If there was one thing that was made clear during a meeting of salmon anglers on Tuesday night it was that both retention and hook and release fishers want the same thing, and that is to fish.
But another thing that rang out in the meeting hosted by the Citizens Outdoor Rights Alliance at Club 64 in Corner Brook was that there is a divide between the two groups.
The meeting was held as all anglers wait to find out the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ plans for the recreational salmon fishery this year. Following a mid-season review DFO closured rivers to retention fishing last summer and retention anglers feel it was part of a plan to keep them off the rivers and fear a repeat this summer.
Provincial Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne was the guest speaker for the group.
Byrne spent some time talking about the need for conservation, how there is no one factor that has caused the decline in stocks, and the need that people not break the rule of law.
But what the 50 people gathered wanted to hear was the province’s position on the issue.
“The government of Newfoundland and Labrador, we endorse a retention fishery, we support a retention fishery, and it must be based on conversation principles first,” said Byrne in his presentation.
When the floor was opened up to questions, Jed Sampson, who drove in from Port au Port, wanted to know if the province supported closing both the retention and hook and release fishery if the stocks are down.
Byrne’s answer was that if the stock of a river cannot sustain any more mortalities then someone will have to show that a hook and release fishery will not produce any more mortalities.
Sampson didn’t feel that answered his question and pushed for a clear picture of where the province stands.
“If the question comes down, and that’s the point that I think you’ll really want to understand where we stand on this, is the question is hook and release or nothing, we support a retention fishery,” was Byrne’s reply.
After the meeting Sampson said he thought Byrne beat around the bush on the question.
“More or less I got it on the end,” he said.
Sampson feels Byrne also has to come out on the side of the outfitting industry, which he said wants hook and release kept open, even if the retention is shut down.
“I want to see the status quo as it was last summer, keep the retention fishery and the release fishery as it is,” said the long-time angler.
Glenn Callahan shook his head a few times as he listened to what was being said during the meeting.
When given an opportunity to speak he said he could see the divide in what he heard. The Corner Brook man is primarily a hook and release angler and asked the group that once they got their one salmon how many of them would stay on the river to keep the poachers off.
The show of hands was not great.
“We need a change in philosophy,” he said.
“If you’re not going to stay on the river and you only want your one salmon, you’re not helping anything. You’re killing one salmon and you’re not keeping the poachers off.
“I agree with you we need people on the river.”
After the meeting Callahan said he was not against anybody.
“I’m for people being on the rivers and stop the poaching and to enjoy sports fishing.”
He had no answer when asked if the divide could be closed.