Fishers in the Cowichan Lake area will have to hang up their poles for the time being, following a closure announcement from the BC Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations on Tuesday.
As of June 28, government staff have upgraded the drought level across the Cowichan Valley to Level 4 (extremely dry) prompting a fishing closure and calls for greater water conversation.
In a press release, Greig Bethel, public affairs officer at FLNRO, said “the drought has lowered water levels and reduced flow in rivers and streams which is prompting the province to close the freshwater sports fishery across much of the southern Island starting July 1, 2016.”
However, Big Qualicum, Puntledge and Quinsam Rivers will remain open, along with Campbell River and all streams north of the City of Campbell River and Bamfield.
The fishing closures will remain in place until drought conditions “improve significantly.”
Level 4 is the province’s highest drought level.
In 2015, Vancouver Island was designated Level 4 drought conditions from July 3 until Sept. 3 — two weeks earlier than any other jurisdiction in the province.
Gord March, owner of Gord’s Fly Box in Lake Cowichan, said ultimately taking care of the fish needs to take precedence over the tourists.
“When it gets to the point where the river’s this low and the temperatures come up that high, the fish are impossible to release alive. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend holding them in the current, they’re not going to revive,” he said.
“This is a necessary thing we have to do to take care of our fish.”
He said he doesn’t anticipate the closure will negatively impact tourism in the area because typically by this time of year fishing on the river has finished. He said last year during the Level 4 drought conditions very few people came to his store specifically with plans to go river fishing.
“The odd one that [did] last year, I just talked him into going to the lake or over to the West Coast, there’s still some open over there,” said March.