Canadian fish cops

flafly14

Well-known member
Messages
234
Reaction score
10
Location
FL
I went fishing this weekend with a guy that was telling me about fishing in Canada. Not sure where he was. But he said he did NOT have a good time because the regulations were incredibly complicated and the fish cops were constantly hassling him. He said it was so bad that he won't go back to Canada to fish ever again.

One story he told was that he was fishing flies with barbless hooks (not mashed down barbs, but actual barbless hook that are sold as such). He said the fish cops came with a piece of cloth that they use to test if the hook is barbless enough. But they were repeatedly dragging the point of the hook on the cloth and saying it had a barb because it caught up on the cloth. (of course it will - it's a $%#@$ hook!).

Another thing he was talking about was how he was fishing this one river. There were a bunch of local gear guys drifting eggs. He was the only fly guy and the only American. Officer shows up and ignores everyone else and hassles him for a long time. The gear guys were yelling at the cops to bust him for something. Cops eventually gave up, and left without checking anyone else. Everyone booed the cops. He left - feeling a bit creeped out by the whole situation.

I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on this. He seemed like a good guy. I don't think he was lying. What's the deal?
 

smarty140

Well-known member
Messages
318
Reaction score
29
Location
Ladysmith, WI
Without knowing which province this supposedly happened in, I don't know how anyone can really answer this. Just like each state in the US has their own rules and agencies, each province in Canada has their own so lumping together PEI with BC doesn't make any more sense than saying "I'm never going to fish in State X because State Y has complicated regulations".

The only Canadian province that I've fished is Ontario, but didn't think the regs were more complicated than at home.

ryan
 
Last edited:

duker

Well-known member
Messages
985
Reaction score
94
Location
Northwest Territories
Whoo boy. Where to start. There is no "deal".

Confession: I'm not sure where your friend was fishing (this is in the Atlantic Canada thread so I assume somewhere there), but as Ryan points out your mileage will vary from province to province and territory to territory (we have those too!) and from officer to officer. It's a big country. In Canada, DFO (the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans) manages anadromous fish like steelhead and salmon. Provincial and territorial governments legislate and enforce the other sport fisheries, tho' there is some cross-enforcement. That's an incredibly simplified breakdown, but enough for this thread. With the incredibly diverse array of sport fisheries in Canada, and fourteen different governments (federal, provincial, and territorial) with jurisdiction over those fisheries, I suppose it only makes sense that approaches to regulation and enforcement vary from place to place. We've come a long way from Magna Carta requiring the King's fish weirs to be removed from salmon rivers.

I do know that in some parts of my country they don't appreciate any outsiders fishing their rivers--some silently begrudge it, others actively antagonize visiting anglers. I've heard all the excuses; most of them run along the lines of "g*dd*mn foreigners coming here and taking our fish." It gets tiresome to point out that those visiting anglers contribute significantly to the local economies of some small and out of the way places; it's also incredibly small-minded. I go salmon fishing in Alaska every year and have experienced a bit of that, but the folks who live in the town where we fish are always happy to see us and have us spending money in their town for a few weeks. Likewise on my few saltwater trips to Belize and Mexico--absolutely no local resentment, only people welcoming us and making our stay a great one. That said, it's not limited to Canada and in my experience, here it's not the usual or widespread. We get a lot of American and European anglers coming to the Northwest Territories to fish (world record lake trout and Arctic char!) and we welcome them all.

The only experience I have ever had with any kind of fisheries enforcement officer in Canada was last year when I was steelhead fishing in Smithers, BC. The regs aren't that complicated, or so I thought: one of the restrictions is fishing with only a single barbless hook. According to the definition in the regulations, "Barbless Hook" means a hook on which the barb is flush with the shank. I was fishing one afternoon when a couple of DFO officers pulled up in a jet boat. One guy got out and we exchanged pleasantries, etc., then he asked for my license and river endorsement (which I had in my wader pocket). After that he asked to see my hook. He looked at it, and told me it wasn't barbless enough--I'd crimped it with my pliers (so I thought), but the officer said it was "flat" but not "flush". As a lawyer I had to resist a powerful urge to get into a semantic argument with the guy. He just gave me a warning, and was actually a pretty nice guy--as opposed to a fine in the hundreds and loss of my Loomis NRX spey rod and Islander reel--so I can't really complain. But you better believe I crimp my barbs down extra "flush" now. The officer told me that it's the most common problem he sees on the river--everyone thinks they've crimped the barb down.

