Campbell River is not taking advantage of its assets nor properly accommodating tourists drawn to the community for its fishing, according to a local angler.
Mike Gage of the Campbell River Salmon Foundation spoke to council last week about the opportunities the city needs to embrace in order to be successful.
“We believe that this current council should do all in its power to enhance the recreational fishery in this community,” Gage said during his presentation to council, with local resident Tom Craig by his side. “We could probably attract visitors to our local streams to watch the salmon spawn – the runs are quite large now.”
But the biggest obstacle to attracting tourists looking for a fishing holiday, is the lack of amenities, Gage said.
“We don’t have enough proper boat ramps and the required parking for the ramps. As a renowned sports fishing town, we need to improve our existing facilities and, in our opinion, we barely maintain them. This should be a priority so the fishing resorts can be used to their fullest.”
Gage said in comparison to Port Alberni – which also claims to be the Salmon Capital of the World – Campbell River’s free, public boat ramps are lacking.
“We’ve got very poor ramps here. There’s hardly any parking, no fish cleaning tables for the residents or tourists,” Gage said. “Port Alberni has got three four-lane ramps, two lanes into the water and two lanes out, plus adequate parking. They’re building a fourth ramp right now.”
Gage said it’s unfortunate Campbell River has not done more to accommodate anglers. He said since the salmon stocks failed to return in the 1990s, chinook and chum stocks have rebounded in the last few years.
“We still have the title of Salmon Capital of the World, though some people in Port Alberni might argue that. But we’ve got far greater fish stocks travelling past here – they’ve got probably 20 per cent of what we’ve got,” Gage said. “Thanks to volunteer stream keepers from Oyster Bay to Sayward, and probably the best managed hatchery on the B.C. coast – the Quinsam – our fish stocks are improving.”
Gage said since 1995 wild chinook stocks in the Campbell River have climbed from a low of 150 to an annual average of 800-900. Chum stocks over the same period have risen from more than 2,000 to an average of 14,000, with a spike of 60,000 one year.
Gage said a healthy sports fishing industry translates to a healthy local economy because tourists drawn here for the fishing will stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and shop at local tackle shops. But he said the city first needs to invest in the industry.
“We’re way behind the times. I think there should be some assistance from council to pull up our socks in this area,” Gage said. “We’re not taking full advantage as a community with the size of the fish stocks we’ve got here.
“Boat ramps, cleaning tables, are just common courtesy to the tourists who would like to come here to do more fishing,” he added.
The city is currently working on improving and extending the length of the Big Rock Boat Ramp (see story on page A3), and putting in a fish cleaning table as well as washrooms. However, current plans do not see any increase in the number of parking spaces.
Mayor Walter Jakeway disagrees with the Big Rock Boat Ramp designs and said the city is missing the big picture.
“What we’re doing is just not big enough,” Jakeway said. “We’re going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and not get anything for it.”