Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Invasive Species in NB

Before you get all excited and upset, I am not trying to simply bad mouth what may be your favorite fish!   Please read on before jumping to conclusions!
The recent CBC article regarding the subject of opening new waters to ice fishing brought up a number of interesting viewpoints both in direct comments to the story and Facebook threads referencing it.   One topic that was raised was on the presence and management of invasive species in New Brunswick.   

An invasive (fish) species is defined by Wikipedia as a fish that is not native and has negative effects on our economy, our environment, or our health. Not all introduced species are invasive.   In NB, perhaps the most notable invasive fish species from an anglers perspective are Smallmouth Bass, Pickerel, Muskie, and most recently Largemouth Bass.  While these fish are classified as invasive, they are also well established at this point, and it would be unfair to focus on the so called negative effects without also looking at the good they bring, and measuring either isn't all that straighfoward.

These fish are all very efficient predators and have no natural predators themselves once they get to be a certain size.   As such, they absolutely do have a very detremental effect on other fish populations like trout and salmon.  

Smallmouth bass

Smallmouth bass have been in NB longer than you or I, but they weren't always here.   According to research articles like this one,  Smallmouth came to NB by way of the St. Croix watershed in 1868.     Smallmouth can live for longer than 20 years and get up over 20 inches in length.     While present in most of the province since, it was only in Sept of 2008 when a Smallmouth was first caught in Miramichi Lake, the headpond of the Southwest Miramichi River System.    Since then expensive efforts have been made to eliminate Smallmouth from this lake in hopes of protecting the salmon that use the river system to spawn.

Smallmouth fishing is perhaps the most popular sportfish we have in our province, right up there with salmon and trout for those who are passionate about it.    There is a whole industry built around smallmouth fishing with very active sportfishing associations focused on smallmouth bass throughout North America.   Our own NB Sportfishing Association is an excellent group for those interested in tournament bass fishing with some of the best bass anglers one will ever meet.   Unfortunately for me, it doesn't cater to kayaks, but thats ok, I have no wish to be a competitive tournament angler, I enjoy fishing (and releasing!) them from kayak just for the thrill of it!

The fact that smallmouth are here to stay, and the fantastic economic and recreational benefits of the fish mean we should protect them in those waters they are present in, but work to keep them out of waters where they do not currently reside.   

Chain Pickerel

From what I can find online, Chain Pickerel appears to be a newer resident in New Brunswick.   According to Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture, there was little to no documentation about Chain Pickerel in Canada until 1973.    For a fish that hasn't been around all that long, it certianly has made itself at home here in NB!   

Present in many of our lakes and rivers, pickerel can grow to over 2 feet in length and are an absolute joy to fish.   While they are not great for eating in the summers, when caught in the winter, they can be quite tasty, though completely full of bones and very difficult to fillet if you don't know how.   There is no limit on pickerel when ice fishing and a 10 fish limit in the summer.   Personally I'd like to see this number reduced as overfishing has had very noticable effects on pickerel populations in lakes where the fish has taken over.

Muskie (Muskellunge)
Clark Rayner - 49.25" Muskie in 2014

Muskie has been around NB in the Saint John river system for close to 30 years, with the first one spotted trying to go through the dam in 1988 according to this paper.   These fish can grow to be over 50" long and can put up one of the best fights an angler could ever have.   I've yet to catch a Muskie myself, but really hope to do so in 2015!    The Saint John River Chapter of Muskies Canada is a great group to join if you are interested in learning to fish for this amazing fish!

Large Mouth Bass

Finally Large Mouth Bass is not widely known to be in NB, however the past year or two, a couple of them have been caught in the upper Saint John river.    As a newly discovered and potentially very impactful  predator, the NB Department of Natural Resources askes that any Largemouth bass caught in NB be kept and reported back to the department.   This is actually written in the Fish Book containing all rules and regulations for fishing in our province.


