Recreational fishing on the Fraser was closed by federal fisheries this week due to conservation concerns and record-high in-river water temperatures.

Recreational fishing on the Fraser was closed by federal fisheries this week due to conservation concerns and record-high in-river water temperatures.

Most Fraser sockeye expected to die before spawning: DFO

The government has abruptly shut down recreational salmon fishing on the Fraser River amid conservation concerns.

A large portion of the Chilliwack recreational fishing industry has come to an abrupt halt as the government shut down the Fraser River to salmon fishing.

Up to 70 per cent of sockeye salmon in the Fraser are expected to die before reaching spawning grounds, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Fishing for any type of salmon in the river from the Mission bridge to the Alexander Bridge past Yale was suspended as of Friday until further notice.

The reasons for the closure are the record-high in-river temperatures of 20 to 22 °C as well as lower than expected sockeye returns.

The heat impairs swimming, causes disease outbreaks, and rapidly deteriorates the health of the fish, explained Les Jantz, DFO area director for the B.C. Interior.

Ideal temperatures for spawning are 16 to 18 °C.

The run, at an estimated 3.2 million fish, is also smaller than the earlier forecast of 4.7 million.

“That’s why we’ve closed fishery. We’re trying to get more fish into the river so that the 30 per cent that do survive, we maximize the number,” said Jantz.

Although the concern is primarily about the sockeye, fishing of all species has closed because of the risk of catching sockeye as bycatch.

But fishing is still permitted where the Fraser meets the Strait of Georgia, where the main method is troling from a boat. This results in “very very low” incidents of sockeye bycatch, according to Jantz.

Further up the Fraser, however, some anglers choose to use “bottom-bouncing” or “flossing,” a technique using long leader lines in which they have little control over which salmon get hooked.

“Any additional stress that is put on those fish right now is not a good thing,” said Jantz.

Chilliwack Fishing guide Dean Werk, with Great River Fishing Adventures, said if there is a serious conservation concern there should be “no fishing anywhere” including in the marine approach, like the West Coast of Vancouver Island, where most of the sockeye are right now.

Bottom-bouncers are not on the river in large numbers at the moment, compared to when there’s a retention fishery for sockeye, he said.

He was talking to the Progress while guiding in the Fraser Canyon, near Hope, with visitors who flew into Chilliwack from out of province specifically for the chance to fish sturgeon.

“We have done three years of hook and release mortality studies that clearly show a less than two per cent mortality on sport-caught sockeye salmon,” he said.

But federal Fisheries will not use these mortality study results to manage the fishery.

“We have shown clearly that we can fish for both chinook and pink salmon with an almost non-measurable impact.”

Werk said his company is fielding a number of cancellations due to the closure, including an 11-person group that was booked to fly in from Edmonton. That’s travel plans, hotel rooms, restaurant meals, all cancelled.

“There’s going to be an immediate economic impact for all the guide companies, for the hotels, for the tourism-related businesses that were going to benefit from the visitors coming into the community to take advantage of doing some salmon fishing this summer,” said Brian Coombes, executive director of Tourism Chilliwack.

Great River Fishing Adventures alone does $1 million worth of fishing trips annually.

Coombes added that those visitors disappointed by the closure this year are less likely to return.

“There’s also a credibility issue as well. There’s a lot of money spent raising awareness about the sport fishing opportunities in the Fraser River and our area; to try to attract sport fishing enthusiasts here.”

Once the sockeye run is near completion, possibly as early as September, the government may reopen the Fraser to fishing of other salmon species.

“We anticipate at this point that there will be other recreational and First Nations fishing opportunities on other species, like pink salmon and chum salmon. At this point, this closure is specifically to try to get the sockeye through, as many as we possibly can. And when the sockeye returns begin to dissipate, then we will be looking at other opportunities,” said Jantz.

The unusually high air temperatures this summer have led to a lack of rainfall and below average water levels in the Fraser, which in turn has led to higher water temperatures. These reached similar heights in 2004, but later in the season. Prior to that, temperatures was similarly high in 1998.

The last time that the fishing season ended so early was in 2009, when only 1.5 million salmon returned from the projected 10 million. This year’s salmon are returning from the collapse of that year.

Fishing for trout, steelhead, sturgeon and other non-salmon species on the Fraser remains open.

akonevski@theprogress.com
twitter.com/alinakonevski
* this is a modified version of the original story in which some factual errors were corrected, including the location of the fishing guide during the interview, which was on the Fraser RIver, and not the Hope River.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People stroll through rows of tulips in bloom during the Tulips of the Valley Festival on May 2, 2017. The colourful spring event, now called Chilliwack Tulips, opens on Sunday, April 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Chilliwack tulip attraction open this weekend after being closed last year due to COVID-19

More than 6.5 million bulbs in all at this year’s colourful Chilliwack Tulips event

Oregon spotted frog egg masses near Agassiz. (Fraser Valley Conservancy)
Jumping for joy over Oregon spotted frog discovery near Agassiz

Finding six egg masses could be step toward recovery of Canada’s most endangered amphibian

Sunset Manor, an assisted living facility in Chilliwack owned by the Netherlands Reformed Congregation of Chilliwack, pictured here in October 2020, had its third COVID-19 outbreak declared on April 9, 2021. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Third outbreak declared at Chilliwack care home run by church known for opposing vaccinations

30-bed Sunset Manor owned and operated by Netherlands Reformed Congregation of Chilliwack

Peter Scherle shared this 1958 photo of his father, then-Town Chairperson Paul Scherle (centre) speaking with Queen Elizabeth II with Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in the background. Prince Philip passed away April 9 at the age of 99. (Photo/Peter Scherle)
PHOTOS: Hope residents remember Prince Philip, royal visits to Fraser Valley

Prince Phillip died at age 99 at Windsor Castle on April 9

Sold decals on real estate signs are commonplace in the red-hot Chilliwack real estate market (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)
Chilliwack homes getting offers the first day the for-sale sign goes up

The March report from the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board shows the market remains red-hot

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards South Island film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

British Columbia Attorney General David Eby. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Attorney General covers housing, homelessness and justice reform in Surrey Zoom

‘I think it would be really great to hold some sessions in Surrey,’ Eby says of legislative assembly

Most Read