Saltwater Fly Fishing Series
"The Opportunity to Angle"
with Barry M. Thornton
The opportunity to angle must never be regulated away! All management
of our sports-fishery must have a bottom line, a point beyond which
there is no return. For the angler that bottom line must be the preservation
of the opportunity to fish!
The current west coast coho issue/crisis suggests that we may have
to agree to a closure on angling for coho
salmon. I must be vocal and state that I feel this kind of sports
fishing regulation should be greeted with a resounding, "NO!" I firmly
believe that above all else, the opportunity to angle should never
be regulated away! Regulations must obviously reflect the current
state of the resource but, there are many levels of regulations, many
options that can cater to the needs of a specific fishery before the
signs read - "NO FISHING!"
Many years ago, in the early seventies, steelhead were facing a serious
decline. Regulations had dramatically dropped limits. They changed
from two per day, to forty per season, then to ten per season. Now
we have a necessary 'no-kill' on wild steelhead in certain regions
of the province. But, we still have the opportunity to angle! A similar
situation faced steelheader anglers these past two years with another
drastic decline of winter steelhead on east coast Vancouver Island
streams. It is to the credit of the provincial Fisheries Branch that
after much public discussion they choose to leave a lower section
of each river open to fishing, ‘to preserve the right to angle'.
those early 70's specific stocks of steelhead were facing drastic
declines and provincial fisheries managers were faced with the ultimate
regulation; eliminating a sports fishery on one of the most threatened
rivers,the Heber River, by placing a total fishing ban on this watershed.
But, to their credit, after much discussion with sports anglers, they
imposed instead a 'catch-and-release' fishery on this watershed, the
first such regulation in British Columbia. It was highly successful
and led to 'catch-and-release' as a management option being used throughout
the province. I would also suggest that this foresight had much to
do with the growth of the current social attitude of steelheaders
which sees well over 70% of all steelhead in B.C., wild and hatchery,
being released voluntarily.
A decade ago, Federal Fisheries were faced with a similar situation
based upon a 'chinook conservation' plan. Unfortunately, their decision,
Fin-Fish closures, not only eliminated a sports fishery but also eliminated
all sports angling. For shame, it was a regulation which took away
the opportunity to angle. I have spoken out against this inane irresponsible
regulation since its inception but sadly no change has occurred to
this loss of our sport. It is interesting to note that since the inception
of ‘fin-fish' closures DFO has yet to study the affect of these punitive
But, there is some understanding in DFO. To their credit, when faced
with the need to regulate the sports catch of ‘blueback' coho
salmon, rather than impose a coastwide closure on all fin fish
angling they instead imposed a size limit. This protected our inherent
right to angle.
P. Larkin will likely best be remembered as the Father of the Salmonid
Enhancement Program. In 1980 he presented a paper entitled, "Pacific
Salmon scenarios for the Future." In this paper he stated,
"To begin, I suspect that sport fishing for salmon will become more
of a yearly religious festival than an every weekend pursuit. To take
an extreme position, I can visualize that by the year 2020, for a
short 10 day period in midsummer, hundreds of thousands of sport fishermen
will be allowed a total catch of two salmon each, and these will be
prepared for eating with great ceremony and consumed with large quantities
of locally made wine. For the rest of the year there will be all kinds
of boating pleasure, but no legal sport fishing for salmon."
Are we to face Dr. Larkin's tongue-in-cheek projection for our salmon
sports fishery sooner than the year 2020, possibly by the turn of
the century? I would predict this will be so if we continue to allow
Federal Fisheries to apply shameful closures like the current fin
fish closure regulation on salmon sports fishing.
The right to angle must remain the highest priority for the organized
and the individual salmon sports fisherman. If 'conservation' regulations
are required then some other form of regulation could be applied as
has been historically done in the past. These could include; catch
& release, size limits, no kill, reduced limits, tackle restrictions
and others. I am sure there are numerous others that I have not listed
that could be activated.
have a deep fear of the current DFO 'Fin Fish' closures. We all recognize
that they have changed angling patterns and angler habits in the few
short years they have been in effect. We also know that these closures
have misappropriated a fishery from the sports fisherman whether he
be after salmon or other fin fish. Catch and release is a viable management
'conservation' option. To preserve the opportunity to angle, this
must be the only acceptable regulation applied to our salmon sports
fishery! Yes, it is possible in this era of rapid change that a particular
race of fish will require the ultimate in protection - no fishing.
When and if this comes to be then no fishing will mean more than just
no angling. It will incorporate all the laws needed for an endangered
species; laws that affect not just the angler but all who have a negative
contact with that race or species of fish. This must include sports,
commercial, native, water users, land owners, industry and the political
arena. For too long we have lived with political interference, the
playing of one user against another when it affects a species or a
specific race of fish. The time has come when the dreaded ‘no fishing'
must also mean no species use, no negative habitat use of any kind.
© Copyright Barry M. Thornton
Barry M. Thornton