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Bob Pauli 09-19-2005 09:31 AM

Is the Dean going to die?
Unfortunately this year, poor Dean River fishing is due to human causes.

A fishing partner on the Dean stopped by Fisheries & Oceans Canada in Bella Coola on the way home, and talked with the officials. He was told there were only three enforcement officers for the area, and by inference, commercial regulations could not be enforced.

Another person in the FOC office, not an employee, said there were approximately 100 commercial salmon fishing boats intercepting Dean Channel fish during the prime steelhead run and none were following regulations.

The regulations are that linear nets are to be placed one meter below the surface so steelhead can escape, and that in the case of purse seining, the steelhead are supposed to be "brailed" [removed from the net before hauling aboard]. Neither of these regulations are being followed by the commercial fishermen, and there is no enforcement because local FOC folks suffer reprisals when citations are issued. Specifically mentioned reprisals were burning of homes and beating of officers' children [by children of fishermen].

Steelhead are a three year cycle. It won't take long to finish the Dean.

Eric 09-19-2005 07:35 PM

Any ideas about what we might be able to do about this situation?

I've contacted a couple of people. Nothing back yet. If I learn something useful, I'll pass it on.


juro 09-19-2005 08:06 PM


I am speechless... this is barbaric.

Can we try to appeal to the provincial government?

Eric 09-19-2005 11:06 PM

One of the members of this Forum is Art Lindgren, who literally wrote the book on the Dean (_Steelhead River Journal: Dean River_, Art Lindgren, Frank Amato Publications, Inc, Portland, OR, 2000: ISBN 1-57188-116-6). I hope he will post his thoughts on the best way to protect the Dean steelhead or at least the best way to get involved in their protection.


Moonlight 09-20-2005 01:17 AM

Bigger problem than you might think!
Have you ever considered that there has been a Gillnet Fishery (not to mention Seine Fishery)in the aproaches to the Dean Channel for well over 60 years and during that time we have had some very excellent Steelhead fishing? There is certainly a problem with the number of returning Steelheads throughout there range but I doubt that a few atecdotal comments by "folks" in Bella Colla are going to break the case for all to see the true culprit.
As a matter of fact the so called FOC when under a previous name spent more than a few Dollars Canadian to create a series of Spawning Channels just East of the Mouth of the Dean to enhance the Summer Chum population so that the Gillnetters could have acess to a bounty of Chum in the Dean Channel and its approaches from Sea Forth Channel at Bella Bella on the West to Namu on the South.
Personally I am certain that there is a lot more going on here than over harvest by commercial interception. There is something very wrong in the ocean and I hope that at some time in the not to distant future the sport fishing (West Coast Folks) will conspire to find out what is wrong out to the West of land?
But hey it so easy to just blame the 'others!"( apologys to Jane)

speydoc 09-20-2005 01:24 PM

For a differant perspective I am going to post my observations - I do not fish the Dean for steelhead, but have been going in to target chinook on the fly for the last 4 years in the third week in June. Most of the Canadian residents I fish with have been doing this for 15 to +30 years so there is a lot of experience with this fishery. The impression I get from talking to these guys is that the chinook numbers have been slowly, but steadily decreasing - the early steelhead that used to show up at this time of the year are now very rare (I have yet to take a chrome steelie on the fly in any of my 4 weeks) The observation is that +40lb chinook have been almost totaly absent in the last 4 to 7 years, coincidentaly these figure match the huge booms in numbers of lodges (floating and otherwise) that have come into operation on the Canadian coast - as each client is only allowed 4 chinook they are known to target the +30lb fish.(think of how many lesser fish are caught and "released" prior to the bigger fish being harvested) This year we observed gangs of 3 to 9 seals harrasing the fish the whole way up to the canyon on each tide - despite anglers using bear bangers and chasing them with boats - the impression it that there are not more seals but that they are being forced up the rivers by competition at sea. Unfortunately sportfishing has become a very lucrative commertial venture for the lodges.
In contrast I must record my observation after talking to one of the commertial fishermen based out of Bella Coola - he and another commertial guy(based out of Langley) took my party and our river boats into the Dean. They were strugling to find enough fish (chinook) in the Dean channel to cover the costs of their fuel and were typicaly getting about 12 fish each time they went out - in past years typical catches would be in the hundreds. The guy from Langley said it was so poor that he would not be bringing his boat up from the lower mainland again. The guy from Bella Coola started suplimenting his income a few years ago by running anglers into the Dean because of declining catches.
So in summary - the chinook fishery is also in decline, the culprit does not appear to be commertial fishing, but rather the commertialization of the sportfishery by the expantion of lodges on our coast (currantly I believe there are no limits on numbers or size/capacity of these lodges)
Comments gentlemen?

Bob Pauli 09-20-2005 06:27 PM

There is a parallel BC experience in the crash of the Skeena steelhead fishery culminating in the record low escapement of 1991. The situation was saved by a major cooperative effort of recreational anglers, commercial fishermen and government.

A 46 page booklet tells the story.
by Adam Lewis
Steelhead Society of British Columbia, Bulkley Valley Branch, Smithers, B.C. 2000
QL638.S2 2000

This booklet is sold by the bike shop in Smithers [McBike?]. It is hard to get the store to hand over a copy, for reasons that locals must understand. Copies are kept under the counter, and purchasers, as recently as last year, must make several firm requests to get employees to produce the booklet.

A quote from page 29, "The improved returns in 1998, 1999 and 2000 demonstrate that the most effective way to increase runs of Skeena summer steelhead is to reduce the harvest in commercial fisheries."