Today, Smallmouth bass, Chain Pickerel and Muskie are all here to stay, there is no getting around that.   Hopefully the same will not be said about Largemouth bass in 20 years.   But for these three species there is the debate about how to manage them, and this is not a black and white issue.    While these fish are natural predators and will hurt the populations of fish like trout and salmon in waters where they are introduced, it is near impossible to get rid of them one present.  However all of these fish are still very enjoyable to catch, and bring in much needed money to our economy.

I believe that once present and settled in a body of water, the fish should be protected so that there is a good recreational fishing experience there for all who wish to enjoy it.    Retention limits should be set to prevent overfishing like has happened in areas like McManus Lake where once abundant and large pickerel are now very difficult to come by.    However, we have to try our best to prevent these fish from spreading further into waters where other fish speces are present.    That, I know, is not easy!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Opening new NB Waters for Ice Fishing

My apologies.    I have some strong feelings when it comes to politics and how our governments are run, but I really do want to keep that seperate from this blog.   Up till now I think I have kept all content positive and non-political, but today I need to put one foot into the gutter.   Hopefully it won't happen again.

A little while ago, I had asked Neville Crabbe, a local CBC reporter, if he thought the topic of adding new waters to those we are allowed to fish in NB would be one worth looking into.   Neville took a look at my previous blog post on the topic and decided to do a story.   As such, today has been interesting to say the least with a fair amount of chatter on social media.

The CBC story is here.  With any story where the topic is important to me, I'm interested in reading the feedback comments.    While one poor soul apparently believes that NB'ers live year round in the ice shacks, the rest of the comments raised several viewpoints, all of which I respect, though I may not fully agree with.   Are the right ponds on the list, are the retention limits set correctly, and how to view invasive species that are already settled in our waters are all topics that have come up and are worth debating or exploring further.  

In politics, timing is everything, and I think it is too much of a concidence to think Mr. Crabbe's article was not the instigator behind this, but I finally just received an e-mail response from Fisheries and Oceans Canada on behalf of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea.    Note, I had sent my inquiry back on November 28th and only today, on the day of the CBC article do I get a response!

The e-mail that I received was basically a form letter telling absolutely nothing that we didn't know already.    Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) was given the request to look into this topic back in January of 2014 and this process is "complex, requiring public consultations and analysis of policy alternatives and their impacts before a proposed regulation can be finalized".     The letter goes on to say they will work with the Province of New Brunswick to move this foward but gives no timeline as to when we can expect the process to be completed.

My response to this letter is as follows:


Thank you for your reply.   With all due respect, your response did not provide any information that I was not already aware of.

I suspect the timing of the reply may be linked to the CBC story on the subject this morning.  It is unfortunate that acknowledgement of my inquiry comes only after media interest.  I understand that with the drastic cuts in funding and personnel experienced by DFO since the Harper government was first elected, these things take longer to complete.   My concern however is that the process may not get started in time for next year's ice fishing season.

Would you be able to say if there been any substantial movement on this file since being placed in DFO hands a full year ago, or would you be able to give any estimates as to how long the process may take?


I'm frustrated.    As taxpayers we deserve full, honest, and straightfoward answers to these questions.   Media attention should not be required to get so much as a politcally correct non-answer response.   If the honest answer to the question is "We haven't looked at it and we don't have the manpower to look at it", then that is the answer they should give.   At least then we would know to ask other questions to our MPs to address the root problems.

Oh, and if you are curious as to the mentioned drastic cuts in funding and personnel that Harper has laid onto DFO, just google "Harper cuts DFO".   You will find many articles that should really upset anyone who values our environment and believes that we need to ensure scientific expertise is put before political agendas when making environmental decisions.

OK, thats enough of the politics for today!     Thank you for bearing with me.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2015 Pro-Staff Updates

Over the past year I have been very fortunate to work with some outstanding companies in the kayak and fishing industries, and am very pleased to say I'll be doing more of the same work in 2015! There are some changes though, not all of which were easy decisions to make.

