B.C. sportfishing and guiding groups are pushing for a bar-fishing test fishery for chinook salmon on the Lower Fraser River.
Six sportfishing groups fired off a letter last week specifically requesting a meeting with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to discuss the idea.
The groups are hoping DFO will authorize a “test fishery” permitting them to selectively target late-summer chinook, from the mouth of the river to Hope, using “bar fishing” methods.
“We cannot overemphasize the current frustrations and growing anger within our communities,” the letter states.
The source of their frustration is the lack of a single salmon-harvesting opportunity for recreational fishers on the Lower Fraser, due to conservation concerns.
The groups’ letter makes it clear they will continue to support conservation efforts unreservedly “despite the tremendous economic loss and loss of important family-bonding time” on the water that those efforts have wrought in recent years.
The letter proposing a “bar fishing test fishery” was signed by reps of Fraser River Sport Fishing Alliance, B.C. Federation of Drift Fishers, Fraser Valley Salmon Society, Public Fishery Alliance, Fraser Valley Guides Association, Vancouver Sport Fishing Guides Association.
The bar-fishing method they’re advocating for targeting chinook, also called spring salmon, uses different gear than bottom-bouncing or flossing to target sockeye salmon, and predates the Fraser sockeye fishery. Bar fishers fish from shore using a shorter leader of three feet maximum and heavier weights. They use a single, barbless hook from a fixed fishing rod, and a lure known as a spin-n-glow.
“It doesn’t get more selective than that,” said Dean Werk, president of the Fraser Valley Salmon Society, and owner of Great River Fishing Adventures.
They’re asking for a one-fish limit per day for anglers, with cessation after retention.
“This method has demonstrated virtually zero impact on other stocks of concern,” the letter-writers wrote.
Timing is a factor right now. A DFO-authorized opening for Sept. 1 would be justified since earlier chinook stocks of concern will have migrated through the river, and the target species would be more plentiful: late summer chinook.
“Our request for an opening would also coincide with the announced Sept 1 tidal opening, as well as ongoing net fisheries,” the letter continued.
“Granting a restricted public chinook fishery would help to demonstrate that DFO recognizes and values the public fishery and wants to work with the community toward opportunities when conservation concerns abated.”
But Werk said the letter effectively “puts the federal government on notice” that there is significant frustration out there that an opening would address.
“Protecting and fighting for the future generations share of the public-owned resource needs to be on everyone’s radar,” he said.
A request for comment from DFO on the proposal for a test fishery did not yield a response.
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