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Kimberley Rod and Gun Club

by J. Davis

References: Cominco Magazine.
Acknowledgements: Bill Moffat and Harry Collins.

In 1927, Dick Burke, Ed Shannon, Frank Carlson, Chris Foote, Sr., Clare Holden and Murry Hellieson travelled from Kimberley to the nearby city of Cranbrook to attend a meeting of the Rod and Gun Club there. These men took an active interest in the meeting and the discussions on Fish and Game matters. When the annual meeting of the Cranbrook group took place a year later, Kimberley was again represented. At this session, the idea of holding joint meetings of the Cranbrook and Kimberley Clubs was discussed and agreed on for 1929. The fish hatchery and the stocking of lakes and streams headed the agenda at this meeting.

The joint clubs were responsible in getting a fish hatchery in Cranbrook and maintaining it under the supervision of the Fisheries Branch. Through the efforts of hatchery staff, a hybrid fish was introduced in the area by crossing Kamloops and a Cutthroat trout and producing a fish for local waters, known as the Cranbrook trout.

In 1930, quite a few Kimberley Rod and Gun enthusiasts belonged to the Cranbrook club. Under the guidance of fellow members in the sister city, they undertook some field work in Kimberley in that year. Harold Andrews packed in a large number of fish and released them in Silver Lake. St. Marys Lake and Sullivan Creek were also stocked in the same year.

During the next few years, activities in the joint Kimberley-Cranbrook Club gradually swung over to Kimberley. In 1937, the name of the organization was formally changed to the Kimberley and District Rod and Gun Club.

By this time, the Kimberley group had marked up many accomplishments. Organized trap shooting had started in Kimberley about 1928. The range was near the old Top Mine, and saw charter members including Alan Bond, Ray Armstrong, Chris Foote, Cecil Pearson and Owen Kelly, engage in many a spirited contest. When the Top Mine operations were moved in 1932, the trap was moved to one of the gravity line towers. Then in 1936, by arrangement with the Company, a new site was located southeast of the Fertilizer Plant, just above the Village of Marysville. Regulation grounds were laid out, a club house was built, new traps were obtained and provision was made for a .22 rifle range. The Kimberley Rod and Gun Club had the first electrical skeet (clay pigeon) release in Western Canada.

Jr. Fish & Game Club small Bore Awards 1963/64

In 1938, the membership decided to hold their biggest shoot ever. In search of a name to match the event, George Martin was credited with the final choice Elephant Shoot. "It was thought appropriate" recalls a member, "to recognize the Company's brand name for fertilizer products since they had offered so much support". The first Elephant Shoot was an outstanding success. Entries included All Canadian Champion, Mrs. Vera Holdsworth, Skeet and Trap Champion Don Blow, and Colonel Johnson of Bisley fame. The Club's president, Art Bryant, approached Mr. Blaylock, the president of the Company at that time, for appropriate souvenirs for the contestants. Mr. Blaylock agreed to his request and supplied miniature elephants cast in cadmium metal with the Company's good wishes.

In 1939, the club added a major project to its list of activities. An effort was made to have land near certain lakes and streams set aside as parks for the general public. Premier Lake, one of the finest trout fishing grounds in the district presented a problem. To get to this lake, it was necessary to travel through private property. Through the endeavors of Murry Hellieson, this was solved and the site of Premier Lake Park was set aside for public use. Warren Keer was the "Cat" operator on the construction of the road down the lake. The next year the club cleared the site and built a summer cabin for the use of the public. This area has always been known as the old Rod and Gun campsite.

The shortage of ammunition during the war curtailed shooting, but it didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the club members. They planted Bob White quail and pheasants on the St. Marys prairie with the idea of finding out which game birds would adapt to this district. Through the club's efforts, Peckhams, Garbutt and Munro Lakes were added to the list of public park sites. Some of the other projects that the club sponsored were: an annual crow shoot, a fish derby "for juniors only" and an annual wild game banquet with moose, elk, deer, cougar, beaver, bear, goose, duck, fish and all the trimmings.

