The Babine River Fish Fence, located past Fort Babine, is now back in operation after it had to temporarily close down on Aug. 23 due to heavy rains and rising river water.
“The problem is when the water levels get too high, we can’t place our viewing boxes in the water, they just float away. So we are not able to count fish or anything like that and when it gets really high, the water gets really murky, because all the mud gets washed into the rivers, so we are not able to count fish or see them,” said Tanis Bjarnason, Fisheries Administration Assistant with the Lake Babine Nation (LBN).
Bjarnason also explained that when the water levels rise and the water gets murky, all the fish tend to hide out at the banks of the river, waiting for the water to get lower before they go on their migration path.
“So that’s sort of what we were seeing and we weren’t able to open the fence last Sunday but we are open and in full operation now as the water levels have gone down,” she said on Aug. 28.
An Aug. 26 Facebook post from LBN notified its members that due to heavy rains, the water levels had risen and the fish had stopped migrating, meaning there would be fewer fish at the fence. It also said that this would increase the amount of time that everyone would have to wait for the fish.
“The fact is that the fish hold out onto the banks, so they are not coming through as fast and waiting for the water to go through to keep swimming up, so it is slower fishing for us and we are not able to get as many fish as fast. So at such times when say 20 cars line up, then we have to cut the limit to 50 fish or 35 fish just to keep people in and out quickly because we don’t want an ‘X’ amount of people for a certain amount of time just because that increases the Covid risk. So as long as people go when the fish are moving through, they will have no problem getting their 100 fish,” explained Bjarnason.
The fence is open for LBN members to get sockeye salmon for winter food every year. Each member with a status card receives a set number of fish and this facility is only open for LBN members. As of Aug. 27, the counts were at 17,536 Large Sockeye, 277 Jack Sockeye, 77 Pink Salmon, 3 Coho, 3 Large Chinook, 62 Jack Chinook and 0 Steelhead according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada website.
This year, the fence opened on Aug. 15 and will remain open until Sept. 15. While the fence has opened and the fish have started to migrate, if it rains again, the fence would likely have to be closed.
“Anytime it rains, it has the potential to wash out. It could happen at any point,” said Bjarnason adding that members can keep an eye out for notifications on any such advisories on the LBN Facebook page and on the days when the band office would be open, door-to-door memos would also be sent out.