Region 7B - Peace/Liard

Steve Hewitt – North Peace Rod and Gun Club

About 1 hour north of Fort St John lies Inga Lake, a small freshwater lake that is also a popular fishing destination. Though it now maintains a healthy population of annually stocked rainbow trout,  that was not always the case. Inga Lake has no natural surface inlet, so there are few areas for rainbow trout to spawn, causing them to become “spawn bound”. This condition not only interferes with natural growth, leading to smaller trout, but it can also lead to early mortality.

In the mid 90’s the “Inga Lake Project” sought to rectify this issue.  With funding from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Ministry of Environment constructed an artificial spawning channel. Each spring (approximately mid-May to mid-June), water from Inga Lake is pumped into this gravel-lined channel and provides breeding grounds for up to hundreds of rainbow trout.

The North Peace Rod and Gun Club (NPR&GC) closely participated in the project. Steve Hewitt, a director with the club and the Inga Lake Project Coordinator remembers that “Almost the first day the stream was [open] the trout were in the channel”. Since 1997, NPR&GC members have maintained the channel, raking the gravel to prevent algae build up, preventing vandalism, ensuring anglers respect the boundaries and avoiding the odd bear. The caretakers also complete fish counts and take temperature readings twice a day.

The original caretaker, Edgar Lansing unfortunately passed away and Steve admits it can sometimes be a challenge to find committed volunteers as willing to pitch in with the conservation efforts. Cyril and Loretta Jones currently maintain the channel, which Steve is very grateful for.

“Without them it wouldn’t be running as well as it does."

Another major role the caretakers play is as an interpreter for visitors. Because the spawning process is so visible in the channel, “it provides an amazing learning opportunity for kids”. Each year the NPR&GC sponsors the transport of approximately 500 kids to the channel to learn about the life-cycle of fresh-water fish. “It’s our club’s contribution to the fisheries community”, says Steve.

Currently, there are talks about stocking the lake with a different, non-breeding subspecies of Rainbow Trout, eliminating the need for the channel. Though this would be an improvement financially, the learning opportunities would sadly be lost.

The NPR&GC has been involved in a number of other projects such as “Learn to Fish Day”, controlled burns for wildlife enhancement, streambank restoration, vegetation reestablishment along forest-lot cuts, and sponsoring sheep and mountain goat surveys.

-Written by Jason Jobin