Friday, August 4, 2017

Kayak Fishing in Eastern Newfoundland

My family and I are on vacation before we move to Ontario back home where I grew up in Newfoundland.   For a week we are up on the Bonavista Peninsula staying in Newman's Cove, the town where my Dad grew up and I spent many summers as a boy with my Pop.   We are actually renting Pop's old house, so this trip has a very special significance for me remembering all those days when Pop would send me to Woody's store as a 5 year old to get him a pack of smokes.... but I digress!

Yesterday and today I was able to get out in the harbor on my Old Town Predator PDL and chase some fish.   I had all the old fishermen scratching their heads as they have never seen anything like this before in their waters!   I started off using some Berkeley PowerBait to see what ground fish I could find all caught lots of sculpin (scorpion fish).   These are really cool looking fish who are the garbage collectors of our local sea floor.  They come in several colors and once in a while you can find one with really freaky eyes like this!

Moving on from ground fishing I started tossing out the traditional cod jig in hopes of catching some Atlantic Cod.    The recreational food fishery is active now meaning people are allowed to catch and keep up to 5 cod per day.    It didn't take long before I got a hit and when I brought it in I was surprised to find it was a conner.  My first ever conner!   These fish resemble a sea bass in shape and have some very sharp teeth.

After that my fish finder went a little crazy.  In 40 feet of water the bottom 20 feet were suddenly full of fish.   I knew what this meant....  caplin!   The caplin are out in the bay now and there are a ton of whales swimming by all the time feeding on them.   The caplin are the primary fish of cod, so I knew I may be getting close to my target fish.   Sure enough, it didn't take long and I hit the school of cod, just off the banks behind my Dad's trailer!    I sat out there for 20 min, catching cod while my parents and kids sat up over the hill watching.   What a great morning!   I even spotted a humpback not too far away, though the GoPro makes it look a lot further off than it was.

This morning I got out again despite the wind being a little stronger and blowing directly across the bay.    While my launch site was quite calm, once I got half way to my destination, the water became quite choppy and rough.    Since I was half way there, I might as well keep going, whats the worst that could happen!  :-)   Anyway, this morning I kept to the cod jig only hoping to catch my 5 cod quickly and return safely to shore.   I ended up catching several more conners before I finally found the cod in 60 feet of water.    I got my 5 quickly at that point including some big ones!   Today's haul will likely be donated to a few relatives who do not get a chance to get out themselves.

Dad working to clean my catch and make steaks

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Our home is on the market!

Well with the recent news that I have accepted a new position with Amazon, I'll sadly be moving my family off to Windsor, Ontario.   So the For Sale sign goes up on the front lawn today and my home of 11 years is officially on the market.

We purchased this home back in 2006 and had envisioned it being our one and only home.   We absolutely love it here and couldn't have asked for a better place to raise our kids and I certianly made use of the abundant space to store my kayaks and fishing gear!   That being said, another family is going to have the opportunity to capitalize on our move and make this their new home.

Here is a link fully describing our home in Quispamsis, complete with a drone video showcasing the amazing 2.23 acre wooded yard!

Please see my site discussing this home in much more detail here!
8 Collingwood Drive, Quispamsis

Among the key points to note:
  • 4 large upstairs bedrooms
  • 2.5 bathrooms
  • Upstairs laundry
  • Large newly renovated kitchen
  • Fully finished basement with rec room, pantry and large office
  • Additional room off front door suited for an office or studio
  • Large 2.5 car garage
  • Large 16 x 20 shed
  • Large flagstone deck as well as 2 rear and 1 front deck.  Lots of room for bbq and entertaining
  • Parking for anything and everything (trailers, boats...etc.)
  • 4 person outdoor Finnish Sauna
  • Treehouse for the kids
  • Playset for the kids
  • Amazing woods for the kids to play, currently has a zip line and double hammock set up.
  • Neighborhood is full of kids, very quiet and safe.
  • ... and the list goes on!