The Club sponsored a junior section where boys received instruction on wildlife conservation and the proper handling of firearms.

The work of the Kimberley Club extended beyond the district levels. It was regularly represented at Rod and Gun conventions and introduced many resolutions concerning fish and game regulations.

Another enterprising project the club undertook at Premier Lake was the designing and construction of a rearing pond in 1953. Previous to this time forty to fifty thousand Kamloops fry were liberated in the lake each year. Yet it was doubtful if more than two hundred, or less than one percent were caught each year. The lake was loaded with vast numbers of small course fish called shiners, and it was generally believed that those were the biggest single factor in the high death rate of the young fry. Since the average shiner only reached two or three inches in length, it seemed reasonable that if the fry were also about the same length when they were put in the lake, their survival rate would be increased.

With this in mind the Executive of the Rod and Gun Club decided to investigate the possibility of constructing a rearing pond at Premier Lake. The area around a small creek at the north end of the lake on Mr. Al Drysdale's property looked like an ideal site for the pond. With his consent and co-operation the area was surveyed and plans were drawn up to construct the dam. Under the guidance of President: Jack Dean, Ted McVicar, Chairman of the Fish Committee; Pete Brennan, Engineer; K. 0. McKenzie, Foreman; and Doug Lang, the dam was completed in the spring of 1953. It was forty feet long and had an average height of six feet and backed up about fifty feet of water. It was estimated that sixty men put in six hundred hours to build the dam.

On the advice of the fish hatchery officials, it was stocked with twenty thousand fry that year, and as the pond built up its own supply of aquatic food, more fry would be added.

However, this idea did not eliminate the shiner problem and in 1959 the Fish and Game Department with the help of Rod and Gun Club members rehabilitated Premier Lake. On the night of June 16, 1952, the Rod and Gun Clubhouse at the trap and skeet ground was completely destroyed by fire. On the same night the Kimberley Ski Club cabin at Myrtle Mountain was also burned to the ground. It was the consensus of opinion that the two fires were the work of firebugs. It was a serious loss for the Rod and Gun Club as the insurance did not nearly cover the cost of the building and contents.

In 1964, the trap and skeet members separated from the Rod and Gun Club and formed their own organization and built new trap and skeet facilities near Wycliffe.

At Premier Lake, the old Rod and Gun campsite was fast becoming too crowded as fishermen from all over the country were going there. In 1960, the Kimberley Club took on another major project to open the south end of the lake. An agreement was made with Stan Higgins of Marysville to cut down the trees and grade the road to the lake in exchange for the timber. Rod and Gun Club members did the clearing, burnt the slash and built a boat ramp. The new area provided a better approach to the lake and a much needed camping and parking area. As Premier Lake became even more popular, the Club made representations to the Government for authority to exercise some control over the fishermen and campers. The Government responded by placing the park under the jurisdiction of a commission, comprised of Rod and Gun personnel. This idea did not work out satisfactory and the Provincial Parks Branch took over the maintenance and responsibility of the area and it was officially declared a Class "A" Park.

During the 1960's the Rod and Gun Club membership reached an all time high with close to eight hundred members. They continued to be very active and some more of their projects were: installing culverts on the Echo Lake road, building a three-mile road into Manistee Lake, boat ramps at Tamarack and Larchwood Lakes and a rifle range on the North Star hill.

In 1963, the Club prepared an excellent brief on the effects of the Libby Dam Project upon recreation and recreation resources. The brief was presented at the annual Convention of the B.C. Federation of Fish and Game Clubs in Vernon, B.C., in May, 1963.

Jr. Fish & Game Club float

In this part of British Columbia, where Nature has endowed us with so many beautiful resources, it was only natural that men of vision and zeal would plan and work to keep these resources. Such were the members of the Kimberley Rod and Gun Club.

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