Blue Fish News – July 5, 2021
In this July 5, 2021 issue of the Blue Fish Canada News, we begin with a focus on who’s behind the push to end catch-and-release fishing and why. Included as always is a specially curated list of summaries and Links to timely fishing, fish health, water quality and other news. Our closing spotlight guest feature is a post written by fishing guide Andrew Marr on catch-and-release Pike fishing.
This Week’s Feature – Catch and Release or Harvest: Who’s right?
By Editor Lawrence Gunther
Like most who have fished for the past half century, we have all witnessed and been part of a major shift in how we fish. Our generation represents a turning point that marked the end of many thousands of years of fishing to harvest and brought in a new ethic in how we approach conservation. No longer is harvesting for food our prime directive. In fact, for many of us, ethical fishing now means releasing all we catch. However, calls are growing around the world that maybe we went too far.
Increasingly, animal activists and First Nations leaders are advocating for an end to catch-and-release fishing. Could this represent the proverbial pendulum completing its latest swing? Maybe we need to re-examine why and when we practice catch-and-release fishing and make more room for sustainable harvesting. Such a pragmatic approach may not quash arguments put forward to ban recreational fishing, but it certainly could nuance recreational angling to build and strengthen wider public support.
A few years back I interviewed author and conservationist Carl Safina of the Safina Institute located along the U.S. eastern seaboard. Carl grew up as a marine recreational angler and witnessed firsthand some of the excesses of head boat charters that routinely take upwards of 100 anglers out for a day of fishing with the goal that each angler would fill his or her limit or cooler, whatever came first. Carl realized that the practice wasn’t sustainable, but instead of advocating for anglers to throw fish back, he believes that we should instead dial back our fishing pressure to catching and keeping a fresh meal of fish – and no more. His perspective relates to medium sized fish such as Mackerel, Blue Fish, Striped Bass, Drum, and other common inshore fish. He’s not advocating for harvesting large billfish like Swordfish, Marlin or Sailfish, or blue fin tuna or shark – fish that are not easily caught or accessible to the average angler. Carl’s point is that marine recreational anglers need to approach fishing with the recognition that the supply of fish isn’t as robust as it once was. Link below to listen to my two-part interview with Carl Safina on The Blue Fish Radio Show:
Part #1: https://bluefishradio.com/saving-the-oceans-featuring-carl-safina-part-1-of-2/
Part #2: https://bluefishradio.com/saving-the-oceans-featuring-carl-safina-part-2-of-2/
Freshwater fishery scientists and enlightened anglers recognized decades ago that species such as trout, bass, walleye, etc. need to be managed through regulations that govern the number of fish any one licensed angler can have in his or her possession at one time. This has since been modified to include slot sizes that ensure large breeders and juvenile fish exist in sufficient numbers to sustain their population. Certain groups of anglers have determined that, despite what regulations may allow, it’s better to return all fish. According to the latest data from Statistics Canada, licensed anglers are now returning about 2/3 of the total number of fish caught.
On June 12, 2021, retired Globe-and-Mail journalist and author of five books on nature, Mark Hume, published a 4,000-word opinion piece in the Globe rebutting calls to end the practice of catch-and-release salmon fishing along Canada’s west and east coasts. The calls have been issued by both animal activist organizations and First Nations communities. Their motives range from stopping the practice of recreational fishing altogether, to ending anglers from catching and harvesting their limit of salmon and then continuing to fish using catch-and-release. The First Nations communities refer to catch-and-release fishing as “playing with our food”.
Mark’s article puts forward and thoughtful reflection of over 3,000 years of recreational fishing and how it’s become part of who we are as a people. He points out that fishing with hook-and-line is far less destructive than the gillnet and seining fisheries in use by many FN and commercial fishers, and that recreational fishing serves to connect people with nature in powerful and positive ways.