Our home is up for grabs at a bargain price at just $375,000.   Well below what is being asked for two other homes on our street which pale in comparison.   For a viewing please contact our realtor Jeff Sherwood at 506-647-7653.

Please share and get the word out of this great opportunity!   We home another wonderful family will enjoy this house for years just as my family has these past 11 years!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Pretty good blooper

So this past weekend, the day after the Catch 'n Kayak striped bass derby in Bathurst I got out for a quick fish with IPop and Noah.   It was a beautiful morning, and we each caught a few fish, all was going great.  

Now when I'm in the Old Town Predator PDL, I like to troll by sticking my rod handle behind my butt on the seat, and then peddling.   If I were to use they rod holders that I have, the handle of the rod would impede my peddling.   Trolling this way is comfortable, allows me to to keep a hand free (thought I usually rest it on the rod), and react quickly if a fish were to strike.  

This is how I troll, one hand on the rod, with it sticking out from my chair.

So Noah found a school of stripers and called me over to snap a picture.   So I trolled over, as described above and went ahead and snapped a few pictures.   No problems right?

Then I forgot all about the rod I had stuck out from behind me, and I proceeded to lean forward for something.... out falls the rod!    By the time I realized, it was too late, off it went into some pretty strong current in 22 feet of water.

Noah was quick to react though.    He dropped his grappling anchor down and was able to hook the line!   Then he proceeded to pull the line and then the rod back up!   Way to go Noah!   Turns out Noah had his video camera going the whole time!    Too bad there was no sound!

My lesson?   I need to invest in some zooka tubes, just like Noah has mounted there on his kayak!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Big Kayak Tournament This Weekend!

This weekend is the first of what will be an annual kayak fishing event in the town of Bathurst, NB.   It is going to easily be the biggest kayak fishing event in all of Eastern Canada in terms of prizes with both lots of cash and other items including a new kayak up for grabs!    There is a shore fishing division as well for those folk who do not wish to participate in kayak.

The Catch n' Kayak tournament will be a striped bass catch/photo/release fishing tournament held on Saturday, and promises to be a fantastic time.  Mother Nature looks to be cooperating as the forecast calls for a wonderful day with no precipitation and next to no wind as well, so conditions will be ideal for fishing in and around the Bay of Chaleur!

For those who are going to make the trek up, you are encouraged to register online ahead of time, which will both save time and help the organizers plan things out.    The schedule for the event is below.

With my upcoming move to Ontario, this may be my last time out in kayak in New Brunswick, and my birthday is on Sunday,so if you are able to make it, come out and say hi and perhaps raise a glass with me Saturday night at the post event reception!

Schedule of events
Friday July 14th
6:30 – 9:30 pm: Opening reception at the Old Post Office, 96 Main St, Bathurst. 
All pre-registered participants must sign in and pick up registration package from tournament officials.  New registrants will be accepted (LAST CHANCE TO REGISTER)

Review of rules and regulations will be provided and tournament officials will be on hand to answer any questions related to the 2017 Catch ‘n Kayak. Entertainment will be provided and a cash bar will be available.

Saturday, July 15th
6:00 – 6:45 am: Pre Launch boat inspection (kayak Participants) at the designated launch area.  Continental breakfast sponsored by Inter Marché.
7:00 am: Shotgun start
11:00 am - 1:00 pm: Free BBQ lunch at Youghall beach sponsored by Epicerie Frenette
5:00 pm: Conclusion of Angling hours

6:30 pm – 9:30pm: Closing ceremonies at the Old Post Office, 96 Main St, Bathurst.  Prizes will be awarded for each division as well as the drawings for door prizes. Entertainment will be provided and cash bar will be available.  

Friday, June 23, 2017

The End is Near!

Well this is a difficult post to make.   Unfortunately, come the end of July, my time fishing in New Brunswick will have come to an end.  Over the past several weeks I have been in conversations with one of the biggest and best companies in the world, Amazon and have been recently offered a position as a Software Development Engineer with them based out of Detroit, MI.    This opportunity is one that for me professionally, I cannot pass up, though it was a difficult decision for my family.

