Sunday, 27 April 2014

Q and As – April 27

Stew Lang: I'm helping my wife Barbara catalogue pictures from her father, Alec Merriman's scrapbooks, and recall from your columns you borrowed one at some point. If you know anybody else who might have any, please pass the word.

I found most in the attic, from 1951 to 1985 when he retired. As per Alec's instructions, the scrapbooks will go to Terry Venables for his fishing museum.

I have photographed more than 2,000 photos that appeared with Alec's columns, stories and King Fisherman articles. It’s been an interesting romp down memory lane. with a few of my own outdoors columns from the late ‘60s, ‘70s and early ‘80s.

I followed Alec's battles to protect Buttle Lake and efforts for recreational access into logging areas. Many rights have been extinguished within the E and N Land Grant on southern Vancouver Island. Hundreds of exquisite lakes, stocked at public expense, are now behind locked gates.

A: When I came to town in the mid-‘70s I was completely taken with the yards of 30-pound tyee chinook taken in Victoria waters, in Alec’s King Fisherman results. As an Albertan, I was used to ‘chunky’ one-pounders, and simply had to get out and catch my share of big fish.

Yes, I found several of Alec’s scrapbooks under heaps of stuff in my ‘fishing tackle office’ and will return them. If anyone has memorabilia, get in touch with Stew: One of the rivers on my list to investigate is Wolf in Buttle Lake. You need a boat to get to it, so, there will be no one other than fish and fisher.

Eric Hobson, SOS Marine Conservation Foundation, and KUTERRA: It is our great pleasure to announce Canada's first land-raised closed-containment salmon is now available at Safeway stores throughout BC and Alberta.

The launch of the 'Namgis First Nation's KUTERRA brand salmon* took place on Earth Day. Unified in our concern about BC's wild salmon, together we have succeeded in providing consumers a sustainable alternative to salmon farmed in direct contact with the marine environment.

A: This is really great news as it is a game-changer for getting in-ocean fish farms out of our ocean and away from our wild salmon. Terrific timing, too. Just as DFO, inexplicably, is throwing open our pristine ocean for in-ocean fish farms and their huge environmental damage. Right now, land-based, Kuterra Atlantics are selling for a premium as an environmentally safe product.

Our aboriginal friends are standing up for wild salmon and our environment. This is one fish farm system that I, Nancy Greene Raine and the citizens of BC can support… oh, in case you didn’t know, Nancy Greene (and her fellow senators) is on the side of tripling in-ocean fish farms in BC. She does not seem to realize she is on the wrong side of the issue, standing against wild salmon, in BC. See this article I wrote:

The issue that has not received enough attention is the high sewage damage to our ocean. I calculate the asked-for expansion of 19,140 metric tonnes has an attached sewage cost that you and I absorb, and thus pay for, that is really high: $924 million. The industry, as it stands now, without expansion, puts out the sewage of the entire human population of BC and its cost to us is a whopping $10.4 billion. I was so staggered by this that, after I calculated the figure, I went around the world looking at the sewage load, finding the same high levels in Scotland, Norway and Chile fish farms. More sewage than the entire human populations.

Steve Housser: I am working with the Nature Trust of BC - - and we have a great project: buying up the Salmon River Estuary for preservation. Please mention this to fishers who might want to contribute. Here is the link:

The project is in the ‘quiet phase’ without much literature yet as all sections have not been secured. It is an almost $500-thousand project of which we have more than $400-thousand in the bank. We are working on completion, trying to get the final $64,000. Our land manager is Tom Reid who can fill you in.

A: Everyone please note this is not the Land Conservatory that has had money and board issues. I have fished the Salmon dozens of times and caught winter, and summer steelhead, Dolly Varden char, sea-run cutthroat, pink and coho salmon. It is definitely part of the annual freshwater fly calendar.

One time I made my entire trip by catching a 9-lb summer doe in the first five minutes of a week-long sojourn in the area. The simple fly: a bunny concoction of red over chartreuse over black on a #2 black salmon hook with bead-chain eyes. Chartreuse thread. This admittedly ugly fly has the advantage of offering contrast. The purpose is to make it easier to see. And it works very well.

