FISHING CORNER: North Island anglers are adjusting to catch and release fishing

Bruce Aikman with catch and release net for Chinook salmon.

By Don Daniels

In mid April when we got the news from DFO that it would be catch and release fishing for Chinook salmon until July 15, you knew many people would be disappointed.

Without counting numbers, there are anglers who have avoided getting a salt water fishing license until after July 14. The hardest hit sector of the new catch-and-release regulations are fishing lodge operators and fishing guides who had fishing trips booked and now they have to rebook, refund or relocate to another fishing area.

For these operators, the first order of business was to contact their customers and explain the new regulations and go from there. A number of guides have regular clients coming to fish each year and they want to keep their limit and abide by the annual catch limit. Other people really don’t care about keeping fish, they want to experience salmon fishing in Campbell River and enjoy the boat ride and see the beauty of the area.

Those living in Campbell River may decide to sell their boat or wait until July 15 to get out fishing. Others are getting out now crabbing and prawning and going after halibut on the proper tides.

I was surprised to learn that various hotel and motel operators had different opinions on whether there were room cancellations made after the catch and release announcement. One motel operator informed me that his customers are not salmon fishermen but they are coming from Germany and the UK to fish for trout in local rivers and lakes and they are primarily catch-and-release anglers. In some countries in Europe, a fishing license can cost over $180 and getting access to a river is difficult so they come to Campbell River to fly fish the rivers and go fishing.

Last week, I saw Ron Lamont at Painters Lodge and the fishing season is getting underway. The dock is in and the guides are ready to go. The fishing calendar is getting filled up and the guides are preparing for catch and release and the ladies salmon derby is a go for mid June. Fish caught will be netted measured and released and will spend very little time out of water.

Long time fishing guide, Bruce Aikman has already set up his new catch-and-release fishing net and the soft rubber coating on the net material will not damage any scales on the salmon. Bruce also showed me the descending device that will be used to release china yelloweye and Quillback rockfish.

Discovery Pier is now open to the public and fishing tackle is available at the concession and the catch and release rules apply to everyone. You must know the regulations and know what you can or can’t keep.

Local trout fishing has been good but if the bite is off, chances are the trout have gorged themselves on the ants over the past two weeks and if the cool weather settles in, expect local lakes to improve. If you are using spinners, try the Panther Martin or Rooster tail lure.

Most campgrounds are open for the season and it’s best advised to look for any bear-in-the-area notices.

I have a chance to get out and explore Lower Campbell Lake and I have a few swamp areas to check out and report on. I hear Fred Masson had to shell out a few bucks during his group’s fun fishing derby up north. I am looking forward to getting out with Fred this summer and explore and fish a few af the big water lakes in the area.

Don Daniels is the Campbell River Mirror’s weekly fishing columnist.

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