I spoke with Mark about his article, his books and life-long passion for fishing. We discussed how catch-and-release fishing is vital to conservation, research, and building and maintaining a strong sense of stewardship. Mark points out that if we were all to return to fishing for food or to make a moderate livelihood, there would be little chance that fish populations would be able to sustain this level of fishing pressure. The state of B.C.’s Pacific salmon stocks is clear evidence of the destructive impacts of how fish are now harvested through gillnetting and seining. Link below to hear my conversation with Mark Hume on The Blue Fish Radio Show: https://www.spreaker.com/user/5725616/e341-mark-hume-on-calls-to-end-catch-and
There are thousands of examples of how catch-and-release fishing has benefitted our fisheries, our communities, and our ecosystems. There’s no doubt that more research is needed to dial in the practice for maximum beneficial results and to identify and curtail problems such as barotrauma, fish handling, hook styles, water temperature, etc. but there’s strong evidence that anglers are doing and supporting this type of research and eager to implement the resulting identified best practices.
Andrew Marr makes a living as a guide. He and his fellow guides are working with the owners of fishing lodges to ensure the viability of the fisheries these lodges depend on to operate. Because of their observations, experience and determination, the quality of fishing is continuously improving. Releasing all large fish not only ensures a strong and healthy breeding population but allows anglers to catch-and-release large trophy sized fish year-after-year. It’s all possible because of catch-and-release fishing, and selectively harvesting fish only for food to celebrate the occasion and to take part in the ritual practice of the fabled shore lunch. Many lodges no longer allow their guests to depart with coolers of frozen fish. You can read Andrew’s reflections on conservation through catch-and-release fishing in the Special Guest Feature at the end of the July 5th, 2021, Blue Fish News.
Keeping only those fish identified as inconsequential to the sustainability of a fish stock has proven to be a highly effective conservation measure and popular among the angling community. No longer are large trophy sized fish being sought for the purpose of having mounted and displayed on someone’s wall, when digital images and replica mounts are even more effective at capturing the moment for posterity.
Bringing home, a meal of fresh fish to share with family and friends has gone well beyond a food security measure for most anglers and represents a much more significant ritual that recognizes not only our connection to nature, but our responsibility to ensure nature is protected so that we can catch and safely eat fish grown in the wild. It’s these sentiments that underpin the proposed marked selective Pacific salmon fishery. Anglers want to be able to identify salmon reared in hatcheries for harvest, and to release wild salmon to complete their life cycle in nature. The concept builds on professionally researched conservation measures that all rely on catch-and-release fishing to one degree or another.
There’s little doubt that the technologies now available to the individual have advanced our capacity to find and catch fish exponentially. While many of these same technologies have been applied by commercial and moderate livelihood FN fishers in ways that are impacting fish stocks, the same can’t be said for recreational anglers. In fact, one could argue that the more an angler invests in fishing related technologies, the less likely he or she is to actually harvest fish. No recreational angler is investing tens-of-thousands-of-dollars to address their own food insecurity. This doesn’t mean there aren’t those out there who receive pleasure from filling their chest freezers, but these are a small minority of anglers who pride themselves on doing so with the smallest possible investment in tackle and time. By far the average angler is simply carrying out a tradition that they learned from a parent, and so on back many thousands of generations. It’s why mentoring young anglers is so crucial.
As the president of the charity Blue Fish Canada, it’s my honour to chair the Great Lakes Fish Health network. The five Great lakes (Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie and Ontario), along with the upper St. Lawrence River, represent the most valuable freshwater fishery in the world ($200 million annually). By far it’s also one of the most valuable freshwater public fisheries in the world ($7.8 billion annually). Making sure that the fish are healthy, and that the fish are safe to eat by those who catch these fish and share them with family and friends, make up the mission of the Network. Fish consumption advisories that recommend we limit our consumption of certain species of fish caught in the Great Lakes should not be a policy, but an interim measure kept in place until we can return the lakes to their former capacity to produce healthy and safe fish to eat. If we don’t, the Great Lakes will become a 100% catch-and-release fishery for all the wrong reasons. More on that in future issues of the Blue Fish News.
