Meat Fisherman Alive and Well
With the recent buyout of the last of the Greenland commercial salmon fisheries, Atlantic salmon flyfishers in North America have the dubious distinction of killing more Atlantic salmon than all other user groups COMBINED. As Jim Gourlay, former Editor of the Atlantic Salmon Journal recently stated, "the meat fisherman is alive and well."
It is still legal to kill Atlantic salmon of any size in Quebec, Labrador, and Newfoundland (depending upon the relative availability of one's personal stash of tags) and legal to kill grilse (1 Sea-Winter salmon) in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. In Quebec, the vast majority of angled salmon are killed. On the Matapedia, the river with the largest run on the Gaspe' Peninsula, over 90% of all salmon/grilse landed are killed (go to www.cgrmp.com and click under "Statistics, " if you don't believe me). Needless to say, if salmon anglers ask aboriginal peoples to reduce their quotas so that we in turn may have more fish to kill, they are quite right to doubt our motives.
I am informed by reliable sources that the St. Jean River on Quebec's Gaspe' Peninsula--a Catch & Release River the past several seasons--will in all likelihood return to a kill fishery for 2004. The run on the St. Jean now stands at 1,100 or so salmon, which is apparently too many fish for the Quebec Government. Other than our own, no salmon were released on the Bonaventure's three public sectors during our visit the last week of June; 9 salmon in the 12#-16# class were killed at "First East" Pool on Sector "D" in one day alone. Although there are not enough salmon in the Bonaventure River to meet spawning requirements, the bloodbath continues unabated. Local river management (ZEC Bonaventure) relies upon salmon that have not yet entered the river to adequately seed the river. Clearly, this is a case of counting one's chickens before they are hatched.
Only the imminent collapse of a fishery--the Petit Cascapedia, the St. Jean--seems capable of establishing a North American Catch & Release fishery for Atlantic salmon. Bass fishermen understand Catch & Release and Western trout fishermen have long understood its benefits. They are, perhaps, more evolved sportsmen than those who kill Atlantic salmon. On the Kola Peninsula, where the runs of Atlantic salmon are far healthier than those of Quebec's Gaspe' Peninsula, Catch & Release angling for Atlantic salmon is required under Russian law. Most disturbing is the failure to learn from mistakes made (the potential return of the St. Jean to a kill fishery) and the number of anglers who just "don't get it" (thumb through the logbook of killed salmon at the CGRMP office in Matapedia and look at the number of large salmon killed by well-known American anglers).
I spend less and less time on salmon rivers where anglers are allowed to kill adult, Multi-Sea Winter salmon (all Canadian Provinces permit the killing of grilse, or 1 Sea-Winter fish): I am increasingly unwilling to spend dollars in support of a kill fishery. Some will rejoice at the increased space on the river such a boycott, on a widespread scale, would create. I would suggest that these anglers are part of the problem and not part of the dilemma's ultimate resolution.
I understand your frustration about the politics of salmon in Quebec. Ultimately it is the Quebec Government which makes decions on catch and release for the rivers. The zecs and associations give their input but it is FAPAQ (Faune and Parcs Quebec) that imposes regulations.
The runs have been good this year on the York, Dartmouth, and St. Jean rivers and the extra catch and release periods on the york should make a difference in boosting the runs.
The best place to apply pressure for change is directly with the governement. I know that the ASF and many world governments are doing so.
It's sad to hear of the continuing slaughter of MSW fish in Quebec. There's a lot to be said in favor of the ZEC system, as one would think the ZEC would be a protective custodian of its river - it would seem that potential exists, but is far from the reality. Killing wild MSW fish in this day and age just doesn't make sense to me, and I really can't understand 'sportsmen' with any eye to the future participating in it, or supporting it.
One note on Newfoundland/Labrador. Where I fish (the West Coast, Northern Peninsula, and Southern Labrador), MSW salmon may not be retained at all, as is the case for all of insular Newfoundland. Season bag limit for MSW is 1 fish, but only in Zones 1 and 2, which is 'Labrador North and East', north of Mary's Harbour.
Early Catch and Release seasons exist on some rivers, and though still thought of as bizarre by some Newfoundlanders, seems to be gaining acceptance, and more residents are participating every year. Honestly, I wish more anglers would show up to support it (and help thwart the persistent poaching, that's a whole other story!), though it is great to have your pick of the choice pools day after day.
I think your attitude of spending less time ( and $$$!) on "Kill" water is a worthy approach, indeed the anglers participating ARE the problem. Just my opinion...
Topher, you bring to light a destructive practice and convincingly argue how to tackle it. I completely agree with you that the killing practice should stop and that we as the money bearing fishermen are going to have to be the ones to do something about it.
Something which I think needs to recognised as part of the problem is how rivers are managed:
The ZEC system is generally effective in management mostly through limitation of effort by imposing fees than anything else. However, what this does do is create a commodity (a salmon) for which people pay a lot and they want their money's worth so they kill. The game reserve system in Quebec is the same. You see them advertised with photos of fishermen with strings of large trout. I know some otherwise very intelligent fishermen here who find catch and release a very foreign idea. Contrast this with say Nova Scotia where many people are voluntarily practicing catch and release.
