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Legally blind Campbell River fisherman wants his stolen rowboat returned

Valuable classic Tyee-style boat stolen from Fisherman’s Wharf Aug. 7
Scott Laird’s Tyee rowboat, “Strikes 90,” was stolen from the Fisherman’s Wharf on Aug. 7 around 3 a.m. Anyone who has seen this boat is asked to call Campbell River Crime Stoppers 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Photo contributed

After the loss of nearly all of his sight seven years ago, Scott Laird finds purpose and satisfaction in continuing to fish for salmon in his Tyee rowboat, a rowboat that served him for 33 years as a guide and Tyee angler off the Tyee Spit in Campbell River.

But that purpose and satisfaction was taken away from him Sunday, Aug. 7 when somebody stole his valuable rowboat.

“I’m devastated,” Laird said. “Like, I get up in the morning at three and I think about what the implications of this are for me.”

Laird was a fishing guide for 40 years, “like a lot of guys around here,” he said, and has owned the classic Tyee-style rowboat for 33 years. These boats were designed for fishing the famous Tyee Pool and are based on the classic Painter rowboats that have been associated with this traditional fishery.

“But I have this condition that came on like that. And I lost it (vision) all in that eye and I got about 20 per cent, 25 per cent in this eye,” Laird said. “So I’m able to read under certain circumstances, I can even row the boat close to shore.”

Laird docks his boat at the Fisherman’s Wharf where he does all his fishing. For those who don’t know, rowboat fishing for Tyee salmon is a longstanding tradition in Campbell River and is usually done at the Tyee Pool off the mouth of the Campbell River along the shore of the Tyee Spit. Traditional tackle is used in a human-powered boat and catching a Chinook bigger than 30 pounds (a Tyee) qualifies you for membership in the Tyee Club.

But Laird can’t fish the Tyee Pool any more, it would be too dangerous with the number of Tyee boats and other vessels traversing the body of water. So, he stays close to shore near where his boat is docked.

“The government dock is where I do all my fishing. Because nobody else fishes there…I can see the shore and I know enough about it. I have done it so much that I can be effective,” Laird said. “So Tyee fishing for me now occurs in that zone, which is why the boat is moored there, because I can’t use it in Tyee Pool because it’s packed with other boats.”

His favourite spot is located just off the breakwater beside the “can,” as it is known. And he has qualified for membership in the Tyee Club by catching a 30.25 Tyee this way in 2019 five years after suddenly losing most of his eyesight due to a medical condition. His eyesight loss is a challenge but one which he has adapted to.

“But I can row that boat. I got all the tackle. And I could take you out there, you’d have a decent chance of hooking a 20-plus pound Campbell (River) Chinook, because they’re along the whole shoreline,” Laird said.

But that has all come to an end with the theft of his boat.

Laird is asking everyone to help him retrieve his boat. He’s sure it could still be somewhere in the area. They have digital surveillance images of the actual theft and hope to be able to identify the suspect. The images are in the hands of the RCMP. But in the meantime, he would like to get the boat back, if possible.

It’s a 1989, 14-foot fibreglass hull Tyee rowboat made by Whitehall Boats in Victoria. It has a classic 7.5 h.p. Evinrude outboard on its transom.

The boat is called “Strikes 90” and these types of boats retail new for about US$16,000, so approximately CAN$20,000 plus there is the motor and oars.

If you see the boat, contact Campbell River Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). The file number is 2022-10262. Or call Laird at 250-287-3706.

“So that’s my fishing lifestyle now. And I don’t want to give it up. I won’t be buying another boat, you know. I’m 75, I can barely manage this one,” Laird said.

The boat keeps him fishing and he wants to continue. He also had hopes of leaving the boat to his grandchildren.

Scott Laird’s Tyee rowboat, “Strikes 90” was stolen from the Fisherman’s Wharf on Aug. 7 around 3 a.m. Anyone who has seen this boat is asked to call Campbell River Crime Stoppers 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Photo contributed

Alistair Taylor

About the Author: Alistair Taylor

I have been editor of the Campbell River Mirror since 1989. Our team takes great pride in serving our community.
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