Catch and release decision on Atlantic salmon disappointing, says industry leader

Catch and release decision on Atlantic salmon disappointing, says industry leader

Angling season starts on Saturday in much of New Brunswick, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has just announced that mandatory catch and release will continue again this season for Atlantic salmon.

That means anglers will not be able to keep any of the salmon they catch.

Some anglers figured that would be the decision, but it's still not going over well.

"It's certainly disappointing but it's not at all surprising," Jerry Doak told CBC Shift's Vanessa Vander Valk.

Doak owns a tackle shop on the iconic Miramichi River in Doaktown.

"I think it speaks to a level of inertia that has plagued DFO for decades," he said. "They tend to exemplify the old saying that a body at rest tends to remain at rest. They have adopted a position and it seems to be the path of least resistance for them to continue with that decision year after year."

Doak doesn't have a problem with catch and release policies, but doesn't agree with how they are used in the province.

He's strongly in favour of protecting the large, egg-bearing females that come into the rivers after two years at sea.

But he said there are great benefits to allowing fishers to keep grilse, as in past years.

A grilse is a salmon that has returned to fresh water after a single winter at sea.

"It's predominately male, it's not a spawning necessity, and it was a great safety valve," said Doak. "It kept people engaged in the fishery, it kept people on the river, it developed a sense of stewardship and a sense of ownership of the resource and it certainly engaged the local fishery. Plus it gave the local people a taste of the river, and certainly a desire to go to the river on a regular basis."

The onus should be on DFO to explain why that grilse fishery was closed, Doak said, rather than anglers having to argue to have it reopened.

"I'm convinced that they have a better understanding of this than their decisions would indicate," he said. "But for some reason, they seem to be stuck in this mentality that we can just do the same thing year after year."

The negative impact, he said, is the removal of local people from the fishery, who don't take part when there's nothing to take home.