On Thursday Sept. 13, members of the Valley Fish and Game Club, along with Scott Silvestri, a Fisheries biologist for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, and Michelle Kehler a project biologist for the B.C. Conservation Foundation, were busy installing a new float dock on Mayo Lake near Skutz Falls.
The project is to allow individuals under the age of 16, and those who are 65 and older or who are disabled, to have access to fishing on the lake.
Funding for the project was provided, for the most part, by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation.
“Basically, when you buy a hunting or an angling license part of that gets put aside and put into projects like this,” said Kehler.
“It’s a surcharge on top of our licenses,” said Bill Swain, president of the Valley Fish and Game Club. “It was brought on 12 or 15 years ago, but its a fund that keeps growing and all over the province. You apply to this fund for such projects.”
“And the folks that are using this are basically the same ones that are paying for it, in a sense,” added Kehler. “Some of the money also came from the Small Lakes Committee.”
The float dock is one of many projects now getting under way, all of which were dreamed up by Silvestri.
“This is his baby,” said Kehler. “He dreamed it up three years ago, applied for funding through HCTF, they gave it to him, he contracted me over the last couple of years to go out and survey 76 lakes on the island that are near urban centres. So the whole onus behind this is to improve access and/or facilities at lakes near and in urban centres.”
Kehler adds that fishing license sales are down in the province because people are not being able to find the time for this recreational activity in their daily lives, and the project is one way to encourage families, individuals, and fishing enthusiasts in general to get out to take up the sport once again.
“So as conservationists we gotta get the people that are going to keep looking after the land,” said Swain. “We gotta keep bringing them in, cause the old conservationists, if you look around, they’re getting old, and they’re going to be dying off and we need the new generation.”
Swain adds that in the Lower Mainland and other areas that have invested in these types of programs have seen a spike in fishing license sales.
“We have seen improvements, so we know these are the types of projects that we need to put our resources into,” said Kehler.
The Valley Fish and Game Club helped to save the project some funds by donating club members’ time, and Mark Hartshorn of Hartshorn Mechanical in Lake Cowichan offered the use of his excavator, as well as his time, to lift the heavy sections of dock and set them into the lake.
The project had to be approved by Ryan Dias, the superintendent of Parks for the CVRD, because the lake is situated on park land.