Dear Editor: I would like to comment on the article “Users want more respect” printed in the Aug. 14 edition of The Western Star.While I agree people should be respectful of each other and practise safety for themselves and those around you — whether for work or for pleasure — the remarks about pleasure craft stressing salmon, especially during low warm water conditions, seems to be more of a benefit when compared with driving a hook in them and watching the mighty fish struggle for its life. Being hooked — not to be kept for food but simply landed for someone to take a photo while laughing and congratulating each other — is in my mind a senseless act of harassment. Mr. Keith Cormier said in the story he has witnessed several anglers lose big fish because of watercraft passing too close. Well these fish — with the current regulations that are in place as a result of pressure from self-serving angling groups — have to be released anyway. Why have the fish struggle for great lengths of time if there is no intent of keeping it for food?If large salmon are hooked, it is recommended anglers hold their line so they can break free after a short period and help them survive.Better yet, don’t hook them at all. John McCarthy judged retention anglers — which over 90 per cent of our anglers are in our province — as the lesser of two evils.After the recent closure of rivers, he suggested they should have been kept open to retention angling for the obvious benefit they provide as a strong deterrent against netting by poachers. I believe we can clearly see what the real evil is here — it’s the senseless desire to own our rivers and the damage done by successful lobbying for restriction after restriction to eliminate local anglers from our rivers. If salmon are tagged, the most any angler can get is six with a limit of two a day. That’s enough for anyone for food and the pleasure of the sport in any given season. The majority of anglers catch less than the six allowed, with some — even after trying their best — ending up with none. Under hook and release, the law allows four a day, every day for the complete season — which is uncontrollable and unenforceable. It is my understanding, many of these anglers will continually hook and release past this limit, especially when conditions are ideal and the main salmon runs are happening. If retention anglers are successful in getting their allowable two a day, they have to stop and try another day. How many could be hooked and freed in these prime conditions, retention anglers often wonder?Many hook-and-release anglers can attest that the numbers are high as some have even written that in books they have published. We hear of many of these anglers boasting of releasing 40, 50 and even much higher numbers during a week or two of angling in peak times when most of these anglers are constantly on the rivers. One individual boasts in his book of catching and releasing over 200 a year and that he had caught over 3,000 altogether and over 1,000 in the last five years up to 2007 when he published his book.He also writes of catching and retaining over four salmon a day. Some of us would like to catch even one to share as a meal with family or friends, but it’s hard with these anglers doing this kind of uncontrollable injury and damage.I have written many times how our traditional salmon angling sport had been reduced from retention of four a day since 1978, down to two a year and in the mid-90s up to 2001, and then down to zero with hook-and-release angling on most rivers in Bay St. George.This resulted in the netting of salmon becoming totally out of control. Since DFO asked and got our organization’s help in 2002, netting by poachers has nearly been eliminated but desires of some individuals and groups remains unchanged. The near demise of salmon stocks because of restrictions promoted by some self-serving groups had DFO admitting in 2002 that their best efforts had failed to stop salmon declines in Bay St. George rivers. Our successful recovery program that involves working with DFO and all levels of enforcement continues to be fought against by some individuals organized across our province.Yes, it’s nice to see a young person from Ontario catch his first salmon. It is also nice to see some young people here do the same. We have improved our salmon stocks for all anglers, no matter if from here or away, by beginning to regain our traditional salmon angling sport since 2002. DFO not only listened, but acted on our advice. They opened rivers to retention angling and abandoned their failed river-classification and hook-and-release system that clearly failed. We have encouraged anglers, young and old and of both genders, to return to our rivers with the support and help of everyone concerned with the future of our salmon stocks.It has reduced the out-of-control netting that had increased as local anglers were forced off rivers. Our salmon stocks are as they once were ... and in some cases even better. I ask everyone to join us in continuing to rebuild our traditional salmon angling sport which we have proven is sustainable. I hope we will continue to see the numbers of salmon increase for everyone’s enjoyment well into the future.
Sid Styles is chair of the Bay St. George Salmon Stewardship Group, formerly the Harry’s River Salmon Working Group.