The adage that any publicity is good publicity doesn't apply to fishing. Consider the Pacific Coast. Fishing news from that part of the world is rarely encouraging.

We hear of dwindling salmon and steelhead runs, commercial fishing controversies and blockades, rivers destroyed by erosion from logging or stilled by dams, El Nino, fishing closures and other dismal reports.

"There is a perception of doom and gloom in the media," says Tom Byrd, executive director of the British Columbia Sport Fishing Institute. "The fact is, there's some phenomenal fishing here."

Byrd has good reason to be upbeat. Fisheries management in British Columbia is in the midst of change. During the last five years, the commercial fishing fleet has been cut in half. Fish managers have placed a new priority on conservation, controlling commercial salmon harvests and closing fisheries to protect threatened stocks. This keeps fish in the water, which makes for better angling. Recreational fishing is on a roll.

The British Columbia sport fishery is now worth three times as much as the commercial fishery. However, sport fishing is much easier on the resource. Byrd says the recreational fishery is worth $300 million to $400 million annually, but historically has accounted for only 5 percent of the catch. The $100 million commercial fishery has historically accounted for 95 percent of the catch.

The voice of the growing recreational fishing business is the Sport Fishing Institute. Comprised primarily of resorts, charter operators, tackle companies, other fishing businesses and some individual anglers, the institute is perhaps best described as a Canadian angling lobby. Executive director Byrd is retired from a 30-year career with Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans, including a decade as the director of recreation fisheries. The organization's board meets twice a year with fisheries officials to advise them on recreational fishing plans for the coming year. It also promotes British Columbia fishing outside the province.

The institute is organized with a northern and southern committee, each made up of several local area committees. Representatives are two-thirds ordinary anglers and one-third fishing business interests. The structure allows anglers to bring provincial or national attention to local fishery issues.

"It results in continuous dialogue between department biologists, anglers and businesses," says Byrd. "It works better than anything else I've seen in North America."

From a management perspective, the focus on conservation and recreational fishing charts a promising path for British Columbia's coastal fisheries, but thorny issues remain. Some steelhead and salmon stocks are at low levels. Most native treaty rights claims are unresolved.

But from an angling perspective, Byrd believes times are good and about to get better. Most coastal areas reported excellent fishing for salmon last summer. With the reduction in commercial harvest, it is reasonable to assume salmon numbers will improve in upcoming years.

Although British Columbia's major rivers have salmon runs that number in the tens of millions, angling bag limits are low and intended to promote a conservation ethic. But Byrd says the limits also reflect a new attitude among visiting anglers, who include a growing number of women. Many anglers are satisfied to keep one or two fish. Change is apparent in anglers' tastes and interests, too. Many want first-rate (and expensive) accommodations and services. Ocean fly-fishing for coho salmon is a new trend. Extracurricular activities such as sea-kayaking and whale-watching are popular.

You might say that in British Columbia, yuppies have discovered salmon fishing. And the salmon are better for it.