Sunday, 13 May 2018

Sport Fish Advisory Board Minutes – April 2018

The SFAB deals with DFO on behalf of sport fishers – our issues and concerns. You can become involved in your local area if you wish. The main sport fishers on the SFAB are longstanding, knowledgeable and speak well for us. Below, is a summary of a few issues in the 23-page PDF.

For several reasons chinook are the key species under discussion: under-production of several Fraser stocks, food for killer whales and some for the three main stakeholders, sport fishers, commercial fishers and aboriginals. The intention is to increase hatchery stocks. At present there is no cash to expand infrastructure or open new hatcheries. On the other hand, the epigenetic approach of developing a more robust hatchery stock does suggest that the problem of hatchery fish being unable to spawn naturally, can be resolved.

The discussion on freshwater habitat restoration has not yet progressed in the issue list, but of course, is the root issue. Netpens are being discussed, and as I suggested in an earlier post, it makes sense to start a dozen netpens, each having 2 million fry, with a total of 24 million each year, that would begin to address the killer whale feed issue – and we need to do it as soon as possible to put adult chinook in the water. Another solution at early discussion stage is marking chinook for release and thus fisheries, as is done in WA.

Cost of marking fish is an issue, as well as interaction of marked fish with the Coded Wire Tagging program. For example, CWT fish are marked and we send in heads based on being from a marked fish, so if there are more marked, but not with a CWT present, that means putting in heads without tags, and the stats would go awry.

The issue with epigenetics is increasing the number of returnees/spawners may lead to impacting wild chinook. The three main WCVI hatcheries are the Nitinat, Robertson Creek and Conuma River. Wild stocks are in great danger with the last total WCVI number that I recall is 6,000 fish. Clayoquot Sound has only 501 in a half dozen rivers. Add to this that chinook come back before our increasingly delayed fall rains occur, and thus, getting into the rivers is dicey. And transporting fish in trucks with tanks to major pools is costly.

Here are a few comments from the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan discussion:

1.     Alberni sockeye in collapse.
2.     Fraser sockeye number is 13 million, but many stocks of concern, may lead to selective fisheries.
3.     Overall a reduction of chinook will lead to measures to reduce catch by 25- to 35-%, with all science not yet in.
4.     Alaska will reduce its catch 10% and you will have heard that recreation harvest has been eliminated in northern BC’s large drainages as the DFO response.
5.     Decline in chinook numbers for Harrisons and summer 4-1s.
6.     The SFU paper on coast wide chinook declines suggests more catch reductions. This I think is a problem with the DFO approach: it reduces fisheries down and down, but doesn’t put the money into habitat restoration, seal culls, Salish Sea loading for plankton production and eliminating the herring roe fishery, oh and those fish farms that need to be put on land, for precautionary reasons.
Here is a quote on this issue, from DFO: ‘DFO: Given current trends, DFO is not comfortable maintaining current ERs.’ Rather than looking for other solutions. And another quote: ‘Removals includes fishery impacts only; predation is part of marine survival.’ Which is a way of saying we are looking only at reducing fisheries, not doing freshwater habitat, not culling seals.

7.     Jeremy Maynard is from Campbell River and summed it up this way: ‘…this is the worst situation in 23 years of SFAB participation, so the sector is in shock. DFO has not provided the necessary information to provide advice on 2018 measures, plus the short planning timeline add up to an appalling situation.’ I would add that I felt 2017 was the worst year for all species in the 40 years I have lived in BC. The discussion, by DFO, on this one simply moved on to catch reduction strategies and did not address the concern directly.
8.     Martin Paish commented on making recommendations without knowing the science: ‘It’s mind-boggling that we’re expected to provide advice by April 16 for measures that won’t go into effect before June, with incomplete information. For example, what is the point of a maximum size limit if it’s not applied to all other fisheries?’ DFO’s response was that everyone was in the same boat: ‘DFO needs the extra time to finalize the IFMP and Ottawa needs time to review, so any further delays would affect June 1 implementation.’

This sounds reasonable, but DFO has been criticized recently about its science work by the ENGO, Watershed Watch’s, science person, Stan Proboszcz:

9.     DFO intends to address interior steelhead numbers through rolling window closures. It was pointed out that this would negatively impact the Brown’s Bay chum fishery in early fall.

