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Below is a response I got back from the Canadian Fisheries Management

*Thank you for your e-mail expressing your concern for gillnet fishing at the
mouth of the Skeena River this summer. I want to assure you that the Skeena
steelhead returns are in excellent shape.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has also been concerned about the
steelhead incidental catch in the commercial fisheries. Starting in 1989 we
moved to a more selective method of harvesting in order to protect various
stocks of concern, including steelhead, coho, and some wild sockeye stocks.
Through a combination of timed openings and closures, fishing-gear
restrictions, and selective-fishing methods, we have managed to reduce the
impact on the steelhead runs to a considerable degree. An example is the
pioneering selective seine fishery conducted at the mouth of the Skeena,
which began in 1989. This was a brail-and-sort fishery, and was a
pre-cursor of how we now do business throughout British Columbia.

Between 1985 and 1991 the aggregate steelhead harvest rate in DFO Fisheries
Management Area 4 was 36%. This was within Washington State's
conservation-based exploitation rate goal of no more than 30% - 40% for wild
steelhead stocks. However, in 1991 DFO committed to halve the 36%
exploitation rate in ocean fisheries to 18% so as to deliver more steelhead
further up river.

During the fall and winter of 1993/94, the Skeena Watershed Committee, a
multi-sector group set up to discuss the management of the Skeena River
fisheries, negotiated that the 36% exploitation rate be reduced by 42%
rather than by 50%, thus reaching an overall ceiling of 21%. Prior to the
1997 season DFO decided to expand the assessment of Skeena steelhead impacts
to include Skeena approach waters in Areas 3 and 5. This resulted in a new
ceiling of 24% for Areas 3, 4, and 5.

Starting in 1998 with the dramatic reduction in the commercial fisheries due
to coho conservation concerns, the harvest rate of Skeena steelhead dropped
well below DFO's 24% ceiling to a range between 0% and 9%. In that year we
also moved to daylight fisheries, and now around a quarter of the gillnet
fleet uses weedlines. Starting in 2001 we have moved to a selective gillnet
fishery. This fishery uses such methods as short sets and half-length nets
to ensure that the fish released from the net are still alive.

For 2002 steelhead stocks are again returning to the Skeena in excellent
numbers. The current indications from the Tyee test fishery put this year's
return at the fifth highest in the 47 years that the test fishery has been
operating.

Again, thank you for bringing your concerns to the department's attention.

Sincerely,

Original signed by:

David Bevan
Director General
Resource Management
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Greg



"In our family, there is no clear
line between religion and fly
fishing" Norman MacLean
 

· Fly Fishing in Patagonia: A Trout Bum's Guide
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I also am heading on a steelhead outing soon. However, I can't decide whether to go south to the Deschutes and Kalama Rivers, or head north to the Skeena system. Does the Sustut that you are fishing have good access? I would appreciate feedback of any type.

Thanks

BM
 

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The Sustut is the most remote of the trophy Skeena tributaries. The only way in or out is via float plane. There are plenty of other rivers where there is decent road access, and a few are favorites with fly fishermen (e.g. Copper, Bulkley and Morice). But September is more or less "the" month esp. for dries/ surface-oriented takes. So if you're going to head north, you'd better finalize your plans soon!

"Poor loops, but at least the fly is landing farther out than the main line these days"
 

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Snagly's right; I think the Sustut is impossible to get to without some serious effort. I have never been up there before, but I have been told that the Bulkley has good access among other places. If I was on my own, though, I would be headed to the Deschutes.
 

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Early reports on the BC sites indicate that things are shaping up all right. However, I can't confirm that what I am reading is legit. In a couple of weeks information should be more dependable.
Al.

For when sleeping I dream of big fish and strong fights.

Tacitus
 
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