The punch line to this story is that about half an hour after the DFO officers left I caught a small steelhead on a dry fly with that newly flush barb. But that's another story.

Scott
 

Ard

Administrator
Messages
19,609
Reaction score
721
Location
Wasilla / Skwentna, Alaska
The fella told you that ..............

"Another thing he was talking about was how he was fishing this one river. There were a bunch of local gear guys drifting eggs. He was the only fly guy and the only American. Officer shows up and ignores everyone else and hassles him for a long time. The gear guys were yelling at the cops to bust him for something. Cops eventually gave up, and left without checking anyone else. Everyone booed the cops. He left - feeling a bit creeped out by the whole situation."

I haven't fished in Canada since 1989 but did fish in 9 Provinces up until 89 and never had a problem with anyone. Perhaps I seem likeable but the worst insult I ever received was when a fellow in Newfoundland ask innocently "Yank huh?" Of course I answered in the affirmative and he ask where from and soon we were just like me and some guy from New York...........

If I were to go to Canada or any other country / state to fish the chance of finding me in an area surrounded by "gear guys" drifting eggs is zero. I don't do that, I don't like it and I don't mesh well with those who are there for the meat. Whole story makes a good case for hiring in at a lodge where you will be isolated from all that nonsense. We have very complex regulations here and we have the Alaska State Troopers Wildlife Enforcement Officers who are not fish cops, they are Troopers. They don't hassle me or my clients but do want to see all the proper documents when they check you out.
 

duker

Well-known member
Messages
985
Reaction score
94
Location
Northwest Territories
Ard, I've met up with Alaska State Troopers occasionally fishing in SE Alaska (Haines). They were always incredibly polite and professional, and used to kid us that there was no point checking Canadians because we always have our licenses. One trooper actually refused to look at my license, said he knew I had it, have a nice day. Another guy spent maybe two minutes checking my license and half an hour asking about my spey rod.

And yeah, best to avoid the egg flinging gear guys from the get-go.

Scott
 

bumble54

Well-known member
Messages
626
Reaction score
69
Location
Sheffield UK
How I envy you all, here in the UK I have been asked to produce my rod licence twice in 50 years. Poaching is rife, nothing is sacred, every fish no matter what size or species is taken and sentencing, by and large, is none existent for poachers. When any incident of poaching is reported the police or enforcement teams rarely show up, and if they do they almost never arrest or even warn the poachers, the usual response is " can you positively prove that they are your trout". It seems they expect trout to be tattooed with a bar code or tagged. The usual advice from the police is not to challenge the poachers as they are often as not armed and have no fear of using a weapon, they know full well the sentencing in UK courts is a joke, a couple of years for stabbing someone and only serving half of whatever sentence is given.
I really, really wish the UK had the sort of enforcement and sentencing you guys often grumble about, you are very, very lucky to have such guardians of your sport.
 

ratherfish

Well-known member
Messages
368
Reaction score
7
Location
Tulsa, aka - T-Town
I've been to Manitoba many-many times and Ontario once, never had a lick of trouble, never a cross word - but then again, we rarely ever saw anyone else on the waters. We'd see people during travels and such but while fishing, rarely.
 

flafly14

Well-known member
Messages
234
Reaction score
10
Location
FL
1. Ok. I just emailed him. Turns out it was on two rivers in BC. Skeena and Copper.

2. I also came away with the thought that if I'm gonna go to Canada to fish, that I might just go to a $$ fishing lodge/guide as opposed to DIY. If the Alaska rules are real complicated, I'd probably do the same for there. At least for the first trip.

3. He did mention that he had to buy a license and then buy a separate permit for where exactly he wanted to fish that day. Not sure if that's a rule for the entire country or just certain areas.

4. I can totally understand locals not liking outsiders - it's just more competition for a finite resource. Especially if the outsider is disrespectful, littering, or abusing the fishery. I didn't get that sense out of this guy though. But if the locals have seen a ton of disrespectful visitors, then you can't really blame them for seeing another outsider and assuming he's just like all the rest.

