Recreational fishermen in Cape Breton will soon have a new guide to help them distinguish between juvenile salmon and trout.
The Atlantic Salmon Federation in Nova Scotia, in partnership with the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources and the Margaree Salmon Association, has put up signs on waterways tp show anglers how to identify young salmon, in hopes of replenishing salmon stocks.
It's called the Every Fish Matters campaign.
"To help folks identify the differences between brook trout, Nova Scotia's native brook trout and the various stages of atlantic salmon juveniles which occupy a similar habitats and are found in the same areas and are often caught when people are angling. We want to make sure that they return the salmon and keep the trout," said Lewis Hinks, director of programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation in Nova Scotia.
He said salmon in the parr stage of their life cycle look very similar to brook trout.
"So we've got some identifiers on these posters and we're hoping that people will pay attention to them."
He said too many people are taking home salmon parr thinking their trout and it's hurting the region's salmon numbers.
"It happens enough that it causes us concern, especially at the parr stage. The smolt stage is quite silvery, so it looks quite a bit different from a parr or a brook trout. But some people confuse them with sea trout, returning sea trout, so we just want to make sure people are aware of what's going on and what the difference is and that they should let them go."
Hinks has a couple of rules for helping people identify what they take out of the water.
"Brook trout have a marking on their very back it's a squiggly line, technically it's called a vermiculation, if you see that then you know that you have a brook trout. If you don't see that then you should start to question what you may have. Another general rule for identifying is with trout if you have light spots on a dark background then you have a brook trout. If you have dark spots on a lighter background then you probably have a salmon."
The new signs outline all of the differences between the two fish, and Hinks said there will be lots of signs around the island for fishermen to reference.
"We're putting them in rivers all over Cape Breton island, I mean we've got enough we're going to be putting them where First Nations and recreational fishers go, where ever we think there will be good access and people will actually see them. On bridges if possible, entry points, paths into popular fishing holes. I expect they will go into community centres and band halls and post office, wherever people will accept and allow us to put them up just so people will have a good understanding of what we're trying to do."
Hink's believes once people are taught the difference between young salmon and brook trout far less salmon will be killed.
He thinks right now most people take home young salmon by mistake because they don't know the difference between it and trout.