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Turtles mistakenly hooked

Taking the bait: Painted turtles at McGuire Lake were being caught instead of stocked trout. - Lachlan Labere
Taking the bait: Painted turtles at McGuire Lake were being caught instead of stocked trout.
— image credit: Lachlan Labere

Some anglers got more than they bargained for in the first season of family fishing on McGuire Lake.

Alerted by a letter from Salmon Arm resident Leanne McIvor, officials at the Fish and Wildlife Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations learned the lake’s resident painted turtles were also being hooked.

McIvor stated her concerns in a letter to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation earlier this month:

“One day a kid I talked to caught over 20 turtles. His hook was not barbed so he was able to save some, but over half of them swallowed the hook,” she writes.

McIvor ends her letter with an appeal for removal of the dock and an end to the program that  released 600 sterile trout into the lake last spring to enable families to spend time fishing.

“Do not let this pond be stocked again, and hopefully the population of the turtles may recover from this assault manmade,” she writes. “And the death of these turtles is on the hands of city council, government and your foundation, and by the way, a gross waste of taxpayers’ valuable dollars.”

That’s not the way ministry senior fish biologist Steve Maricle sees the program that is designed to encourage family fishing.

He says the program in which his department partnered with the City of Salmon Arm and the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC (FFSBC) was successful, but notes concern for the turtles and plans to try to rectify the problem next spring.

“This is very unique, we had never see it before. We had no idea they’d bite bait, but they do,” he says of the many other lakes and ponds that have been stocked in the family fishing program. “We looked into the biology of turtles and realized that, for the most part, they are really shore based.”

Maricle says the dock will be pushed farther out into the lake next year, which should put anglers away from the turtles.

“My understanding is kids need to be supervised by parents, something that provides another filter of conscience,” he says. “Even if the kids want to catch turtles, their parents will stop them.”

As well, Maricle says he wants to have someone at the lake recording activity when the turtles are active.

“We are also considering the addition of an enhanced ‘basking’ area on the opposite side of McGuire Lake,” Maricle writes in his Oct. 20 reply to McIvor. “This physical enhancement may assist in attracting the turtles away from the docks and further reduce the angler/turtle encounter rates.”

And officials have not forgotten other concerns expressed last year by opponents to the fishing program for McGuire Lake.

 

“If it’s a hotter year next year, we may have to re-look at it,” he says. “If on this pond, for whatever reason we can’t get away from catching turtles, we’ll consider other options.”

 

 

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