Strong numbers expected for this year’s dominant sockeye salmon run doesn’t mean work isn’t still needed to protect and preserve invaluable fishery. (File photo)

Strong numbers expected for this year’s dominant sockeye salmon run doesn’t mean work isn’t still needed to protect and preserve invaluable fishery. (File photo)

Strong sockeye salmon run no excuse for inaction

As I stood on the deck of my friend Cory’s 21-foot aluminum jet boat a thought crossed my mind.

We were on the Fraser River fishing for sockeye salmon, and we had both been casting our lines out for more than an hour without so much as a bump. I looked across to the far bank and thought to myself, over the course of the next month or so, an estimated 19 million sockeye are going to swim right past where we are anchored and I can’t even get a single bite. I tried hard to tell myself, convince myself, that it was still early in the season.

We fished for another hour and a half before heading upstream in hopes of maybe catching a sturgeon.

It only took about 20 minutes before I set the hook on a fairly decent sized prehistoric Acipenser transmontanus. I will be the first to admit that I was running on pure adrenalin by the time I brought it to the side of the boat and Cory released it. As it turned out, that was the only fish of the day. Nonetheless, it was a pretty good day on the water. Any day on the water is a good day; however, a day spent casting out a line and just talking with a good friend is an especially good day.

Related: Nearly 7 million late-run sockeye due to return to Shuswap

The next day it took us less than an hour to catch our two-fish daily limit of sockeye – still nice bright, shiny silver fish that had not yet begun to turn their spawning colours. After we headed upstream, we were also rewarded with two more sturgeon that we played to the boat and then immediately released. On the third day the weather changed and it poured rain so we decided that a trip to go fishing on the Coquihalla River at the beginning of October would make up for a shortened sockeye season.

Whether fishing on his boat, casting our centre pins to steelhead in the runs and riffles of a river, or fly fishing for trout on a stream, I enjoy fishing with Cory. He is neither competitive or judgmental. He simply enjoys fishing as much as I do.

I have always enjoyed river fishing, casting a line to whatever is in season. I just like being out there, breathing in the cool, crisp morning air, feeling the sun on my face and enjoying that sense of camaraderie that comes with casting a line with a fellow angler.

Things always seem to make better sense to me when I’m on the river, any river. I do know this much – everything disappears from my mind when I’m fishing on a river, especially when I have a fish on. All I have to care about is the moment. It’s just me and the fish – the eternal struggle of predator and prey. I know I certainly enjoyed those few days on the Fraser River last week.

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All of which brings me to my point. This year’s Fraser River sockeye run has been estimated to be anywhere from 6.3 million fish to as high as 19.5 million, a lot better than predicted four years ago when the continued steady decline in numbers of fish returning prompted some to speculate about the possible disappearance of sockeye runs altogether. So, with a potentially record number of sockeye salmon returning to spawn this year, I hope the Department of Fisheries and Oceans does not feel it is off the hook when it comes to ensuring the future of sockeye salmon runs. There is much work that needs to be done. We have the Cohen Commission recommendations, we have public concern and we have the will. It would seem we even have a window of opportunity.

One of the things Cory and I talked about last week while on his boat was the state of the sockeye salmon runs. We discussed the two-fish daily limit and decided, even before the rain cut our season short, that all we would keep for the whole of the season would be two fish – in spite of the fact this year’s numbers are so large. I could not help but feel good about our friendship when Cory said to me that he wanted there to be good runs in the future so that one day he could take his three year old son out on the boat salmon fishing.

I hope for their sake and for the future of the sockeye salmon that day comes.