The Area 14 Sport Fishing Advisory Committee’s first meeting of the fall was held Oct. 18 at the DFO office. Megan Hurd-Meyer the current chairperson had resigned because of a move out of Area14 to follow her work. Congratulations to Gil Gingras from the Little River Enhancement Society who was unanimously elected as the new chairperson.
From a local saltwater angler’s perspective Area 14 SFAC is an important link in the management of our recreational marine fisheries. It is our voice in the province-wide Sport Fishing Advisory Board, and is also involved in many of the local regulations that govern our tidal and in-river fisheries as recently illustrated in the delayed chum and coho openings on the Puntledge River.
Darcy Miller gave a detailed update on returns of enhanced species, but in the meantime he sent me the most recent returns to the river that I will insert instead of the returns reported at the meeting. As of Oct. 29 the following returns were recorded by the Puntledge River hatchery staff:
Coho – In river 3,719. Brood stock 1,556. Total returns 5,316.
Summer Chinook – In river 265. Brood stock 251. Total returns 516.
Fall Chinook – In river 2,644. Brood stock 518. Total returns 3,162.
Chum Salmon – In river 34,401. Brood stock 2,458. Total returns 37,459.
Pink Salmon – In river 5,887. Brood stock 0. Total returns 5,887.
Qualicum River System reports as of Oct. 18:
Big Qualicum – 4,100 fall Chinook, 136 Coho, 6,000 Chum, 4,000 Pink.
Little Qualicum – 2,500 fall Chinook, 136 Coho, 1,300 Chum.
Black Creek – Dry as of meeting date, but fish have moved in on recent rains.
Oyster River – No numbers yet but lots of fish moving into the river.
Little River Enhancement Society chairman Gil Gingras gave a detailed report of the staggering challenges this small system has taken on, from ongoing stream enhancement to restoring the Little River Estuary eel grass and kelp in their area – well done!
Chuck Ashcroft gave a detailed report of his work with the SFAB, which is a new career in volunteerism, working for recreational interests on non-salmon species. He reported on the following species:
Prawns – Collapse in 2011 commercial fishery annual average of 244,003 kg to 29,543 kg.
Dungeness Crabs – No new information with reform in the south coast.
Lingcod – Brad reported we caught 6,165 lingcod in 2012 in Strait of Georgia waters. A new model is in process to manage these fish.
Quillback rockfish may be in serious trouble –check DFO website for details.
Herring – In spite of lower abundance of Strait of Georgia herring mass, the recommended total allowable catch is greater than in 2011.
Halibut – At the time of the meeting, season catch numbers were not in but Chuck estimated we would likely be over our allocation.
Halibut are very important fish to the recreational fishing community and the current repressive tactics by the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans on the fair share of a common property resource to the people of Canada is a serious challenge for recreational angling. Space does not permit a full report of this vital fishery – see meeting notice at the end of the column.
Caroline Nestor, Raymond Haines, and Scott Demone are now members of the Area 14 SFAC as independent anglers.
If you are a saltwater angler interested in your future angling, try to attend the open meeting of the Area 14 SFAC on Nov. 15 at the Courtenay and District Fish and Game Clubhouse starting at 7 p.m.
Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.