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B. Gray 08-01-2002 02:05 PM

Reply from CA Oceans and Fisheries about Skeena netting
Hi all,

I'm a longtime gearchucking lurker around here. You guys have a great forum and I enjoy checking in on a regular basis. I recently emailed Canada's Oceans and Fisheries folks about netting at the mouth of the Skeena after seeing Sparkey's call to arms. For what it's worth, here's their reply.

"Thank you for your email of July 30, 2002, where you express your concern at
the level of salmon fishing at the mouth of the Skeena River this summer.
Your main concern was regarding the incidental catch of steelhead. I want to
assure you that the Skeena steelhead returns are in excellent shape.

Starting in 1989, the Department moved to a more selective method of harvest
to protect various stocks of concern, including steelhead, coho, and some
wild sockeye stocks. Through a combination of timed openings / closures,
fishing gear restrictions, and selective fishing methods we have managed to
reduce the impact on the steelhead runs to a considerable degree. An example
is the pioneering selective seine fishery conducted at the mouth of the
Skeena, which began in 1989, This was a brail-and-sort fishery, and was a
pre-cursor of how we now do business throughout BC. In 1998, we moved to
daylight fisheries and had a portion of the gillnet fleet use weedlines.
Starting in 2001, we have moved to a selective gillnet fishery. This fishery
uses such methods as short sets and half-length nets, to ensure that the
fish released from the net are still alive.

For 2002, the steelhead are again returning to the Skeena in excellent
numbers. The current indications from the Tyee test fishery put this year's
return at the 11th highest in the 47 years that the test fishery has been

Again, thank you for bringing your concerns to my attention. I am confident
that working together with the Province and all fishing sectors, we can
ensure the continuing health of the Skeena River steelhead runs.

Sincerely Yours,

David Einarson
Area Chief, Resource Management, North Coast Area"

NrthFrk16 08-07-2002 11:07 AM

This was the same response that I recieved...I precieved it as a sort of "So what....we dont care...we are going to net anyways."

Though I did hear the run was stronger then normal then this year which is good news....

juro 08-07-2002 12:41 PM

Selective gillnetting! Now I've heard them all!

Thanks for bringing this to our attention Bruce.

Dana 08-09-2002 12:09 AM

I hate to say it but this is typical DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) stuff. I went after them a few years back about netting in the Fraser during the Thompson steelhead run and I received a similar letter, only this one described to me the mesh net size for the gill nets and stated that they are designed for chum salmon, and that steelhead swim right through them (selective gillnet fishing). Well, guess what? Iím not exaggerating when I say that typical Thompson steelhead are not too far off the size of a typical chum salmon, something that anyone who has caught both knows. Plus I 've spoken to many commercial fishermen who have told me that steelhead caught in the gillnets are toast. Of course they "release" them, but they aren't in very good shape when they do. To be fair, this was a few years ago, so things might have improved, but if they have I haven't heard about it. Get used to it--the Department is famous for issuing these patronizing responses. If you need a little milk and cookies and a pat on the head before bedtime, send them a letter about steelhead. It's alright, really: we Canadians are darn nice people and more than willing to tell you exactly what you want to hear, even if we both know it's BS.

Oooooh boy, there I go getting hostile about the politics of steelhead again. Quick, grab the trout rods!

KerryS 08-09-2002 09:11 AM

I spent 14 years gillnetting the Puget Sound. Steelhead caught in a gillnet are dead. The only time you get a live fish is if it has gilled itself in the last 15 or so minutes of the net being in the water. In the sound we used to hide the steelhead on the boat. It was illegal to catch them (like we had a choice) and it is illegal to throw dead fish back into the sound. Makes sense to me??????????????

Moonlight 08-09-2002 09:29 AM

October on the Fraser
In a conversation with a Canadian Angler who also is a commercial fisher he told me the main reason that they have the October Chum Salmon opening in the Fraser was so that the fisherman could draw another quarter of Unemployment benefits. He said it was alot more money in UE beneys than anyone ever got from Gillnet prices for Chum Salmon. The web is always tangled some times around the truth other times around the fish!

B. Gray 08-09-2002 11:57 AM

While we're talking about gillnets, what's a weedline anyway?

It's pretty amazing and sick that they're back to netting the Skeena mouth. Gillnets or not, Dana, you guys have the nirvana of steelheading up there. A few of my friends left today for a week on the Dean and here I sit in a windowless office... :(

KerryS 08-09-2002 12:28 PM

If I understand what you are asking. A weed line is a technique of hanging your net below the cork line so no weeds or junk gathers along the top of the net. I have never used a net hung this way before and I have only seen one.

Moonlight 08-11-2002 11:40 AM

Does anyone know of a website that has the DFO's gillnet openings for the Skeena I just heard that they are having an unexpected "Big push of Sockeyes" this of course usually means alot of Gillnet days and I was wondering if anyone had a web page I could skunk out the real scoop. I went through an entire listing and did not find one that had what I was looking for.
I guess a guy could call one of the fish buyers in PR and get it that way!

