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Tony Pottle of Tug O'War Fishing Adventures having second thoughts on catch and release

Tony Pottle of Stephenville poses for a photo with his angling equipment in the back of his car. The fishing adventures guide is conflicted about catch and release angling.
Tony Pottle of Stephenville poses for a photo with his angling equipment in the back of his car. The fishing adventures guide is conflicted about catch and release angling. - Frank Gale

After salmon angling his whole adult life and even back during his teen years, Tony Pottle is somewhat conflicted about the practice of catch and release fishing.

As a licensed guide who owns Tug O’War Guiding Fishing Adventures, he said speaking out against catch and release is not an easy thing to do, but he’s taking pause now because of recent events.

One of them was while fishing on Flat Bay River on Wednesday and making all the right moves to protect the salmon he caught, including using a rubber style net and releasing the fish as quickly as possible.

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He watched the salmon go out into flowing water that was about a foot deep and after staying for a half an hour after the release, that salmon was still in the same spot and he said it “tugs at his heart” of what might have happened after he left.

Pottle said even in cold water the fight that salmon put up to get rid of the hook takes the best out of them and there’s been instances where marked and released salmon have been found in the pool below a day later and further downstream a few days after the release.

He said when that happens they become prey to animals that live along the stream.

“My heart is with the salmon and I’m thinking about it as much today as when I left the river yesterday,” he said.

Pottle said he doesn’t have a big problem with Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) putting an end to the retention of salmon if the numbers are declining, as long as there is enough enforcement on the rivers.

He said he is aware that some anglers will rebel and say the rivers are being opened to poaching if retention anglers are not on them. His feeling is that if you’re not part of the conservation solution then you are part of the problem.

Pottle encourages anglers to go out and retain sea trout they are permitted to catch and while on the river report poaching if they see it happening.

DFO announced on Thursday all salmon rivers on the island part of the province will be closed to retention angling for the remainder of the season due to low counts following an in-season stock review.

The announcement comes on the tail of the recommendation being made by DFO science on Wednesday.

Catch and release angling will continue to be permitted but once water temperatures exceed 18 C, rivers will close to all angling.

From what he experienced on Wednesday, Pottle believes that DFO shouldn’t wait for the temperatures in the river to rise and that catch and release should also be closed in rivers.

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