Already as a member of the Johnsons Adventure on the Water team I promote the companies that fall under their group including Old Town, Ocean Kayak, Extrasport (PFDs), and Carlisle Paddles. Before the holidays Johnsons contacted me and told me they would like to have me join their Pro-Staff Elite Council. Here I will be part of a very select group of world class kayak anglers who will regularly meet to discuss new features to the fishing kayak product line, brainstorm improvements, give community feedback and so forth. It is an honor to be asked to join such a group, and as the lone Canadian and only 1 of 2 non-Americans in the elite council, I will work hard to ensure any feedback I can gather here in Canada makes it's way to the right people at Johnsons!

After discovering Denali rods in 2014, I spent a fair amount of effort trying my best to help Denali Rods break into the Canadian market. Using these rods almost exclusively in 2014, I have the highest level of confidence in there strength and durability, found they have amazing sensitivity and are extremely light weight. Basically what more could you ask for in a kayak rod? However without a Canadian distributor, it is very hard for a rod company to gain a strong presence here North of the border.

Recently I was approached by the Pure Fishing team and asked if I would be interested in joining them as a Brand Ambassador. Pure Fishing covers some of the biggest and best names in the fishing industry and it was an absolute honor and surprise that I would be given such an opportunity. There are 19 companies under thier banner covering freshwater, salt water, fly fishing and everything in between. Already a big fan of many of the products from these companies; I am extremely excited to have an opporunity to use, review and promote their products this coming year!

As part of the decision to join Pure Fishing, I had to break ties however with Denali which really was a difficult decision to make.  However, this year I'll be using Rods and reels from Abu Garcia and Ugly Stik for my freshwater fishing, but also will have access to Penn and Pflueger equipment for out in the Bay of Fundy.  In the meantime, if you are interested in one or more of my Denali Rods, let me know and I'll be able to cut you a great deal!

The next big news I have is that I've been asked to join forces with Railblaza, a company out of New Zealand who makes rod holders, a great looking all purpose kayak cart, and other kayak accessories. With a distributor already in Canada, I will be using, reviewing and promoting Railblaza (as well as YakAttack) components this year in place of the Scotty products you may be familiar with seeing on my boats.

Finally, I will continue this year to use, support and promote other great companies this year who have been kind enough to allow me to work with them. These companies include YakAttack, Fishbum, Yakima, Owner Hooks, Sea Specs, Clam, Vexilar and Lyman Lures.

My sincere thanks to all these companies in supporting my efforts to grow the sport of kayak fishing here in Eastern Canada!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

20,000 View Contest!

Update:   The winner is Reg (thought it was Casey based on the e-mail name!) who told me that he enjoyed my log book!    Thank you to all who participated.   I received several different topics and items as content which people enjoyed, some stretching back a year or more ago!    Stay tuned to the blog for more of the same throughout 2015!

What better way to try and shake the post holiday hangover than with a contest!    The blog here has received more than 20,000 page views since it was first started in November 2013, and that is certianly worth celebrating!

My thanks to all who regularly follow the blog, have offered advice and support and to those who give feedback on what they do and don't like about it!    Trying to figure out a good way to run a little contest I've decided to do something a little different.

To enter this contest, simply go to the 'Contact Joe' form on the right hand side (you may have to scroll down a touch), and let me know of a picture or blog post from the blog you have really liked.   Yeah, yeah, that means your going to have to poke around a little to look for something worthy of getting your personal nod, but really, thats the point!    The more you look around, the more likely you may let me know something worthwhile that I can then use to improve the blog!

You don't need to tell me what has been the best posted on the blog, just something you've seen that you liked.    That way you don't need to feel obliged to look through every bloody post I've made... that would be quite unreasonable!  

Just fill in your name, e-mail and let me know of a picture or posting you've liked from the blog and then your in for a prize!

The Prize:
  • World Fishing Network hat
  • Knot2Kinky leader
  • Invisaswivels
  • 2 Sharktooths
  • Lymans Lure
  • Hook-eze tool
  • A sturgeon rig with brand new Owner Hooks
  • A Fishbum sticker