Are you wondering whether your salmon fishing adventures will happen this year?
You’re not alone, says Dan Redlin, a local fishing enthusiast and manager at SG Power in Victoria. The ban on retaining chinook salmon, in effect until July 31 in most waters off Southern Vancouver Island (Sidney to Port Renfrew, plus Saanich Inlet and Sooke Basin), has spooked many would-be anglers, he says.
“Chinook salmon fishing is an age-old experience, but there’s still a lot of fish out there,” he says. “The water is not closed, fishing is not closed, going recreational boating is not closed.”
Many species available for catch-and-keep
A closure on coho salmon retention, for both wild and hatchery fish, ended June 1. The fishery for chum and pink salmon, as well as a wide variety of other fin fish, from codfish and ling cod to tuna, halibut and others, has remained open.
The chinook regulations will allow for retention of one fish per person per day between Aug. 1-29, and two per day from Aug. 30 to Dec. 31.
Larger issue at play in fisheries management
Clearing up misconceptions around sport fishing regulations is important, Redlin says, both from an angler’s perspective, and for guides and other merchants who might see their season as being lost. Of equal importance, he notes, is bringing attention to changes affecting the sustainability of the West Coast salmon fishery.
More hatcheries key to the solution
Fisheries and Oceans Canada has stated the measures are being taken to help protect the Southern Resident killer whale population and their main food source – chinook salmon. But Redlin notes the diminishing Fraser River chinook stocks are a result of fewer hatchery fish being introduced into this important salmon-bearing river.
“Years ago we were putting many more fish back into the Fraser than we do now. We created a fishery and ecosystem that relied on that, but without the large input of fry from hatcheries, we have watched the species decline over the last 10 years.”
By comparison, he says, salmon stocks in the waters off Port Alberni, in Nootka Sound and off Port Renfrew thrive in large part because of the work of hatcheries in those areas.
Clipping all hatchery fish could help
Currently, approximately 20 per cent of hatchery raised salmon have their adipose fin (near their tail) clipped to help anglers and guides identify them, a move designed to protect wild stocks. Redlin suggests that clipping all hatchery fish and having a hatchery-only fishery would help more.
“That way we know we’re not affecting our wild brood and be better able to manage the resource,” he says. “Even if you increased the licence fees to help pay for more investment into hatcheries, I think most people would gladly pay more for the right to keep fishing for chinook.”