Salmon and hook and release

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I just finished watching a video on the techniques of live release of Atlantic salmon, sponsored by the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF), using money supplied by the government of Canada (re-investing in wildlife initiatives). In the video production, the participants (male and female) go through the techniques of live release, and in the video, the salmon swim away.

I have no problem with the techniques presented, but the video goes on to extrapolate that those released salmon go on to spawn. There is no study that I have read that indicates that salmon - once caught - go on to spawn, nor is there any documentation that if the salmon do spawn, that the eggs hatch. This video was shot on a river in Northern Quebec. No mention is made of water temperature or if the salmon were caught close to the mouth of the river or not. Temperature and closeness to the mouth of the river is paramount to salmon survival. Those salmon that were released were not followed and were not tagged to allow followup.

I have read many studies on Atlantic salmon and temperature is a key component of salmon survival, yet this component was not mentioned. Further to that, the salmon in question on the video were large salmon (greater than 63 centimetres). My experience tells me that a salmon that large will be on the hook for 20-25 minutes. While I do applaud the video for demonstrating the techniques of live release, there is no followup to see if those salmon spawned or survived.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, we have advocated for a hook-and-release licence only, as in Quebec, but have been met with undisputed resistance by the Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland and other ASF affiliated groups in the province. Subsequently we have not got the ability to purchase a hook-and-release licence, as is the case in Quebec.

I already stated that the video is fine in teaching the technique of live release, but the majority of anglers in Newfoundland and Labrador catch salmon to eat, and we at the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation have always advocated that if you catch a fish, you eat the fish. It is not something we take lightly; you have a responsibility. We have four tags per licence, or six in some cases, on three rivers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

If that fish decides to take your fly, it then becomes your responsibility; it is done for food and not for pleasure. I repeat: the motivation is food and not pleasure. If an animal gives itself to you, it becomes a part of you and it is not for pleasure; it is your responsibility.

There is also mounting evidence that suggests that salmon swim away after being hooked and released but their energy is very much depleted and they die after being released, within 24-48 hours after the release occurs.

If you wish to view this go to and view the documentation.

You may not see a large percentage of salmon carcasses, because they go in the river bank and die and then their carcasses become food for eagles, gulls, mink, etc. - but you see the message I am sending. There are many who will disagree with me, but that is my viewpoint and the belief of many who angle salmon in Newfoundland and Labrador, but not all.

Ward Samson is past president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation.

Organizations: Atlantic Salmon Federation, Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation, Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Quebec Northern Quebec

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Recent comments

  • Petertwo
    May 24, 2013 - 08:18

    Maybe some simple research on the Internet about live release of salmon, and all sorts of other fish, would put minds at rest about the practice. Iceland, Russia, Sweden, Norway, the UK have accepted it, some rivers live release is mandatory and some voluntary. The river Dee, the Royal Dee as it is sometimes known, is fished by the Royal family at Balmoral in Scotland, it is about 98 percent live release from one report. I hardly think live release would be tolerated if there were any negative effects, and they would know having astute and observant gillies(guides) patrolling all the time, they would soon see any dead salmon on the banks or anywhere else. Keeping in mind that it is very expensive to fish that river compared to our costs here. What it is proving is that live release does have a positive effect, not a negative one as some claim. Also that many people that fish salmon there are not regular salmon anglers, not as experienced as anglers here, if there was any mortality through inexperience it would be readily seen. Privatizing the rivers here is not an option, most anglers respect the freedoms they have here and understand they have to protect them, and the fish, if they are going to continue.

  • david
    May 22, 2013 - 12:02

    What makes this topic soooo absolutely mesmerizing, so worthy of quasi-scientific scrutiny to Newfoundlanders? Did the introduction of seatbelts in cars cause as much consternation? Fluoride in town water? Are people here oblivious to the fact that they pay more than twice as much for a case of Labatt's or Molson's beer here as they do in the U.S. (not that anyone there is "lining up" to drink Labatt's or Molson's!). Look.....if you prefer to catch a salmon and keep it in defiance of the poach.....just shut up, grow a pair, and do need for the faux-scientific rationalization. No one here cares if anyone else poaches. I used to, but watching this unending rehashing of a very simple policy for years now, I now accept the sad reality of this place. Take 'em all. Let's get this over with, so we can move on to other pressing topics, like "what are the best lotto numbers?"

    • ward samson
      May 22, 2013 - 18:51

      David: If that is your real name. I let you know I am no poacher, yet if you read reply's , look at the one below. Went fishing for 4 days and caught 30 salmon. salmon --the law equals 16 not 30..So much for hook and release of 4 per day. The law is a complete sham and not enforceable..I do have a pair of ... and I am not a poacher...I do not wish to take them all but with your hook and release practice and aquaculture..No more wild salmon in NL. That is what I am talking about..Leave your dribble somewhere else.

    • In the know
      May 23, 2013 - 08:24

      Thank you for posting the obvious Ward. Catch and release limits are not enforceable. There never has, and never will be a charge laid that sticks for anglers releasing too many fish. The entire idea of regulating people letting fish go is beyond silly. Keep tilting at windmills, there's no solution for your complaint.

    • david
      May 23, 2013 - 19:25

      Laws cannot prevent criminal activity. Only in Newofundland would anyone debagte such a thing, or dismiss the value of laws in such an incoherent, irrational way.... I guess it's part of the entrenched, " take it and run as fast as you can" mentality here. It's in our genes. We're low-life, cowardly, anti-social criminals by our nature. The sooner we accept that instead of denying it, the sooner it might begin to change. Until then... jig away to your heart's content.....

  • Ken Collis
    May 22, 2013 - 09:37

    My annual salmon trip is usually 4 days. The river I fish on the south coast has quite a few fish, I usually release 30 or so each trip, but I'm only allowed to keep two because the stocks are low. The salmon and wildlife groups and 'scientists' can bs thier way to a paycheque or other personal benefit but the fishermen know why they say what they do. It has nothing to do with the stocks and definately nothing to help Newfoundlanders.

  • No so gullible
    May 22, 2013 - 08:58

    Surveys have shown clearly time and time again that the vast majority of anglers in this province do it for sport, not for food. I'm aware of at least one study that demonstrated released salmon in fact do spawn. No study is required to tell us that a dead salmon doesn't spawn. The NLWF wish to impose regulations that all anglers will either have to exclusively release fish or exclusively kill them - not the choice that anglers in Quebec have with their retention license. The end result would be more dead fish. As a point of information, license survey information clearly shows that there are more salmon released in NL than retained, and more anglers choose to release fish than not. Mr. Samson is not speaking for the majority.