The commercial sockeye salmon fishery is back on the Fraser River for the first time in four years.
A brief 24-hour opening starting Wednesday at 7 a.m. allowed some boats to move out of Kanaka Landing Harbour in Maple Ridge, with fish being sold at dockside already that morning.
As the sockeye were being caught on the nets, they were packed in ice in tote boxes, then delivered to the wharf.
Diane Moore was awaiting her husband’s return to help with the catch when it came in, and noted the sockeye run was greater a decade ago and that it was a shame that most fishing boats stayed tied up.
Derek Kreuger, who manages the Kanaka harbour at the end of MacKay Avenue in the Albion industrial area, said the fishery so far, as of Wednesday morning, had been slow. But the sockeye opening is also earlier than in other years.
“Normally, we’re fishing at the end of the month.”
But the only thing that’s consistent about the fishery is its inconsistency, he said.
Alex Logan, a recreational fisherman from Mission, said sport fishing on the Fraser is also slow. It’s the first time there’s been sport fishing on the Fraser in two years. He was up in Chilliwack on Tuesday and got a spring salmon that got away.
“It’s not really good.”
The recreational fishery along the Fraser chould be open other days this month, added Rod Clapton, with the Fraser River Peacemakers. Sport fishing is allowed in tidal waters of Fraser River, downstream of Mission, from Aug. 7 to Sept. 3. with a daily limit of four sockeye, using barbless hooks only, during daylight only.
He had also been on the river recently and found the fishing slow, although that may have been linked to earlier fishery openings in the ocean at the mouth of the Fraser River.
He said the sports fishery along the Fraser is worth $100 million a year to the local economy. There’s also “a significant lack of enforcement” by Fisheries and Oceans Canada officers, noting there are only six officers on the river between Hope and Boston Bar.
Poaching remains an issue across all sectors, he said.
Clapton’s group, the Fraser River Peacemakers, is a coalition of aboriginal and non-aboriginal fishers formed in 2009 to reduce conflicts between the groups on the river.
He said the organization is unique because it has lasted so long. Issues remain, but many problems have also been resolved.
“We also respect the constitutional rights of First Nations,” fishery.
Some of the practices developed include asking anglers move their lines while the drift nets go by, or while the First Nations cast their nets. First Nations in return, are asked to alert anglers they might encounter in the area.
“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 under way,” said Ernie Crey, Peacemakers co-chair and chief of Cheam First Nation. “Doing so ensures the fishery is well-managed, and all fishers are respected and remain safe.”