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Shit Show

With such a collection of confusion and BS making up the fiasco also known as the 2018 salmon angling season, I struggled to decide on which aspect I should focus this editorial. Our printing deadline was fast approaching, however, so after four attempts, I finally sat at my computer on June 18 and decided to offer my thoughts not only on the provincial government’s newly created policy of a maximum 10 fish released for the entire season, but what officials constitute as a “release.”

For those who may not have seen this Facebook post, here’s what’s been credited to Forestry and Wildlife Research director Blair Adams, as a response to questions from local anglers:

“A salmon is considered hooked once it takes the fly, regardless of how long the salmon was on the line… as per the definition of hooked and hooking under the Wildlife Act. The release occurs when the salmon comes off the line, regardless of whether or not the release was intentional or the salmon escaped. This legislation will be enforced by the Provincial Inland Fish Enforcement Officers, in co-operation with DFO.”

Okay, first off, I’m not so sure our new director wasn’t ordered against his will to post this on behalf of the minister. But I’ll leave that here for now.

Secondly, has this always been on the books?

I doubt it. If so, has it ever been enforced? My guess is no, simply because it doesn’t even come close to adequately defining “catch and release.”

Quite frankly, it’s too ridiculous to discuss, much less write about. But hey, I’m in a good mood today because we’re heading to the west coast for a few days of salmon fishing right after the printers receive this edition, so I’ll play along…

Editor Gord Follett welcomes your feedback on this and all articles you read in The Sportsman. Reach him at gfollett@newfoundlandsportsman.com

What we’re being told here – if I am reading correctly – is that if I feel the mighty tug of a salmon and a rod-length of line peels from the reel just before my Blue Charm flies past my ear, that’s considered a released fish. If an hour later my line tightens for a mere second under the strain of a fish, I didn’t “strike one,” as we had always referred to it; rather, I released another. And because there are so many fish holding up in this pool and the angling gods are smiling on me for a change, I “strike” yet another just before wading back to shore for a boil-up.

So, in just two hours of my first day on the river, I’ve used up three of my 10 permitted releases for the entire season.

Whatever happened to the release definition of, “allow or enable to escape from confinement; set free?” And what if only one of those fish showed itself long enough to determine it was indeed an Atlantic salmon? Could the other two have been sea-run trout?

If you’re asking me as the angler, the answer is a definite “yes.”

How are enforcement officers supposed to determine what I hooked?

Yes, it was on a scheduled salmon river, and yes, it was in a pool well known for holding resting salmon on their way to spawning grounds. But I’ve seen and actually caught trout in such situations many times over the years.

DFO’s regulations this year call for a maximum release of three salmon per day, down from previous years’ total of four, and from what I’ve been reading and hearing, this is the regulation by which the vast majority of anglers from Newfoundland and Labrador intend to abide.

As for this year’s licencing catastrophe, many of us believe this was both intentional and avoidable, and that the minister or whomever caused it should be held accountable and ensure it never happens again. Besides local anglers not being permitted to fish during opening week because licences and guides hadn’t been printed, numerous non-residents – native Newfoundlanders and Labradorians among them – had to either cancel trips outright that were planned for the second week of the season, or spend five or six days on the riverbanks watching friends and relatives fish.

Regardless of what “reports” government officials may try to spin in the coming years, tourism numbers and dollars will be down significantly.

Trying to re-invent the wheel with another catch and release study – at a cost of $500,000 by a cash-strapped province – is another component of our 2018 salmon fishing disaster, particularly when you consider that the results will be precisely what government is paying and hoping for, and you can rest assured that it won’t favour this scientifically-proven conservation practice.

Yes indeed, salmon anglers in this province have experienced their share of confusion and chaos over the years, but absolutely nothing can compare to this year’s mess, which is been commonly referred to as “a shitshow.”

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