This conversation with Rod Clapton, President of the British Columbia Federation of Drift Fishers (BCFDF) and Mike Wilson – BCFDF member and Publisher of Fraser Valley Lifestyle was recorded podcast style by Fuelradio.com. In this episode, we discuss the future of fishing on the Fraser River, particularly for families and drift fishers. You can listen here:
Conversation (paraphrased) with Rod Clapton and Mike Wilson:
Rod Clapton started fishing as a child with his dad. Throughout his teen years, he continued fishing on the Fraser River near the Pattullo Bridge that connects Surrey, BC with New Westminster, BC. Fishing has always been and remains a passion for Rod.
This passion is, in part, what led Rod to get involved with the British Columbia Federation of Drift Fishers (BCFDF), on which he currently serves as President.
The BCFDF started 25 years ago. At that time there really wasn’t a unified voice for river anglers or an association for drift fishers. Drift fishing is a method of angling separate from stationary bar fishing or fly fishing. It is practiced in rivers where anglers prowl the river searching, as opposed to waiting, for fish to come to them. It is much more active than stationary river fishing. The idea is to let the current carry your bait or lure through the river using a float or small weights for bouncing on the bottom. It is a highly skilled fishery technique requiring years of experience to master.
Rod has been president of the BCFDF for 25 years. He says, “we’ve attempted to represent an aspect of the fishery, but our membership certainly includes anglers from all other methods. Our mandate is “Protection of Fish Stocks & Preservation of Angler opportunity now & for future generations.
The BCFDF formed because the other fishing organizations at the time mostly served a narrow, more exclusive group of fishermen and were not inclusive of other types of fishers. There needed to be a more inclusive group.
It is clear that fish stocks continue to decline, especially in the last 10 to 15 years. As part of the drive for resolution, Rod and other federation partners have tried to form “alliance groups” to further forward stewardship options on our rivers. This is an ongoing challenge.
There is a bit of a pecking order in the minds of “decision-makers” and some groups are being excluded from fishing the Fraser River. While the sport fishery contributes $1.1 billion per year to the BC economy and employs over 9000 people it is one of the groups on the lower end of the pecking order and is being excluded from fishing on the Fraser.
Rod is a supporter of the heritage value and the social value of family fishing. “It’s priceless! It’s a wonderful experience to teach your kids and grandkids in nature.”
Rod acknowledges that First Nations people have constitutional priority. The ongoing concern is that the heritage of family fisheries are not being considered and not being granted. This is the biggest challenge for the group that he represents.
Over the last two years, family fishing has been denied on the Fraser River. Rod feels like this is a dereliction of responsibility by our fisheries managers. He believes that fishermen are capable of responsibly fishing selectively and targeting stocks that are healthy, leaving the stocks alone that are of concern.
Rod says the best bonding time he has had with his son is spending the day fishing. It’s a simple and inexpensive pastime.
Mike Wilson of Fraser Valley Lifestyle, also on our call, agrees. He adds that pretty much every time he goes fishing with his son they have a great conversation and have good quality time together. It’s not just about catching a fish. (Many days they don’t catch any!) It’s also about existing and spending time in the beautiful environment and the excitement of fishing. Mike says he’s been blessed to be a part of that. “We have to have access to the rivers to enjoy these great moments with our families and friends.”
Rod says it’s imperative that we work with our first nations brothers on these initiatives. He has consulted with First Nation bands, particularly on the Fraser River, recognizing that our goal of preserving the fishery for our children and grandchildren is mirrored by their goals. With the political and public sensitivity to the rights of First Nations peoples, it’s a delicate challenge to raise awareness and allowances for all of the different fishing sectors who would like to fish throughout the province.
“We’ve tried negotiating with the government and we have made headway with local First Nations people,” Rod explains, “Our biggest issue is with the government. The reality is we’re not getting very far with them.” He thinks the government has failed to manage fish species for all Canadians. The BCFDF has retained legal counsel and says someday the issue of protecting the Public Fishery may make it to the Supreme Court. It may be one of the few avenues left to him and those who share his passion to ensure that their children can take their children fishing.
Today there are many great organizations in addition to the BCFDF throughout the province that are involved in conserving the fishery. If we work together, we can support the great Canadian heritage of family fishing.
Put these notes after the sign-off and you could include Mike’s gratitude for Rod leading the charge at BCFDF for 25 years.
Link to website. There is lots of information about all of the details and all of their efforts. They are affiliated with a Fraser River Sports Fishing Alliance. BCFDF was influential in getting that organization up and running. See https://fraseralliance.com/contact/
It costs just $20 a year to join the BCFDF and gives you a voice. Rod says, “Individually we are ignored collectively we are heard.” See https://www.bcfdf.com/
Featured Image: BCFDF