Red, white and pink — those are the colours you’re looking for, if you’re fishing for salmon on the Fraser River. After a total closure of two weeks, the Fraser fishery has reopened, with more opportunities for retention.
The hot, dry summer and lower-than-expected sockeye returns, prompted Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to not allow a sockeye sports fishery this season. Further, to offer sockeye their best chance of getting to their destinations, DFO enacted a two-week total closure to the Fraser sports fishery on August 15.
Before that, fishers could only retain Chinook (spring) salmon, which come in red-fleshed and white-fleshed varieties.
2014, had a long and productive sockeye sports fishery and Liu (a long time fisher) noticed its absence, even before the full closure took place.
“Compared to last year, it’s totally different,” said Liu on August 10. “Last year, it was busy all day long. This year, it’s busy in the morning then later in the afternoon.”
After a deeper lull during the August 15-29 closure, Liu said on Monday that business has picked up, with the opening of the pink salmon fishery and reopening of the chinook fishery.
Friday morning on a river bar near Flood, west of Hope, the action was almost continuous in a half-hour period, between only ten fishermen. Four springs in the 5-7 Kg range were landed, two more were lost and a pink was caught and released. One day later, the pink could have been retained, as DFO opened up the pink and chum fisheries on September 5.
A duo from Calgary and Surrey were especially productive, though they didn’t want their names published. The daily limit for springs is four, with only one being longer than 62 cm. Because the Surrey fisherman had already caught his big spring for the day, when he hooked his next one, he raced upstream in his hip-waders to sportingly pass his rod to a self-described “newbie” so the man could land and retain the fish.
Secrecy in fishing is a time-honoured tradition, and Liu said she sees some of this at her shop. Some will freely share their techniques and what bar has been successful for them. Others proudly give half of the story — the size of the fish — but leave out the important part — the location — in an effort to keep the crowds away.
“The biggest spring so far this year was 37 pound, but they wouldn’t tell me where they were fishing,” said Liu. “There are lots of people catching 15, 16, 17-pounders. The Scale Bar is still popular.”
Liu added, “DFO doesn’t want people bottom-bouncing this year — but I hear they are still doing it.
Bottom-bouncing is the favourite method for catching sockeye, though it works for springs and pinks as well. Using a stationary bar-rig is DFO’s recommended way to target springs and prevent by-catch of sockeyes, though they haven’t come out with a total ban on bottom-bouncing.
The problem for fishers is that the two styles don’t mix. If three fishers are bottom-bouncing and a bar-rig is tossed into their path, all the bottom-bouncers will get hung up on the stationary rig.
If you want to do the “right” thing, find your own secret location, or get on the river before the bottom-bouncers and set the bar-rig trend for the day.
Fraser pink salmon spawn in the odd-numbered years, chiefly in the Mission to Hope stretch of the river — though Dominic the Hope and Yale First Nations fisheries manager, said some pinks go beyond Yale. Unlike the other species of Pacific salmon, they don’t necessarily need tributary streams for spawning; they use the Fraser itself. Liu said the mouth of the Coquihalla is a popular spot to fish for pinks, with pink flies or pink lures in common use. The bar at Rupert Street also offers easy access.