So sometime in August I will be moving with my family to the Windsor, Ontario area.   I will of course bring kayaks along for all of us, but I probably will not be active in the promotion of the sport of kayak fishing in that area until I am settled into a new home and into a regular routine with my new job.   Hopefully this Fall I will be able to show off the Old Town Predator PDL to folk fishing the Great Lakes and the Detroit River but I certianly will not be offering guided fishing services of spearheading the growth of our sport to the level I have been in the past few years.

I have to thank everyone who has been attentive of this blog for the past few years, and helped it grow in popularity.   I had never anticipated breaking 5000 views when I started, let alone 140,000!   If I do decide to maintain the blog in the future, I may need to rename it to something more appropriate to where I move, or perhaps something like!  

Kayak fishing has blossomed in New Brunswick the past several years, and it has been wonderful to watch.  I have made a lot of close friends thanks to this sport and the community of anglers here is strong, close knit and more like a family than I could have anticipated.   It has been wonderful being part of it, and I certianly hope I am able to join a similar community of anglers when I get settled in Ontario.

Thank you to all the great locally owned retailers in NB as well who have supported myself and the community through fishing derbies and such.   Marc Doiron (Doiron's Sports Excellence), Jeremy Cline (Outdoors NB), Paul Wright (Ecological NB) in particular are great people to deal with and I encourage everyone around to continue to support them!  

Tight lines folks!   I hope you all catch the big one next time out!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

2017 Shad Derby Recap

A wonderful day for fishing!
Well for the first time ever I can say I won a fishing derby!    But really, that comes secondary to the great memories made again this weekend up on Salmon River near Chipman, NB.   Sam, Ralph and the others that work to make this event an annual event do a fantastic job running this community level derby and ensuring that everyone has a wonderful day of fishing.

Who will win and become immortalized this year?
As usual we gathered at the Queens County Inn in Chipman for a wonderful breakfast donated to the participants of the derby.   Rowan, being Rowan, went around to tables full of adult anglers, sat down and chatted like one of the guys, which was great to watch.  The guys have taken in Rowan essentially as one of their own after he participated for the first time in the event last year and showed what a 5 year old could do in kayak.    Since the event ended last year, he's been looking forward to this day once again.

The event is a Shad derby with first place going to the two largest shad by weight.   There is also a lunker prize added this year for the single biggest shad.   Also, there is a side event where you can enter the length of your biggest perch and chub for a medal.   Rowan plated two 2nd place medals last year and was aiming to get another this time around.

After breakfast we headed out to a launch point on the river and started our fishing.   It was tough fishing for a while but Rowan landed a chub before long to get him on the board.     Now, this was my fourth year attended this event and I've yet to land a shad here.   So my goal was to not come in empty handed.   My first year here I hooked two shad, my first two ever, but without experience on how to handle these delicate but hard fighting fish, I lost them both.

Eventually I hooked into a shad, and my heart started beating.    I played it a little while and then as soon as I reached for my net, the fish got off!   Arrgghh!!!    Soon thereafter I hooked a second shad, and this one I was determined not to loose.   I put my drag down to near minimal, and let the fish play around for a good 5 min before bringing into my kayak.    Finally I landed my first shad at the derby, and it was a huge one, probably my biggest shad ever.    Hmmm, might I have just landed the lunker?

Rowan and I holding my two biggest shad on the day
Now I needed to get a second shad to have a shot at one of the top prizes and a place on the plaque that hangs in the Hotel!     As we continued to make our way down the river, Rowan kept catching chub and perch, and I landed a few more shad.  By the end of the day, I had 4 shad in the boat and had lost 2 others.   I was feeling confident!    One of Rowan's perch was a decent size for that river so I was hopeful he would get a medal there, though he was unlikely to get one for his chub, he only caught a few smaller ones of those.

