Nfld. & Labrador

Charge the anglers, says Salmonid Association after Dildo derby catch

A group that works to preserve salmon stocks in the province is calling on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to charge the anglers who pulled salmon from Dildo Pond during a recent fishing derby.

Conservation group says annual event is bad for fish stocks

Sean Vardy is president of the Salmnonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland, a group that's calling for charges after salmon were caught in a trout fishing derby. (CBC)

A group that works to preserve salmon stocks in the province is calling on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to charge anglers who pulled salmon from Dildo Pond during a recent fishing derby.

Sean Vardy, president of the Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland, told CBC News on Tuesday that it doesn't matter whether or not the anglers meant to catch a salmon.

"The problem with keeping a fish now, and arguing about the species, and being unable to determine what it was sets a very dangerous precedent for the summer coming — and future summers after this," said Vardy.

"Our enforcement folks and inland fisheries have a challenging enough job as it is now to protect our rivers the way they are. This is a dangerous road we don't want to go down."

It's the latest chapter in a controversy that's dragged on since Valentine's Day.

This is the fish that is stirring up controversy at the annual Dildo Pond fishing derby in Trinity Bay. (Facebook)

That's when angler Owen White pulled a 5.6 pound fish from Dildo Pond in an annual derby sponsored by Buy & Sell Magazine.

The fish, the largest caught in the 2016 derby, was ruled to be a salmon after DNA testing in a federal lab.

DFO is also testing two other large fish caught in the derby, whose rules say only brown or brook trout can qualify for prizes.

It's 100 per cent illegal to catch salmon this time of year.  - Sean Vardy ,   Salmonid  Association of Eastern Newfoundland

Contest organizers are polling derby participants to ask if they would agree to opening up the contest to all fish caught.

"I think it would set a very bad precedent to allow an illegal fish to win one of the $30,000 prizes," said Vardy.

"It's 100 per cent illegal to catch salmon this time of year ... I'm not sure why charges haven't been laid yet in this situation. I've contacted DFO on numerous occasions and have yet to get a response."

Mass fishing bad for the stocks

Organizers have said they had no idea there were salmon in the pond.

Owen White said he tried to throw his fish back after it was logged in the contest but organizers stopped him.

The Salmonid Association disagrees with the entire fishing derby premise.

Signs like this one in Quidi Vidi Village promote work done by the Salmonid Association to protect stocks in rivers around St. John's (CBC)

"Catch and kill, bringing hundreds of people to one body of water to over-fish it in a very short period of time is detrimental to the stocks that are already in jeopardy in Newfoundland and Labrador," said Vardy.

"I would like to see a full catch-and-release derby with members standing out recording fish, photographing fish, whatever it takes to allow safe release back into the water so we can have a sustainable fishery again next year."

White said in an interview Friday that he'd like to see the same thing, and he's accused derby organizers of not doing "due diligence."

The Department of Fisheries, meanwhile, had no comment Tuesday except to say the issue is under review.
 

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story mistakenly said Owen White knew the captured fish was a salmon, but White says he didn't know what species of fish it was at the time.
    Mar 02, 2016 3:19 PM NT

With files from Carolyn Stokes