Local fisherman Carl Rumbolt, who says he’s hung up his rod for the year, is in total disagreement with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) decision to allow catch and release.
“I’m 100 per cent against catch and release,” Rumbolt said. “I just spoke with a couple buddies and they got their rods put up as well.”
The Northern Peninsula is known for its plentiful lakes and rivers. They’ve been attracting salmon fishermen for years from across the island and across North America.
But after a major decrease in the number of salmon returning to rivers throughout much of Newfoundland this year, DFO announced on Aug. 4 that the rest of the salmon fishing season would be catch and release only.
The policy was assigned to all scheduled and non-scheduled rivers on the island.
While the drop in salmon returns was a shock to all, many fishermen feel that turning the season to catch and release won’t protect salmon stocks.
“Most of the salmon that go down these rivers die anyway,” said Rumbolt. “And I’ve seen it happen plenty of times; you catch a salmon and hook him the wrong way, you release him and then a minute after you see him go belly up down the river anyway.”
St. Anthony fisherman John Diamond is in agreement with Rumbolt that the catch and release policy is not only a nuisance, but will be ineffective in protecting the species.
Diamond predicts illegal catching will likely become a major issue.
He also thinks there’s another factor at play with the low salmon returns.
Diamond says he believes the season is late. He says more salmon will eventually show, it’s just a delayed summer for them.
“The water’s low and warm so they’re not coming in yet, that’s all,” Diamond said.
Popular fishing spots along the peninsula, like Torrent River, experienced notable declines this year. While 1,800 salmon were expected to be in the river at times, DFO data was showing only 1,000 salmon. But, the most recent DFO data shows that Torrent River is actually experiencing stronger returns than expected. To read more on how Northern Peninsula rivers are affected by declining salmon stocks, click here.
With survival rates much stronger on Northern Peninsula rivers like Western Arm Brook and Torrent River, even more significant drops were found in other waters of the island.
In its Aug. 4 announcement, DFO added that if salmon returns improve, they would consider dropping the “catch and release only” policy.
But if salmon do not return and the catch and release policy continues into next year, Diamond suspects it could be a hindrance to both fishermen and businesses.
“It’s going to be a disaster if they close it for catch and release next season,” he said. “A lot of businesses that sell salmon supplies are going to suffer for it.”
Rumbolt loves getting onto the rivers and casting his line. He not only feels a catch and release season will do little to pick up these declining stocks, but that it takes the real fun out of salmon fishing.
“Sure it’s fun when you get him on the hook and try to land him. But I tell you it’s more fun later on when you got a fork stuck in him,” Rumbolt laughed.
Catch and release, he says, is “the same as if I would go out and shoot a moose and leave it on the side of the road.
“I don’t agree with it at all, not one bit whatsoever.”