Message from Fred (09.13.20)
A big thank you for the anglers that joined FRSA (Fraser River SportFishing Alliance) on the Sept 9th demonstration fishery. The reason for organizing this event was in response to DFO denying a legitimate Chinook opening during abundant stocks announced by DFO. FRSA tried to engage with managers to discuss the rationale for this decision and failing to provide an opportunity for the public fishery this year.
FRSA then requested support for a demonstration fishery in efforts to bring real data and seek solutions for allowing limited opportunities for the Fraser River anglers. This was quickly denied by DFO with a very strong message that they would not sanction the event. I ask what are they afraid of??? DFO did show up in full force telling anglers that Salmon fishing was closed and charges would be incurred on people they deemed targeting Salmon. FRSA indicated that the demo was to showcase avoidance of Sockeye, not targeting any particular species but we did the event did require fishing which is not illegal. Any incidental catches were to be released and documented and given to DFO officials. The effort from approximately 70 rods using and variety of lures, bait and hook sizes produced 10 pike minnows and 2 hookups on Chinook that were not landed.
Think about it. The mighty Fraser River, one of the largest Salmon producing rivers in the world. Closed to salmon fishing. Its time to wake up everyone. This is not acceptable and a call to action before its too late.
Despite FRSA and the supporting groups making every effort to open dialogue and communication for discussion seeking a way to move forward with selective fishing options that should allow limited fisheries, it was dismissed by senior managers. I suggest it was a missed opportunity. We asked for approximately 300 Chinook, a tiny number considering the tens of thousands of both Chinook and Sockeye being harvested in other fisheries in the ocean and river. Don’t try using common sense, it does not apply here period.
The goal of FRSA was to document that the traditional bar fishery would not encounter Sockeye. Zero encounters were predicted, zero happened. This has been proven for many years and it is a known fact that DFO continues to ignore. In a letter, DFO stated that they have no way to control or regulate anglers that may choose to fish with long leaders that will intercept Sockeye with a method called bottom bouncing where fish are flossed instead of enticing a fish to bite or hit a lure or bait. Sockeye salmon are plankton feeders in the ocean and do not have the instinctive DNA to behave as Chinook and Coho. After ten years of promising to address this issue, we have been stalled in bureaucratic nonsense from the department.
DFO was very aggressive with FRSA during the demonstration trying to shut it down and discourage people to not participate by threatening fines and confiscating equipment. Nearly 70 anglers stood strong to deliver a strong message to senior DFO managers that they have had enough being sidelined with no justification.
DFO is demonstrating a total disregard for public fishery concerns and requirements. There were 6 individuals ticketed and or lost equipment. One of our First Nations anglers lost a fishing rod despite showing a status card, an interesting twist to the day's events. DFO continued to preach that conservation was the overriding factor that did not allow for an opportunity for anglers. We asked why 300 Chinook would not be an option when our comparison using the DFO web site had documented tens of thousands of Chinook being harvested in the river, Sockeye incidental catches over 10 thousand, and the answer was that Sockeye returns were at a historic level. That's like comparing apples to oranges.
Our friends in the saltwater finally got a well-deserved opening Sept 1st, but the river was not even considered. DFO is failing to protect our fishing resources for everyone. The hardest-hit river anglers experienced a blatant abuse of power and a complete waste of taxpayers' dollars during our demonstration. It validated the unwillingness of senior DFO to accept any responsibility for this debacle and unwillingness to allow ways to move forward in conservation with a realistic opportunity for anglers. The request for a Chinook opening was declined because of invalid and unacceptable rational. The conservation argument is a false narrative that no longer will be accepted. It is a distortion of facts that is allowing excuses to restrict anglers that have the least impact on the resource.
The public fisher deserves better than being dismissed as lawbreakers. Many of the participants were told that they were breaking the law because of what they had on their line. A variety of lures, bait, and hook sizes were used. Fishing is not closed on the Fraser and there are no regulations that restrict how and what anglers can use other than single barbless hooks. DFO stated they had no ability to regulate avoiding Sockeye but now were insisting and dictating how anglers could fish and then determine what you were targeting. Interesting but not actually defendable. The truth of the matter on Sept 9th with the river having very low visibility, it was more likely to hook a Chinook on roe than the lures that were considered fishing illegally. The anglers using roe were not ticketed. All of this beckons questions on why DFO was so adamant about getting the truth out and keeping anglers, the advocates for sustainable fisheries for the future, at bay.
In my 60 years of fishing the river, I have never seen such incredible abuse of authority, of how out of touch DFO managers are. I personally felt sorry for the officers that were trying to deliver a mandate to get anglers off the river and suppress the rights of the public fishery. It felt like we were transported to Russia as our voices and pleas were heard by the officers, but a clear mandate from the bosses to suppress our rights in a free country. We hear about constitutional rights all the time. Maybe anglers were missed in this document.
The united anglers stood their ground and delivered a compassionate heartfelt emotional discussion that demonstrated a passionate and dedicated commitment to resolution in addressing the horrible state of our fishery. Anglers will no longer tolerate the continued destruction of the fishery resource and the opportunity that it provides.
Frustration is an understatement of how the public feels about this situation. It simply does not add up, it is a failure to recognize that opportunities to move forward with selective methods options with a historic traditional fishery. The heritage has deep roots that brought overwhelming emotional energy, passion, and dedication to stand up for better management. The message was clear.
The fight is just beginning. It's time to stand up anglers! Support FRSA, fighting to win the battle to save your future fishing opportunities for generations to come. Become a member, donate funds, or sign up as a director. We need your help today.