You can start your acquaintance with the Salmon, fishing right under the highway bridge where the White River joins just above. The Salmon has the largest winter steelhead on the Island with regularly producing fish in Haig-Brown’s time of 25 pounds, and some almost at 30. Also walk down from Big Tree hatchery. Do check the regs.

Please consider making a donation. I told Steve the salt marsh of the Eve River should be protected, too, and will make a donation toward that in the future.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Halibut Time - April 13, 2014

Halibut fishing has been good in the Victoria area recently. Forty flatties were weighed in at Pedder Bay two weekends ago, which is terrific. Look at Island Outfitters images to find Phillip and Steven Chang who, on Constance Bank, April 5, caught bookend halibut. Phillip’s was 131 cm and 53.4 lbs; Steven’s was 126 and 52.4. They lead the leader board, and with 133 cm the current upper length, they may stay there for some time.

Anglers have been using large herring, salmon slices with octopus added, for a tough bait that keeps the halibut there once it has inhaled the herring. Berkley Gulp and Powerbait on lead head jigs also work well. Halibut have legendary nasal abilities and that scent trail is a powerful stimulant, particularly if you are anchored, with the scent passing downstream and the halibut following it up.

Spires or edges where depth drops rapidly make good spots to fish as these bottom features concentrate halibut for several different reasons: they rest in the downstream vertical eddy for baitfish swept off the edge; they ascend from deep water up gullies which accumulate halibut from a great wide flat space to a very small space. An edge, almost by definition, accumulates fish, because on a flat they can spread out anywhere, but once they hit an edge, they cannot go any farther without going down, staying on the edge or going back where they came from. This takes time.

Upstream eddies also hold halibut because there is a small spot of slow water for them to rest. Upstream eddies are commonly found in river fishing. Steelhead and trout lie beside, behind and in front of bottom obstacles like rocks. Upstream, water piles into itself and divides, flowing down each side and over top; this creates slow water in front of the rock and fish hang there. Edge considerations help explain Constance Bank, Race Rock ledges, and Swiftsure Bank canyons.

If you fish on strong current days, it makes sense to let the current move you into deep water before picking up your gear and going back. Anchoring up on windy or strong current days can be dangerous – always tie your boat to a large buoy that is tied to the line to the anchor. Otherwise your bow gets tilted down and waves can swamp the boat. The last time I was out, water temperature was 43.5 degrees Fahrenheit – you will be dead in no time, if you go in.

In fast current or wind the anchor drags until it catches. The faster you move the farther it drags. That can fish your tackle in deeper water than you intend, necessitating a time-eating motor back upstream to set the anchor again. Also, the faster you are moving, the harder the anchor sticks; this can be a real drag as you may have difficulty lifting your anchor when you motor upstream and heave away. While there is extra cost and faddle in a two line system, if you lose an anchor, chain and line once, with the new finer, cheaper line from chain to buoy, it doesn’t cost much to get that second line that attaches to the other end of the anchor, so you have a much better chance of lifting it.

It makes sense to drift a bank on a high speed tide – you find the fish. Once, fishing the Rat’s Nose, 40 clicks off Ucluelet, we drifted a mile off, from 250 feet into 500. Looking back, we saw not much action and heard not much chatter. The strong current pushed the springs and halibut straight sideways. They were 250 feet off the bottom. We took limits of both. But no one else.

Finally, if you fish a spreader bar, the weight goes on the short arm. You attach leader and lure to the long arm. The reason is: in letting down your line, if the tackle is on the short arm, it tangles in your rod’s main line, and you are presenting a mess to the fish. You only find your tangle, after wasting half an hour, thinking it was fishing.

When you get a bite, hit a waypoint on your GPS, not where you land the fish. Then motor back up stream and set up to pass the spot again. It is also recorded for future days. You will find anglers anchored up from Darcy Island, to Helm and Border Banks and to spires all the way to Constance Bank. The 310 foot water off the Quarantine Buoy sometimes produces as well. Then there is Albert Point and all the way out to Jordan River. Don’t overlook the Oak Bay Flats – it’s easy.

