Concern for disturbed spawning beds near the mouth of the Adams River, home to the Shuswap’s famous salmon run, have prompted a call to the federal government for restricted access.
The Adams River Salmon Society wants the federal government to prohibit anglers from entering the river from Tsútswecw Provincial Park during the spawning season.
Trout anglers who frequent the river are concerned the plan would effectively shut down the local trout fishery.
An Oct. 13 letter sent by the Salmon Society to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and circulated on their Facebook page, claims anglers have disturbed salmon spawning grounds as they wade across rivers and also found themselves in conflict with other users of the park.
“We have many visitors complaining to our staff on the fishermen’s behaviour as they blindly wade into the river and side channels destroying the redds (nests) and disturbing the spawning process,” the letter reads.
“We are unable to correct the issue as we have no authority in the matter.”
Salmon society president David Askew said they would prefer their request be enforced by the government as an outright ban during the spawning season. He said he believes a regulatory gap exists as the province permits catch-and-release trout fishing in the river, yet there are federal regulations around disturbing fish habitat which the society believes apply to wading in the river.
Signs posted in the park ask users to stay out of the water, keep dogs out and refrain from throwing anything in. As the sockeye salmon spawn in the gravel along the edge of the river, the sign notes that disruptions near the fish can interrupt their spawning, while disturbance of the gravel can kill the salmon eggs or leave them exposed to predators.
The sign notes that fines can be applied under the Fisheries Act for disturbing fish habitat.
Sam Grenier, an angler and fishing guide who enjoys trout fishing on the Adams, said a ban on wading into the river is not necessary and a little more education can limit damage to spawning beds. Grenier said most of the anglers he has seen wading the river in a way that could harm the spawning salmon simply lack adequate knowledge about spawning beds and the impact the sediment kicked up by their boots can have.
He said enforcing a ban on wading would effectively shut down the trout fishery as the steep and vegetation-covered riverbank which the trail runs along are not suitable for casting a fly rod, even for skilled anglers.
When Grenier wades the river, he said he chooses the shallowest sections possible in areas where no salmon are spawning. He said the salmon spawning beds are most often found in two or three feet of water, and they can be avoided by keeping an eye out for salmon in pairs, depressions in the gravel, areas clear of sediment and other visual cues.
Grenier said signage at the park could be improved with some visuals showing people how to identify salmon redds. He added he would be in favour of anglers on the Adams having to pass a quiz to ensure they have the necessary knowledge to avoid harming the spawning fish or their eggs.
Askew said with salmon returns to the Adams river as low as they have been in recent years, any disturbance to the spawning beds carries serious consequences for the fish population.