SEHAB Member: Eric Carlisle
Area: Steelhead Society of BC
Date: November, 2011
A topic of email discussion by Steelhead Society directors has been the recent announcement that the Thompson River would open to catch-and-release steelhead angling on Saturday, October 29. This opening lasts until December 31. Questions were asked about whether or not Albion Test Fishery data indicating sufficient steelhead were returning to the Thompson and, for that matter, the Chilcotin, to allow these openings was true. In other words, are there actually sufficient steelhead returning to reach the province’s minimum threshold of 850 in the Thompson and another 400 in the Chilcotin to allow these openings. Many directors felt that the openings were unwise and have not chosen not to fish the Thompson or Chilcotin. Some but not all directors felt gear restrictions were necessary in order to allow any openings. Region 3 Biologist Rob Bison has said that the mortality during the catch-and-release fishery in the Thompson (any tackle) is 3 %. Further discussion will occur at the next SSBC directors’ meeting on November 8.
As a follow-up to my last Roundtable Report, I can add that a few pink salmon were caught from shore at the Capilano mouth in September. Most likely these were Seymour fish (Chilliwack stock pinks are used), but some could be Fraser pinks passing by the area before heading over to the Fraser mouth. In any event, I only knew of 8 or 10 pinks taken from shore at the Capilano mouth--a very low number. Yet during a recent SFAB local committee meeting, one of the boat fishermen said the boats fishing off the Capilano mouth and along the West Vancouver shoreline did well on pinks. Since the pinks changed their behaviour and stayed offshore and deeper than usual, shore anglers were out of luck. Pinks appeared in the Capilano, but nobody has any idea of numbers. Strangely, last I heard not one pink had swum up the fish ladder and entered Capilano Hatchery. Two years ago, Capilano Hatchery had a modest return of pinks and was able to produce pinks from two distinct groups--early returning Indian River stock and later returning Seymour, or Chilliwack stock. Admittedly I am making a few assumptions here about the origins of the pinks which reached Capilano Hatchery, but I feel these assumptions are safe.
From reports I have heard, coho returns in many rivers have been good and there have been good showings of jack coho (a positive sign for next year). We are still in-season for coho, so numbers are not available or are incomplete. Chinook runs have varied. DFO felt early season chinook returns to the Fraser were insufficient to allow a sport angling opening, but by the end of July the runs were sufficient to allow angling. During the summer fishery on the Fraser, anglers said there were lots of chinook in the Fraser. I understand Chilliwack Hatchery had 900 red springs return in July and August--the best return in 8 years. This stock, which was totally man-made by combining various upper Fraser chinook stocks at Chilliwack Hatchery, was created to replace the almost extirpated native Chilliwack River chinook stock and to allow an in-river fishery. I know I enjoyed my most successful summer chinook season on the Chilliwack-Vedder, in spite of unusually high water conditions caused by the heavy snow pack and delayed runoff. We are still in-season for the fall chinook in both Chilliwack and Capilano Rivers. Some anglers said there were not all that many chinook in the Chilliwack-Vedder. I felt the return to Capilano was modest, but the same boat angler at the recent SFAB meeting said the boats enjoyed the best fishing they have ever had and attributed the improved fishing to the net pen operation at West Van Lab. Hatchery returns will be known later. While we are almost at end-of-season for fall chinook in the Capilano, I took a bright, fresh run 17 pounder last Thursday and saw two other chinook adults and a bright jackspring caught.
Concerns have been raised about poor returns of chum salmon to many rivers. Desired return to the Fraser is 800,000, and the most recent estimate is 972,000. This has some positives but some negatives. It is nice to hear that the Fraser chum were later than expected and that recently announced chum closures in tidal waters and various Fraser tributaries have been lifted. However, the result
has been an eleven hour commercial chum opening at the Fraser mouth on November 3, and that opening was detrimental to survival of Thompson and Chilcotin steelhead, even if all steelhead caught in the gillnets had to be released. Another chum opening at the Fraser mouth is scheduled for November 7. So far, lower than hoped for returns of chum have appeared in east coast Vancouver Island rivers. However, a recent notice said that Puntledge River had reached its chum escapement goal. DFO provides information on Fraser and east coast Vancouver Island chum runs in the fisheries notices.