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Anglers angry over closure

Anglers are expressing frustration over the closure of recreational salmon fishing on British Columbia's Lower Fraser River, saying they're already taking measures to preserve weak sockeye stocks.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans issued notice on Thursday that one hour after sunset the fishery would close until further notice.

"I have concerns that they would target the sports fishery," said Rod Clapton, spokesman for the Fraser River Sportfishing Alliance.

"Don't shut down the whole river when a large majority of the anglers are fishing selectively."

The department said in its notice that current run estimates have resulted in the closure.

On Tuesday, the Fraser River Panel downgraded its estimate for the summer sockeye run from 992,000 fish to 700,000.

"The department recognizes the improvements made in the recreational fishery to use techniques to target chinook salmon," says the notice. "However, at this time all potential impacts to sockeye salmon pose a risk to conservation."

Clapton said recreational anglers in the region are making concerted efforts to employ a method called bar fishing, which is a stationary form of fishing from the beach. He said it has been documented that the method has no impact at all on sockeye stocks.

But he acknowledged there are still a few spots on the river between Mission and Hope where some anglers don't know any better. He urged the department to boost enforcement in those areas.

Clapton added that his group has been working with the department to promote selective fishing and educate the few who don't follow the rules, but that hasn't seemed to make a difference.

"Unfortunately, our emails and offers to DFO seem to fall on deaf ears."

The department's notice says anglers are still permitted to fish for trout, steelhead and sturgeon.

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