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.