Tyee Club weighmaster Bob Goodwin displays the anchored floats that were recovered from the bottom of the Tyee Pool which were used to apparently snag fishing lures.

Submerged floats sabotage Tyee fishery

It’s been a troubling season for the Tyee Club

The Tyee Club fears somone is  deliberately attempting to disrupt their iconic recreational fishery at the mouth of the Campbell River.

It’s one of three issues dogging the club this Tyee fishing season, ranging from the deliberately-placed obstacles to conflict over Aboriginal fishing rights in the Tyee Pool to boaters driving through the motorboat-prohibited zone both deliberately and unknowingly.

In the third week of August, club members started finding their lures becoming snagged on unseen objects. Divers were sent down to find out what was causing the snagging. They discovered clusters of brick-sized beach rocks wrapped in pieces of fishing net attached to a length of rope, at the end of which are several white floats.

The objects were designed to hold the floats under the surface of the water and often had large loops tied in the line to increase their exposure to passing lures.

“They were clearly intentionally placed,” Sharon Fisher, president of the Tyee Club of B.C. told the Mirror.

The Tyee Club fishery involves anglers fishing for Tyee salmon – salmon over 30 pounds – in the Tyee Pool at the mouth of the Campbell River using traditional tackle from human-powered rowboats. Motorboats have been officially prohibited from the pool on the eastern side of the Tyee Spit since 1985. The 91-year-old club is famous internationally and membership in it is earned after an angler lands a Tyee according to the club’s regulations regarding traditional tackle and vessels. The season runs from July 15 to Sept. 15.

Club members have retrieved 10 of the objects and believe there may be more still down there.

“People are still catching lures in a few places,” Fisher said.

The RCMP have been informed as has Fisheries and Oceans Canada and an investigation is under way. Besides the loss of tackle and disruption of the fishing, the submerged floats become a safety hazard when the Tyee fishing season closes on Sept. 15. After that time, motorboats are allowed to pass through the Tyee Pool and could become ensnared in the traps. Meanwhile, they currently present a danger to float planes which take off and land from the Tyee Spit float plane base.

This isn’t the only contentious issue in the Tyee Pool these days. Around 6:15 p.m. Tuesday night, the issue of Aboriginal fishing rights in the Tyee Pool surfaced again when Nathan Chickite drove his boat into the vicinity of the Tyee Pool for the second time in a few weeks. Chickite did the same thing two years ago, saying he was exercising his aboriginal right to fish in the pool.

“I have a right to be out there fishing no matter which way I want to do it – just as much, if not a little bit more priority than them,” Chickite said.

First Nations fishermen Nathan Chickite and Tony Roberts set a gill net near the Tyee Pool Tuesday while Tyee fishermen paddle nearby. Photo by Jamie Karmazynski.

Fisher talked to Chickite who had set his net for about 30 minutes Tuesday but didn’t catch anything.

“He was concerned about his right to fish under the constitution,” Fisher said. “He was exercising what he felt was his right to fish.”

The Tyee Club does recognize the Aboriginal right to fish there.

“We support the aboriginal first right of harvest guaranteed under the constitution,” Fisher said.

But they feel the no motor rule in the Tyee Pool applies to everyone. Fisher said she also doesn’t understand why there’s an issue with “such a low-productivity recreational fishery” as the Tyee fishery in the pool.

Cape Mudge resident Chickite was accompanied by Tony Roberts and they said they respected an agreement to not fish during the day when they fished the first time a few weeks ago. But after complaints were laid to the A-Tlegay Fisheries Society, which governs the food fishery, Chickite decided to assert his rights and went fishing during daylight but still at a time when there were few Tyee boats out.

They went out to catch some fish under their food fishing rights this year because the sockeye fishery was terrible.

“Lots of people don’t have fish. We rely on local streams,” Roberts said.

However, the pair said they were subjected to to verbal abuse and threats.

“We were getting screamed at from the beach,” Roberts said. “We don’t need that. We tried to stay out of their way.”

Chickite said one person yelled that he had better have his running shoes on the next time they see him in town.

“The first guy goes by me and says ‘You’re an a******,’ and also another guy goes by…he said I better keep my running shoes on,” Chickite said.

Chickite said people just need to understand that First Nations have the right to fish there and they have to deal with that. There is also disagreement over whether the Aboriginal fishery has to abide by the power boat prohibition in the pool. Chickite says they don’t.

Power boats in the pool is the third issue troubling the Tyee Club. The organization is also concerned about the number of power boats running through the Tyee Pool in contravention of regulations.

Transport Canada introduced regulations restricting the pool from motor boat traffic after a near fatal collision in 1985. A letter to the Campbell River Mirror from the Tyee Club board of directors (see page seven) said that recently there has been a “noticeable increase in the number of powerboats operating in this safety zone; some at excessive speeds. Some of the boat operators concerned have done so out of a genuine lack of knowledge. Others appear to be flaunting the regulation as a matter of annoyance alone.”

The Tyee Club believes these infractions are a safety risk and has notified the RCMP.

In addition, the club has also noted that some individuals have conducted “high speed cruises up the inside of the Tyee Spit after dark; intended, it would appear, to swamp the Tyee Club wharf and potentially damage the boats and aircraft nearby.”