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Gary Gale says DFO decision driving a wedge between retention and hook and release anglers

Gerard Lee drove from Barachois Brook to Deer Lake to attend the Citizens Outdoor Right Alliance meeting on the salmon fishery Wednesday night.
Gerard Lee drove from Barachois Brook to Deer Lake to attend the Citizens Outdoor Right Alliance meeting on the salmon fishery Wednesday night.

Gerard Lee has fished for salmon for 52 years, but he hasn’t cast a line in the water since Aug. 6 and said he won’t again as long as the fishery is catch and release.

“Because I don’t believe in it,” said the Barachois Brook man who drove with other concerned anglers to a meeting at the Royal Canadian Legion in Deer Lake on Wednesday.

Hosted by the Citizens Outdoor Rights Alliance (CORA), the meeting was held to discuss the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) decision to close rivers to retention fishing.

Gary Gale, interim chair of the alliance, said after talking with some politicians, including Premier Dwight Ball, who was in attendance, the meeting would be a chance for the anglers to have their say.

“We’ll do what you want us to do,” said Gale to the some 75 people, who came from all over the region, of the alliance’s next move.

Gale said CORA disagrees with DFO’s decision, noting that most anglers will attest to the runs being late and that the decision lacks hard, credible science.

He also said there is concern out there that the change could become more permanent and is a way to get retention anglers off the rivers.

Gale said retention anglers and those who practice catch and release have co-existed on the rivers for years, but the DFO decision has driven a wedge between the two groups.

“And that’s not what we want, we don’t want a fight with hook and release anglers.”

He said any solution should suit the needs of both groups, but if the capacity is not there then the fishery should be closed altogether.

Later when Sid Styles of the Bay St. George Stewardship Group asked for a show of hands of who at the meeting practices hook and release fishing only, no hands were raised, but when asked if they practice retention and hook and release fishing there were few hands that didn’t go up.

The meeting started at 7:30 p.m. and by 9 p.m. the official presenters hadn’t finished speaking.

Some of those approached by The Western Star before the floor was open to comments declined to offer their opinions.

Lee spoke with The Star before the meeting started.

His main reason for attending was to get more information and a reason for why the rivers are only open to hook and release anglers.

“The majority of people don’t believe the salmon returns are as low as they are saying. And one of the biggest deterrents against poachers on the rivers was the anglers. And now without the presence of them on the rivers, poaching has picked up.”

He didn’t know the exact numbers, but said it’s a big percentage.

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