Prepare in advance, with a gaff, large cooler and a line, in case you have to tie the halibut and tow it. Consider adding a raw water pump to your boat, to sluice the deck of slime and blood. Both are very slippery, and you don’t want anyone going off the boat. If that happens, throw a life jacket immediately, then turn and motor back. You should have a rope ladder of steps, or at the least, trim tabs for the person to climb back in.

The Just for the Halibut derby is May 11 and 12. Both are good tide days, meaning two or more tides within a foot or so of one another, hence, water speed is slow. Friday, May 10 also presents a good tide pattern. Get your ticket and fish in advance to prove your spot.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Q and As – April 2014, April 8, 2014

Huge Prize for Freshwater Fishers: The first person who sends an email saying they want to fish one of our trout stocked lakes with their son/daughter, grandson/granddaughter wins a fabulous prize! I have a bag of Rod ‘N Bobb’s, glow in the dark floats, Lightsticks, Rod Bells and other fabulous stuff. You can fish all day, and all night, too! Wow!

Cohen Commission: My Environmental Petition to the Auditor General, No. 0353, (a protocol, not a list of names), regarding DFO’s progress in dealing with Cohen’s 75 recommendations has been answered by DFO Minister Gail Shea on the last day that she could legally respond to me, March 26, 2014. I asked for concrete details on each recommendation.

I expected a table that has columns: Cohen Recommendation, DFO Tasks, Responsibility, Timeline, Tasks Completed and Date, with footnotes of staff and financial resources applied. Instead I received a text reply that mushes together a few words and doesn’t really answer anything.

Cohen made 22 recommendations regarding fish farms, almost a third of his recommendations, and right up front stated that DFO’s conflict of interest needed to be solved by eliminating fish farms from their purview and for Shea to get on with the 2005 Wild Salmon Policy, the 1986 Habitat Policy and a new western director general charged with bringing back Fraser sockeye.

Instead, Shea has got on with promises of a new $55 million program for fish farms – and $280 million in Atlantic Canada. And you may have noticed Nancy Greene Raine calling for tripling the in-ocean fish farm industry in BC. My next Common Sense article will be on her. In all fairness, I think she simply believes DFO and is innocent of the problems.

It has the links to come to your own conclusions: my complete Petition; Shea’s complete response; and, the Cohen Commission report. His recommendations are Chapters 2 and 3 of Volume three. Read his recommendations and then compare them with Shea’s response.

Saltwater Fishing Licences: Get your 2014 – 2015 licence at: They have had system problems and it may be best to get one before the last minute. They suggest morning, M to F, or late afternoon.

These days, few of us like to put more rather than less personal information on the internet and you may disagree with what DFO requires, for example, eye colour, height, gender, phone number and so on. I sent a note saying they should reduce what they ask for as it is unreasonable.

Sport Fishing Institute: Robert Alcock, President et al met with Minister Shea in Ottawa on saltwater sport fishing issues. See her response:

On halibut, you will know that our working group had the Victoria area fishing for most of 2013, and there was still sport TAC on the table at the end of December. This year the lengths are: 90-and 133-cm, and we look to be winners once again, as lodges typically shut on Labour Day, but Greater Victoria area anglers keep on fishing.

And there is the ‘experimental licence’ program that allows sport fishers to buy halibut quota – of our own fish – from commercial quota holders and keep on fishing. The drill is: you go to your marina, where a commercial fisher, sells you quota for, say a 30 pound fish, then you go out and catch a fish of that size, letting all larger fish go, and the market mechanism program is a success. Looks so good in Ottawa, Shea plans regulatory changes for this ‘popular’ program.

You will be happy to know that: “The incremental government cost to manage the program is anticipated to be low, as the licensing and quota management infrastructure is already in place.” Slam dunk, eh?

Shea goes on to say DFO hired a consultant to review licence fees and suggest changes. My suggestion is, in addition to the salmon stamp (its $1.7 Million revenue going to the Pacific Salmon Foundation) that there be a Wild Salmon Habitat Restoration fee. I suggest $25, or about $7.1 Million, that would also go to the PSF. The PSF should receive matching funds from BC and DFO and thus, at about $21.3 Million, this would be the start of a realistic program, with PSF leverage, to begin really addressing salmon habitat issues, which we all know is the real issue regarding wild Pacific salmon.

