Prince Rupert has seen little negative effect from the Skeena River recreational fishing closure instituted last month. If anything, the city has been a boon to the local economy said Prince Rupert Tourism Chair Scott Farwell.
“People that were booked to fish with some of the charter operators in the Terrace area have come out to the coast,” Farwell said, adding that many of the operators he’s spoken to have seen an increase in calls.
“Sports fishing [on the coast] is at its peak and one of the strongest years ever,” Farwell said.
Rodney Proskiw, owner of Foggy Point Fishing Charters and fellow Prince Rupert Tourism board member agrees. He said that river fishers with jet boats have been making their way to the city to ocean fish.
“We’re getting people coming into town, taking hotel rooms and fishing out of their jet boats,” Proskiw said, “but they can only do that when the weather is good enough to let them go out because they’re not ocean craft.”
The closure, that took effect on June 15, stopped sockeye salmon fishing in the Skeena watershed, including the Bulkley River, and permits only harvesting of chinook, pink and chum salmon by First Nations. The recreational harvesting period will commence again on July 15, but for some operators, it may be too little too late.
“We had [river] charters booked from the 15th of June to the 15th of July,” said Stan Doll, owner of Skeena Wilderness Fishing Charters, based out of Terrace, “both my sons work for me and three other guides, but none of them are working now.”
Doll said that he’s been able to transfer some of his previously booked river fishing charters (up to 48 clients a day) to ocean fishing, but has had to cancel many trips.
“Some of our guests are coming anyways,” he said, adding that a group from New Zealand did not cancel and will fish in local lakes and Kitimat until July 15, when the recreational fishery reopens.
Doll said that he had hoped the recreational fishery could have stayed open as catch and release, but he understood the reasoning.
“We have proven that ‘catch and release’ works,” he said, “but there is a lack of chinook salmon around. Just taking the river fisherman off, didn’t save nothing.”
Proskiw shared Dolls concerns.
“The fish are just not here,” he said, “We’ve having to put 70 to 80 miles a day on our ocean boats to try and find 10 salmon. At this time last year, we’d leave the dock at 6 a.m., have our gear in the water by 7:05 a.m. or 7:30 a.m. and by 10 o’clock we’d have 16 salmon in the boat (the limit for four people,) and then we’d go halibut fishing.”
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada recently released a 2017/2018 integrated fisheries management plan on July 4, which outlines management policies, objectives and decision guidelines for a wide range of fisheries and opportunities for First Nations, recreational and commercial fisheries.