A different kind of fishing tale is being told all over British Columbia, and the biggest lies don't involve the size of a rainbow trout.
Illegal fishing guides operate in the province with great frequency and conservation officers and legal guides alike say often the offenders come from the U.S. and Europe.
"There's a whole bunch of it," said Jezz Crosby of the Pioneer Fishing Lodge, who is also the chairman of the Skeena Angling Guides Association. "We get Europeans coming over here - guiding and saying they're not a guide, but if they look like a guide and smell like a guide - they're a guide."
Conservation officer Gareth Scrivner said he gets about 20 reports of suspected or illegal guiding each year in his jurisdiction on the North Coast around Terrace, and those are just the reported cases.
Guides who know the rivers where they operate not only need to buy a licence, they also undergo an examination and vetting before becoming official.
Certain rivers have rod days - specific days in which a guide can take customers on a stretch of river - that could cost thousands for rights plus royalties to the B.C. government.
Guides get their licence to operate inland, such as in rivers and lakes, from the province, while ocean or salmon fishing in rivers is regulated by the federal government. Scrivner said the popularity and high cost of fishing in the region supplies a healthy customer base for rogue guides who undercut fees charged by legal guides.
"It's a global destination for steelhead fishing [and] it's pretty much one of the places to come, if you're a big fly fisherman," said Scrivner. "But with that comes a lot of people who really would like to fish this resource, but perhaps don't have enough money to do it all legally."
He said a lot of clients are people who used a legal guide on their first trip to B.C. and crossed paths with someone doing it illegally.
On their return trip, they take the cheaper option.
Crosby said he's heard people from outside of Canada round up clients in their own countries and fly over with them. If anyone asks questions, they're told the group is friends or family on a fishing trip.
The cheating angers legal guides who pay more than $10,000 per year each for their licences, mandatory liability insurance and operational costs, he said.
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