Recent coverage in regard to proposed closures for keeping trout from the rivers of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine is a classic example of how good intentions don’t always lead to good outcomes.
Rob Brown and Jim Culp are often criticized by anglers of all persuasions, which is not surprising considering their proclivity to tell everyone else where, when and how to fish. Having said that, anyone who enjoys fishing on the Skeena should tip their hats to these two every day they fish the Skeena – there are more fish in the river, and more habitats intact, as a result of their efforts over decades. They are bonafide salmon conservation heroes, but they have it all wrong, as does the province, with these proposed regulations.
It’s this simple – regardless of the serious problems the province’s fish people have with resources, this proposed policy shuts down a quarter of the province to retention of trout and char from rivers.
Hundreds of rivers within these watersheds have no issues from human caused mortalities (killing and eating a fish for dinner). This is a “one size fits all” policy. It is petulant, unscientific, polarizing and worse.
By all means the rivers identified as having issues with char, like the Copper, should be closed to retention. If provincial fisheries had been doing their job, they would have been shut down years ago. A precautionary approach is well advised in some cases. But making retention illegal on rivers without issues just criminalizes the kayakers, rafters and local fisherman who like to eat a trout once in awhile.
If there is that serious of a problem with Copper River char, then the next logical next step is closing the river down to all angling, including guides.
I have fly-fished for over 40 years, and I don’t want to hear any more neo religious claptrap about the sanctity of catch and release.
If you hook fish in the mouth with steel hooks, some of them will die.
It is a blood sport, regardless of whether you use a size 20 midge, or a spoon, a 2,000 dollar bamboo rod, or a 10 dollar spin stick from Walmart. Catch and release is not a religion, it is a management tool. And an effective one with species that are inherently tough given their physiology or size, or the stage of their life history.
Badly applied, it can exacerbate conservation issues instead of fixing them, allowing mortalities to continue unabated under the belief that dragging fish around by the lips has no ill effects on them. Catch and release on steelhead makes perfect sense, biologically and economically. Catch and release on ocean coho is incredibly counter productive.
If you want precautionary conservation, better be careful what you ask for.
I know some First Nations would gladly love to see the courts decide if catch and release mortalities count in the grand scheme of things, what the law and logic says, as opposed to the neo religious opinions of self appointed arbiters of when and how we all fish.
Rob and Jim managed to severely damage the local, and sustainable, sportfishing economy in this region with the ill-conceived regulations foisted on us by the so-called Quality Waters process.
Now Rob thinks a quarter of the province’s rivers should be closed down to retention of trout and char.
Enough is enough. The province needs to get its act together, and devise a representative process to get balanced input from anglers.
We need the province to man up on a lot of fisheries issues, like the future of Thompson steelhead, proposed oil pipelines and filling in pristine lakes with toxic mine tailings.
But this drama queen approach to char conservation deserves a swift and emphatic no.