Commercial boats ready to chase sockeye in Fraser

This year will be the best since the healthy sockeye run of 2010.

A commercial fishery for sockeye salmon is expected to open Monday on the Fraser River.

A commercial fishery for sockeye salmon is expected to open Monday on the Fraser River.

The sports fishermen have savoured this year’s sockeye run on the Fraser River.

Now it’s almost time for the commercial fishermen.

But they’ll have to wait one more weekend.

“Every thing points to a fishery on Monday, and we don’t know if that will be for 24 or 12 hours,” said Bob McKamey, with the Area E Gillnetters Association.

He’s been told by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to be ready at a moment’s notice for the word to get out on the river between Steveston and Mission and get their nets in the water.

This year will be the best since the healthy sockeye run of 2010, McKamey said. The last two years have been bleak, with only one chum opening each of the past two years and no sockeye fisheries.

“They have waited a long time for a sockeye fishery. A lot us are just looking forward to getting a fresh one to the table.”

“We’re hoping, and we have reason to believe that’s not going to be the case in the next four years.”

Despite the optimism over this year’s sockeye fishery, he doesn’t believe the prediction of 70 million sockeye coming up the Fraser River this year.

“That’s unrealistic, from our point of view.”

But he does expect the 300 or so commercial gillnetting boats to be on the river from Steveston to Mission for several weeks.

“We’re expecting regular week-day openings from now until September.”

And he expects no changes as a result of the collapse of the mining tailing ponds at Mount Polley Mine.

“At this point in time, it hasn’t affected the scheduled sockeye opening. It’s questionable whether that will actually affect the Fraser system.”

Area director for Fisheries and Oceans Canada Jennifer Nener wouldn’t confirm if a commercial opening was coming Monday.

“We won’t be making a decision on next week before our Fraser River panel meeting tomorrow [Friday].”

The panel said in an Aug. 5 notice that Fraser River temperatures of 20 C are two degrees warmer than average. The river flow is also 16 per cent below average.

But that should improve as the days grow shorter and cooler.

“To date, we haven’t seen signs of fish being really stressed in the river,” she said. “Things seem to be shaping up fairly well.”

Limited recreational fisheries for sockeye opened on the Fraser River last week, with catch limits of four per day below the Mission Bridge, while aboriginal ceremonial and food sockeye fishing started two weeks ago.

A limit of two sockeye per day has been set Wednesday for the Fraser RIver upstream of Mission.

 

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