As if there wasn’t already an oppressive number of complex issues to address on the British Columbia steelhead front, now we can add to the list. Get used to this one people, it isn’t likely to go away any time soon. PFF stands for Put Fish First. It seems to be the brainchild of a wealthy US citizen who lives in Singapore where he writes conspiracy fiction novels (you can’t make this stuff up!). When he isn’t doing that, he spends time at his holiday home on 160 acres of prime riverfront property on the Kispiox River. His Kispiox history goes back to about 2000 but the property purchase didn’t occur until 2014. The information in circulation tells me our man is in the crosshairs of some Kispiox locals because he catches a lot of fish on something other than fur and feathers. Well, the best defense is a good offense so away we go.
The PFF proponent is Bradley West who claims to have co-founders Dick Burge, a former Washington State fisheries biologist and Troy Peters, Chair of the Northern BC Branch of the Steelhead Society of BC*** already on board for the PFF launch in 2018. Here’s the essence of what is already out of the gate and looking to grow by enlisting the support of at least one high profile sport fishing media personality.
- People with the resources to do so throw money into a pot administered by a group of people (mostly foreign?) who have an interest in the Kispiox steelhead fishery. Proponent West states “PFF will be open to anyone willing to donate time and/or money to creating and preserving a quality river environment where steelhead and salmon thrive”. He has put up $20K US as seed money. There is a proposal to secure additional funds by selling hats, t-shirts and bumper stickers displaying a PFF logo.
- The money gets used to promote the rallying cry of these crusaders – “No More Than Four”. Translated, the intent is to encourage people to do things like fish for cutthroat with dry flies once they have caught their four steelhead on a given day. All gear types welcome but only in accordance with existing regulations (artificial lure, single barbless hook, catch and release). The broader objective is to take the fly vs gear debate off the table so we don’t end up with fly only regulations that, according to West, will ultimately set us on a path to privatization. (The connection escapes me.)
- Studies (led by Washingtonian Burge) “to measure cortisol levels in steelhead landed and handled in different ways and in different water temperature”. “At this vital moment, we need policy decisions based on fact, not personal anecdotes”. (Sounds like a carbon copy of that ground breaking research that the future of Bulkley steelhead was alleged to depend on. I’m still waiting for answers to my questions on the results of that one.)
- If and when the PFF initiative creates a tidal wave of support and a large sum of disposable funds, there would be initiatives such as buy back of commercial fishing licenses, road improvements to boat launch sites, habitat improvement projects, developing position papers “to assist the regulators as they consider policy options to reduce crowding on the Skeena system in future years”. Some of the talk is pretty interesting. How about higher daily classified waters fees, no more than five of seven consecutive days can be fished, daily float fees and annual limits on days one can float?
Well, Mr. West, while we respect your right to express your opinions on how us Canadians should run our fisheries you’ll have to forgive us (me at least) for asking how you would take it if a Canadian was preaching to you from Singapore about how to manage the Olympic Peninsula streams? You have a fellow named Trump down your way who has a habit of alienating people with his bombastic style. Please don’t bring that to the Kispiox or anywhere else in the Skeena. Come, enjoy our waters and fish but leave the rest behind. If we need any outside help to enlighten us on the commercial fishery steelhead interception scene, further muddy the waters with respect to First Nations interactions or drive wedges between residents and non-residents or guided and non-guided anglers we’ll be sure to call.
One closing remark. All the issues you speak to ultimately relate to the supply of steelhead that make it home. That supply is reduced significantly by Southeast Alaska net fisheries virtually every year. I long for the day when even the tiniest fraction of all the money and influence invested in Skeena steelhead fishing by our American friends is directed toward doing something about their fellow citizen’s impact on the supply of steelhead they get to enjoy in Skeena country. Perhaps the optics of your campaign to sustain opportunity you can no longer find in your own country would be better if you did.
Merry Christmas just the same.
*** Since posting the above I’ve been advised by SSBC people in Skeena country they did not endorse the PFF initiative as stated by Mr. West. It seems Mr. West assumed the SSBC was on board after some conversation with the SSBC’s Troy Peters many months ago when Troy was expressing the view that anglers need to reduce their collective footprint on the resource. Translating that into an endorsement broadcast by email and then setting up for broad public exposure via a distantly removed fishing media personality has done a serious disservice to Troy Peters and the SSBC. My sincere apologies for implying the good people in the SSBC supported the West initiative.