In the meantime, amazing anglers and scientists have collaborated on drafting guidance documents that can be found on the Blue Fish Canada website. There are currently 14 such downloadable Blue Fish Sustainable Tips documents that outline strategies for ensuring fish being returned go back healthy, and how to sustainably harvest fish for food and to celebrate with others nature’s amazing capacity to provide. You can find all 14 Blue Fish Sustainable Fishing Tips by visiting the following link: https://bluefishcanada.ca/resources/blue-fish-sustainable-fishing-tips/
There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to fishing. All fish species and ecosystems demand different approaches. Fisheries that are in decline, in the process of recovery, or are strong, all require that we adjust our fishing practices. It’s a work in progress. For that reason, it’s important that we listen to what people have to say. Understanding their agenda is part of this listening process, as is being able to speak knowledgeably about how you are following the latest recommended best practices, in addition to knowing and following the regulations. It’s important that we don’t inadvertently spread or leave unaddressed false information. Fishing may be an ancient activity, but it’s also a privilege that can be lost.
The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Water Quality News
National Fishing Week / Keep Canada Fishing
July 3 – 11 is National Fishing Week which is supported by Catch Fishing, a national program dedicated to encouraging Canadians to enjoy our fishing heritage. If you are new to fishing, check out the “Catch Fishing” booklet! Learn more about your provincial fishing regulations. Find out when you can fish LICENCE-FREE.
Major League Fishing Record-Setting Day on St. Lawrence River / FishingWire
Jacob Wheeler grabbed the early lead catching 47 bass totaling 165 pounds, 1 ounce – a new Bass Pro Tour record for the heaviest single-day weight. There were 918 bass weighing 2,894 pounds, 8 ounces caught by the 40 pros on a single day, also a new Bass Pro Tour record for the heaviest total weight caught in a single day of competition.
Recreational fishing for salmon closed within local watersheds / My Bulkley Lakes Now
The Department of Fisheries has announced recreational fishing for Chinook Salmon has been closed on the Skeena River watershed, Babine River and Bulkley River. The closure will be effective from June 15 until March 31,2022. This will be implemented on all rivers and lakes within Region 6 but will not include the Kitimat River and Nass River watershed.
Circle Hooks for Stripers / FishingWire
Studies by the states of Massachusetts and Maryland concluded that when using baited circle hooks to fish for striped bass, the mortality of released fish is significantly reduced. A circle hook means, “a non-offset hook with a point that points 90° back toward the shaft (shank) of the hook.
Lake Michigan Fishery Looks Great for the Summer / FishingWire
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today anticipates a strong season for the Lake Michigan fishery based on early surveys and contacts with anglers showing successful fishing in the early part of the season.
The Riverman: Ian Macintosh / Perch magazine
Ian remembers how the perch from Lancaster were famed for their distinct flavour and in high demand by New Yorkers. According to Ian, these fish tasted so good because of their diet: a mix of freshwater shrimp and aquatic snails. “In the 1960s, when fishing for perch, if we got four or five fish to a pound it was good. Six or seven to the pound was average’ today you need eight or nine,” he says. Through reports like the Great River Rapport, storytelling from people like Ian, relentless advocacy work, and public engagement, we can help make sure quality fish and fishing is sustainable.
TPWD, B.A.S.S. Celebrate Fish Care Success At Bassmaster Classic / FishingWire
When the Bassmaster Classic was moved from March to June., B.A.S.S. staff and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department took extra measures to ensure the warmer weather would not lead to increased fish mortality. Officials announced that the plan proved successful, with a live-release rate of over 98% back into Lake Ray Roberts in Texas.
Water, Fish & Community / River Institute
Zoom link – July 7 2021 | 7-8pm
Dr. Barry Madison, Research Associate & Adjunct Assistant Professor, Queens University, takes an integrative molecule-to-population level approach in his research. He draws on his broad research experience employing techniques from physiology, endocrinology, and toxicology to study animal responses to environment and climate change. In this presentation, he will provide some perspective on his background and approach to research, as well as the story of why Water, Fish, & Community represents a new age of integration in his scientific journey.