Finally, it was almost time to get off the water and Rowan gave a big yell,  "I got one Dad!".   I looked and his rod was bent right over, definately not a perch or chub.    I thought, "Oh my God, Rowan has a shad on!!!"   "Loosen the drag" I yelled frantically, and Rowan expertly did so, letting the fish then take line and swim a little more freely.    After a few minutes we came to realize it wasn't a shad afterall that Rowan hooked but a nice pickerel, a rare fish in those waters.    Rowan got to grab his net and get some practice landing the pickerel that way.   As you can see in the video, it took a couple tries, but he was eventually able to do it on his own!  

Rowan's pickerel
Unfortunately, while the pickerel at 21.5" may have been the longest fish on the day, it didn't qualify for a prize.  But it did give Rowan something to brag about at the awards ceremony back at the Inn!

Rowan getting his gold medal for perch
As it ended up, my first shad came in at 1.45 kg, winning the lunker prize by 0.05kg!    I also won the biggest 2 overall shad for a first place finish, the first time I've ever won at a fishing derby.   No other angler caught 4 on the day, so overall I had a fantastic day.
Some cash for first place
Rowan did get a first place medal for his perch, and got to pick out some miscellaneous prizes as well.   Everyone was again very impressed that a kid his age could handle the kayak, anchor, rods and nets as well as he does, though most didn't see how many tangles I had to help him sort out!

My name on a plaque and a wonderful fly rod for the lunker prize
Thanks guys for another wonderful day!   We will remember this one for many years to come!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Fishing in Windsor, Ontario

Joe with a nice Drum

This past weekend I made a trip to central Canada where I spent a day in the downtown Detroit area followed by a weekend of fishing with a fellow kayak angler.   One of the great things about social media and the sport of kayak fishing is that you get to meet, at least virtually, a lot of outstanding people, not just across the country but in some cases across the world!   In this case, Joe Lafontaine, a very accomplished and well known kayak angler in the city of Windsor, offered his hospitality to me for the weekend.   It was very much appreciated, and I had a wonderful weekend thanks to Joe.

A view of Detroit under the Ambassador Bridge
Windsor is located between two of the Great Lakes, Lake St. Clair to the North, and Lake Eerie to the South.    Along the edge of town is the Detroit River connecting the two lakes and separating Canada from the U.S.   Over the weekend we took a couple trips out on the river where I was able to catch three new species, Walleye, Drum and White Bass (or silvers as they are commonly called there).   I also caught a rock bass and a small yellow perch.

My first drum
We got out fishing two times, once on Friday afternoon/evening, and then again early Saturday morning till mid-day when the wind picked up. 

My first walleye
By the end of the second trip I had landed around 8 walleye, 10 white bass, 2 drum and a single rock bass and yellow perch.  Also in the area are muskie, gar, carp, and muskie.  I'm sure other species as well are caught there in the river.

White bass, very much like a light colored small striper
We also met another local angler, Dan, in his souped up Trident kayak.    Dan had a great set up with a trolling motor, rudder, lights and more rigged up on his kayak.

I was disappointed to miss a local kayak derby that weekend but I did make the best of it, met some great folk and got to experience Ontario fishing.   All in all it was a great weekend!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Family Fun Day, a paddle to Long Island

Yesterday, a Sunday, we had a beautiful day with next to no wind, so it was a perfect opportunity to take my whole family out for a little adventure.   I loaded up a kayak for each of us, Anna packed a lunch and we headed off to the Cameron Road in Rothesay where there is a nice little beach to launch kayaks.  From there we made our way across to the beautiful Long Island.   For those folk who are lucky enough to have a cabin out on the island, I'm jealous!

Rowan took his Tetra 10 kayak, Fynn was in the Trident 11, Anna took the Predator 13, and I jumped in the Predator PDL.   My hand is still in a cast, so it is hard for me to paddle, so using the peddle kayak allowed me to make the trip across with ease, keep close to the kids if they needed assistance, and take a few pictures along the way.

Rowan has a style all his own!

