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Stolen rowboat robs legally blind B.C. fisherman of last chance to enjoy his passion

Valuable classic Tyee-style boat stolen Campbell River area 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 found purpose and satisfaction in continuing to fish for salmon in his Tyee rowboat — the same rowboat that served him for 33 years as a salmon guide and angler.

But that purpose and satisfaction was taken away from him Sunday, Aug. 7 when somebody stole it from the Campbell River fisherman’s wharf.

“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 in the internationally renowned waters off the Tyee Spit in Campbell River. He has owned the classic Tyee-style rowboat for 33 years. These boats were designed for fishing the 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.”

Rowboat fishing for Tyee salmon is a longstanding tradition in Campbell River. 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.

Laird’s condition means he can’t fish the Tyee Pool any more because it would be too dangerous with the number of other boats. He can, however, fish 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.

“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.” 

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 — which had hoped to leave to his grandchildren — back, if possible.

It’s a 1989, 14-foot fibreglass hull Tyee rowboat called “Strikes 90” made by Whitehall Boats in Victoria. It has a classic 7.5 h.p. Evinrude outboard on its transom. It retails for about new for about $20,000 plus the cost of the motor and oars.

“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.

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.

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