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Paul Smith: Salmon regulations to satisfy different stripes

I’m a ways away right now but I’m still keeping myself informed on what’s going on back home. I read yesterday that the DFO has made its decision on this year’s salmon fishing regulations. My understanding is that anglers will be able to retain one fish on any river where there was previously a retention allotment. Then there will be an in-season review to determine if any or all tags may be filled throughout the remainder of the season. There was no indication in the press release that gives any clue to the timing of the review. I guess when they have sufficient data, the managers and scientists will decide.

On the hook-and-release side of things, there is a reduction from four fish a day to three. It is not clear from the news release whether this is a permanent change, or subject to adjustment after the in-season review.  The consensus of science tells us that hook and release mortality is quite low, so I don’t see three or four being much of a conservation issue one way or the other. Anyway, it’s fine with me. Although I think this change is thrown in just to appease those in opposition to not killing every fish upon bringing it to hand. And I know many of you out there dispute the science on hook and release. I will get e-mails telling me so. But that’s a topic for another time.

I am adamantly opposed to any privatization of fishing. And I don’t think that hook and release and privatization are the same thing.

So what’s my opinion on DFO’s decision? I feel it did pretty well. Personally, I just as soon not kill another salmon until I see the stocks improve. But that’s just me. I won’t impose my principles on everyone else. One fish to retain is a good compromise.  As I said, I don’t personally see the catch and release of four fish having any significant negative impact on the stocks, but I can certainly live with a limit of three, for the sake of us angling folk all getting along nicely. I know we wear various stripes on what constitutes ethical angling.

Every time I write about live releasing salmon I get told off via lots of emails. There are many who think we should kill our fish for the day and leave the river. That’s what I meant by different stripes. For my part, I like to be on the river all day, catching fish or not. I like to photograph, mug-up, smoke a pipe, and soak up the environment. I’ll catch a fish, release it, and then watch my buddies fishing for a while. Maybe I’ll wander around the river to various pools and see what’s going on. Then I’ll see if I can catch another. I think you get the picture.

But I am not a purest, despite being accused of aiding the cause to totally eliminate the retention of salmon. I have nothing against killing a fish to eat. If the stocks are healthy and there are enough salmon to satisfy spawning requirements, than by all means, take one for the cast-iron pan, or two in times of plenty. I do it all the time. I repeat, I have nothing against killing a salmon for the pot.

I do have a problem with people who want to kill their quota in spite of serious population concerns. So there you go, that is where I stand. I am not part of some grand secret conspiracy to take away Newfoundlander and Labrador angler’s rights to fishing for salmon, and pass it on to international organizations that want to privatize our rivers for the rich. Actually, there is no such conspiracy even if I wanted to join up. I am adamantly opposed to any privatization of fishing. And I don’t think that hook and release and privatization are the same thing. I know this rant of mine might seem ridiculous to some of you. But believe me, there are a few who believe this is what’s going on, and that I’m a part of it. I am not.

Yesterday I went largemouth bass fishing in central Florida. It’s a yearly trip I do with Barry Grady and Kevin McKenna, natives of the Sunshine State. We released all our fish. Like me, these guys don’t mind killing a fish to eat, but they won’t exercise the privilege if the stocks are low. Although on this bass trip it was just too much trouble to retain fish anyway. There are lots of bass in Florida, but we were travelling light in kayaks, with just enough cooler space to keep us hydrated in the sun and heat. It was as always a fantastic adventure. I’ll write more about it later; I saw lots of birds and alligators.

Speaking of those different stripes. I’m the only hook and release, or serious angler of any stripe orientation, here at Gulf Tides Inn where I’m staying. I come back from an early morning outing and invariable get asked if I caught anything. Folks are usually just getting up and about when I’m returning. I’ll say two or three, or whatever.

“So did you bring any home to cook?” Then I’ll explain that I had no ice and the weather is so hot. That’s easier than going on about how I’m really just going out for the fun of it. Not everybody, maybe not many, understand that. I guess it comes from our hunter-gatherer heritage. Fishing is for food in many minds.

Again, I have nothing against killing a fish for food. I might pick up a cooler backpack at West Marine, and keep a Florida fish or two for culinary testing. But I will have to check on the regulations. Some fish are available for retention at various times of year, and there are slot sizes to adhere to. You see, it’s a bit of fussing, ice and regulations, and I can buy a fish at the market across the street for a few dollars. I’m more interested in moving fast and free of burden, seeing the sunrise, and feeling salty in the Gulf of Mexico. I’m not sure if I’ll keep fish or not. I will see.

I have to say Florida knows how to manage recreational fishing. We could learn a thing or two.

I have to say Florida knows how to manage recreational fishing. We could learn a thing or two. For instance, lets look a buying a licence and keeping up on the regulations. I bought my fishing permits online before I left home. Then I downloaded the Florida Fishing and Hunting app to my smartphone. I linked my licence to it and had documentation ready to show any authority that might request a look. And I printed a hardcopy as well, for the little bit of old school left in me.

Whatever I need to know about Florida fishing is included in that app. It covers all the rules, as well as tides, sea state, marine weather, boat ramp locations, and a host of other stuff. It will even remind me when I need to renew. Wow. I’ll check the tide for tarpon fishing in the morning. I think Newfoundland needs to do better. A few years ago I had serious trouble trying to locate a non-resident licence for a buddy of mine visiting from Sweden. I finally found one at a tiny convenience store in Victoria.

And finally, my buddies and I will have to decide if we are eating blackened salmon this year in Labrador. Maybe one or two between the five of us; it’s up to us, and our sense of what’s the right thing to do.

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at  or follow him on twitter at @flyfishtherock

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