Our Man In Canada
August 28th, 2006

Resource management - A Science or an art?
By Chris Chin, Jonquiere, Quebec, Canada

When I look over the variety and quality of information we have access to here on the Ste. Marguerite River, I am just amazed sometimes that one can make heads or tails of it.

Being an Atlantic salmon river, we record all captures; length, weight, sex, pool taken from etc. Further, all released salmon get guesstimates recorded. Trout are counted too.

The wardens and the biologists get a fairly accurate count of the number of salmon scattered up and down the river. There is also a counting cage in the upper reaches where fish are retained, then counted before continuing their journey upstream to the spawning beds.

A weir with a monitoring station gets us live measurements of water flow and temperature. (http://www.cehq.gouv.qc.ca/suivihydro/graphique.asp?NoStation=062803) The research center for Atlantic salmon is also located here on the river and did an extensive tagging and recapturing of trout. (http://www.bio.ulaval.ca/CIRSA/menu.htm)

And there are the river reports and scouting information. No wonder newcomers are a bit dumbfounded when they hear us chatting about the different pools and runs.

Recently, I was up on the observatory on the #23 pool chatting with some anglers. James Castwell's mild mannered look-a-like was there too. Peering into the pool, the fellow next to me mentioned that there were 28 salmon, but the low sun was making it difficult to spot them.

I replied: "Oh, 28, ... 4 have left then?"

Angler: "Yup, the big female moved up to the #24 and the other 3 headed West" (upstream to the upper reaches).

Jim was a bit skeptical. He looks at me and says: "How many salmon are actually in the river then?"

I replied: "Well, about 475."

More skeptical looks...so I add: "Well,...between 450 and 500 then".

Then comes the tough questions. Like, if we have so much data, how come we don't know why the salmon stocks are declining?

    Could be from the river getting blown out in '96 from the 10,000 year rain event.

    Could be because of locals netting salmon off the British Isles (nope,...genetics proved that one wrong for our stocks).

    Could be a natural long term cycle in the population.

    Could be because of the over harvesting by sport fishing.

    Could be the seals and sea lions.

    Could be a decline in prey fish for food.

Well, you get the idea.

I'm a forester by trade and we have enough trouble doing an accurate forest inventory (well,...there are 35 million hectares of land). Image trying to manage (or at least understand) a species which leaves the river for 2-6 years and migrates over 6,000 miles.

We have the same problem getting a handle on sea run brook trout population dynamics, and they only migrate 100 miles out and back to the fjord.

Natural resource management is an art, (in my honest opinion). We try to base our actions on science and numbers, but even that doesn't always give us a solid footing. Recent documents suggest that even the retention of Grisles (juvenile salmon who return to the river) could have an impact on the population (or at least the genetic diversity of the population).

Maybe I don't want to know EVERTHING about the species anyway. After all, it is the mystery, the mystique about salmon that adds something to the sport. ~ Chris Chin, Jonquiere Quebec

About Chris:

Chris Chin is originally from Kamloops, British Columbia. He has been fly fishing on and off ever since he was 10 years old. Chris became serious about the sport within the last 10 years.

"I'm a forest engineer by day and part time guide on the Ste-Marguerite River here in central Quebec. I've been fishing this river for about 10 years now and started guiding about 5 years ago when the local guide's association sort of stopped functioning."

Chris guides mostly for sea run brook trout and about 30% of the time for Atlantic Salmon. "I often don't even charge service fees, as I'm more interested in promoting the river than making cash. I like to get new comers to realize that salmon fishing is REALLY for anyone who cares to try it. Tradition around here makes some of the old clan see Salmon fishing as a sport for the rich. Today our shore lunches are less on the cucumber sandwich side and more toward chicken pot pie and Jack Daniel's."

Chris is 42 years old as of this writing. He is of Chinese origin although his parents were born and raised in Jamaica. He has a girlfriend, Renée. "She and her 12 year old son Vincent started fly fishing with me in October 2002."

To learn more about the Ste-Marguerite River, visit Christopher's website http://pages.videotron.com/fcch/.

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