East Island fishing guides say July 15 chinook opening is too late

East Island fishing guides say July 15 chinook opening is too late
Telegraph Cove in northern Vancouver Island is shown.

Fishing guides on the East and North Island are calling on Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to move up the start date of the chinook fishing season.

As of Thursday, it’s set for July 15 and businesses say they are hurting because of it.

“I lose six weeks of income because people used to come here at this time of year,” said Telegraph Cove fishing guide Roy Graham. “We’d fish two or three hours in the morning for chinook and then spend the next three or four hours fishing for halibut or ling cod. Now they don’t do that. They won’t come up just for the halibut.”

From Port Hardy southward you can’t keep a chinook salmon until July 15, but just north of Port Hardy in Area 11 you can right now, and fishing has been good there.

“We have a friend, they got 14 chinook in a matter of two or three hours just four days ago,” Graham said.

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That’s about an hour long run by boat north of Port Hardy, so it’s not cheap of fuel.

They say if Area 11 is open, why isn’t Area 12 and others just to the south open when most of the same fish are headed there the next day anyway?

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“A lot of it is the same fish, right? They can have two a day and we can’t have any. Makes no sense to me and to others,” said Ed Pedersen, a summer resident of Telegraph Cove.

The new opening date came into effect about four years ago, in part, as a conservation measure after the Big Bar landslide that blocked sockeye and chinook from going to their spawning grounds up the Fraser River.

But Graham says chinook returns have been great and enough to support an earlier opening.

“And last year was probably the best year we’d seen in over 30 years for chinook,” he told CHEK News.

In Campbell River, fishing guide Dean Parsonage says the July 15 opening is hurting him as well.

“You know, there’s no June and the first couple of weeks of July, so people wanting to come here to the ‘Salmon Capital’ of the world especially and catch a fish and take one home for dinner, well you can’t do that until the 15th of July if you want chinook salmon,” he said.

Coho salmon did open for retention on June 1.

“If chinook opens up there why can’t it open here, even if we got one a day, which would be fine,” added Pedersen.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada says these measures are part of the measures to protect Early Timed Fraser Chinook stocks which contain populations assessed as Threatened or Endangered.

“Historically, retention of Chinook in recreational fisheries was permitted year round in most areas,” the statement from DFO says, noting the Big Bar Landslide impacted the stocks of chinook salmon.

“Since 2019, non-retention of Chinook has been implemented in recreational fisheries in most times/areas in southern BC to protect stocks of conservation concern that may be encountered in fisheries.”

DFO says recovery and rebuilding of the populations is expected to take several salmon generations, so the precautionary measures will remain in place.

SEE ALSO: Nearly $600K earmarked for salmon conservation projects on Vancouver Island

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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