Canada Closes Pacific Commercial Salmon Harvest in Many Areas / NewsWire
Canada is slashing and closing commercial coastal fishing on more than 100 salmon stocks and permanently downsizing the fleet through voluntary license buybacks in an urgent effort to protect wild salmon from extinction. Stating Pacific salmon are in long-term decline with many runs on the verge of collapse, Bernadette Jordan, minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced Tuesday that bold action is needed now to stabilize and rebuild stocks before it is too late. The cutbacks are part of a broader $647 million initiative to save wild salmon, including habitat improvements and a reconsideration of Canada’s aquaculture industry in B.C. waters.
Cape Breton highlands Atlantic salmon restoration project hits ‘major milestone’ / Salt Wire
Parks Canada is calling this year’s Atlantic salmon run in Clyburn Brook one for the record books. Local fishing guide and custom fly-tyre Evan Rice, who is based in Sydney Mines and owns fly fishing company Currents Fly Fishing says, “I think that their project is pretty great, what they’re doing up there,”. “The smolt rearing is a great way to do it. … As far as other rivers around, the areas such as the North, Middle Baddeck, we’ve actually been seeing a lot of success in rehabilitation on rivers.”
House committee pushes feds to scale up action to save wild salmon / National Observer
A parliamentary house committee is demanding that Ottawa take steps to save wild salmon stocks on the West Coast by first developing comprehensive research and restoration strategies. The 32 recommendations by the House of Commons committee on fisheries and oceans presented a report this week after a 15-month-investigation into the state of Pacific salmon. The aim of the report was to identify the steps needed to ensure the long-term health of wild salmon and the commercial, Indigenous and recreational fisheries that rely on them, and shape Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan’s new $647-million Pacific Salmon Strategy.
DFO hopes fixes at Big Bar slide will help migrating salmon / National Observer
For a third year, salmon are facing barriers to their migration due to the Big Bar landslide on the Fraser River. This year, salmon will mostly be reliant on an improved “nature like fishway” to aid them in their travels. The department has spent $131 million to date, and around $6 million in the past few months preparing for the fish arrival — big boulders were dropped into the river to create channels for the salmon to swim through, as well as eddys and other pools for them to rest in. Also in use is a fish wheel, which collects the fish and holds them in the water to be moved past the slide by trucks — if needed. A $176.3-million fish ladder project announced back in December is expected to be completed in 2022.
Pesticide dumping in Clayoquot Sound / Watershed Sentinel
Sea lice continue to beset the salmon farming industry globally. No treatment has ever solved this problem, anywhere in the world. Salmon farming corporations are dumping hydrogen peroxide, acutely toxic to krill, off of Vancouver Island’s west coast.
Help keep salmon farms on the radar of our elected officials / Watershed Watch Salmon Society
One year from now, in June 2022, the vast majority of fish farm licences in British Columbia will expire. That’s 106 factory fish farm sites out of a total of 109. These destructive companies aren’t stopping, and we need to keep fighting back.
DFO denies transfer licence for fish farm in Discovery Islands / Times Colonist
Another salmon farm operator in B.C. has been denied a transfer licence that would have allowed it to grow out a final cycle of Atlantic salmon in the Discovery Islands.
Decades of Atlantic salmon restoration work on Nova Scotia’s St. Mary’s River Paying Off / CTV News
More details about the ongoing work to restore healthy Atlantic salmon runs on Nova Scotia’s St. Mary’s River.
Newfoundland group claims aquaculture company not acting responsibly over fish escape and ISA / ASF
A recent freshwater fish escape and a case of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) has raised concerns among conservationists in Newfoundland.
Ban on commercial fishing in central Arctic Ocean comes into force / Nunatsiaq News
A first-of-its-kind agreement among a group of northern countries is now law, effectively banning commercial fishing in the central Arctic Ocean until there’s a better scientific understanding of the area and its ecosystems. This means an area of about 2.8 million square kilometres will be protected — about the size of Quebec and Ontario combined — for at least 16 years with the option to be extended every five years. With climate change speeding up ice melt in the Arctic, there is more interest in using the Arctic Ocean for commercial fishing and shipping activity.
Great Lakes’ water levels forecast to be in the ‘sweet spot’ for summer / mlive.com
Great Lakes’ water levels are expected to be much lower than the record-high levels over the past few years, but still above the long-term average water level. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports that precipitation over the Great Lakes basin has been below average now for six months in a row.
