By Brian Lawrence
It's an open secret that the Creston and Kootenay Lake area is a haven for angling aficionados. Nestled amidst the picturesque Purcell and Selkirk mountains are abundant streams, rivers, wetlands, and alpine lakes, not to mention the renowned Kootenay Lake itself, all teeming with diverse fish species. Whether you're a skilled angling enthusiast or just starting your fishing journey, this region promises an array of opportunities to cast your line and reel in unforgettable experiences. Read on to plan your fishing adventure!
History of Creston & Kootenay lake Waterways
For millennia before to the arrival of settlers, the semi-nomadic Yaqan Nukiy tribe of the Ktunaxa Nation plied the Kootenay River, Creston Valley wetlands and Kootenay Lake as they skillfully hunted for kokanee salmon and giant white sturgeon — a vital and plentiful food source — in their famous Yaksumit canoes, shaped like the sloping nose of the sturgeons they relied on.
Arriving in the area in the late 1800s, settlers soon embraced the abundant fishing in the area, especially for kokanee on Kootenay Lake. Despite the transformation brought about by diking the Kootenay River during the 1940s, which dramatically altered the wetlands and fish habitats to facilitate agriculture, efforts to protect the area's aquatic ecosystem emerged. The establishment of the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area (CVWMA) in the 1960s and habitat and fisheries rehabilitation initiatives led by the Ktunaxa Nation and other groups along the Kootenay and Goat rivers have played pivotal roles in revitalizing these precious waterways and helping affected fish populations recover.
Fishing Adventures Across Varied Terrain
When it comes to fishing, the Creston Valley and Kootenay Lake area offers an array of options for every type of angler to explore, highlighted below:
1. River and Stream Fishing: Use your best fly-fishing, spinning or casting techniques along the fast moving, rocky streams and rivers in the Creston and Yahk Areas. The Moyie River in Yahk has a number of good fishing spots to fish for brook and rainbow trout. Closer to Creston, the picturesque pebbly Goat River, is a habitat for cutthroat, rainbow, and brook trout. Beyond the main waterways, the smaller streams that feed into them like Sanca, Kidd, Summit, and Meadow creeks also teem with cutthroat and brook trout. For a different experience, navigate the gentle currents of the Kootenay River on a small boat from the Old Ferry Landing boat ramp to catch ling, trout and char.
2. Alpine Lake Fishing: The majestic mountains surrounding the Creston Valley are also dotted with numerous alpine lakes, many teeming with stocked fish and featuring breathtaking vistas! North of Creston Wooden Shoe Lake is often full of cutthroat trout, making it well worth the short 0.7 km hike in. To the west of Creston up Kootenay Pass, Boundary Lake is a great spot for cutthroat trout, Dolly Varden and brook trout and also features a nice provincial government recreation site campground. The more adventurous and well equipped may even consider hiking into Nun and Monk Lakes farther west up the pass to cast a line!
3. Non-Motorized Boat Fishing on Duck Lake: In the summer, small non-motorized boats can be seen dotting Duck Lake in the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area (CVWMA), where some of the best largemouth bass fishing in the Kootenays can be found. Yellow perch and whitefish are also plentiful, and can be found in Duck Lake, as well as ponds and channels — altogether, you may find up to 17 species of fish! The fishing season doesn’t end with summer, though — in the winter, Duck Lake is a hugely popular spot for ice fishing! Visit the CVWMA website to find out more about fishing on Duck Lake and to purchase your licence.
4. Boat or Shoreline Fishing on Kootenay Lake: Kootenay Lake is naturally popular for shore fishing, but it’s also the perfect place to fish from a boat. Several marinas and boat launches can be found along the lake’s East Shore, including Kuskanook and Boswell boat launches, where you can launch your boat in search for the Big One — Gerrard rainbow trout up to 35 pounds have been caught, although they usually range from 5-15 pounds, and the typically 5-12-pound bull trout have been caught as high as 29 pounds! While less common, the unique freshwater kokanee salmon are also a great catch and we're told perhaps the tastiest fish on the lake!
