The Outdoor Narrative: Heard it through the grapevine, but is it true?

The fishing grapevine is a powerful social network that anglers trust almost blindly.

I was at the boat launch at Pass Lake near Kamloops with a friend a couple of weeks ago. We were unloading my boat when a truck rolled through. A fellow hopped out to have a look. We chatted.

“The lake totally winterkilled this year, you know,” he said, just before leaving. “Completely dead.”

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My friend and I looked at each other with dismay. That would explain why there were no other trucks in the parking area, we thought. Pass Lake is a very popular fishing lake and it is rare to see the lake empty of anglers, especially in May, when the season is peak.

They all must have heard. My friend sent a text message to an experienced angler we both trust. Yep, totally dead, our trusted friend confirmed.

My friend and I started conjuring a Plan B. Where else could we go that was nearby? No point in fishing a dead lake. Just then, we heard a splash in the water 40 yards off the shore and looked to see the ripples left by a jumping fish. Completely dead? Hmmm. We decided to give the lake a try.

Within 20 minutes, my friend hooked a bright, silver four-pound rainbow on a small leech.

Several minutes later, I caught one almost the same size. Through the rest of the day, we hooked several more 12- to 20-inch fat silver trout in a lake that had supposedly died through the winter because of lack of oxygen.

robert koopmans column head

It wasn’t easy fishing. The fish were hard to tempt despite an abundant hatch of chironomids, but the fact is, we caught fish.

I’ve had far worse days of fishing in lakes stuffed with trout, so catching the fish we did in a lake that was reportedly dead amounted to a significant victory. Not a bad day.

The experience made me realize how closely anglers follow the fishing grapevine. It’s a powerful social network that anglers trust almost blindly.

The mere mention from a fellow angler that Pass Lake was dead was enough to have us preparing to move, with no further evidence required. It was said, it must be true.

Even the appearance of the jumping trout almost was not enough. Had my boat still been on the top of my Jeep, I’m sure we would have chalked that splash up to a fluke and moved somewhere else.

It is not hard to find other examples of the grapevine in action.

A week or so ago, I got a tip that Roche Lake was “red-hot.” Epic fishing to be found. Wow. That’s the kind of tip anglers live for.

I loaded the boat and headed up on a Sunday morning. I was a bit late to get going and when I arrived, I found the parking area around the boat launch so crammed with trucks and trailers that there was barely room to turn around. I’ve never seen the lake so busy.

I don’t doubt the grapevine had been humming hard about Roche Lake for a few days and everyone with interest in fishing had likely heard about it. I left the lake for other destinations. That kind of close-quarters fishing isn’t something I particularly enjoy. I didn’t find out if Roche Lake was truly red-hot or not.

Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with anglers sharing information to or acting on the buzz from the fishing grapevine. Getting helpful information from others who share our interests is a great way to preserve resources. No one wants to waste truck gas and good fishing hours for no reason.

But there is a risk in letting the grapevine make all our decisions for us or sharing too much.

For starters, it concentrates anglers in an astounding fashion. Roche Lake was a prime example.

Roche is the kind of lake that seems to withstand heavy pressure, but not all lakes are similar.

Smaller lakes that see a heavy influx of people in a short period will likely suffer. Even catch-and-release fishing still kills fish.

As well — and perhaps most importantly — we lose the self-satisfaction that comes from figuring out for ourselves where the good fishing might be. When you use the grapevine as your only tool for location decision-making, you are always indebted to someone else.

In contrast, it’s incredibly satisfying to pick a lake you have heard nothing about, go there at a time when you think it might be good to fish and catch trout.

If you do so, there is also a good chance you will share the lake with just a few other people, or maybe no one else at all. Will you rush to share your newfound secret with others, perhaps putting at risk a fishing experience likely made better by the lack of pressure? Well, I guess that’s up to you.

I know I don’t mind passing on that Pass Lake has fish in it, despite reports of a complete winterkill. It’s a lake that can handle the attention. I’ve found a couple of other lakes this spring, however, that I intend to keep to myself.

They are small lakes and the fishing was darned good. Sorry, folks, there is only so much I am prepared to share.

Robert Koopmans is an avid angler and hunter who spends as much time as possible in B.C.’s wild places. He also hosts the Hunting & Fishing British Columbia podcast (find it on Apple Podcasts or wherever you find your podcasts). To share a thought, send an email to

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