The recreational fishery in the Central Coast has been fairly good this season for salmon with the exception of coho which is showing mixed levels of returns to date, Colin Masson, Fisheries and Oceans Canada Area Director for the North Coast Area, said.
The North Coast region covers from Cape Caution north through the Central Coast to the Alaska border including Haida Gwaii. Masson said reports by lodge owners indicate that recreational fishing for halibut has been much improved in the past few years with 500 halibut caught in the month of June alone. Unfortunately he said there has been no further update on those numbers since June.
“Recreational fishing in the Central Coast has continued to be quite good,” Masson said. “We’ve had some good years recently. “As the season progresses we had expected to see a greater proportion of coho in the catch through August and September, but results have not yet materialized.”
Commercial fishing on the other hand has been mixed depending on the run with returns lower than expected in some areas and higher than expected in other areas. The pink and chum salmon runs have been lower than expected requiring some closures.
He said there has been eight weeks of gillnet opportunities (each for several days) in the Central Coast providing for catches of approximately 5,000 sockeye, 64,000 pinks, 3,000 chinook and 27,000 chum. In addition, he said there have been a few limited seine openings in the Central Coast for a catch of approximately 68,000 chum and 40,000 pink salmon.
“We had a surprising sockeye return in Smith Inlet,” Masson said. “We didn’t anticipate a commercial fishery there at all this year, yet the escapement was exceeded, First Nation fishery opportunities provided, and a commercial harvest of approximately 71,000.”
Smith Inlet is south of Rivers Inlet, just south of Bella Bella. He said the Fraser River sockeye run is late and the run is much lower than expected although the sockeye run to Barkley Sound on Vancouver Island has been quite good.
He said the Skeena return on sockeye was slightly greater than forecast and has enabled a limited commercial fishery while sustaining the aboriginal food fishery. The estimate is currently slightly greater that 1.5 million sockeye will return to the Skeena this year.