QUESTION: What do you think of the fishing in the Ganaraska River during the Salmon run? What, if anything, can the Municipality do to improve the experience for all residents?
Here’s what I have learned and what I would propose to balance the interests of anglers and residents to maximize enjoyment of the Salmon Run in Port Hope:
In order to properly answer this question, I first spent some time doing my homework on this. I read up on the rules and regulations from the Ganaraska Conservation Authority and at the Provincial level. I did some reading of the positions of anglers and those that oppose fishing, so I could understand both perspectives better. I also met with a few key informants in our community, including Sean Carthew, an avid angler and organizer of the Run Salmon Run Festival, a retired Fisheries Management official, and two other avid anglers who are vocal opponents to the fishing in the Ganaraska.
I have deepened my understanding of the salmon species and their spawning as well as of the concerns that residents have about the fishing practices and their impact on our community.
A few key things:
– The fish are in fact already essentially dying, spawning being the last phase of life, so the issue of dead fish carcasses, while exacerbated by poor fishing practices, would still be an issue
– Essentially the only authority that the Municipality has, is to prevent access to the river. This is not a perfect solution, as we experienced in 2020, as it requires cutting off access by residents to public spaces, including Optimist Park, the popular walking trails along the East bank, etc. Determined anglers would still also continue to access the river legally from the mouth of the river, simply by wading up through the water which is not technically Municipal jurisdiction.
– The GRCA monitors the salmon population through the counter and camera at the fish ladder to ensure healthy populations and spawning.
– The major concern seems to be the fishing practices, largely by amateur unskilled anglers, which contravene the existing regulations. This includes, “snagging” and over-handling of fish for photographs etc. which greatly reduce survivability during catch and release.
– One option we could explore is petitioning for limits on fishing practices – for example, the Municipality could petition to have our stretch of the Ganaraska limited to fly fishing.
– Instead of the increased police participation in monitoring fishing practices, along with the monitoring by the Ministry, there is a federal program through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans which provides some funding for community-based ‘fishing guardians’, which could explore. This would empower the community with an official role in monitoring practices of anglers visiting our community and enable us to play a role in managing this natural asset.
I would support the Municipality limiting fishing during the salmon run in a way that creates a balance of access by anglers for sport fishing, and enjoyment by all residents. I think we should consider closing off access for fishing between the Robertson St and Walton St bridges. This would keep anglers out of the areas where there are the most ‘resting pools’ where fish are essentially sitting ducks and targets of harmful ‘snagging’. It would provide a good amount of space for residents, and visitors who are here to observe only, at both Rotary Park on the West and Farley Mowat Park on the East side, as well as great viewing, unobstructed by crowds of anglers, from three bridges (including the pedestrian bridge which would be in the middle of this viewing zone). This would also limit the garbage and carcasses in the busiest part of our downtown, and make the clean up easier. There would likely be some anglers not willing to comply, but with good signage and a team of volunteer fishing guardians, I believe we would be successful in gaining cooperation from the vast majority of visiting anglers – especially because I am told that most avid anglers already avoid this zone. I believe that the ‘fishing guardian’ approach would also help the community to feel more engaged and empowered to participate in management of this resource and its impact on our community, which I think is an important component to addressing frustration. I would also like the Municipality to support the Run Salmon Run festival as a great way to re-position the salmon run as something to be enjoyed and celebrated, contributing to balancing out the negative experiences related to the concerning fishing.