A young angler lands her fish at the 29th annual Bullhead Derby.

Good news (bullhead derby) and bad news (salmon closure)

It is no fun writing about serious fishing closures on the freshwater streams of Vancouver Island on one hand and on the other the fun and excitement of the annual bullhead derby; but climate change is creating all kinds of choices now and into the future.

Earlier in the week I received a notice from Fisheries and Oceans Canada that  illustrates just how serious the drought conditions on Vancouver Island are becoming.

“Effective 00:01 hours August 1st,  2015 until further notice the following Vancouver Island Rivers will close to salmon angling: All river systems in management units 1-7 to 1-13 All rivers on Vancouver Island in Region 1 are now closed to salmon fishing until further notice with the exception of the Campbell/Quinsam Rivers and the Qualicum River.”

Region 1 is the designation of Vancouver Island in the Freshwater Fisheries Regulations. This column supports the closures but admits to being a little confused about the rivers that remain open. The best rationale that I can make is that both systems have their sources in large deep-water lakes that remain cooler with adequate water levels.

Another reminder about how serious the drought conditions are becoming: the Columbia River in the State of Washington reports huge losses of migrations of salmon due to warm water. Closer to home, the salmon in the Rosewall Hatchery and enhancement society hatchery have had to to be moved to the Big Qualicum  and Quinsam Hatcheries because they have run out of water.

Our early season summer chinook are facing serious warm water problems in the Puntledge River. For beach anglers who practise catch and release on pink salmon, I urge serious restraint because when you play and release a pink salmon in warm water you have added another challenge to its ability to survive in life-threatening warm water situations.

I have had some good reports of limit catches of pink salmon in Johnstone Strait and I suspect these are Fraser fish because they are mint bright. There are also a few fish showing up locally and some of them are quite dark. It seems we are heading into a long beach fishing season due to the low water situation.

• • •

The 29th annual Bullhead Derby at the Comox Nautical Days celebrations was its usual success. When I checked at about 9 a.m. they had over 300 entries and there were lineups to register. Pictured with the column is a little girl just landing her bullhead. It is also the possible beginning of a life-long hobby of recreational fishing.

One of the great outcomes of this childhood derby is the interconnected activities that take place between grandparents and small children. In a society that is changing by the new social media it is one of the remaining recreational adventures that bridge the generation gap. The child and the adult share a common passion that can develop into the type of relationship that do much to cement family bonds.

By my calculation, if you take a reasonable guess of about 500 children that annually participate in the Bullhead Derby over the past 29 years that gives you a rough total of about 14,000 participants.

Certainly many of the children that fish the derby do so on an annual basis. In fact there are now parents that are bringing their children to the event that took part in it themselves. It does make interesting speculation about the number of fishing careers that have started by this simple derby.

Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.

 

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