For a short time, Vern and Roger weren't entirely on the same pageOn our recent fishing trip to Saskatchewan’s Reindeer Lake, my partner, Vern, wanted to take some fish home. This was important to him to the point that it influenced his choice of outfitters. Though the folks at Tate Island Lodge hadn’t sent anglers home in the past with fish, they agreed to let Vern take our possession limits.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
On our recent fishing trip to Saskatchewan’s Reindeer Lake, my partner, Vern, wanted to take some fish home. This was important to him to the point that it influenced his choice of outfitters. Though the folks at Tate Island Lodge hadn’t sent anglers home in the past with fish, they agreed to let Vern take our possession limits.
Truthfully, I was a bit cool to the idea as I don’t like to kill fish from northern waters, but I consented as I knew how important it was to him. So long as keeping fish from those waters wasn’t abused, a few fish for Vern wasn’t going to have any negative impact.
My feelings stemmed from an experience that goes back 19 years. The year was 1993. My late dear friend, Don Kaberna, and I caribou hunted and fished an area in the Ungava region that had never before been hunted or fished. From the lake bank in front of our camp, we caught Arctic char and lake trout on every cast.
Friends and I returned to that campsite in 2001. It was difficult to catch a fish in that same lake. Eight years of month-long caribou camps had stripped the oh-so-slow growing northern fish from the lake. It was a lesson that remains in my mind today.
Getting back to Vern and me, we were about an hour from the U.S. border when we got into a discussion about the fish in our cooler. I can’t say for sure, but I think that Vern was slightly irked because he thought there should be more fish in the cooler. His thinking certainly had merit.
On the back side of our Saskatchewan fishing licenses, it says that the possession limit for lake trout is three fish. We had four lake trout in the cooler. Vern was thinking there should have been six. It was almost a matter that required legal interpretation except for one thing, that being a paragraph further down the back of the license.
That paragraph reads: “Water Specific Regulations: Some waters throughout the province have reduced limits, size restrictions and/or closures for part or all of the year. Consult the 2012 Saskatchewan Anglers’ Guide to become familiar with these regulations.”
In fairness to Vern, we were not given Anglers’ Guides when we filled out our license applications. As the time to go home approached, I asked Jim, the lodge owner, what the possession limit for lake trout was. He told me that it was two. Since this didn’t jive with the information on my license, I went to the Saskatchewan Natural Resources website on the lodge computer. Under Reindeer Lake, it said two lake trout. I think that the part of the license that says “three lake trout” should have an asterisk in front of it.
As driver of our vehicle, I was responsible for the fish. Also, I had once, many years ago, been involved with fish problems at the border, and I wasn’t going to let it happen again if I could help it.
We were closing in on the international border. Vern had his license out, and he was telling me, “It says three lake trout! There’s nothing they could do to us at the border if we had six trout!” I replied, “Vern, if we had six trout, we would get arrested. They would also confiscate our fish. They would tell us that if we are going to fish a lake, it is our responsibility to know the rules of that lake.” And so the discussion continued.
It troubled me that my partner was irritated with my view on the matter, and I said a little prayer that the entire matter would be clarified at the border whether I was right or wrong.
We pulled up to the U.S. Customs drive-thru booth. After the usual questions, I was told to drive the truck into the large building on the left when they learned we had fish with us. U.S. Fish & Wildlife officers began by asking us for our fishing licenses. They were very professional. They were also all business.
They questioned us as they inspected the packages of fish. One of the officials went to his office to check the regulations. We had the correct amount of fish. We were told that had there been another lake trout, we would have been arrested, and our fish would have been seized. These guys did a great job. In today’s world we must accept border scrutiny as a necessity.
While I was as happy as a bull moose in the water lilies, the inspection left Vern in an angry mood. I responded that Fish & Wildlife was just doing its job. Vern asked, “Does that mean that border officers on past fishing trips weren’t doing their jobs?” (We had never been checked in the past) I guessed that checks were random... more or less anyway, and I said so. Vern did make a good point. I think the checks should be more frequent.
In the end, hunger trumped anger. It had been a long time since breakfast in Swan River, and shrimp dinners in Harvey, ND had us laughing like little kids again. I like it when old guys talk about the next fishing trip. Stubborn or not, Vern is my hero. Family members also tell me that I can be stubborn. It must come with age.
Remember that the application deadline for West River Deer is Friday. See you next week.