Lucas Philp of Freshwater Fisheries Society BC watches as rainbow trout tumble into Echo Lake during a stocking operation Wednesday.

Tourists happily pressed into service

Tourists from Germany got to help release rainbow trout into Echo Lake

Sven and Ulrike Schure were hoping to see the sights and catch some fish when they embarked on an RV holiday on Vancouver Island with their daughter, Lea.

What they ended up with was an interactive tourism experience.

When the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC brought 625 catchable sized rainbow trout to release into Echo Lake Wednesday afternoon, Sven was pressed into service releasing the gate atop the tanker truck as hatchery technician Lucas Philp waded out to waist depth to hold the hose from which the fish poured into the water.

“The water near the shore is 23 degrees, and anything above 21 is fatal to the fish,” said Philp. “I have to take them farther out to release them, and I can’t be in two places at once.”

So after inviting the Schure family atop his truck to have a look at the fish in the tank, Philp waded out into the lake and gave Sven the signal to open the hatch.

“We came for fishing, swimming, to look at nice places,” Ulrike said of the family’s motor home stop at Echo Lake, just before Philp backed his truck to the water’s edge. “Sven loves fishing in Germany.”

Before directing Sven to open the hatch, Philp waded through the lake with a clipboard and a device to measure the water’s conductivity, a combination of temperature, turbidity, chemical makeup and pH levels.

The fish were brought from the Vancouver Island Trout Hatchery in Duncan, one of six hatcheries in the province operated by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC.

Altogether, FFSBC stocks 60 Vancouver Island lakes with millions of pounds of fish each year.

Those lakes include Echo, Beavertail, Boot, Gray, Martha, Darkis and Reginald lakes in the Campbell River region.

The stocking is designed to improve the freshwater fishing experience of local and visiting anglers alike by providing catch-ready specimens in popular fishing spots. Echo Lake will be stocked twice in the spring and twice more in the fall for a total of 2,500 trout this year.

FFSBC funding also goes into research and development projects, including a study under way to improve the survivability rates of fish in what were once inhospitable water conditions. Water readings like those taken by Philp before Wednesday’s release are fed into a database and analyzed to match species of fish with appropriate water conditions, but FFSBC is learning how to stretch the boundaries of those limitations.

“A study is under way right now. They can take certain strains (of fish) that are more pH tolerant and acclimate them over time until they’re actually ready to release them,” said Philp. “Then they put them in the lake so the pH matches and they have far greater survivability. This is something that’s brand new.”

The society gets its funding from fishing licence fees collected in the province. Until this year, the society received 70 per cent of licence revenue, but as of April 1, 2015, all of the revenue goes to FFSBC to invest in services aimed at improving freshwater fisheries.

The society estimates licensing revenue for 2015-16 will be approximately $10 million, an increase of about $3 million annually.