The water was near glass like conditions making it an ideal day to play on the water.  Rowan, being a typical 6 year old boy, decided he wanted to play bumper boats in the 100+ foot deep and very cold water.   It was all good though as both of my boys are comfortable in kayaks and would have to work tremendously hard to tip them over.

Fynn in the Ocean Kayak Trident 11
Eventually we made out way over to the tip of Long Island that is adjacent to what they call 'The Gut", a small space between the island and a smaller, privately owned one.   From here there is a trail that traverses the entire island.    The trail is a fantastic walking trail, though mostly up hill for well over a km going in.   The incline wasn't steep though, so it wasn't difficult to walk, and the woods are really quite beautiful.

Made it to the shore
After about 2 km, we decided to stop, eat our lunch and work our way back.   The boys had a game of running ahead to hide while Anna and I would try to spot them as we walked back.   I can see us taking this trip again in the near future, bringing along a few more toys for the boys to make an adventure for themselves out of the trip.

Walking the trail on Long Island
On the way back we switched up kayaks, with Anna taking the Trident, I took the Predator 13, and Fynn got to pedal the PDL.   I tied a tow rope on the back of Fynn's kayak to Rowans so as Rowan's energy levels were starting to dwindle.   So he had a great time loading up a water gun and shooting it at us as we made our way back to Cameron Road.

Rowan trying to spray Anna
All in all were were gone about 5 hours, and got to have one of the best family days we have had in ages.   Hopefully we get a chance to do this again in the near future.   For anyone else who may be in the area and would like to give it a try, I highly recommend it, just make sure the wind forecast for the day is 12 km/h or less as the water can get mighty choppy in a hurry out in the middle of the river, and you don't want kids out there getting tired and having to battle waves!

Peddling is thirsty work!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Announcing a new Striper Derby - For Kayakers!!!!

A Striper like Matt's could very well be the winner!
In recent weeks some of the folk who work for the City of Bathurst on NB's Eastern shore contacted me to get my thoughts on a proposed new fishing tournament.   The idea was to put on a Striped Bass tournament in and around the Bay of Chaleur in mid-July when the annual run of stripers is in full swing in the area.

Already in the nearby town of Miramichi, the Striper Cup is held in late May and is one of the biggest fishing tournaments in all of Canada, bringing in an amazing 20,000 people!    Now the Miramichi River and the Bay of Chaleur are two very different bodies of water, and there was no expectation of replicating that type of turnout.   As explained to me, the Bay of Chaleur has some main channels that are deep enough for motorboats, but much of the bay is very shallow and ideally suited to boats like kayaks.    I don't see why we couldn't bring in 100 kayakers to this event in the first year, what do you think?

Here is the Catch n Kayak Facebook Page.

So to help differentiate their event from the Striper Cup, they proposed making this event a kayak fishing tournament with a shore based division as well!   I ran the idea by some friends, got their feedback and gave our thoughts back to the town.

From the discussions I've had, I can promise this is going to be a very well run event with lots of logistics considered and planning in place.    There were some ideas thought about such as teams, making it multi-day and so forth which will not come into play this year, but there may be a questionnaire for participants at the end of the event so that as much feedback as possible can be gathered to ensure next years event builds off this inaugural derby in all the right ways.

Right now there is only a Facebook page in place, but a website is going to be up soon with all the information you will need to understand the rules, prizes, when to be there, where to stay...etc.

Here is what I can tell you.    There are going to be big cash prizes as far as kayak tournaments go.   Over $2500 in cash, plus the chance to win a new kayak or possibly other prizes, perhaps even a guided fishing trip with me in the Fall.   The event is on July 15th, a Saturday and you are going to want to be there on Friday to register and be ready to launch early Saturday morning.    There will be a lunch break midday when the tide switches, and the event will wrap up Saturday evening.

Check out their Facebook Page, and keep an eye out for the website.   I hope to see you there!!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The best of the Spring Sturgeon may be over

51 Inch caught and released on Saturday.  Congrats Remi!
Water levels have risen considerably in the Kennebecasis with the river almost touching Norton Shore road in places.   With the rise in water, the sturgeon have much more area to explore, with large fields of wild bushes now several feet underwater.