10.  Keogh River coho are being affected by seal predation.

11.  The Nanaimo SFAB presented a motion that would increase the forwarding of catch logs by guides/lodges in the area. Presently, returns of these documents have declined. Nanaimo also presented a motion to reduce the commercial catch of herring from 20% of biomass.

12.  Port Renfrew presented a motion, that passed, limiting the width from point to shank in single barbless hooks to 15 mm. The purpose of which is to reduce snagging chinook in the Nitinat in early fall.

13.  A motion was passed suggesting that DFO eliminate reductions in Cowichan chinook given three years of good numbers. My most recent figure is 23,000 for 2017, which is phenomenal, with high jack numbers suggesting that 2018 will also be a good year, in an otherwise difficult chinook picture.

14.  Halibut fishing has been poor in Juan de Fuca so far this year. In the past year, zero chinook returned to Goldstream and only 7 coho as broodstock.

15.  In Port Alberni it was recommended that the hatchery return to 12.5M smolts from the current 6.5M. And that DFO select the largest fish for broodstock. Also, that DFO take over funding the netpen in the Inlet, as it supports killer whales and has had a positive effect on returns.

16.  A project to raise marked coho for a fishery in the Gold River area, should return 10- to 20-thousand coho into Moutcha Bay, Conuma River this fall. Sounds like a good place to fish in a pontoon boat this fall. A motion was passed for 4 a day and 8 in possession.

17.  Regarding transportation of someone else’s fish, as the law will be loosened, a motion passed saying that a note with the angler’s signature should be sufficient to avoid being charged, with so doing. In good humour, Gerry Kristianson had this to offer: ‘In early June, I will be travelling to Victoria in possession of my limit and that of my son, who can’t travel with me so I invite DFO to charge me.’ Gee, I’d like to get a photo of this.

18.  Despite the issue of marked fish intermingling with CWT chinook with resultant statistical problems, a motion was passed: ‘Whereas Southern BC Chinook are scheduled to undergo a COSEWIC assessment in the fall of 2019; and, Whereas DFO is looking to reduce exploitation rates on some wild BC Chinook stocks; and, Whereas the use of a hatchery mark can be used as a possible management tool, Therefore be it resolved that starting in 2019 all hatchery Chinook production in Southern BC be marked with an Adipose Fin Clip(AFC).’

I think it is important to note here that the COSEWIC assessment shows just how bad the rehabilitation of these stocks has been by DFO, rather than habitat restoration, which is the solution, not continued fisheries reduction, which lead in only one direction: down to zero. Epigenetics of hatchery chinook shows an enlightened approach to genetic issues.

19.  A motion was passed saying that the SFAB is not going to provide Fraser chinook recommendations, until the science has been provided.
Here is the SFAB bottom line on Fraser chinook:
When developing Chinook management plans for 2018 the following points should be considered:

1. The SCSFAB acknowledges the current state of many Fraser Chinook populations but wants to know the overall plan to rebuild these stocks beyond cuts to fisheries, particularly as the recent planning requirements have superseded the SBC Chinook Strategic Planning Initiative. Component strategies could include strategic enhancement, predator control and water use issues.
2. That savings of Chinook in outside fisheries through reduced fishing opportunity must be passed through to the spawning grounds, not provide opportunities for greater harvest for other users.
3. The salmon allocation policy providing priority access for Chinook by the recreational fishery before commercial harvest must be fully respected.
4. Limits for Chinook should remain at 2 per day, 4 in possession away from home.
5. Identifiable hatchery origin fish should be exempt from any new measures (e.g. reduced limits, time and area or maximum size restrictions) intended to lower the exploitation rate on Fraser Chinook stocks of concern.
6. Reductions in Chinook harvest on stocks of concern made for other reasons (e.g. additional prey for SRKW) must be accounted for in the management regime intended to lower the ER on Fraser Chinook stocks of concern.
7. Allowance should be made for terminal area exceptions where Fraser River Chinook stocks of concern are not encountered. Examples are fisheries inside the surf line on WCVI and the Campbell River river mouth special management zone.
8. The management plan designed to meet the new ER objectives on Fraser Chinook stocks of concern must be sensitive to time and area considerations for these migratory fish i.e. additional restrictions must be made on a PFMA and monthly basis as they may not be required or relevant at all times.
9. The department must explain the rationale for requesting reductions when the exploitation rate already meets the requested parameters.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Summer Chinook

It’s time to don those shades and switch over to summer fishing. May marks the month that Columbians begin to filter through our waters, with some legitimate 50 pounders in the early fish. And the first are taken at Sheringham Point, west of Sooke (where most anglers fish).

