populations. But we also don't want to be unnecessarily restrictive. We want people out there fishing and enjoying the resource and the better information we have, the less restrictive we have to be." The study has shed some light on critical questions surrounding the different species, such as the species' mortality rates, use of habitat and sensitivity to angling pressures. To date, about 600 rainbow, bull and lake trout have been equipped with high-reward floy tags and released back into the lake where Williston's team have placed 30 acoustic receivers at various locations in the 100 kilometre-long, 525-metre deep lake. Of those fish, 250 have also been implanted with acoustic tags. When an acoustic tagged fish travels within approximately 700 metres of a receiver, the unique identification number, date, time, location and depth of the fish is recorded. "The technology available is incredible," he said. The method has revealed some fascinating preliminary data about the genetically unique rainbows, which are the main focus of the study, confirming that the fish will travel from the tip of the west arm at Likely to the end of the east arm in as fast as a week searching for food. "What we're finding is they are using the entire lake, which is amazing. You have a 50 centimetre fish covering a 100 kilometres -- that's impressive:' It has also confirmed what area residents were reporting - that the large, genetically unique Quesnel Lake rainbows were making a comeback. "For the most part, things look really positive. The size and condition of the rainbows has been very good. Their numbers have also improved in recent years, largely due to the increase of Kokanee, their main food source. But more study is needed to fully understand the exploitation rate of rainbows," Williston said. With help from members of the fishing community, who have returned 50 $110 tags on rainbows so far, Williston said they suspect the large rainbows are sensitive to overfishing, due to their aggressive nature. "They are a large-bodied predator cruising around looking for prey. They need a high-energy food source and they're very aggressive. This aggressiveness makes them highly catchable which can make it appear as though there are far more fish than there really are." Early study results from lake trout, on the other hand, led to the ministry increasing the daily quota of Quesnel Lake lake trout from one to three per day, after it revealed the species has a low exploitation rate. The study is also providing some information on the lesser known, more illusive bull trout. "Bull trout are a tough one to put in a box," he said. "We are learning that there are multiple distinct populations of bull trout that use the Quesnel Lake system." Williston said the bull trout, which are strictly a catch and release fishery on Quesnel Lake, are a sensitive, cold water fish that require steep, cool streams to live in for the first...
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15 Years of Investments in BC’s Premier Angling Streams BC has a reputation for outstanding freshwater sport fishing, perhaps best exemplified by its world-class angling opportunities for steelhead and other trout on streams. “Quality Waters” is a descriptive term used by fisheries managers and anglers to describe the sum of all Classified Waters (and some non classified waters) that provide the province’s premier stream angling opportunities. Since 1997, HCTF has received and allocated dedicated funding for a variety of Quality Waters projects across BC. We have just released a report summarizing those investments. The report provides a historical perspective of government licence pricing decisions, documents the revenue received and briefly describes project investments made by HCTF on Quality Waters. It also provides a unique resource to help inform new policies and procedures about the involvement of HCTF in the evolution of the broader provincial Quality Waters Strategy. You can view the report here....
Penticton Creek Completion Achieves Major Milestone in Restoration Project  A major milestone has been achieved in Penticton Creek restoration this week, as the showcase project construction and the creek side planting program have been completed. “We have already had several reports of Kokanee navigating upstream with ease along the new creek bed. The difference you can see in Penticton Creek before and after the restoration project is amazing,” said Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit. “The City of Penticton is grateful for the tremendous support of our partners in this initiative, including the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation - their financial support has really made this project possible.”   The restoration of Penticton Creek was identified during the 2012 Downtown Plan consultations as among the top priorities for residents and businesses, and has been identified among the long-term Downtown 101 action items to be completed for revitalizing the downtown. Construction started Aug. 4, a historic event that saw concrete pulled out of Penticton Creek for the first time in over 50 years. The showcase project was designed to demonstrate what creek restoration can look like, with the goal of restoring fish habitat, maintaining flood protection and stabilizing creek banks. The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF), provided significant funding for both the planning and construction phases of this project. HCTF CEO Brian Springinotic says the Foundation’s support of the restoration of Penticton Creek aligns with its previous million-dollar investment in a recovery plan for Okanagan Lake’s kokanee. “The Okanagan Lake Action Plan made strong recommendations to improve spawning habitat in historic kokanee streams such as Penticton Creek,” said Springinotic. “This restoration project will help deliver on those recommendations.” This sample project includes a small section (80 metres) of Penticton Creek upstream from the Ellis Street Bridge. This site was chosen to substantially improve fish habitat, as well as address severe maintenance issues while showing the community the transformation in a visible area. Designing a creek bed that safely moves water through the area is important for flood protection, and this was considered in the balance with elements that create good fish habitat – rearing areas (resting, hiding and feeding zones), spawning grounds, and minimizing velocity and elevation barriers to migration. Fish species that stand to benefit from improved habitat include Kokanee and Rainbow Trout. The public is invited to check out the completed Penticton Creek restoration showcase project. The Ellis Street bridge offers an excellent vantage point. For information, visit www.penticton.ca/downtown. The Penticton Creek restoration project would not have happened without the funding and contributions of several agencies: Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C., Province of B.C., Penticton Indian Band, South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program, Okanagan Nation Alliance, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Penticton Flyfishers and Downtown Penticton Association....

