Smallmouth bass could reach the Fraser

The smallmouth bass continue to be a cause for big concern for regional and provincial governments and residents who live around water systems where the fish have taken hold.

The smallmouth bass continue to be a cause for big concern for regional and provincial governments and residents who live around water systems where the fish have taken hold.

The fish were first discovered in the Beaver Valley system in 2006; in 2010, a few were found in Big Lake. In a recent letter from the Ministry of Forest, Land and Natural Resource Operations to the Cariboo Regional District there is a suggestion that the bass are “… moving freely downstream into the Quesnel River and possibly into the Fraser River.”

Roger Stewart, director of resource management for the Cariboo region for the ministry, says the fish are in all of the lakes of the Beaver Valley chain and Big Lake.

It is believed that the bass in Big Lake are a more recent phenomena and Stewart says the ministry is unsure of how long they have been there or who put them there.

Stewart is concerned about where the bass could move next.

“Because the bass exist in all those reaches of the Beaver Valley system there’s nothing that prevents them from migrating out the bottom of Beaver Creek and into the Quesnel River system,” he says. “Once into the Quesnel (system) we are uncertain about their survivability. … if they develop a base of representation in the Quesnel and then, of course, from there they can move into the Fraser and can populate downstream from there.”

The concern around the presence of smallmouth bass in the system is the species is a fish predator. Stewart says in its juvenile stage the fish feed on the same food as young trout and salmon, and as it grows it becomes a predator.

“They out compete at the very early life stages and they predate effectively in their later life stages and they are relatively long lived as well,” he says, adding the fish are also highly reproductive.

“Bass can survive in far greater or variable conditions than the salmon can and, as a result from an ecological context, out compete other species at the expense of fish populations that are at the core of our recreation, our economy and our First Nations cultural heritage.”

Stewart says the ministry hasn’t yet seen an effect of the bass on salmon stocks but says that could simply be a feature of the “rigorous” chinook, sockeye and coho populations.

The ministry has undertaken mitigation measures such as public education and erecting barriers but says the only way to ensure eradication of the bass is the use of a chemical known as rotenone, a product derived from a plant of the legume family that is fatal to aquatic species with gills.

Stewart acknowledges there remains a split amongst the population regarding the use of the chemical that will kill gill-breathing animals in a lake system. He says the use of rotenone is expensive, would result in the death of gill-breathing species, and the subsequent restocking of species.

“There are those who abhor any attempt that we might do to have such an impact on the ecosystem as to undertake an eradication program,” he says. “It’s a difficult proposition but it’s far more palatable than allowing a bass population to live in our midst and to have people continue to carry them to other lakes.”

Stewart says there is an example of a successful application of the chemical in the Thompson-Okanagan region and the subsequent rebuilding of the lake population.

He agrees there needs to be a broad public acceptance of the procedure and that hasn’t occurred in the Cariboo yet.

Joan Sorley, a former member of the Big Lake Community Association and resident of the area, says that bass in Big Lake would be devastating for the community as it relies on the lake as an economic driver and for a large community fishing derby fundraiser each year.

At the same time the community is split on the use of rotenone.

“There are mixed emotions about that,” she says. “Poisoning isn’t necessarily embraced.”

Sorley says if the ministry manages to find money to apply the chemical then the community will have to decide if it will let rotenone be used.

She adds it’s a concern if the bass are migrating downstream and potentially impacting salmon.

As the Area F director for the Cariboo Regional District Sorley added that at its recent meeting the regional district requested more details on the movement of the bass and asked for a greater commitment to public education.

Currently the ministry is seeking funding for the use of rotenone. While it has the money to develop an eradication plan — that could be developed by March 2012 — there is not enough funds to carry out the eradication work.

In a letter from the ministry to the CRD the ministry notes that “… under current economic conditions, we face an intractable problem in allocating sufficient financial resources to eradicate this infestation.”

It is believed the fish in both Beaver Lake and Big Lake were carried illegally to those water bodies and the investigation into that is ongoing.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson speaking in the legislature Monday, May 10. (Video screen shot)
Cariboo Chilcotin MLA calls for rural infrastructure renewal fund

Lorne Doerkson said central parts of rural B.C. devastated by flooding, crumbling infrastructure

(File photo)
Firearms offence at McLeese Lake tree planting camp under RCMP investigation

On May 10 Williams Lake RCMP were called to the camp, located at the 2200 block of Beaver Lake Rd.

Lil Mack has been a member of Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy since its inception. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Lil Mack of Williams Lake honoured with BC Achievement Community Award

Mack has been an ever-present, quietly powerful literacy force in Williams Lake for several decades

Thompson Rivers University (TRU) announced Tuesday, May 11 that all washrooms on its Kamloops and Williams Lake campuses will have free menstrual products by September. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
TRU to provide free hygiene products in all washrooms by fall 2021

“By signing the United Way’s Promise campaign, TRU aims to reduce barriers facing some students.”

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

Most Read