With their feeding reflex down in preparation for spawning, the longest time without food is over night; hence why the crack of dawn is usually the best time of day to fish for the big fish – they are more likely to be feeding at this time than any other. These days dawn comes early with first light now before 5:00AM. Overnight, the big fish will be found finning along at their 1.5 mph cruising speed in back eddies. They don’t pass the point, as the ebb is streaming faster than this, and simply pushes them back into the back eddy until the tide changes, whereupon they are ‘freed’.

We all know to fish close to shore as these fish are on a mission, not like feeders that reside in our area fattening up, and, of course, in much deeper water following lunch rather than shore. At the crack of dawn the most likely bet is back eddies formed behind points of land on ebb tides. That is because the fish are not moving fast and are, in essence, pushed home by flood tides.

A typical land structure, like Otter Point, sticks out as much as a half mile, creating a large back eddy. Fishing the 50- to 75-foot contour, rods at 35- to 50-feet on the downrigger, usually puts you on the money. Having said this, one day, aced out of my arc onto shore by a boat that pushed its way past me and a dozen other boats, I fished along the seam running from the Point directly toward Sheringham, past Muir Creek. The latter is also a good close-in structure to mosey past.

To my surprise I hooked a 30-pound fish, unexpected in more than 200 feet of water and with rods high, but in the back-eddy seam. Justice in a world where the boat that pushed all the rest of us out of our spot, circling, one behind the other. When I got close, I showed the offending boat my big fish and smiled, content that they had caught nothing.

The circling technique in back eddies is a cut plug technique usually used in the out backs. We don’t fish cutplugs in the CRD anymore, perhaps because there are far fewer chinook than there used to be. But, where practiced, it is deadly. To achieve a crest and trough pattern for the bait, when the line is at 90 degrees, you put the boat in gear, and move until the line is at 45 degrees, then take the boat out of gear. It is spine tingling stuff to be among a circle of a dozen boats grinding a rock pile. When the person in front of you puts his boat in gear, you do to, and when he takes it out of gear, you also do the same – move and glide, move and glide. Hence a very well-organized bunch of boats are all doing the same and when a boat gets a fish on, the fleet opens a hole and the fish-on boat passes out of the fleet to fight and net the fish. Then that boat rejoins the circle.

It is spine tingling because you never know who will get a fish, and once the bite comes on, many boats will catch a big fish. Sometimes every single boat gets a big fish before the bite wanes for an hour.

But in the CRD, we do fish anchovy in teaser-heads behind a flasher. It used to be a fishery for a Pal No. 3 metal dodger, which is a slow-motion fishery indeed, because the big fish are more choosy, and less inclined to speed up to catch a meal. As flashers rotate, rather than sway side to side, they impart more action, and thus, you are advised to use a four-foot leader between blade and bait. Also put less bend in the wire-rigged anchovy, near the tail, so it spirals more slowly and always check bait action beside the boat before sending it down to fish. And you fish slow, the time of year when some boats toss out a pail on a line to slow the boat down.

Check your chart and find the pronounced back eddies close to shore. Those are your greatest chance spots. And it takes years of fishing, to know how to fish each one. Put that time in and catch more fish. There are some in the Victoria area, that I am sworn to silence on, that the only time skippers in the know will be found fishing in them is on the ebb, for summer fish. Keep your eyes open and lips closed.

I should also add that in many places it is the top end of the flood that is best, rather than dawn, or ebb tide back eddies. This includes Port Renfrew’s Owen Point, and inside Sooke’s Becher Bay, at Creyke and Aldridge points. Check them out on the end of the flood, regardless of time of day. Every year, some 6 PM high tides reward after-work fishers with big fish. Phone ahead to the marina, and find out this important information.

The current regs allow a minimum size chinook of 45 cm, and max, for a wild fish of 62 cm, in our area. Our area is 19 and 20, Cadboro Point to Sombrio Point. Larger hatchery fish, virtually all American, may be retained. See: And remember those closed areas for killer whales, to the west of Sooke.

This post of mine gives more information on killer whales:

See page 8 of this one: In Juan de Fuca, we are looking at closures for feeding, except for Port Renfrew and Sooke, then to the east of our area, there are several closures that don’t affect us.