Northern Peninsula and Labrador Straits anglers weigh in on salmon issues
NORTHERN PENINSULA AND LABRADOR STRAITS, N.L. – With delayed tags, reduced license costs, and battles over policy, it’s a tumultuous year for salmon anglers.
With some of the most renown rivers and brooks in the province, salmon fishing is a staple summer activity for many residents along the Northern Peninsula and Labrador Straits.
Ward Samson of Main Brook has been a salmon angler since 1968. He is also the president and writer for the Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation (NLWF). He sees several issues with the policies laid forth for this year, particularly the allowing of hook and release of up to three salmon.
“I’m not a fan of hook and release at all,” Samson said. “My position is that if a river can’t sustain hook and keep than it can’t sustain hook and release. They should just close the thing down.”
Samson has many doubts around the science of hook and release, and its effects on salmon’s survival. In the NLWF’s report “Hook and Release: A Commentary on Salmon Survivability”, Samson details that most scientific studies on hook and release is only done on large river systems, and there is little data from small river systems that are common in this province.
In his report, Samson says the effects of air exposure, water temperature, where in the river salmon are caught and other factors are not analysed in detail in the major studies cited on hook and release.
Angler John Diamond of St. Anthony agrees that hook and release can cause a lot of damage on salmon populations. He is unsure if he will have a go at the fishery The Northern Pen spoke with anglers related to their concerns around several changes and announcements regarding the salmon season this year.
“They ought to close it out, because catch and release kills them (salmon),” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of killed salmons on those brooks; it should never be.”
However, angler Tony O’Brien strongly disagrees with this sentiment. He says so long as the angler knows what he’s doing, hook and release is a fine system.
“I’ve been releasing salmon all my life, and I haven’t seen any problems with releasing salmon,” O’Brien said. “I think education is the important thing, talk to people who’ve fished all their lives with hook and release and present the proper way to do it. We shouldn’t be jumping the gun on hook and release.”
O’Brien currently lives in Happy Valley-Goose Bay but fishes on the Pinware River along the Labrador Straits every summer. For O’Brien, one major area of concern he feels is rarely addressed with conservation is the still prominent use of net fishing
in many areas.
“In terms of poaching, I think they should be more concerned with netting than they are with angling,” he said. “From Mary’s Harbour to Lake Melville there’s a net fishery where they can catch six salmon, and I wonder what kind of controls are on that.
“You can get a lot of retention with nets. There could be more salmon taken in the net fishery that what was taken back when there was a commercial salmon fishery.”
O’Brien feels that if conservation is the focus of these policies, there ought to be greater attention paid to the net fishery and the impacts it may be having on the salmon population.
“They’re only concerned about anglers and anglers are probably the most conservative of all the fishermen,” O’Brien said.
Monitoring issues and license delays
The Department of Fisheries
and Oceans has reduced retention quotas to one fish per season, with the possibility of more following a mid-season review.
But both Samson and O’Brien agree that a major issue with any policy changes in salmon angling is the difficulty in monitoring and enforcing it.
With a province so populated with rivers, Samson says it’s very difficult to ever ensure these policies are followed and poaching is not taking place.
“They have to have those policies but its not realistic; it’s unenforceable,” Samson said.
Through his many years of fishing, O’Brien says the presence of fishery officers or other monitoring authorities is often lacking.
“I haven’t seen a lot of presence from Fisheries in the past few years; there’s certainly not enough of them to control the rivers,” he said. “I know other anglers are hoping to keep each other honest but that only goes so far.
“People talk on the rivers and know what’s going on, but you see someone doing something wrong you’re not necessarily going to go out of your way to put yourself in that situation.”
The season opens on June 1 for rivers across the island and June 15 in Labrador, but licenses will be delayed for the June 1 opening. To combat the possibility of limited interest this year, the provincial government has lowered the resident salmon license from $23 to $5.
Because of his disagreements with hook and release, Diamond is unsure if he will buy a license this year. With the Pinware River opening for the season on June 15, O’Brien is hopeful the tags will be available for purchase by then, but he understands the frustration this has caused on many other anglers.
“For a lot of rivers the salmon are all there on the 1st,” he said. “And especially for people who have planned trips and vacations around angling, there’s a lot pushed by these delays.”
Many anglers along the Avalon and other areas are upset over this delay, with some of the prime salmon fishing in June. As the temperatures of the water rise, the salmon move on.
“In some of our rivers the temperatures go up to 20 degrees in July and August, the salmon don’t survive in that,” said Samson.
However, Diamond says the best time for angling along some salmon rivers in Main Brook and near St. Anthony are in mid-July, and sometimes even later.
“A lot of salmon in some areas will be gone by then, but we usually don’t start catching them until the middle of July,” Diamond said. “It was the first part of September they came down last year.”