Purchasing FIshing Gear & Licenses
So you came to the area but forgot to bring your fishing rod or are in need of fresh bait or a lure? Never fear: The Creston Valley has a couple of great spots for fishing gear. A longstanding institution in downtown Creston, Mawson’s Sports is the go-to source for gear and expert fishing advice. For those heading up Kootenay Lake, be sure to drop by Wynndel Foods & Outdoors to stock up on lures, bait and some snacks to take out on the boat.
All types of fishing in BC also require a licence, which can be easily purchased online, or at a number of local shops in the area such as the previously mentioned Mawson’s Sports, Wynndel Foods & Outdoors or Two Pump Paul’s gas and convenience store in Yahk. It's also worth noting that for those fishing in the CVWMA you will also need to get a separate licence, which can be purchased by mail, at the administration building or on their website, where they also offer a printable list detailing their specific regulations.
Exploring Creston After The Fishing Trip
After waiting for the fish to bite, you might be in need of some exercise and a leg stretch on one of our local trails. On the other hand, if relaxation is calling your name after a rewarding day on the lake, picture yourself unwinding with a pint of local brew and live melodies. To discover more post-fishing possibilities, peruse through our Things To Do & Upcoming Events sections for inspiration.
And should your angling endeavours not yield tonight's dinner, don't fret. The Sirdar Station Pub is a popular local haven for fisherman returning from Duck and Kootenay lakes to gather over a few pints. For those with a penchant for authenticity, a visit to Tim's Fish & Chips in downtown Creston is a must. This charming English Chips shop, easily identifiable by the boat atop its roof, promises a tasty experience! For other satisfying post-fishing watering holes and restaurants be sure to visit our website's Eat section!
Finally, for those who like to enjoy their fresh catch around a fire and under the stars, consider bringing along your own accommodation to one of several excellent RV parks and campgrounds in Yahk and Creston. On the other hand, if the comforts of a cozy room are your preference, numerous local hotels and motels offer the added convenience of outdoor barbecues, allowing you to skillfully prepare your well-deserved catch as you return to your base camp! For a more comprehensive overview of all your lodging possibilities, we invite you to explore the Places To Stay section on our website for more details.
Know Before You Go - Conservation & Regulations
Unfortunately a number of unique local fish populations in the area, particularly white sturgeon and kokanee salmon, have been negatively affected by a number of impacts to their habitat — from river damming and diking to the introduction of invasive fish species to the area. As a result, a number of these fish species, such as the white sturgeon, are also protected from fishing, either year-round or at certain times. To ensure a seamless fishing experience, we encourage you to access comprehensive information on fishing regulations specific to the Creston and Kootenay Lake area by downloading and reading the Provincial Freshwater Fishing Regulations for the Kootenay Area, linked here.
Beyond the aquatic realm, the Creston area is a habitat for various at risk mammal, amphibian, and bird species, notably within the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area. Thus, when fishing in Duck Lake, anglers are asked to help protect these species by maintaining a safe distance of 200 meters from the reeded areas surrounding the lake. These zones often serve as nesting grounds for a variety of waterfowl like the Western Grebe, which is federally recognized as a "Species of Concern".
Another pressing concern in the region is the potential invasion of aquatic ecosystems by unwanted zebra and quagga mussels, which can be introduced from uncleaned watercraft brought from other areas of the USA and Canada. The BC government inspects out-of-province boats coming into the area, and the Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society also provides a helpful how-to guide to identify these and other aquatic invasive species here. If you plan to bring your watercraft from outside the area, please take the initiative to thoroughly clean it and be prepared for inspection upon your arrival.
See You ON the Water!
I hope this guide has been helpful to you and showcased the spectrum of fishing opportunities for visiting anglers to explore. Whether you're captivated by the thrill of fly fishing in our rivers, the tranquil allure of alpine lakes or the prospect of trolling the depths of Kootenay Lake, your fishing expedition here guarantees moments that will linger in your memory. So what are you waiting for? Hang the "Gone Fishing" sign in the window, pack up your rod and tackle box and come on over! Fingers crossed that you’ll hook the Big One!
Freelance writer Brian Lawrence is a former editor and publisher of the Creston Valley Advance. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking and trail running, and acting in and directing productions with Creston's Footlighters Theatre Society.