Family fishing weekend a good chance to explore new sport

If William Shakespeare had been an angler, he would have no doubt reworked one of his more famous lines.

"The quality of fishing is twice blessed," history's most famous playwright might have said. "It blesses him that gives and him that receives."

No doubt every fishing father who's taken a child on the water will agree. Angling lessons are abundant, giving something to both those who share the sport with someone and those doing it for the first time.

This weekend is B.C.'s Free Family Fishing Weekend. The government hopes the three-day event, which allows people to fish without an angling licence in freshwater lakes and rivers, will encourage families to try the sport, something fisheries managers hope will help foster a new generation of B.C. anglers. The weekend starts Friday and runs through Sunday.

Brian Chan, a noted Kamloops fly-fisherman, author, guide and former fisheries biologist, always tried to pass his love of fishing to his daughter, who has since grown and left home.

He frequently took her on trips, putting a rod in her had as soon as she was old enough to hold one. Those trips continued until she was about 13, when her teenage priorities changed and fishing with dad was not the cool thing it once was.

But Chan said his daughter, now 23, is once again expressing interest in the sport. He expects they will fish together again a few times this year.

"She hasn't forgotten," he said, adding no one forgets their fishing experiences as a child.

"There is a very strong chance (children) will return to fishing as adults, even if you only take them once.

"When you take a child fishing, you instil a sense of awareness and value to fresh water, a clean environment and healthy forests. Those things never leave."

Benefits to the child aside, there are selfish reasons to take children fishing, Chan said.

The passing of knowledge, hobbies or passions within a family, from one generation to the next, is something he feels is important and benefits adults.

"I get a feeling of passing on something that is very dear to my heart," he said. "It was dear to my dad's heart and hopefully (my daughter) will have a sense of what (fishing) means to me."

Chan concedes, however, that many parents today don't know how to teach fishing to their children. Many were not taught themselves, or learned in other parts of Canada where methods are much different.

Even though many B.C. sport anglers make the pursuit of trout a complex, knowledge intensive pursuit, it doesn't need to be, he said.

"A lot of parents think it's very complicated but it's really quite simple," Chan said. "All you need is a spin rod and a reel, some hooks, a couple of sinkers and a bobber.

"And some worms."

There are many locations where people can fish for small eager trout, even if they do not have a boat. Walloper Lake near Lac Le Jeune is perhaps the best of the bunch, even sporting a fishing dock built by the Kamloops Fish and Game Club to allow families a chance to get out without a boat. Lac Le Jeune also has a fishing dock, as does Tulip Lake near Roche Lake.

The Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C. has reams of information teaching people the basic skills of fishing, he said, including how to rig a rod and line to catch trout. Visit www.gofishbc.com to find the material.

Chan said there are also be numerous events around the region staged by fish and game clubs and resorts to help teach families how to fish.

The Kamloops Fish and Game Association will host just such an event at Walloper lake June 20, providing people free access to tackle as well as free advice from some very experienced anglers.

Another notable event in this area will happen June 26 at Johnson Lake Resort not far from Adams Lake.

Jim and Barb Lewko, the owners of the resort, will host their Fourth Annual Kids Learn to Fish Day at Johnson Lake from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free to children and their parents, and includes instruction on fish, habitat and conservation, and catching and releasing.

The Lewkos also provide a barbecue lunch for everyone. For more information about the event, to register or for directions to the resort, visit www. johnsonlakeresort.com.

Barb Lewko said this event stemmed from a more traditional fishing derby the resort once hosted. The couple decided, however, a kill-derby didn't match with their environmental values, and they decided instead to hold an event that promotes education and conservation.

They have seen more than 100 children come through in four years, most of whom have never fished before.

"They're excited, they have big smiles on their faces," she said.

Steve Maricle, a fisheries biologist with the Ministry of Environment, said all events that encourage youth to fish will help stem the exodus of B.C. anglers away from the sport.

Licence sales - money required to support B.C.'s crucial fish stocking program - depends on increasing or stable numbers of fishermen.

Maricle said his department is working hard to develop new fishing regulations that will make some lakes family-only fishing lakes.

Currently, one lake in the area (Isobel Lake) has age restrictions but it is not popular with families because adults cannot fish there, even if they are in the company of their children. The lake is only open to senior citizens or those under 16 years old.

He thinks it will be a couple of years before the new, proposed family lake regulation works its way through government.

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