5. I think I'd try to steer clear of the gear crowd too. But I can't say it's a zero percent chance I'd be fishing there. I mean if I came 1000's of mile to fish a certain river, then I get get there and find it crowded with bait fisherman, I'd probably try to find some way to fish it instead of just going home. I'd try to make the best of it. Maybe he should have done a little more homework before making the trip.
 

huronfly

Well-known member
Messages
770
Reaction score
55
Location
Ontario, Canada
That's a swung fly steelhead paradise, I would've steered clear of the egg crowd thats for sure! The Skeena is a heavily regulated system with classified waters, which requires a steelhead stamp as well as a daily license printed out for the classified water depending on which section you are fishing. If someone was planning a DIY trip to an area like that they owe it to themselves to do some homework regarding the regulations before they go. I was there last summer and has some CO's came by and checked our licenses, hooks, etc... They were very friendly, and seemed much more concerned about whether or not we had seen nets set up in areas they should not be.

Hard to comment on your buddy's situation with the Officer, was he beyond an invisible boundary? Doing something he shouldn't have? Seems a little strange to me, I doubt the CO and other anglers knew exactly who the American was only to target and harrass him. I've never witnessed something like that anywhere. The lodge I stayed had hosts Americans more than any other nationality and never had anything bad to say, a few Yank jokes but all good fun.

Locally, we get a lot of out-of-country and out-of-town people to fish for steelhead. There is sometimes tension between locals and "others" I will say. It's a catch 22, the area relies on the tourism that fishing provides in the shoulder seasons, but when people flock to the area only to catch their limit(or more) and go home, it can leave a sour taste in people's mouths when that see it day after day. There have been many instances in the past where a person has kept 10x the legal limit in fish, it's all posted in the news and I am sorry to say that in almost every case the person is not from Ontario or Canada. Some people will lump foreigners and city people all into the same group, which is a problem, but most people are very friendly and will give you a nod of the cap so long as you are not being an a-hole. This kind of drama is a big reason I seek solitude on these systems.
 

LePetomane

Well-known member
Messages
200
Reaction score
150
Location
Wyoming
Knock on wood, I have yet to have an issue with conservation officers or game wardens in the US or Canada. In general I have found these folks to be more polite than the cops.
It sounds like your friend ran into a guy who wanted to bust his chops.
 

Ard

Administrator
Messages
19,609
Reaction score
721
Location
Wasilla / Skwentna, Alaska
2. I also came away with the thought that if I'm gonna go to Canada to fish, that I might just go to a $$ fishing lodge/guide as opposed to DIY. If the Alaska rules are real complicated, I'd probably do the same for there. At least for the first trip.
Hi,

It's probably a good thing you aren't here this year due to an extreme low abundance of fish especially the king salmon returns. In the current state of fisheries in South Central AK. which is an area way larger than any state excepting Texas every river is far from making the sustainable escapement goal thus far.

What that would mean to the DIY fisherman is almost an impossible situation because of access to rivers where C&R fishing is currently allowed. Something few folks who have never been here understand is the lack of 'easy access' fishing on the mainland of Alaska. Other than where bridges cross rivers there are no points of access. Even at crossings any foot paths that exist only lead to where every other DIY fisherman is at or will arrive at while you are there.

The final bit of bad news is that with the drastically reduced numbers of salmon surviving to return each successive year your only best chance will be to be able to access many miles of river by way of a jet boat. That's where the guides come in. This is not a pitch for guiding, I'm just stating a fact. Given the continued slide in fishery quality I expect to curtail guiding as an act submission. If you were to come just to give it a go I'll be available to help people but the days of arranging for fees may be at an end at least for me. I like to see people catch fish, lots of fish. I don't enjoy seeing a fellow put in a 12 hour day to catch one undersized salmon and I enjoy it even less if I feel guilty for charging for my services.

If anyone needs help interpreting the regulations for my part of Alaska (South Central - Northwest Cook Inlet) I'd be happy to help there also.
 

flafly14

Well-known member
Messages
234
Reaction score
10
Location
FL
Given the continued slide in fishery quality I expect to curtail guiding as an act submission. If you were to come just to give it a go I'll be available to help people but the days of arranging for fees may be at an end at least for me. I like to see people catch fish, lots of fish. I don't enjoy seeing a fellow put in a 12 hour day to catch one undersized salmon and I enjoy it even less if I feel guilty for charging for my services.
You paint a pretty bleak picture. But if you're honest up front, then I think you've got nothing to feel guilty about. There're probably a lot of people that would still enjoy the experience regardless of reduced catch expectations. Especially since you're giving them the opportunity to do it with someone who's just real with them.
 
Top