Recognition of professionalism and financial incentives are some of the benefits of the provincial Certified Tidal Angling Guide program (commonly referred to as CTAG). And thanks to people like Bill Sargent, Bob Cole, Mike Kelly and Pat Ahern, it has become even easier for those on Vancouver Island to become certified. That’s because Sargent and his colleagues, all certified guides, have taken the extra step to become the newest group of CTAG assessors.
Their goal of making CTAG more accessible to guides in outlying areas excites Owen Bird, executive director of the Sport Fishing Institute of BC. “Initially we thought four assessors would be enough to launch the process of certification, and then, knowing the size of the coast and where many guides reside we thought 12 would be better, five in the Lower Mainland and others in the major guiding centres: Victoria, Courtenay, Port Alberni, Campbell River, Port Hardy, Haida Gwaii, and Prince Rupert.”
“The more assessors we have in or near areas where guides live and work, the more people will be able to become certified and take advantage of the resulting benefits.”
CTAG was developed by the sport fishing community, go2HR, the Industry Training Authority and other stakeholders, and these groups agreed early on that the very best guides from British Columbia’s sport fishing industry should become the program’s assessors.
Mike Kelly, who has been in the charter business since 2003 decided to become an assessor immediately after achieving his CTAG designation: “I think CTAG is slowly changing peoples’ incorrect perception of our business as a “Wild West” type of industry,” he says. “But being based in Port Hardy I had to travel all the way to Campbell River to get my designation, and given that so many of my colleagues can’t find the time to make that kind of trek, I figured I’d also become an assessor for the North Island.”
Port Alberni-based Pat Ahern, who became CTAG certified three years ago, decided recently to become an assessor for the same reasons as Kelly. Plus, as president of the West Coast Fishing Guides Association, he predicts that CTAG will soon be widely viewed as a stamp of excellence and therefore a boon to business. “And because it’s designed by industry, it’s a program that any professional can buy into,” he says.
Bob Cole, also Port Alberni-based, is unique in that he has been in the marine business for 30 years and organizes charters for charity. “Even though I haven’t had as much guiding experience as others who are full-time guides, because I have employed a lot of guides over the years, I was asked if I would become an assessor. I said yes simply because of the benefits CTAG has given me as a charter operator.
Cole adds, “I know guides with fleets who are saving up to $4,000 annually in insurance. There are other concrete benefits to be had from CTAG, and I want as many people as possible to take advantage of them.”
Although Bill Sargent couldn’t be reached for comment (he has gone fishing in sunnier climes at last report!), Bird says of his colleague, “Bill is a retired firefighter in the Victoria area who became a relief guide, and after certification was extremely motivated to become an assessor.”
Cole says one of the more gratifying tasks about being an assessor is eradicating misconceptions – one of them being that the CTAG process is too complicated and technical to consider. “When we talk to individual guides and explain that it only confirms their practical experience and reinforces the best practices they all should be using, they consider applying.”
Cole goes on to say that “The oral part of the test is designed to ensure that the applicant has the opportunity to describe how they do their job. If they have the experience and know the basics, they should do well.”
Ahern agrees. “I hear reservations about the paperwork and how some guides aren’t all that proficient on the paper side of things, but we need to emphasize how easy the process is.”
Kelly reports that he is receiving substantial inquiries about CTAG from colleagues. “People who are not certified are asking me specific and detailed questions about the process,” he says. “In one week alone I had six guides approach me about CTAG and then undergo the application process. So I think the momentum we were all hoping for is now underway.”
If so, nobody would be more pleased than Bird, who points out that 2014 is shaping up to be a monster year for sport fishing. “A phenomenal summer of great fishing and lots of attention paid to what our coast has to offer will finally be the tipping point for CTAG,” he says. “I’m optimistic that certification will become commonplace because those involved can’t help but see the designation for what it is and all the benefits it provides. But we need to keep the momentum going, and now is the perfect time to do so.”
- Bernie Egan
- Bill Murray
- David Korsch
- Harry MacDonald
- Ian Hickenbotham
- Kevin Conway
- Mandy Wesley
- Roy Tanami