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Angling Season and Salmon Concerns

 CTV News

Angling season opens amid concerns about Atlantic salmon population

Published Thursday, April 14, 2016 6:30PM ADT

Sport fishing season has returned and anglers are heading out to lakes and streams hoping to catch a big one. However, the once abundant sport fish like Atlantic salmon and striped bass face uncertain futures.

The federal government announced this week, that for the second year in a row, salmon anglers in the Maritimes will not be allowed to keep their fish.

“We need to put every fish back into the river to allow them a chance to spawn and at the same time, we need to be looking at where the problems lie, why are the populations decreasing," says Jonathon Carr, a biologist who has researched the plight of the Atlantic salmon in rivers and streams all over the Maritimes.

The Atlantic Salmon Federation says the number of salmon coming back to the Maritimes makes catch and release the only option.

“Salmon populations are still in trouble, no question,” says Bill Taylor, Atlantic Salmon Federation president. “2015 was a much better year than 2014, but we all have to keep in mind that 2014 was the worst year on record, worst year in history as far as salmon returns, salmon fishing.”

Taylor concedes the move will disappoint some anglers and people involved in the region's lucrative salmon outfitting industry.

As Atlantic salmon have disappeared from Maritime rivers, so have salmon anglers. The number of salmon licenses sold in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in recent years is just a fraction of what was sold a generation ago, but that's not to say they've given up on sport fishing altogether.

A lot of those anglers are now chasing striped bass, the new fish of choice and a species found in healthy numbers in many areas.

“Anglers, just by their very nature want to be out there, they want to be on the water, and they're gonna fish for something else and certainly the striped bass fishery has really blossomed in the past couple of years. A lot more people are doing it,” says Taylor.

The future of striped bass has become a political issue in Nova Scotia.

Protestors arrived at province house Thursday saying a natural gas storage project in the area threatens the Shubenacadie River, a spawning ground for striped bass.

“Myself, I fished that river with my mother and father, my parents and great grandparents so, I would kind of like to see my kids fishing it with their great grandkids too someday,” says Chief Rufus Copage, Indian Brook First Nation.

In the meantime, efforts will continue to revive the dwindling king of fish.

“Where are these fish going? Where are they at particular times in the ocean? Where are they dropping off? Where are they dying? Can we do anything about it at the end of the day? So that's one of the big issues we're addressing,” says Carr.

Carr says there are lots of questions that still need to be answered as another angling season gets underway.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Mike Cameron