tonyd 08-12-2002 03:34 AM

I just returned from a 2 week trip to Terrace.The reason for the "big push" of sockeye is because the river has been netted off for a week.There was a 3 or 4 day commercial opening that started right when we arrived and then another 2-3 days later.We expected to catch litterally hundreds of sockeye and pinks at that time as that is the way it normally is if you know the right bars.We fished Ferry Island alot for 6-8hrs each morning before heading after some chinook in a boat.On our whole trip I caught 6 pinks and 2 sockeye.Not exactly what we travelled 14hrs for.We were always the first on the bar(3:30AM) and had one of if not THE best water.There was almost NO sign of fish aside from a small school of pinks one evening.No one else on the bar(considered to be the best sockeye bar on the river by most) was doing any better.I saw several steelhead landed in the slower water as well.The fish take 7 days to make the trip up to Terrace so that,combined with the commercial netting,made for a 2 week period with VERY few fish in the whole river.The only fish that seemed to be present in good numbers were the big chinook at the Hog Line(mouth of the Kalum River).These were the only fish able to make it through the netting.After a week of slow fishing we made the trip down to Prince Rupert.Along the way we stopped at every bar and piece of slack water we saw and glassed the area with binos in hopes of seeing some sockeye flipping but there were none.On the way from Rupert we stopped at Port Edwards to watch the commercial fleet come in.It was rediculous!I've never seen so many boats in my life.Another frustrating thing is knowing that alot of the boats aren't even local.Because the openings of the Skeena,Fraser,Nass,etc are all at different times,the fleets from the south coast simply migrate up there before or after their opening.Basically there are way more boats netting the area than there would be if the openings to all the rivers were at the same time.After talking to some of the fishermen,and several sportfishermen there,we were told that the entire mouth of the river was pretty much netted off and that NOTHING gets through until the opening is lifted.As we neared the Skeena mouth the next morning we could see the barrage of boats in the distance.I agree with Dana,DFO is constantly putting sportfishers last and will basically feed you a bunch of BS to keep people happy.The fishing while we were there was pretty bad and we ended up fishing for trout in some of the smaller rivers and going up into the Nass to find fish.The chinook fishing on the Nass was spectacular though and worth the drive.I really don't have a problem with commercial fisheries,only the way they are allowed to operate.Being able to close off the entire river and prevent sportfishers(who bring alot of money to the local economy) from sharing the resource is crap.How are they sharing the fish when nothing can get into the river?Considering all the netting is done on the sockeye,and the steelhead move with the sockeye,I don't see how they can ever say that these stocks aren't being seriously impacted.Nets don't discriminate,regardless of their size.Don't believe anything DFO tells you as they will always put the commercial fishery first anyway.By the way,the water was extremely high when we arrived but dropped quickly and is now in great shape.The Copper looks in wonderful shape,but access is very limited(lower river only).We never fished it but saw several anglers fishing the lower stretches.There are some steelies showing now and someone with a good dirt bike could find some fabulous water to themselves on the upper river provided they can get past the gate.If we hadn't made the trek to the Nass our trip would have been a very big dissapointment.If I were to go back,and I plan to,I would make sure that the commercial fishery was done(at least for the sockeye) as it can be pretty frustrating casting into empty water day after day.Chances are the worst is over now.Hopefully steelhead numbers won't be too low.

pmflyfisher 08-12-2002 12:21 PM

Wow is that depressing. Glad we do not have to deal with that in Great Lakes.

"Selective gill netting", can't believed they used those words in their response.

Commercial interests obviously weight heavier over public recreational interests in BC politics at this time, at least for this issue.


beau purvis 08-13-2002 07:14 PM

skeena reply
i too sent an email off to the ministers. however i never recieved a reply. guess i was too hard on them.used a low blow! told them they were now following the many yrs of bad examples set by washington state.i fished recently with BOB Clay [wellknown kispiox-skeena drainage guide]. he was under the impression netting was to be minimal this yr due to low sockeye return. reason it was heavy last yr was a very large return of sockeye.he had been in the bush guiding for 3 weeks at the time. quess maybe the run turned out better.too bad , since all the govt cares about .puts us steelheaders in a position of hoping for poor salmon runs.otherwise our pasion turns up as unfortunate but necessary by-catch in the managers minds. i, like Dana, get a little hot and pasionate on this subject.

beau purvis 08-13-2002 07:23 PM

skeena ps
interesting reading tonyd comment.the river i fish the last week in july must be affected by the skeena openings. last yr and this yr i saw only a couple of my fish with net marks.i also experienced huge numbers.the 3 yrs prior were yrs with fewer fish and nearly all were net marked. those were the yrs of no netting on the skeena.obviously some of the boats migrate south to north and vice versa.

tonyd 08-14-2002 02:34 AM

Interesting observation Beau,and totally correct.Most people are under the assumption that the fish caught at the mouth of the Skeena,Fraser,or wherever,are native to that system.That is not 100% true.I have a freind who works in the fisheries doing all their radio tagging of salmon and steelhead on the Skeena and Nass systems.He has also worked on the southern systems(Fraser,Dean,Island rivers,etc) as well.Thrue there years of tagging and research they have found that the fish that they tag in these areas,like the Skeena for example,are actually a large mixture of fish heading to many different river systems.They have netted fish in the Skeena mouth that ended up travelling up to Alaska and as far south as Oregon.This means that the commercial fishing being done at the Skeena River mouth is not only impacting our fisheries,but it is also taking fish bound for our southern rivers and US waters as well.Excess harvesting on the Skeena could in turn impact the returns on several Washington and Oregon rivers.DFO allows a certain number of fish up the rivers and then opens the fishery up to commercial fishing once their escapement number is reached.The problem is that while the needed Skeena run may be through and strong,they have no way of knowing how many fish from other rivers are being taken.When we left for our trip up to Terrace there was a report on the radio that the sockeye run was one of the best in recent years.We thought this would mean a great fishing trip for us.Instead it meant more commercial harvest than expected and a lousy fishing trip for us.

B. Gray 08-15-2002 11:55 AM

So what do you site visitors from BC think the folks who live up there from Terrace down to Prince Rupert think of the commercial netting?

I could envision a scenario where DFOs policy is to toss the sporties a few cookies for a couple years and then when things are all peachy they decide it's time to give a little back to the commercial permit holders to make them happy for awhile. What's the fleet like up there anyways? We talking about lots of little crews or is it an operation for the big boys?


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