‘There’s a lot more fish coming,’ fishers flock to fraser for sockeye madness

It’s early afternoon on Aug. 9, just two days after the Fraser River opened for recreational fishing. At the edge of the Fraser, just west of the Agassiz Rosedale bridge, rubber-booted fishers dot the sandy Rosedale shoreline, waiting patiently for a pull at their lines.

It’s nothing like the madness depicted on Chilliwack’s Island 22, but most of the fishers out on Tuesday afternoon are avoiding the impending weekend crowds.

At least that’s what Alex Sergeeff is doing. The Port Coquitlam fisher is waiting for friends to arrive with a boat, but said he isn’t sure if the fishing will be much better than it was two days ago – when they came out and had zero catches.

“Fishermen, they love to just be out on the water,” he said. “[If] a person comes out here to catch fish they might as well stop at the little stand there and buy some fish – it’s cheaper.”

“But it’s only going to get better. The Stuart run went by already, now we’re waiting for the other rivers to open up.”

Still, Sergeeff doesn’t think the Fraser will see anything like the last super sockeye run in 2014.

“We’ll probably never see another run like that again. That was just too many fish.”

Fraser River Lodge owner Frank Staiger is happy the river is open and agrees the catches will pick up once commercial netting stops near the mouth of the river.

“Usually when the nets are out, you catch what’s between the net and yourself,” he said. “There’s a lot more fish coming, we’re not there yet.”

Anglers didn’t know the Fraser was opening until July 27, but they might have had a hunch since the last run occurred four year prior.

The large run estimate for 2018 is between seven and 13 million sockeye salmon heading back to their natal streams in the Fraser. But that’s dependent on ocean temperature and in-river conditions that can impact pre-spawn mortality.

Fishers are allowed to catch two sockeye and four chinook salmon a day until Sept. 3, 2018.

“It means everyone is going to have the opportunity to catch fish,” said Dean Werk, president of the Fraser Valley Salmon Society, in an interview with Black Press reporter Jennifer Feinburg.

“A short food fishery is great for the economy, and people get some fish to eat,” he added. “It allows recreating on the river and spending time with family and friends.”

Peaceful waters

Federal DFO officials stagger fishery openings on the Fraser using the priority protocol of conservation first, followed by First Nations fisheries, and then commercial and recreational fishing.

The Fraser River Peacemakers group is encouraging “good river etiquette and sportsmanship” as the sockeye run sees fishers of all backgrounds and experience levels vying for their chance at the water.

“Fraser River Peacemakers members will be visiting launch sites to speak with aboriginal and non-aboriginal fishers in the coming weeks, to encourage them to exercise courtesy to one another while fishing is underway,” Ernie Crey, Peacemakers co-chair and chief of Cheam First Nation told Black Press.

Anglers are encouraged to pull their gear while drift nets go by and Stó:lo fishers are asked to warn anglers before making a sweep of the water.

Werk told Black Press that anglers need to ‘get in and get out’ when it comes to snagging the daily limit of two sockeye. “It is easier to manage the fishery if folks don’t stay all day in one spot. A quicker turnover on the river of anglers makes for a safer and enjoyable time on the river for all user groups.”

READ: Sockeye seekers asked to get in and get out after fishing their limits

With files from Jennifer Feinburg.

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