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Skeena River steelhead numbers reach alarming low

Predicted steelhead numbers hit near-record low, sparking concern among anglers and conservationists
The Tyee Test Fishery is warning that Steelhead stocks in the Skeena River are very low this year. (Black Press Media file photo)

Steelhead figures in Skeena River have reached an alarmingly low count, as reported by the region’s foremost fish tracking organization, the Tyee Test Fishery.

The monitoring of steelhead, which began in 1954, reveals that this year is likely to be the fourth-worst in history for the renowned trout species.

The forecast for this season’s steelhead numbers is roughly 10,200, with over half of the stock, 55 per cent to be precise, already accounted for, says B.C. Forestry Associate Fish Director Mike Ramsay.

There have been no specific regulations or alterations for anglers announced at this time, but the ministry has left open the possibility of closures if circumstances require.

READ MORE: Resident anglers fed-up with governments’ ‘short-sighted’ fishery management

Ramsay explained that “there is an 89 per cent likelihood that the minimum conservation threshold will be met, and at this time, there’s no need for major regulatory intervention, such as early closures.”

Despite these assurances, Alex Bussmann, an angler and the proprietor of Oscar’s Fly and Tackle Shop in Smithers, expressed skepticism over the Tyee Test’s accuracy in tracking fish stocks. He conceded, however, that the low numbers are a cause for worry.

Bussmann stated, “Relying almost exclusively on Tyee for this kind of data could be risky. The Tyee Test Fishery was originally designed to track only sockeye, not steelhead.”

He also voiced a desire to receive this information earlier in the season. While B.C.’s Forestry Ministry maintains that mid-August is the optimal time to disclose fish stock numbers to the public, Bussman feels differently.

“In June, the situation isn’t treated as urgent, and there’s little to no discussion about steelhead in July or August. Then, suddenly, August 15th comes, and we’re faced with an emergency,” he complained.

About the Author: Seth Forward, Local Journalism Initiative

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