Fish study needs local char knowledge

Recreational angling is one of the most popular activities in the Lakes District for both residents and visitors.

Dan Bate and Dean Peard

Recreational angling is one of the most popular activities in the Lakes District for both residents and visitors.  Recently, the province of B.C. had a crew of fish and wildlife biologists and technicians quietly gathering fish stock levels in Burns Lake and Decker Lake.

Specifically, the team was assessing char (lake trout) population levels as part of research to support decisions about recreational angling regulations.

“Char are an important target of recreational fisheries on many lakes in the Lakes District,” said Joe De Gisi, fisheries stock assessment biologist for the Skeena Region Fish and Wildlife Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

The five year project, partially funded by the BC Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, is meant to gather information about the population levels of lake char across the southern Skeena region.

“We have little historical information about char in Burns and Decker Lakes,” De Gisi said. “I’ve been told by some long-time residents that they have caught char in the past.  It makes sense that they would have been there, but I can’t say how abundant they were.”

The most recent netting on the lakes failed to turn up any char, suggesting that if they’re present, they’re certainly not plentiful.

“Char are susceptible to over-harvest and they are a cold-water fish so higher water temperatures are not in their favour,” De Gisi explained. “Low oxygen is also an issue for them.”

Research shows that Burns and Decker Lakes are both difficult lakes for char to survive.

“Both Burns and Decker show low oxygen levels in the deeper water, and they show warm water near the surface, so the amount of habitat for lake char is very constrained in those two lakes,” De Gisi said.

Records for the two lakes do not go back very far, although as far back as the early 1980s, oxygen depletion at depth was already present.

If you happen to catch a char while fishing on either lake, or if you remember catching char in the past, De Gisi would like to hear from you.

“If anyone even has historical information about having caught char 30 or 40 years ago, I would be keen to hear from them,” he said. “If they’re willing to call me, that would be great.”


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