Helium balloons ending up in Great Lakes by the hundreds of thousands / CBC News
The plastic balloons we use to mark some of the biggest milestones in our lives — births, deaths, graduations, homecomings, engagements, gender reveal parties — are ending up in the Great Lakes by the hundreds of thousands, according to an Ontario biologist who spent two weeks gathering trash. “It’s possible that 960,000 balloons wash up on the Lake Erie shoreline every year,” she said. “Even if my estimate is off by 50 per cent, that’s half a million balloons that are washing up just on one of our Great Lakes.
Alberta, Ontario amongst Canada’s worst conservation performers / The Narwhal
A national report shows how all provinces and territories are doing in the race to protect more of the country’s remaining wild spaces.
Watersheds Canada to launch Canada’s first and only natural shoreline restoration software / Watersheds Canada
Watersheds Canada’s Natural Edge Program empowers Canadians to take local action on the restoration and conservation of their freshwater resources by enhancing their shoreline areas with native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. Vegetated buffers are effective in removing over 90% of runoff when compared to non-vegetated shorelines and are critical in mitigating the effects of climate change. These areas provide critical habitat and shade for 90% of aquatic wildlife and 70% of land-based wildlife at some point in their lifetime.
Understanding Great Lakes Algal Blooms: State of the Science Virtual Conference / Ohio Sea Grant
Registration is open for this year’s Understanding Algal Blooms: State of the Science Virtual Conference, which will highlight current scientific knowledge related to algal blooms. Registration is free but required to receive Zoom log-in information.
Feds told — again — to allow Indigenous commercial fisheries / National Observer
Canada must stop controlling how First Nations harvest and sell salmon, halibut, and dozens of other marine species, a B.C. court has ruled. The decision marks the end of a 15-year legal battle waged by the federal government to prevent the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations — a coalition of five First Nations on the west coast of Vancouver Island — from reclaiming their traditional commercial fisheries decimated by colonial policies. “We are just trying to establish a commercial fishery that provides income to the families,” said Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.
Two Nova Scotia First Nations propose first-ever moderate livelihood elver fishery / CBC News
Nova Scotia’s Acadia and Bear River bands have come up with the first-ever moderate livelihood proposal for baby eels — called elvers — in Canada. The plan would permit the harvest of up to 115 kilograms of baby eels on any of the 19 watersheds in southern Nova Scotia, with individual license holders limited to a maximum of 35 kilograms. The tiny baby eels are flown live to Asian fish farms where they are harvested as adults. In 2019, the fishery was valued at $38 million.
Trading away culture and food security, say Chiefs / Watershed Sentinel
“We do not want any farms restocked in our territory. We’ve been trying to get these farms out of our territory for 18 years”, says Chief Gigame George Quocksister Jr, Tsahaukuse. Quocksister is Laichwiltach, and he was joined by elected Chief Darren Blaney, of Homalco Nation. The two chiefs say they’re committed to protecting wild salmon. They thanked Minister Bernadette Jordan for her decision to phase out fish farms, and hope it is a turning point in the story of declining stocks.
Salmon being distributed to families / Whitehorse Daily Star
The Yukon First Nation Education Directorate has once again partnered to provide urban-based Indigenous families with roughly 30,000 pounds of wild-caught B.C. salmon.
Conflict re-ignited on Quebec’s North Shore after local fisherman challenges Innu river rights / CBC News
The Innu First Nation of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam says more needs to be done to inform Quebecers on land rights of Indigenous peoples, following another confrontation with a non-Indigenous fisherman on the Moisie River. Members of the Innu First Nation have been in an ongoing legal battle to seek control of the fishing club, formerly known as the Club Adams, frequented and owned by wealthy Americans for more than 100 years.
TUF-Line shows its steel with 100% bio monofilament / Angling International
The TUF-Line Biodegradable Monofilament retains all its strength for a full year after spooling onto the reel. “When stored in its original unopened package it also has a shelf-life of more than five years,” says the company, which was acquired by Mustad from Western Filament in 2019. It adds that the line is designed to biodegrade within approximately seven years, returning to a harmless biomass with no harm to the environment.