Gerry Taylor: Good stuff on the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC bringing us fish, but how much goes into the other side of a balanced fisheries program? These responsibilities include research, inventory, habitat protection, habitat restoration and enhancement, fisheries management, all necessary elements of delivering a credible fisheries program still dominated by natural wild (not just hatchery produced) fish. 

We’re happy the enhancement side has survived, but what about the other side? How much funding does it get, and what is its relation to the economy, community support and contribution to science and connection to sustainable ecological goodnesses? Is a provincial fisheries program even functionally operational these days?

The two points are: 1. Enhancement is just one of the important elements and this fact needs to be told to the public and politicians. 2. Is there an identifiable Fisheries Program for the rest, particularly habitat protection? This requires widespread and influential public advocacy and finely informed and responsive politicians. Proper levels of staffing and funding are required and should be demanded and provided in light of all the information that indicates the benefit/cost ratios projected and possible.

A: Gerry worked for provincial fisheries for 34 years. My understanding is the FFSBC (they bring us those 8 million trout/char/kokanee annually) will take a look at these issues, and I will let you know what they may have to say. 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Gail Shea's Response to the Sport Fishing Institute, Updated April 6, 2014

From: XNCR, Min
Sent: March 2014
Subject: Reply from Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Mr. Robert Alcock
Sport Fishing Institute of British Columbia < >

Dear Mr. Alcock:

Thank you for your correspondence of January 14, 2014, regarding various issues facing the British Columbia recreational fishery.  I enjoyed meeting with you and your organization during your trip to Ottawa.

The Government of Canada is committed to the sustainable management of the Pacific halibut resource.  Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) appreciates working collaboratively with the Sport Fishing Advisory Board (SFAB) in advance of each recreational halibut fishing season.  In early 2013, DFO and the SFAB reviewed the existing management measures and changes were implemented to keep the recreational fishery within its portion of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) while providing for the longest fishing season possible.  DFO implemented a number of management measures for the 2013 season, including delaying the opening of the recreational season until March 15, 2013, implementing an annual limit of six halibut per angler, and setting a maximum size limit on each fish caught.  As you are aware, with these measures in place for 2013, the recreational halibut fishery remained open until December 31, 2013.

I appreciate receiving your input regarding licence fees and electronic licensing; the Department and the SFAB are currently collaborating to inform management for the 2014 fishing season, with the same objective of keeping the recreational fishery within its portion of the TAC while providing for the longest fishing season possible.  I can assure you that your input is being considered during these discussions.

The experimental licence introduced in 2011, which allows recreational harvesters to lease Pacific halibut quota from commercial harvesters based on market value, continues to be available to provide additional recreational fishing opportunities for those interested.  Participation in this experimental program has grown each year since its introduction, and provides fishing opportunities that otherwise would not exist for individual anglers and recreational fishing businesses.  As DFO moves forward with regulatory changes to consider implementing this market-based transfer mechanism over the long term, the development of management measures, monitoring requirements and enforcement provisions will continue to evolve in response to lessons learned and to input received.  The incremental government cost to manage the program is anticipated to be low, as the licensing and quota management infrastructure is already in place.

As you are no doubt aware, DFO has hired a consulting company to review the current Tidal Waters Licence fees and to provide advice to the Department on potential changes to those fees.  The consultant will interview your organization and others in the recreational community to obtain feedback on potential changes and ideas on how these fees might be collected.

I appreciate your support for DFO's intention to move to 100 percent online issuance of licences effective April 1, 2014.  As you indicate, addressing bulk sales and limited Internet access are challenges that require mitigation.  As part of this process, the Department has been working with the SFAB on upcoming changes and options to address any problems.  These options include encouraging individual harvesters to purchase their licences ahead of time, as well as a new vendor tool to provide the ability to pre-purchase licences and to purchase licences in bulk to meet demands during peak times for vendors.  In future phases, DFO is interested in evaluating the development and implementation of fishing applications for installation on smartphones and tablets with the Sport Fishing Institute of British Columbia and other interested parties.

Thank you for taking the time to write.

Yours sincerely,

Gail Shea, P.C., M.P