Underwater shot (with a Pentax Optio W series camera) of a brook trout hooked in the North Raven.

Let’s carry the battle to them

A quiet festive season at home enabled much catching up with emails, clippings, calls, etc., and the insight they give into what outdoors people are up to in this mostly balmy winter, as we all await the icy blasts promised by Old Farmers Almanac.

A quiet festive season at home enabled much catching up with emails, clippings, calls, etc., and the insight they give into what outdoors people are up to in this mostly balmy winter, as we all await the icy blasts promised by Old Farmers Almanac.

Several emailers and callers commented favorably on my long Kostuch Lecture to the Alberta Wilderness Association in November, titled Battling for No-man’s Land which has since been airing at odd hours on Shaw TV.

The subject is Alberta’s public land farce, including scandals like the recent Potatogates and “Cowboy Welfare,” the grazing lease boondoggle. If I can simmer 4,000 words down to 825, I’ll give the crux in a future column.

The encouraging comment on the lecture has led to the resolution that, rather than just write about it, I am actively going to battle for an end to the chronic, grossly negligent, and politically-motivated mismanagement of our public land.

Snail mail brought the registration package for the 83rd annual conference of the Alberta Fish and Game Association to be held at The Glenmore Inn and Convention Centre in Calgary, February 23 – 25.

I had decided that my 45th straight conference last year was my enough, but I have now resolved to attend this year, if for no other reason than to hear, at 11:30 on Feb. 24th, new minister of sustainable resource development, Hon. Frank Oberle, break his long silence since he was appointed in late October; maybe even get a few pictures of him doing it … to prove he exists.

This year there are only 24 resolutions and recommendations to be debated by AFGA delegates at the annual general meeting; in the good old days there were often up to 100.

Theme of many resolutions this year seems to be asking the government to put an end to preferential treatment given to non-resident anglers and hunters and also to the guides and outfitters who cater to those non-residents.

An example is a resolution asking that the government substantially increase the non-resident Canadian fishing licence fee to bring it in line with neighbouring provinces. Presently non-resident Canadians pay the same licence fee to fish in Alberta as Albertans do.

Among other resolutions that caught my eye was one from the Lethbridge Fish and Game Association asking for the establishment of a mourning dove season in Alberta and one from Zone 3 (generally Central Alberta) asking that a season be opened on sandhill cranes.

Both, being migratory birds, would require provincial and federal approval and are unlikely to fly.

My immediate thoughts are that nobody can hit mourning doves on the fly anyway, and that hunters who are already failing at controlling Canada goose numbers hardly need new “hunting opportunities.”

The walleye is Alberta’s most popular game (and food) fish, and four of the six fisheries resolutions deal with vexed issues of walleye management and mismanagement in Alberta.

The Innisfail and District Fish and Game Association has submitted a resolution asking that a walleye harvest be allowed from Sylvan Lake before their burgeoning population eats itself out of house and home.

They should have added the Red Deer River tailwater, for the same reason.

Early on, when we had some real winter, several readers went south for some salt water fly fishing, and I am pleased to learn that Red Deer guide, Garry Pierce, is at least occasionally guiding again at Punta Allen. Other readers have been out on very balmy days since, fishing local open waters with some success, mainly the Red Deer tailwater and the North Raven River.

Still others were on festive season diving and snorkeling forays to far places where such activities are possible.

Divers and anglers, are starting to remember that the Pentax Optio W series is, among its many virtues, also an underwater camera, and daring to give theirs a total-immersion baptism and email the results.

Some even remember to put the camera in “Underwater Mode” and to rinse it off with fresh water when they get it out of the salt.

Apropos the last column, one reader asks how I view 35 mm slides to select and reject them for digitizing. My answer is a Samigon light box, on which I can examine 24 slides at a time.

Unbelievably, there has been the first offer in years to take me ice fishing.

I can no longer risk walking on uneven, slippery surfaces, nor can I rise, unassisted, from low seats and stools, polite reasons to decline ice fishing invitations, other than my former: “Sorry, I’m over my ice fishing quota; I went once 20 years ago.”

If you are already terminally cabin-fevered, you can always ignore the high risk avalanche warnings that have already started to appear, and decide to end it all by skiing or, worse, snow mobiling the high back country. Already we have had two deaths, several serious injuries and far too many calls on search and rescue helicopters.

Bob Scammell is an award-winning outdoors writer living in Red Deer.

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