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Skeena watershed reopened to fishing, but with restrictions

More fingers are being pointed at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Fishing the Bulkley River in Smithers. (Chris Gareau archive photo)

Read the full story in the July 19 edition of The Interior News.

The Skeena Watershed reopened for recreational fishing of chinook and coho last Saturday.

But on the same day more restrictions took effect, only two chinook salmon can be caught daily, only one of which can be over 65 cm, in the entire Skeena River watershed. The Skeena River mainstem upstream of the Sustut River and at the Kitwanga and Kispiox River mouths will be closed to chinook fishing, all tributaries and lakes of the Skeena River will be closed to chinook fishing, except for sections of the Babine, Bulkley, Kitsumkalum, Morice and Sustut Rivers.

The entire Skeena fish stock numbers do not sit well with First Nations and the Sport Fishing Advisory Board. They want improvements in fisheries management on the Skeena Watershed to better prepare for the upcoming years of low returns, such as this year and the expected low stocks of 2021.

According to Charlie Muldon, the number of sockeye returning to the Skeena River this year is half the level of 2013, which was the worst on record. The current estimated total escapement of sockeye from the Tyee Test Fishery used to estimate escapement was about 68,000 by July 10, while the escapement by the same date in 2013 was 94,000.

“The strength of this fishery lies in the ability of all stakeholders to work together to manage this important resource. I hope in future that fishing plans and decisions on the Skeena can be made locally so we have buy-in from the First Nations and rec sector and not by the Minister in Ottawa,” said Urs Thomas, chair of the North Coast Sport Fishing Advisory Committee.

“We hope that DFO recognizes the hard work both sectors put into collaborating on our fishing plans this year, and how we have gone above and beyond to reach out to develop workable solutions,” Muldon stated. “DFO needs to take responsibility and provide the necessary resources to ensure the fishing season goes smoothly.”

The entire Skeena River watershed will be closed to chinook fishing again on Aug. 15, to protect spawning chinook stocks.