Being an avid fisherman I have noticed a very disturbing trend taking place each year at and around Billings Spit during the salmon spawning run.
A certain group of individuals are “fishing” in such a manner as to promote snagging or foul hooking fish on their way to the river. The method is quite simple, as soon as a fish is spotted either finning or jumping they cast to it using a buzz bomb lure that has very little water resistance. As it is cranked through the water at high speed with the hopes of snagging or flossing the fish. When approached these people simply say that everything they are doing is legal. They have a single barbless hook and say they are reeling fast because the water is shallow and they don’t want to hang up on the bottom.
While the argument would seem to be legal the intent is anything but. On my last trip to the spit I personally saw six foul hooked fish caught and killed. This spectacle takes place usually on a daily basis throughout the three month period beginning in September. Initially there was only two or three people doing this, however because of their success the ranks are swelling and with no enforcement from DOF. They are becoming emboldened and now laugh at anything anyone says to them, teaching their kids to fish the same.
My questions are; Why no enforcement? Why is an illegal activity becoming the norm? How long can the fishery withstand this abuse?
We all know that the answer is very simple. Regulations should be passed to make it illegal to retain foul hooked fish in the river or estuary of the Sooke River.
Recently the locals in Port Renfrew, who are sickened by this practice, erected a sign on their bridge saying “Snaggers Go Home.” The sign was removed by a resident of the Sooke area who said it was “offensive.” With the millions of dollars garnered from the sale of fishing licenses, environmental fees, boat safety programs, etc., you would think at least a bit of it would go back into enforcing the laws to protect this precious resource.