Whether walleye or rainbow trout on the Columbia River, smallmouth bass from the Pend d’Oreille, Gerrard and Kokanee from the Arrow Lake, or cutthroat and brook trout from mountain streams and lakes, the southern BC portion of the Columbia River Basin boasts a myriad of world-class fishing opportunities, and a recent initiative hopes to open a portal for recreational anglers the world over.
In conjunction with BC’s Family Fishing weekend, Community Futures Development Corporation recently secured a grant from BC’s rural dividend fund to promote sport fishing in the Greater Trail and Castlegar area.
“The Kootenay Sport Fishing Project is a multi-community initiative to stimulate economic development in waterway recreation,” said Community Futures project coordinator, Ron Perepolkin. “Sport fishing is considered the ‘low hanging fruit’ as it can be promoted without infrastructure. The project will create a web portal of use to local residents and visitors alike. Marketing the web portal will attract new tourism dollars and stimulate new business opportunities.”
Last month, the project convened a steering committee composed of local fishing guides, Chambers of Commerce, destination marketing organizations, economic development organizations, media, and business (with potential input from regulatory and Indigenous representation) to help set priorities and guidelines.
Collaboration between the Trail, Rossland, and Castlegar Chambers of Commerces, and tourism and destination marketing companies are expected to play an important role in promoting the portal and adding another alluring dimension to the Basin’s many attractions.
“Tourism Rossland is extremely happy to work on this collaborative regional project that helps us position the Lower Columbia as a four-season destination,” said András Lukács executive director of Tourism Rossland. “The Kootenay Sport Fishing Project will help us diversify our tourism product, identify new business opportunities while keeping conservation and environmental sustainability as its core.”
The project is in its infancy, but proposes to engage local sport fishing professionals and assess potential angling opportunities as well as inventory boat launches, fish species, regulations, tackle shops and other related assets. Then, through market research identify the needs of potential users and how to reach them through advertising and social media.
The project goal is to create opportunities for new and existing businesses as well as create a website where individuals can find information on fishing destinations, maps, guides, tackle shops, accommodations, restaurants etc.
By increasing the region’s profile as a fishing Mecca, the project will not only compliment existing outdoor pursuits but enhance the Basin’s reputation as a ‘Go To’ destination, while maintaining its environmental integrity.
“Tourism puts new money into circulation in our communities,” said Perepolkin. “By promoting sport fishing alongside skiing, golf, hiking, and biking we can create new economic opportunities in waterway recreation. In the USA where angling is the largest component of outdoor recreation, 46 million anglers contributed $115 billion to the national economy in 2017 and created more than 800,000 jobs.”
For steering committee member and marketing coordinator of Destination Castlegar, Andrea Ryman, consultation with First Nations, and maintaining environmental standards and sustainable fisheries are priorities.
“The success of this project will expand Castlegar fishing assets and bring awareness to the Lower Arrow Lake and the Columbia River as a fishing destination. The goal is to support current fishing tour operators and invite economic growth within the sport-fishing industry while preserving our natural resources and minimizing the environmental impacts.”
Once the web portal is launched and an online presence established, partnerships with business, industry, municipalities, trusts, and others will play a vital part in maintaining and growing fishing tourism in the area.
Residents can also help by participating in the BC Family Fishing Weekend, June 15-17, the same weekend as Father’s Day. Resident’s are encouraged to wet a line in one or two of the many lakes and rivers in the area with the fishing licence requirement waived for the weekend.
Fisheries will host a fishing event at Champion Lakes from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, with hands-on tutorials available for beginners or those looking for a refresher. Loaner rods, reels and tackle are provided for those who do not have their own gear. The event also offers opportunities to learn about fishing gear, share freshwater fishing tips, learn about environmental stewardship and the tradition of recreational fishing.
In 2018, BC’s Rural Dividend provided almost $1.5 million to nine Kootenay ventures, including $100,000 for the Kootenay Sport Fishing Project.
The BC Rural Dividend provides $25 million a year to assist rural communities with a population of 25,000 or less to reinvigorate and diversify their local economies. It was developed to recognize both the contribution rural communities make to B.C.’s economy, and the unique challenges they face to diversify beyond natural resources.