While sockeye fishing remains closed on the Skeena River, anglers have been out hooking chinook, pink and coho as of July 15, and while some confusion remains about regulations, the federal fisheries department says that compliance has been good so far.
“Our officers have been out quite a bit before and after the closure,” said Sandra Davies, North Coast fisheries manager.
They’ve mainly been educating people about the closure, she added.
“Some people just weren’t aware of the closures that were in place, but once people understood what was going on, the compliance has been very good,” she said.
There have been some violations, but not many, Davies said, adding that she cannot give numbers at this time.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada closed all recreational fishing on the Skeena on June 22, a response to the dismal sockeye returns which were estimated between 400,000 and 600,000.
The most recent count on sockeye on the Skeena, counted at the Tyee test fishery, is 203,853 as of July 19. The most current in-season forecast estimate is approximately 550,000, said Davies.
The federal department said their decision to close all recreational fishing was to ensure First Nations could catch their quota for food, social and ceremonial purposes. They have been using larger nets to catch chinook and leave the sockeye.
Regulations for the Skeena River state that people can catch chinook on sections of the Skeena, limited to two per day and only one over 65cm.
Chinook fishing is allowed in parts of the Babine, Bulkley, Kitsumkalum, Morice and Sustut Rivers.
Other tributaries and lakes of the Skeena remain closed for chinook, as well as the portion of the Skeena from the Lakelse River mouth, upstream to the overpass at Ferry Island.
Also closed is the Copper River, and the section of the Skeena upstream of the Sustut River and at the Kitwanga and Kispiox River mouths.
Chinook fishing in those designated areas will stay open until August 15, when chinook fishing will close completely for the Skeena watershed in order to protect spawning chinook stocks.
Recreational fishing for sockeye and chum salmon remain closed, but recreational fishing for coho and pink are also open as of July 15.
Regulations do change, so anglers should check the online fishing guide or a new app is available with regulations and features such as fish identification. It’s called Fishing BC and can be found at www.fishingbcapp.ca.