Despite new fishing regulations, fines have been piling up this summer at Calling Lake where many fishers have not been obeying the new rules set out by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (SRD).
According to Darcy Boucher, a Fish and Wildlife officer with SRD in Athabasca, Calling Lake has been the biggest problem for his department this summer.
“We’ve have had 350-400 fishing related infractions throughout the summer,” Boucher explained. Of that number, he said about 300 are directly related to disobeying fishing rules and regulations.
These infractions include keeping more fish than the legal limit, keeping fish that are either larger or smaller than those permitted, using barbed hooks, and drinking while boating.
According to SRD, fishers are allowed to keep two walleye between 45 and 55 cm in length and one northern pike more than 63 cm.
“They’re keeping whatever size they want to. A lot of the time they aren’t even providing an excuse anymore,” explained Boucher.
“They’re not even close most of the time. We see fish that are 60, 63 cm long and over the amount they are allowed to have,” he added.
Compared to last year, when fishers were only allowed to keep one walleye or pike of any size, wildlife officers said they have been much busier this year.
“We spend the majority of our time up at Calling Lake. The new rules have increased the amount of manpower we need by about 10 times this year,” said Boucher.
Despite the fact that staff continue to monitor Calling Lake both on weekends and during the week, Boucher said a trend is emerging.
“I’ve noticed a trend over the last bit here. It’s getting very frustrating to see people that are blatantly not following the rules and not caring,” he said.
Boucher said some people may not be following the rules simply because they don’t believe they’ll get caught.
“They think we’re not going to be there, but we’re there almost all the time. With all the infractions comes more paperwork and that keeps us from being there even more.”
Anyone found keeping a fish that is one cm more or less than the permitted size will be ticketed and have their fish seized. SRD recommends measuring from the tip of the nose to the tail fin is the most accurate way to determine if one’s catch is within the permitted size.
According to SRD, it is also illegal to fillet a fish out on the lake. The fish must remain whole so that it can be measured properly. Fines start at $120 and can go into the thousands of dollars depending on the severity of the infraction.
Boucher said his department will continue to monitor fishing at Calling Lake for the rest of the summer.