KELOWNA — A Global Okanagan story on how gold panning in Kelowna’s Mission Creek is gaining in popularity has raised a few eyebrows with fishing enthusiasts who are expressing shock and disbelief that disturbing fish habitat to find gold is perfectly legal.
They say it’s time to close the flood gates and introduce restrictions on gold panning in Mission Creek.
“It was quite troubling to me,” said Matt Hanson of the Okanagan Fishing Foundation.
What troubles Hanson is the apparent damage gold panning has on the fish in Mission Creek.
“I think it’s a matter of common sense. Whenever you disrupt the river bed of the riverbank, it’s going to have an effect on the fish in the system.”
The panners have to move the large rocks in order to get access to the finer gravel — where the gold is. The people who want to protect the fish say this is a destruction of fish habitat. However, the panners will tell you they’re actually helping the fish.
“It’s almost like little spawning channels all connected together,” said gold miner and avid fisherman, says Scott McCluskey of Kelowna.
He’s convinced that disturbing the creekside is actually a good thing for the fish — that it’s actually creating a habitat.
“When we move a few rocks around and then pan it out down to smaller gravels where we find the gold, we actually create habitat that is protected with a barrier of rocks that makes nice fine gravel — that makes good spanning beds.”
Hanson agrees to a certain extent.
“I would agree with his comments to a point but at the same time areas of back eddies are holding areas for larger fish larger fish. They are also areas adjacent to the beds on which the eggs lay. Any kind of movement around these areas will create sediment and disrupt the natural processes of the emergence of the fry,” says Hanson.
The fisherman are not calling for a ban on gold panning in Mission Creek but a compromise.
“My colleagues at the Okanagan Fisheries Foundation — the last thing we want to do is rain on anyone’s parade and have an effect on family activities that add to the attractiveness but at the same time could we look at a timing in which to do the panning? Could we look at panning areas and non-panning areas? I just think some checks and balances are required here for the best of both worlds,” says Hanson.
He says panning in Mission Creek should only be allowed between July and September when the fish are not spawning.