First ever sturgeon for Kaitlyn, great job!
Peddling up the main channel of the river using the Humminbird Helix 5 SI fish finder, I no longer am able to mark any schools of sturgeon as I was prior to the rise in water levels.   There are scattered sturgeon here and there but nothing like we seen just 2 weeks ago.   As such, everyone has been fishing this past weekend in our traditional location around the mouth of the Hammond River.

On Saturday there must have been 15 or more people out there.   Many in kayaks but a hand full of boats as well.   Some people didn't hook into any sturgeon while others caught several.    While I can't estimate the total number of fish landed (somewhere north of 30), I do know at least 3 fish were caught that broke the four foot mark, which is tremendous any day of the year!

That look of satisfaction for landing her second sturgeon of the day!
I got out again on Monday morning, a cold day with a couple and between us we only landed 3 sturgeon.   Fortunately, none of the three were landed by myself.    Given our difficulty in finding fish and the water levels, I would believe at this point the Spring Sturgeon season may be drawing to a close.
And another first ever sturgeon!   Congrats!
It has been a great couple weeks but oh so short.   That being said, the regular fishing season is on now and there are lots of other places to wet a line!   In the next couple weeks I'll be hitting rivers and ponds looking for the odd trout, but really I'll be biding my time for Shad season to begin!   Come mid-May, the Shad fishing season should be starting and that is a really wonderful time to be out on the river!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Early April Sturgeon Fishing Report

Dude!  Nice Fish!
My face is sunburned!   That's about the best report I can give on a Monday morning after fishing all day!   The Kennebecasis River is fully open now for boats as well as kayakers.   I've seen boats approach sturgeon alley from both the Meenan's Cove side as well as the Hampton side so I would have to assume both launches are ready for those with bigger vessels.     The water was really rough on Saturday with lots of ice and grass but was a lot better Sunday and I suspect as the week goes on with a forecast of warm temps and only a few hours of rain, it will clear up significantly for next weekend.
Satuday's conditions:  fishing while this is moving by at a few km/h
The fishing has been good, provided you know where the sturgeon are hiding.   They definately school into groups and move around the river, so if your usual fishing hole isn't producing you may have to move, perhaps only 20 feet.   Last week I didn't spot any in my usual fishing location and moved further up river where I spotted several schools.   This weekend I spotted schools in several different places, including back at our traditional hole.   As the water warms up, I suspect the sturgeon will spread out a little more along what is known as 'sturgeon alley' before finally making their way out though the Saint John river system in a couple weeks time.

Nate always gets his fish!
So far, thanks in large part to my Humminbird Helix 5 SI Fish Finder I'm approaching 50 sturgeon over three trips.   Yesterday was my first guided outings of the year, and 2 of the three guys that came out were able to land sturgeon, as was many of the local kayak anglers whom I regularly fish with.  The best fishing in April is yet to come so if you are wanting to catch a dinosaur plan a trip in the next couple weeks before it is too late!

50+ inches landed on Sunday in the PDL
Now, since the Fall I've been riding my new kayak, the Old Town Predator PDL.   This kayak feature a pedal driven propeller located in front of the seat.   You pedal it like a bicycle and steer with a hand controlled rudder.   As anyone who has seen me out there recently will attest to, this kayak can fly!    It is extremely comfortable, stable and can hold a ton of gear.   For sturgeon fishing however there is one disadvantage, and that is the seat is higher than in any of my other kayaks.    While this makes the kayak even more comfortable than the other Predator versions, it makes it very hard to reach down and grab your sturgeon by the tail.

