Fishery officers appear to have put a stop to an illegal practice that was injuring chinook salmon in the Shuswap.
About a dozen people had been throwing rocks at fish and then snagging them – a method that involves impaling fish, often in the belly, tail or fins – at the Trinity (or Baxter) bridge over the Shuswap River, about 10 kilometres east of Enderby near the community of Ashton Creek.
“It was a problem that had been growing over a number of years, kind of a challenging problem,” said Fishery officer Brian Levitt, field supervisor for the Salmon Arm office. “We need to make direct observations to make people accountable for their actions.”
That involved putting a plainclothes officer at the bridge for about seven days to fish – legally.
“We identified about a dozen people who were prolific offenders within this area,” he says. They ranged in age from teens to late sixties.
In a news release issued last week about the snagging, Fisheries and Oceans Canada reminds the public of the toll-free violations reporting line at 1-800-465-4336.
In this case, Levitt says, the offenders would throw rocks at the fish to try to direct them off their migratory path, over to where the hooks were. White plastic bags would be put in the water next to the hook to attract the fish and, as they would swim by, the offenders would reef on the fishing line and try to impale the fish on the hook.
“It often gets caught in their belly or tail or fins. It has been illegal for many years. It causes many injuries, but they often get away,” he says. Then the injuries can lead to death or the inability of a female fish to spawn.
Migrating fish will also often hold in deep pools. The offenders would cast their hook into the pools, hoping it would cross paths with a fish.
The fish targeted were mainly chinook salmon, with a few sockeye.
The initial violations of the Fisheries Act took place in 2014. Five of the dozen people involved were sent to court, and four were issued tickets.
One of the two most prolific offenders caught was Frederick Stanley Kent, in his late 50s from Ashton Creek. Initially, Kent was charged with 78 counts, Levitt says, but it was reduced to 15 at the request of the court. He pleaded guilty to 13 of the 15 counts and was fined 4,550. He was also prohibited from fishing in B.C. for five years.
Another was Brady James Hareuther of Gardom Lake. In October 2015 he pleaded guilty to several violations of the Fisheries Act. His 39 counts were reduced to 11, Levitt says, of which he pleaded guilty to six. He received a $650 fine and was ordered to pay an additional $2,000 towards proper management and control of fisheries or fish habitat. He was also prohibited from fishing on the Mabel Lake, Shuswap River and Shuswap Lake systems for two years.
In August 2016, however, fishery officers spotted Hareuther again on the Shuswap River and reminded him of the prohibition. Yet six days later he was again found angling there. In court in September 2017, Hareuther was fined an additional $750 and the fishing prohibition was extended for a further 18 months until April 2019.
The actions of the offenders led to the closure of all fishing on the Shuswap River 50 metres upstream and downstream from the Trinity bridge between June 15 and November 15 from 2014 to the present.
“Probably 90 per cent of the fishing (in that area) was happening in an illegal manner and a way that was unfair to the fish. It was really not a sporting way to fish,” says Levitt. “It’s one thing to be caught in the mouth and be used for food, it’s another thing to cause a lot of stress and potential injury for no end result.”
He said the time limits were set to correspond with the expected migration of salmon.
“The area has been closed and the compliance with the closures has been really good.”