Sockeye openings start despite survival concerns

Recreational, commercial fishermen gear up for big Fraser River salmon run

Recreational anglers will once again be dancing on the banks of the Fraser River as sports fishing for sockeye salmon gets underway.

Commercial fishermen and sports anglers are now getting their first crack at what’s hoped to be a record return of Fraser River sockeye salmon.

A 38-hour opening is to begin Saturday evening in Johnstone Strait near Campbell River for commercial gillnetters, likely the first of several openings this summer.

Recreational fishing for sockeye opened in marine areas Friday, with tidal sections of the lower Fraser opening to anglers Sunday and non-tidal areas further upstream expected to open the middle of next week.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans area director Les Jantz said most sockeye stocks appear to be coming in close to or slightly below expectations.

There’s no in-season estimate of the run size yet, but the mid-range forecast was for 23 million sockeye, with potential for that to be as low as 7.2 million and as high as 72 million due to an unusual level of uncertainty.

Fishery managers are carefully watching to ensure enough sockeye get back upstream to spawn in light of challenging river conditions.

Water levels are 11 per cent below normal, which Jantz said also means the river can heat up fast to dangerously warm temperatures in a bout of hot weather.

The river temperature was 18.4 degrees on July 31 – 0.7 degrees higher than average for this date – and expected to warm to 20.7 degrees in the next few days.

Sustained exposure to water at that temperature can stress migrating sockeye, killing many before they spawn.

DFO will this year let up to 65 per cent of the run be caught or die of other causes on their migration, an increase from 60 per cent in past years to allow more fishing opportunity.

That decision has been criticized by conservation groups that say DFO has authorized overfishing that will result in a high bycatch of threatened stocks, such as Cultus Lake sockeye and Interior coho, which migrate alongside the more abundant sockeye.

Jantz said DFO is prepared to make further adjustments to the fishing plan as more run size information comes in to ensure weak stocks aren’t severely damaged by the sockeye fishery.

Fishing by First Nations for food, social and ceremonial purposes has been underway since late July, with 70,000 sockeye caught as of Aug. 1.

Aboriginal groups will also get to fish commercially for sale under “economic opportunity” agreements with DFO.

The high uncertainty over this year’s run is because a huge number of sockeye returned four years ago.

“Some of the levels of spawn we witnessed were considerably larger than anything we had ever witnessed in the past,” he said.

While that creates potential for a massive record run, veteran sockeye watchers know  disappointment could be blamed on anything from predators in the open ocean to excessive competition for food among all those juvenile salmon.

Just Posted

Risk of ‘deadly avalanches’ leads to warning for B.C.’s south coast

Weak layer of snow on Vancouver Island, Lower Mainland could trigger an avalanche

Another snowfall warning for Lower Mainland

Another 5-10 cm expected for Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley and Sunshine Coast

Harrison to participate in inter-municipal business licence program

Construction companies and related businesses will be able to work across the Fraser Valley in 2020

Saskia and Darrel kick off spring tour with Chilliwack concert

Stories of the Great Plains delivered in Gaelic, French and more

RCMP officer reaching out to youth about intimate partner violence

Chilliwack officer and friends of Maple Batalia team up to encourage bystanders to speak up

VIDEO: Wheelchairs teach Agassiz students acceptance through sport

Teacher Donna Gallamore brought wheelchairs to the Kent Elementary for learning and fun

B.C. Speaker Darryl Plecas resumes battle with suspended staff

Committee meets at B.C. legislature to consider new allegations

Broken axle north BC derailment could happen again: TSB

CN coal train derailment caused by a broken axle can happen again without a different way to inspect

Former B.C. fire chief sues his city after termination

Keith Green’s civil claim says that he believes he was wrongfully terminated

B.C. man in wheelchair following police shooting

“Shots were fired by police and the Kelowna man was transported to the hospital with serious injuries.”

Peter Tork, Monkees’ lovable bass-guitar player, dies at 77

Tork, Micky Dolenz, David Jones and Michael Nesmith formed the made-for-television rock band

From a drunk judge to Clifford Olson: George Garrett recounts a life in B.C. news radio

New book from ‘Intrepid Reporter’ George Garrett offers readers a glimpse behind the headlines

Wife remembers B.C. man killed in possible case of mistaken identity

Rex Gill was in Kamloops working to support his family after oilfield job dried up

Millennial men least likely to have a family doctor: Statistics Canada

Report found more women have primary care physicians, compared with men

Most Read