I praise the ZECs for limiting effort but I fear that their establishment has greatly retarded the potential for conservationist ideals to take hold in minds of most of the fishermen who use them, as salmon are just a commodity.
I hope that the example of a gentleman like yourself will plant that seed of conservation in some minds.
While Topher and I were waiting our turns in the rotation we observed a few fish hooked. I found myself truly rooting for the salmon to throw the hook or break off. Unfortunately is was to no avail as they were quickly dispatched.
When we were fishing Matapedia, and he was snoozing in the cabin :D , I went and fished one of the more popular pools. Shortly after I worked into the rotatation at the top an angler hooked a nice fish on a bomber in the holding spot just above the tail. That fish did not run down but took him upstream almost 40 yards where it dug in, made a couple of jumps, and surged back down- clean broke him off. I could not have been happier as it was very apparent that fish would have been netted and given the priest.
Watching the catch stats it is very obvious there are not many salmon being caught on the Matapedia- due mostly from a lack of fish and certainly from the water being to warm for successful fishing (or releasing for that fact).
It is not the Quebec government that needs convincing- it is the beliefs and attitudes of the resource users. The government will change the rules if that is what the people want. This was my first trip to the Gaspe where I was surrounded by kill fisherman and the mentality behind it. The tactics used by many of the anglers there remind me of the hatchery release holes on our western rivers with similar attitudes towards fishing in one anothers hip pockets and kill what you catch.
Maybe the kill attitude is a result from the resource being open to the public for such a short time since de-clubbing and the evolution of the sportsman is lagging as well. That is no excuse however, history is repeating itself through the same types of overharvest and natural resource extraction that brought wild anadromous fisheries to their current predicament throughout its natural range.
Quebec's Gaspe is quickly on the road towards the mess in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Maine. The sad thing is that it is probably preventable through limiting both aboriginal and sport harvest, completely stop the aquaculture growth, and practice the safest forest harvest possible.
I agree with all your points but one: I was not sleeping back at the cabin, merely resting my eyelids in an attempt to commune with the spirit of Richard Adams and conjure up some more fish.
You weren't the only ones C&Ring on the Bonnie :-)))
We did same on C &D sectors(mostly C )Kept one Grilse,which i do every year. The problem on the York and St Jean is also that the ZEC's management is of the catch AND kill variety and they WILL go back to killing fish as soon as returns pick up !!!!
Instead of boycotting a slow wering down of this mentality should work .We've made 3 converts over the past 3 years.Not a lot but every one counts IMHO
Myself I'll STILL fish with C & K folks because some of them are a pleasure to be with (besides a gentle nudge in the C& R direxction might work one day !
I didn't kill any fish at all on the Bonnie, Petite or Grand for my 7 days on the river. As a matter of fact, I've never killed a fish in Quebec. I know that gorgeous sector D on the Bonnie. We had some great fishing there this year on dries. The shocking thing is that ZEC actually has a fish cleaning station at their trailer in that section. Even though I'll admit that I sometimes kill a grilse in NB I've always found it barbarous that Quebec still allows killing of MSW fish.
I have a friend that fished the Dee for the first time this year. For a few years (except for a very small section of the river) the Dee has become (I think, the only Scottish river) to adopt strictly C&R regs. And the fish numbers have responded spectacularly. But the culture still doesn't quite get it. I hope they do before the fish disappear.
I guess the best thing to do is express our concerns to the government and to support ASF effforts.
Thank you for your comments all.
For the first time, the York & Dartmouth rivers will be open to a kill fishery during the month of September. The combination of low water and a kill fishery is a deadly one, and removing salmon from the river a month before spawning sets a bad precedent.
I hear the return of the St. Jean to a kill fishery is a done deal.
Thank you for the update on Newfoundland/Labrador regulations: it's been a while since I fished up there and I clearly need to return!
Thank you for the post. I am a big fan of the ZEC system. However, the board members of the various ZECs that I have met generally like to tag their fish. I think it unlikely that they will change their spots in the near future. One can always hope.
Salar-1 and WRKE,
Keep up the good work. Now if we can only communicate our intent to practice Catch & Release to the salmon themselves, perhaps they would come more readily to our flies!
They have just counted the Dartmouth River and wow!! over 750 fish are now "alive and well".
It is unfortunate that they will open this 15th of July to permit anglers to "K" fish. (keep?, kill? Knock out? whatever....).
Water levels are presently low ...so we all know what that means, right????
Adding September to"K" bothers me too.... :(
As for, what can we do about this??!! I am still trying to figure out who to talk to and what to do........ They "Ball" is thrown from one organization to another....meanwhile, guess what happening on the rivers??!!!
Thanks for leaving your catches behind!!
Topher, I cannot believe you slept in on a fishing day?????
Photo: Sector 2 St-Jean (Monday evening..) on it's way to Pavilion waters!!!! And he's gonna make it!!!!
It will do absolutely NO good talking to anyone until the executive of certain ZECs and the FQSA are booted out or elected out of office. You and I know full well who theses people are.Until then C &K will reign supreme
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