Fish heads nets Gray Creek angler a new ride
Dave Johnston and his fishing buddies have hauled dozens of trout out of Kootenay Lake over the past year and one of them netted him a brand new 2022 Ford F-150, with the off-road Tremor package, from Nelson Ford.
Nearly 8,000 trout have been entered in the Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program over the past 12 months for monthly prize draws, but Johnston entered the one that matters the most.
“I fish with two buddies and a lot of the time we just combine our heads and one of us enters the draw,” said Johnston, a resident of Gray Creek.
“This time it was my turn. But anyone of us could have caught that fish.”
Or maybe Johnston has all the luck.
“It’s interesting because I won the very first (KLAIP) draw three years ago,” said Johnston, who collected a $1,000 prize at the time.
“That was pretty special, but this is something else again.”
The Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program is a citizen-driven initiative intended to reduce the over-abundance of rainbow and bull trout in the lake and promote the recovery of their main prey, the endangered kokanee salmon. Anglers harvest rainbow and bull trout in the main body of Kootenay Lake and then drop off the heads at local depots to enter a monthly draw for a prize worth $1,000.
More than 23,000 trout heads were entered over the three-year term of the program.
Two major prizes were also awarded this season, the Ford F-150, and a 2022 Polaris side-by-side ATV from Main Jet Motor Sports.
May saw the highest number of monthly entries to the so far, as people apparently harvested trout heads from their freezers going back months of years, said Gordon Grunerud, President of the West Arm Outdoors Club, which ran the incentive program locally for the past three years.
But fishing conditions on the lake have also been near perfect recently.
“It’s really hot right now,” said Johnston.
“But it’s all dollies (bull trout), it’s a dollyrama out there right now. We’ve pulled in something like 29 fish in the last couple of weeks. That’s with three, four lines out.”
The monthly prize winner for May was Paul Srepel of Queen’s Bay, who collected $1,000 in gift certificates redeemable at the Crawford Bay Market and Main Jet Motorsports. Paul plans to stock up on fuel and new lures and may even splurge on a new chainsaw.
As the final deadline for entries approached, Paul cleaned out his freezer to maximize his chances of winning the truck and made his final drop-off on the final day of eligibility.
“I pulled a lot more fish out of the lake than I entered, so I’m kind of kicking myself over that,” he said.
“I entered 31 heads on May 31st and it could have been a lot more. I had my eye on the truck, but $1,000 is pretty cool.”
As fish populations recover and the fish available get bigger, Grunerud is hopeful that skilled anglers will come to the lake in greater numbers.
“The lack of trophy-sized fish is a drag on participation,” he said.
“Skilled anglers travel extensively to other lakes seeking bigger fish and that’s too bad. A good angler can pull more than two dozen fish a day, while casual anglers get far fewer.”
To enter, anglers were required to drop off entries at four return depos operated by co-sponsors Balfour Gill & Gift Gas Station, Woodbury Resort, Crawford Bay Market, or Wynndel Foods & Outdoor Gear.
Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program is managed by the local West Arm Outdoors Club with support from B.C. Wildlife Federation, Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, and several local merchants from around Kootenay Lake.
The Ministry urges anglers to continue to fish the lake for trout and harvest all of their catch within daily quota limits to support the recovery of Kootenay Lake’s kokanee salmon.
More information on the Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program: https://bcwf.bc.ca/kootenay-lake-angler-incentive-program/