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Federal fisheries minister looking into $697 fishing fine for Nova Scotia grandfather


Three-year-old Madison Barkhouse is shown fishing at MacElmons Pond Provincial Park in Debert last weekend. The trip cost her grandfather $697.50. - Contributed
Three-year-old Madison Barkhouse is shown fishing at MacElmons Pond Provincial Park in Debert last weekend. The trip cost her grandfather $697.50. - Contributed

Federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said he’s looking into an incident that saw a Nova Scotia senior slapped with a fine for showing his granddaughter how to use a fishing rod.

As SaltWire reported earlier this week, Doug Barkhouse and his wife, who recently moved to Valley, decided to take their three-year-old granddaughter Madison to MacElmons Pond in nearby Debert last weekend at the suggestion of a neighbour. Madison was visiting and she wanted to try out her new miniature fishing rod.

“I think the situation we’re dealing with here is that grandpa was out trying to catch a fish and he was going to let his granddaughter reel it in. I understand from a human perspective what he was trying to do ... you still have to be aware of the rules.”

            - Darren Goetze, director general of conservation and protection at DFO

Barkhouse was showing Madison how to cast the two-foot rod and was in the act of passing it back to her when he was approached by a fisheries officer who asked Barkhouse to follow him to his truck.

Doug Barkhouse and his three-year-old granddaughter Madison Barkhouse fishing at MacElmons Pond Provincial Park. - Contributed
Doug Barkhouse and his three-year-old granddaughter Madison Barkhouse fishing at MacElmons Pond Provincial Park. - Contributed

He left with a $697.50 fine “for fishing by jigging in inland waters,” violating section 9 (a) of the Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations.

When the story went online, people started asking why fisheries officers bothered with a little girl, her two-foot rod, line and hook with the barbs cut off.

“I read the news articles with some degree of concern and so I’m definitely going to ensure we follow up,” Wilkinson said Thursday.

Wilkinson said he was taught to fish by his grandfather when he was two, so reading the story of Barkhouse and his granddaughter brought back fond memories. When asked if he was sure if he always followed the rules as a child, he laughed.

“I certainly hope so,” Wilkinson said.

“I do think there are times when folks aren’t fully aware of the rules. ... It’s important to respect the rules but it’s also important for us to be sensitive about how we’re applying them and how we’re using things as teaching moments and education moments rather than as disciplinary moments.”

Darren Goetze, director general of conservation and protection at DFO, did not back down on the officer’s actions, and suggested Barkhouse got off easy.

Aside from jigging in inland waters, Goetze said, the photo that was run in SaltWire newspapers of Barkhouse and his granddaughter shows him clearly engaged in fishing activity in “close proximity” to a fishway. That’s against the rules, as is fishing without a licence, Goetze said.

“There’s a number of problematic dimensions to his activities,” he said.

But Barkhouse maintains that there’s no way that the toy rod he was using could have ever been used for jigging as the hook had been removed for safety.

“Her father cut the barbed thing off it because she was dragging it around the house for two days,” Barkhouse said.

“(The officer) never looked at the rod, he never looked in the car to see if there was any other equipment in the car that we could use for jigging, he didn’t go beyond ‘I’m charging you’ and that’s it.’”

Barkhouse said he wasn’t given the chance to explain himself, and was told if he kept talking he would be arrested.

He also said there was no signage anywhere near the area indicating fishing was not allowed, and said when the trio arrived there was already a group of kids fishing there.

Though fishing regulations apply to everyone, Goetze said, when fisheries officers happen across minors who are engaged in illegal fishing activities, they use it as an opportunity for education.

However, Goetze said, adults are responsible for knowing the rules.

“In this particular case that’s not what we were obviously dealing with,” he said,

“I think the situation we’re dealing with here is that grandpa was out trying to catch a fish and he was going to let his granddaughter reel it in. I understand from a human perspective what he was trying to do ... you still have to be aware of the rules.”

For Barkhouse, it wasn’t the fine that upset him the most but the way he was treated by the officer in front of his family.

“I’m 65 years old and nobody has ever treated me like that before … he was a bully,” Barkhouse said.

“I’ve never been in trouble, I never do anything illegal, I’m just an old man with a little girl that wants to fish.”

RELATED: Nova Scotia man’s cast for granddaughter nets $697 fine

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