For my final column of this sometimes chaotic year I will take a brief look at the highs and lows as they developed over the months of the calendar. When journeying into the unknown it is not a bad idea to look back for clues and direction.
January – There are many exciting things to do locally during this cold month, but for reasons best described as trying to keep you informed I spent most of my writing time on the politics of running our fishery, especially the political challenges facing recreational halibut fishing from an federal department of fisheries, that is creating a serious disconnect between the rights of citizens to participate in harvesting common property resources and the privatization of those resources to special interests.
February – An exciting month to report on great conservation advances with the establishment of Bear Creek Regional Park and a home for the Oyster River Enhancement Society’s hatchery on the Oyster River. Recognition of the role of the Evans Family Farms, Ducks Unlimited Canada, the Regional District and many individuals was encouraging and inspirational.
March – Halibut issues still around; but the joy of fishing is taking precedence. Spider lake lives up to its reputation of good fishing and much more.
April – The challenges of Raven Coal in Baynes sound raises its ugly head. Our local member of Parliament John Duncan and the Prime Minister continue to disappoint the recreational fishing community in the management of the marine fishery. Lake fishing is taking up much time and the results are excellent as reported in my columns.
May – Climate change may be a factor in the on-going lateness of the season by at least two weeks. Lingcod fishing is good, as is the continued gathering of shellfish.
June – One of the highlights of this month is the Family Fishing Weekend that places emphasis on children and families in fishing activities. Lingcod and chinook fishing continue to be good.
July-1 celebrated Canada Day in the company of good friends and the harvesting of a prime 23-pound chinook while fishing at Campbell River. With the cool weather lake fishing stayed good and a 20-inch cutthroat from Wolf Lake further enhanced it. Worked with Wally Nowak at the fish and game club outdoor program where we taught children the beginning skills of fly fishing.
August – Sockeye and Pink salmon fishing become active and productive, although late in arriving. The halibut issue is back with premature plans to close the halibut fishery prior to the end of the summer. Not good – the management of the resource is run by politics and recreational fishing is being short changed. I caught a prime 25-pound feeder chinook in Tribune Bay.
September – In many respects it was a banner month for Smitty and me. On one trip we landed halibut, sockeye, chinook and pink salmon while fishing out of Port Hardy. I took pictures of Roy Dash catching and releasing a prime 26-inch rainbow trout in Spider Lake.
October – Seems like it was only last week when I enjoyed spectacular chum salmon fishing with friends at Brown’s Bay. We also had a lesson in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans bureaucratic power when they closed the season at its peak.
November – Good returns of salmon to our Puntledge System. Hunting is the prime activity with Smitty and my grandsons doing well on black-tailed deer.
December – Winding down a generally successful year with getting ready for the Christmas season and all the traditions associated with the outdoors. I spent Sunday Dec. 18 with Chuck Ashcroft on the water off Denman and Hornby islands. The photograph of the spectacular concentration of stellar sea lions on Norris Rock with this column is, I suggest a glimpse of the changes ahead in our outdoor environment. If I had taken this picture in July the rocks would be occupied by harbour seals. It is normal for the rocks to be occupied by sea lions during the roe herring run that does not usually happen until late in January and into February and March.
If you look back over the past year there are some disturbing changes taking place in the migration patterns of salmon and other fish. Last winter Mount Washington had a world record snow fall for ski-hills.
What are the surprises in store for 2012? Happy New Year!
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.