The cushioned hook I use to help land bigger sturgeon
So to deal with this I fashioned a new tool that I have been using in the PDL, not exactly a gaffe, but rather a cushioned hook on the end of a hockey stick shaft.   Using this tool, I am able to cradle rear half of larger sturgeon and bring the tail up to where I can then grasp it, to lift the fish out of the water.   For anyone who has a kayak with a high seat or has difficulty reaching down to get ahold of your sturgeon, consider making yourself a tool like this, it has helped me land several fish that I may not have otherwise been able to get into the kayak!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

First fish of 2017!

Finally, the ice has melted enough to allow for some great kayak fishing on the lower Kennebecasis River, so what better way to break in the Spring with some great sturgeon fishing!  There is still lots of ice in the river, and several blocks floating around, but nothing to pose too much of a danger, assuming of course you don't fall in!

After getting the Old Town Predator PDL to the shore and loaded up I was finally ready to take off!   I headed up past the mouth of the Hammond looking on my Humminbird Fish Finder for some sign of sturgeon.  While I didn't see any right at the mouth of the Hammond today, it wasn't much further that the first school made an appearance.   Time to fish!

I was able to put in and spend about 5 hours on the water today, and in that time I was able to land an impressive 17, (or was it 18?) sturgeon and lost a few more at the water's surface.   Overall the size was impressive with many in the 36 - 42 inch range, and the largest being about 46".   I didn't bother to measure any but am pretty confident the biggest one would have been a little short of four feet.

The highlight of the day was when both my rods bent over, each with an impressive sturgeon on the other end.   The number one thing to do in this situation is to not let the fish tangle up in each other or the anchor rope, which isn't always easy!  Fortunately, I was able to boat the smaller of the two (about 36 - 40 inches long), before then bringing the larger one, my largest on the day aboard.

Here is a video showing several of the great fish that I was able to land today.  It was a real struggle to get both of the big sturgeon from the double header to line up for a nice pic, and you can probably tell how tired I was after all that!   Of course all sturgeon went unharmed back into the water ready to be landed again perhaps next weekend!    The Spring season won't last long, if you want to get out on a guided kayak fishing adventure and catch some of these great fish, be sure to let me know soon!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Fishing Regulation Change - Striped Bass on the Miramichi River

All recreational anglers please take note of the fishing regulation changes just released by the Department of Fisheries.

The regulations in full are located here.

The most important update to the regulations this year are stated as follows in the regulations:

Closure of the Northwest Miramichi River spawning ground to all angling during the spawning period. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada will issue a variation order closing all angling for a duration of 3 weeks in an area of the Northwest Miramichi River below the Red Bank Bridge once concentrations of Striped bass are observed spawning. A closure notice will be posted on the DFO Gulf Region Recreational fisheries Internet page.

The reasoning behind this change, as I understand it, is to protect the spawning Striped Bass and the eggs that float down the river.   The boat traffic in the river is very substantial, primarily due to angling, and there have been lots of stories of how the schools of fish can be so large that boat propellers grind through causing a lot of damage.   As well, propellers from boats would do a lot of damage directly to the eggs that are floating in the river.

While I believe the motives here to be valid as this is a very successful fishery which must be protected, the implementation of the rule has me scratching my head.   What exactly will 'no angling' in this stretch accomplish?   It will reduce boat traffic for sure, but it certianly wouldn't eliminate it. Stating that no motor boat activity be allowed in this stretch would be a much better solution to me.   This would allow the many shore anglers to continue to fish, and it would allow for paddlers in canoes and kayaks to fish without fear of propeller blades cutting up fish or destroying eggs.

Now please correct me if I am wrong, but the current, 'No Fishing' in this stretch rule does not prevent anglers from putting their rods away and then riding their boats up the river to take pictures or have a look at the spawning schools.   It does not prevent anglers who live above the boundary from riding their boat down river to the open section and back.   Essentially what is there to prevent boat traffic from going through that stretch and causing the harm that DFO is trying to prevent here?

I don't know if allowing shore and non-motorized boats to be able to continue to fish was entertained by DFO.  My suspicions are that making that rule change as is currently given was legally easy for DFO to implement, while making a no motor boat fishing or no motor boats at all change may have required more complicated, Federal legislation to be passed, and in the interest of time the big hammer approach was used.    If that is the case, it is disappointing and for us shore and kayak fishermen, I would call it a failure of government.