Weather To Boat – Weather reports and boating safety
The new “Weather to Boat” app has just been launched by the Canadian Safe Boating Council (CSBC)! It is available for FREE download in online app stores. Powerful, dynamic … and it could save your life. In addition to marine and local weather forecasts, it provides pre-departure checklists, geo-referenced marinas and boat launches, video tips, and much more. RESEARCH
Special Guest Feature – To Catch or Release Large Pike (edited)
By Andrew Marr
(Andrew Marr has been working as a fishing guide for the past ten years. Most recently at Wollaston Lake Lodge. His opinions about catching and releasing large fish represent a growing practice among fishing guides and lodge owners that fish are more valuable in the water alive than packed in the coolers of guests heading home after a week of fishing.)
I’ve been a professional pike guide for over a decade and have worked with fisheries biologists on studies tracking large female pike over periods of years to track growth, re-catches etc. I’ve personally handled in the vicinity of 20k pike and over 1k in excess of 40″.
Large pike are a treat for any angler to catch. They are big, strong, fight decent, and more often than not, pretty willing to bite a good presentation. When handled and released correctly a single pike can become a PB for multiple anglers over multiple years, I can absolutely attest to that many times over!
I can recall many small, medium, and large pike well over 40” I’ve personally handled multiple times in a single season and over multiple seasons. Once my guest caught the same 41″ unexpectedly twice in the same day. Healthy as could be, just super aggressive that day but handled well enough to bite again several hours later.
Our responsibility is to be selective about the pike we choose to harvest. The only fish we take are for shore lunch. We don’t put fish on ice for guests to take home. Those fish have far greater value in the lake in good numbers. My job depends on a sustainable fishery.
We don’t kill large trophy fish to be mounted for what are hopefully obvious reasons. Replica mounts, need I say more. I get that’s strict for some, but big fish are the business and big fish need to be in the body of water you’re fishing to catch them. It’s the steps we take to protect what we are fortunate to have.
The thing that best protects the sustainability of our waters, to produce both numbers and “Trophy” fish, is selective harvest. We eat pike but really go out of our way to try to tell the gender of the pike and only kill males in the under 29″ range. For reference 1 28″ pike with sides will feed 3 people pretty comfortably at shore lunch, providing you filet it well and don’t waste a bunch.
The reasoning behind keeping males vs females is simple. Females are less abundant than males and greater in size. If you’ve ever seen pike spawn you’ve likely seen a single large pike surrounded by 1-4 smaller males. That’s essentially how pike populations work, fewer larger females at the top, mid-size and growing females along with the larger males, then getting into younger year classes and mixed population with a higher percentage of males. The large female pike at the top of the pyramid in the fewest numbers are the backbone of fisheries like this.
The larger Females produce an exponentially higher number of eggs with an exponentially high degree of fecundity, meaning more eggs, bigger eggs, healthier eggs with a better chance of producing an equally greater number of successful fry with a potential of growing bigger and healthier fish. The larger Females also help keep the smaller pike in check due to cannibalism. There were incredible studies done where large Females were removed from a body of water in an effort to control numbers only to have it backfire into an over abundance of smaller pike whose detriment to other local populations and the environment was disastrous. The “big girls” are the essential ingredient that keeps the entire food chain in balance.
The bottom line is people will make their own choices as to what they choose to harvest for the table or even the wall. If you buy a license that’s your right. Like I said, I like shore lunch as much as the next guy. There are lakes I fish here at home that don’t have the population to support almost any harvest, and others where I wouldn’t leave without a few due to great abundance. Catching a big old pike will put a smile on any one of our faces, it’s just good fun! Believe me when I say that going back and catching that fish the following season at a bigger size is even better, and the next year and the next year.
Being selective in our harvest can still fulfill our desire to provide and enjoy the bounty of our efforts, while knowing that you’re providing yourself and others the opportunity at both numbers and size for the foreseeable future. The more anglers who adopt this approach the greater we will all be rewarded the next time we are on the water.
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