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New Docks at Poirier Lake Local residents have a new place to go fishing with the recent completion of the Poirier Lake docks in Otter Point’s William Simmons Memorial Community Park. The project involved installation of a boat launch dock and separate fishing dock. The boat launch dock is adjacent to a new parking area and trails providing access to Poirier Lake. The fishing dock is accessible via a new path connected to the park’s Panama Rail trail, about a 3-minute walk from either the boat launch parking lot or the Butler Road parking area, off Otter Point Road. The docks were installed as part of a Vancouver Island fishing infrastructure program, initiated by the Province of BC. The program was designed to encourage participation in angling through increased accessibility to fishing spots near urban centres. “The key to developing the next generation of anglers is to get young kids and families involved at an early age. Poirier Lake is stocked with a good density of catchable rainbow trout,” stated Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Minister Steve Thomson. “The new dock will provide kids with a great opportunity to catch a fish, hopefully getting them hooked on the sport for the rest of their lives.” The lake is stocked by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, who also administer the infrastructure project. “The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC is working with partners around the province to improve access to fishing,” said Adrian Clarke, Vice President of Science. “By funding docks, such as this one, we’re helping to make it convenient and easy for local residents to fish, especially if they only have a few hours.” Funding for the docks came primarily from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF), an environmental granting organization that views angling as a way of getting people connected to the outdoors. “People care most about the things they know,” says Brian Springinotic, HCTF CEO. “One of the ways people can connect with their local environment is to head out to a natural setting with their families and fish.” The Juan de Fuca Parks and Recreation department utilized program and UBCM Gas Tax funding for associated construction costs and materials to the Poirier dock project. The addition of the docks, trails and new parking and picnic areas was part of the park’s long term plan to enhance recreational opportunities on Poirier Lake. “The ability for local residents to fish and recreate on Poirier Lake was welcomed by the community as a great addition to this local park” says Juan de Fuca Regional Director Mike Hicks.      ...
HCTF Takes a Look at the Kitimat River Cutthroat Trout Project As part of our evaluation program to ensure HCTF funds are benefiting fish and wildlife conservation, HCTF staff regularly visit project leaders to get an in-depth look at their projects – both on paper (financials) and on the ground. In early June, HCTF staff biologist Lynne Bonner and financial officer Katelynn Sander travelled to Terrace to meet with Regional Fisheries Biologist Jeff Lough to learn about his project Kitimat River Cutthroat Trout Behavioral Assessments. The following is their account of the evaluation:  The Kitimat River drains a large coastal watershed and discharges into the head of Douglas Channel at the town of Kitimat. It is a high priority for coastal cutthroat trout because of impacts from multiple human activities in the watershed. It also supports a popular fishery for both local and visiting anglers and the angling effort is significant. Prior to this study, information on the coastal cutthroat population was limited and anecdotal. This project aimed to investigate the patterns and behavior of coastal cutthroat, in an effort to understand how best to keep the populations healthy and sustained. In a joint radio telemetry and genetic analyses study with the University of Northern BC (UNBC), key cutthroat spawning, migration, and overwintering areas were identified. By understanding these crucial behavioral patterns, managers will have a better idea of where and when these populations are most vulnerable, and what actions are required to help protect them. Project data and results are being analysed and rolled into a MSc thesis by UNBC MSc candidate Eric Vogt who carried out much of the fieldwork. The study results and options for management will be used by the Ministry to help inform land use decision making in the Kitimat watershed and sustainable angling regulations for the Skeena Region. After a couple of hours in the office reviewing invoices and project objectives we were anxious to get out and see the actual project area. Jeff had arranged (and HCTF funded) a one-hour helicopter overview of the watershed. The flight took us over the upper Kitimat River where timber harvesting had clearly impacted the entire valley over the past couple of decades. Farther down the mainstem, Jeff pointed out the many side channels and small feeder streams that were highly productive cutthroat trout spawning and rearing habitat. Several large tributaries, such as the Wideene, extended cutthroat habitat up into the mountains. These habitats and their importance to all stages of cutthroat life history are the key pieces of information gleaned from this HCTF project’s telemetry work over the past 3 years. Evidence of oil and gas development appeared at various locations in the valley and as we approached the lower reaches of the Kitimat River towards the estuary, industrial development intensified with the former pulp mill site, the aluminum smelter and the village of Kitimat spreading out below. We also saw anglers fishing for salmon along the river, reminding us that cutthroat trout fishing is very popular at various times throughout the year.     Our evaluation and review illuminated the practical and financial challenges presented by this type of habitat assessment study. This three-year project was complex in nature, due to multiple partners and multiple contract extensions, but the financial aspects were well documented. Clearly written and timely proposals and reports enabled us to better understand the project objectives and expected outcomes. A big thank you to Jeff for taking the day to explain his project and to the other members of the team that helped make this project a success – Dr. Allan Costello, UNBC, grad student Eric Vogt, UNBC, and in-kind contributions from DFO, the Steelhead Society of BC, Kitimat Rod and Gun Club, and Haisla Fisheries. We were impressed with how well this project was implemented and managed. And finally, we are particularly pleased that funding emerging from an environmental infraction (court awarded to HCTF) was put to good use and managed effectively and efficiently for conservation.               How a Court Award led to the Kitimat Cutthroat Assessment Project This project was initiated in 2012-13 after HCTF received Court Award funding when a company was fined for an environmental infraction at the mouth of the Kitimat River. A...