Top News

Letter: N.L. needs to take control of its salmon fishing rules

Atlantic Salmon
Atlantic Salmon - Submitted

Recreational salmon fishing in Newfoundland is under serious threat. I have been salmon fishing for over 55 years in Newfoundland rivers and I don’t like the rumours about the start of next year’s season with hook-and-release fishing only.

Related story:

N.L. Atlantic salmon counts are concerning: DFO

DFO closed the rivers in Newfoundland to hook-and-release only last year based on a mid-season review. It presented data on 16 rivers in the province with only one large river counted in Newfoundland — the Exploits, and no large rivers in Labrador. Data on only 16 out of over 300 rivers in the province; not enough to make sound decisions about the state of salmon stocks.

I have seen ups and downs over the years, but nothing in this year’s fishing experience to cause me concern or reason to change the regulations. I fished both in Newfoundland and Labrador this summer and had excellent fishing. DFO, in its review, noted that “heavy ice and cold ocean conditions in the spring generally delay runs, and returns tend to be lower than average and that this appears to be the case this year.”

The decision by DFO to go to hook and release appears to be a knee-jerk reaction based on very shaky scientific evidence — or was it?

DFO must be feeling pressured by some lobby groups to go to hook-and-release only. Hook-and-release fishing kills up to 30 per cent of the fish released, depending on which report you read.

Scotland claims 20 per cent, in its estimates. My estimate would be higher based on what I’ve witnessed. I’ve also heard stories of hook-and-release fishermen who fished all season and bragged of hooking and releasing 80 or more salmon, thus killing up to 24 fish. Yet they firmly believe they are doing no harm.

There is no way to enforce hook-and-release regulations — a fisherman can simply go around the bend in the river or move to a new river. Some countries, such as Switzerland and Germany, have banned hook-and-release salmon fishing because they think it is inhumane to torture any animal to the point of exhaustion in the name of sport.

Over the years, salmon fishing season has been extended in spring and fall to allow hook and release. This is when large fish go up the rivers. If we were really concerned about salmon conservation, we would not allow this. Also, we would not allow DFO to increase the catch and release limit to eight per day as they did last year in Labrador following the mid-season review. I believe the direction that salmon fishing appears to be headed in is exactly what so-called conservation groups want — get the ordinary salmon fisherman who want to retain a fish or two off the rivers, so they can have the rivers to themselves.

Most N.L. fishermen like to retain a few salmon. They will not salmon fish under hook-and-release regulation. They do not believe in torturing fish. The 2018 salmon fishing season has to open to retention fishing, otherwise there will be no one on the river to report poaching and the illegal releasing of salmon. DFO does not have the resources to monitor rivers and it has been shown that illegal activities increase sharply without extra eyes on the river.

I applaud provincial Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne in his efforts to support the ordinary person who wants to enjoy a few days fishing on the river. I hope this is something my grandkids enjoy in the future. Once rivers are closed to fishing they will never reopen again. I witnessed that in Gros Morne National Park in the late ’60s when Western Brook was closed in the name of conservation. It would an economic loss and a sad day for us all.

As a province, we must take control of our resources and manage the inland waters ourselves. We should set and enforce the regulations. We cannot be dictated to by lobby groups with deep pockets and their own agendas.

Every salmon fisherman needs to get involved and express his or her opinion. Otherwise, there may be lots of used salmon gear for sale this year!

Robert Sheppard

Logy Bay

Recent Stories