When does the risk of mortality or injury start for a salmon?
To answer that question, Blair Adams said, it has to be looked at from the fish’s perspective.
“It doesn’t start when the angler takes control of the fish. It starts when the fish takes the fly. The chance of mortality begins as soon as that fish takes the hook.”
That is the point at which a study being undertaken by the province on the practice of hook and release begins.
Adams is the director of wildlife with the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources. He’s also the lead on the $500,000 hook and release study.
He joined Fisheries and Land Resources Minster Gerry Byrne at the department’s office on Riverside Drive in Corner Brook on Wednesday for a technical briefing on the study, which was announced in May.
Hook and release has been regulated since 1984, but there is limited information available about the practice.
Byrne said the two-year study will fill in the gaps, ensuring the availability of the best possible science on which to base hook-and-release regulations. While the study is a provincial government initiative, Byrne noted the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is supportive of it.
Here’s some of the information that was provided during the briefing:
Objectives of the study
To address gaps in scientific information.
To provide clear science-based recommendations to DFO and in making decisions at the provincial level.
To engage and educate Newfoundlanders and Labradorians on what they need to do in terms of appropriate catch and release activity.
To improve the capacity of the province to address the issues and provide advice to DFO.
Site: Western Arm Brook on the Northern Peninsula — DFO has a counting facility there that will allow access to fish for the control portion of the study. The river has been closed to angling, which gives the province full experimental control of the site.
Using a radio telemetry system, the province will be able to track the movements of salmon that have been tagged.
Two types of tags will be used — an external one that is attached to the dorsal fin area of salmon that will last a minimum of three months and an internal tag that can last up to a year.
There will be six tracking stations to detect the tagged fish as they move through the watershed.
The plan is to tag 160 salmon in the first year — 80 control fish that will be tagged at the counting facility and 80 experimental salmon that will be tagged when they are hooked and released by anglers. The first fish was tagged on July 3.
The sample size will be expanded in the second year and a second site may be added.
Experienced staff from the department will act as anglers for the study and they will practice all levels of hook and release techniques from the best and most careful to the worst.
Information that will be collected
Location — the river
Angling equipment — rod, type of line, type of hook, fly
The exact location on the river where the fish was hooked and where on the fish the hook was
Anything unusual that happens during the time between the hook and the release — for example, does the salmon jump and land on the rocks
Number of times the fish has been hooked and released
Experience of angler
What will come out of the study
It will be the first reliable quantitative estimate of Atlantic salmon survival.
It will define a relationship between the environmental variables — what happens when water temperature increases — and the mortality of salmon that have been hooked and released.
It will identify risk factors of hook and release techniques.
It will provide information on the long-term effects of hook and release — how will salmon do over winter.