And a masterful understatement on page 30, "The only way to save the unique coho salmon of the upper Skeena and allow the runs to rebuild was to stop killing them."

Moonlight 09-20-2005 06:50 PM

Bob I'm pretty sure I read that book back when it came out, sounds familiar anyway. Once again one of the problems on the Skeena as with the Dean was the establishment of spawning channels. In the case of the Skeena it was Sockeye enhancement on the Babine and the most affected stocks were the early returning Upper Morrice Steelheads and the early run Cohos that you mentioned in your post.
Less I forget the full scale destruction of Gosnell Creek by clearcut logging on a "Grand Scale" just about wiped out that bountiful run of small race steelheads or certainle added to there decline through lost habitat and increased siltation not only in Gosnell Creek but downstream in the main Morrice right on down into the Bulkley.
The problem with these enhancement projects regadless if they are hatcherys or spawning channels is they put a pulse of surplus fish in a system that get harvested and this usually menas more time for fishing which puts a strain on the smaller less abundant indeginous populations not only of Steelheads and Cohos but too the very Sockeyes that are being enhanced!
The sucess of these Spawning Channels has been detrimental to many discreet stocks but they have created a lot of income for the various individuals that are engaged in the extraction of these resources.

Bob Pauli 09-20-2005 08:53 PM

You are absolutely right.

Bob Pauli 09-22-2005 09:36 AM

From two respected steelhead anglers.

From Bob Quigley:

There was a time when the native people on the Bukley were spearing and
netting the fish at Maurice town falls and you could go down and buy what
ever from them, Salmon and steelhead. Then the head of Candian fisheries
came up with the idea of having them net and tag and relase, they paid them
more or the same that they would recieve for selling them dead, I know it
always comes down to dollars and cents on who will pay for these programs,
but why not reduce the licenses for the commercial boys in the dean inlet,
or hire them and put agents on board and work with them, and pay them for
taging and relesaing the large steelhead, that way they still get to net
their salmon, and the tag fish go to the Dean River and that would tell us
alot, also put a value on the return of the tag incase other commercial
guys renet them, or an incentive to return the tags for fisherman. It could
be some kind of quick start, and they can try a work-together program ,
instead of just dictatiing laws that are't going to be followed anyway!

From John DiVittorio:

Got your message on Dean netting. That really sucks but I'm not
surprised. Loomis is getting more and more convinced that selective
harvest is the real key to recovery. Fish seem to be the only
endangered animals that folks can legally kill. A DNA study was
recently done on the salmon caught in the Canadian troll fishery. 88%
were Columbia River stocks and many were endangered or threatened
species. As a result, the Salmon Recovery Alliance made a formal
request to US Customs to ban the importation of this harvest since it
contains endangered species. Should be interesting.

Moonlight 09-22-2005 10:45 AM

Speydoc very interesting and factual post thank you. The later post (copy of a letter) citing the 88% occurence of Columbia origin Kings in the Canadian Troll fishery is probably also accurate for the floating and fixed lodge fishery that you cite in your post.
To say that many of them are ESA listed fish might be a bit of a stretch there are an awful lot of Chinook returning to the Coloumbia that are not from listed stocks the key to not harvesting the listed stocks comes from timing the various fisheries to occur when the listed stocks are not present (at least when at all possible).
As much money as everyone spends to fish on the Dean I would imagine that they ( the Provincial Fishery types) would be performing some type of analysis on the health of the run. At a minimum I would imagine they look at redd counts and smolt out migration to keep a baseline of knowledge, but I have never heard of anything other than an occasional "Creel Census" during the fishery (mostly checking for proper permits).
Paying the local gillnetters to tag the fish they catch is a novel idea, howevr having been engaged in many types of fishing throughout my lifetime I would be so bold as to point out that paying someone to catch something usualy results in an increase in fishing effort on the speicie that you are paying them to catch.

salmo 09-22-2005 09:05 PM

When 1998 - 2000 marked super low return of Kings and Chums ( silversrun was OK) to Kuskokwin drainage in Alaska, Fish and Game near completely closed commercial fishing and even reduced subsistence fishing (unheard before).
The results: during the last 2 years the return of Kings and Chums was well above 15 years average!
It is time for BC government to spend some money, buy back licenses and significantly reduce commercial fishing and to impose catch/release only.

May be they like an idea of the end of wild fish and beginning of farm business?
I guess it will be up to Canadian anglers to put the pressure on the Government right now.

Monitoring and partial closing ( allow commercial fishing every two or three days) could also be a valid solution.


Eric 09-22-2006 10:03 AM

Any reports on the Dean fishery for this last season?

Wondered if there were any changes from last season.



FleshFly 09-22-2006 10:33 AM

I had run into a crew of guys that just came from the Dean, and were fishing the Skeena area while I was up there They said fishing was good this year, compared to last year. There is a lot of good info on this thread.....

Smalma 09-23-2006 09:08 AM

The issue of increasing by-catch of steelhead while targeting salmon returning to the man-made spawning channels is a very important component to this issue.

It is compounded by the relative survival of the species involved. There is little question that we are seeing a warming of the offshore ocean (the cause is for another topic) however that phenomenon is important. Typcially fish like chum, pinks, and sockeye doing better (above long term average) under those coniditions while steelhead do poorer. The result is that commerical fishery ends have more fishing time on the years of big salmon runs which typcially would occur when the steelhead runs are down. End result is that increased commerical happens when the steelhead population would be more affected by that by-catch.

Tight lines

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