Casting away to a glimmer of hope

How many times have I stood, knee-deep in the fast flowing waters of a river somewhere, casting my two-handed spey rod…

How many times have I stood, knee-deep in the fast flowing waters of a river somewhere, casting my two-handed spey rod to salmon swimming through the runs and riffles. I have spent many an hour casting away to little more than shadows, to little more than a glimmer of hope.

And when it came my time, my turn, to set the hook and tie into all the power and fury of what felt like a runaway locomotive. All I know for sure is that when I had a fish on, time stood still.

Over the years I lost as many, if not more, battles than I ever won. But I must say that I also enjoyed each and every moment of each and every fight. But things change.

The streams got more crowded – sometimes a dozen or more anglers, in far too close a proximity to each other, stood along a river bank – more often than not, without so much as a single strike among them.

In spite of what all the politicians, Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientists, commercial fishermen, First Nations and sport fishing anglers had to say, each season it became more and more evident that the salmon runs were in serious trouble – very serious trouble.

Everything from climate change and global warming to pollution, overfishing and poaching were affecting the salmon runs and neither the politicians, the DFO, First Nations or the sport fishery seemed to have the will or inclination to do much about the situation other than put ever more pressure on the declining fish stocks.

Something needed to be done. So a study was undertaken – The Cohen Report. Questions were asked and recommendations were made. Although I’m not really too sure what, if any of, the recommendations were ever implemented.

So I stopped salmon fishing. I simply could no longer cast my line to  salmon that were already under too much pressure. Not until I knew for sure that the salmon would return in numbers large enough to absolutely guarantee that there would always be salmon enough returning to the spawning grounds.

It has been close to 10 years now since I have cast a line to salmon anywhere. However, if all the early indications are correct, this year’s Fraser River salmon run is projected to be the largest in recent history.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans acting area director for the Interior, Les Jantz, says that “while it is still too early to say with any certainty how many sockeye will return, (DFO) scientists are forecasting as high as 72.5 million – more than twice the number in 2010 when an estimated 30 million returned.”

DFO says this is due in part because the sockeye coming back this year are the progeny of the 2010 run.

Early in 2010, DFO scientists predicted that anywhere from four million to 29 million sockeye would return. As the season progressed, they quickly realized that the high end would be reached. The DFO is confident that a similar scenario could unfold this year as they are able to get more data in from sports anglers and commercial fishermen during early openings.

Jantz says “even at this early date, there is reason for excitement, because ocean conditions have been very good for salmon for the past three years, and a record number of young sockeye migrated out of the Fraser in the spring of 2012. Those fish would have encountered prime conditions, with upwellings of cold water that salmon prefer and are rich with the zooplankton and phytoplankton blooms young fish eat.”

Who knows, maybe some day I will get to cast a line once again to sockeye salmon swimming in some of my favourite streams.


Salmon Arm Observer