Looking at some conversational posts on Facebook and NB Anglers, people are stating that there is no set date for the spawning season but rather it depends on water temperatures.   Last year, the spawn has been reported to have started a little earlier than usual with the early Spring, in the second week of May and continued off and on (possibly due to cooling temps from rain) till it wrapped up near the start of June.

With these regulations in place last year, it means the stretch of the river affected would have been closed to all angling for roughly the last three weeks of May.  

Note, we don't know what the boundaries are exactly yet.   It could be a large portion of the most popular areas, or it could be upriver a ways from Beaubear Island.   It will be interesting to find out the official boundaries when they are announced.

This change is going to have a very significant impact on the recreational fishing in the area, most notably to the Miramichi Striper Cup, the largest fishing event in Eastern Canada and a huge draw for a community that needs the influx of tourism dollars.   The Striper Cup is a fantastic fishing event and I really hope this new restriction does not hurt them.     In 2017, it is slated to run from May 26-28, right in the middle of the typical spawning season.

If a significant stretch of the river ends up being closed during the event, some of the best fishing locations will likely be off limits and as such, many of the regular participants may opt not to attend which would be very unfortunate indeed.   This will also mean that for those who do attend, the tournament boundaries may be significantly reduced and as such congestion on the river will be much greater, upping the potential for conflicts, 'road rage', and perhaps even making it dangerous for anyone with a kayak or canoe to be fishing that water during the weekend of the derby.  Note, kayaks are not permitted in the derby which is mainly why I haven't attended, but I do wish them the best of luck.

Personally, I had a 4 day trip planned with a friend for Miramichi this year on the weekend preceding the Striper Cup.    Should the stretch of the river be closed for our planned trip, I'm not sure that we will bother to go, and may instead look elsewhere.   However if the rule change were to have allowed shore, canoe and kayak fishing then we would still be able to make our visit there without hesitation.

Anyhow, feel free to share your thoughts on this change.   I know there are people who feel the striped bass population has grown inordinately large and does not need any protection.  There are others who feel the striped bass are affecting the salmon so the stripers shouldn't be protected to this extent.   And others still will look primarily on the economic impacts.    How do you look at this change, and if you do feel there should have been a change, what do you think it should have been?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sturgeon Fishing Regulation Changes

Hope you are ready for a book!   Go grab a coffee, or a beer, depending on what time it is and have a read!

As has been the topic of many of my blog posts, this one is again about fishing for shortnose sturgeon.  Unlike other posts however this one isn't about gearing up for the coming Spring season, how to fish them or to show some pictures of anglers making memories.  Instead it is to provide local anglers with an information update regarding changes that are likely to take place with our fishery in the near future.

There was a public meeting today in our local area hosted by Mr. Greg Stevens, Senior Advisor for Recreational Fisheries for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.    As I understand it, Mr. Stevens is a key decision maker for many of the Federal recreational fishing rules and regulations under which our recreational sturgeon fishery in tidal waters lies.   Officers and officials from both our local DNR and DFO agencies were also present as were several recreational anglers like myself.

The discussion itself was very active with participation from most in the room and centered around our sturgeon fishery which has grown in popularity in recent years.   While everyone was in agreement with the end goal of protecting the population, not everything that was presented was done so clearly and not everyone was in agreement with every point.  As such, some of the changes that are being considered may not be well received by everyone.  If you are one of those anglers who does enjoy fishing sturgeon here on the Kennebecasis River, then you will certainly want to pay attention.

Shortnose sturgeon has been classified under the Federal Species at Risk Act a a species of "Special Concern".   What this means is that our population is only one step away from being classified as threatened, and if that were to happen there would be no more recreational fishery.   Obviously that would be the worst possible scenario to which everyone is in agreement.   Essentially anything that can be done to protect the species, while yet continue to allow the fishery to exist has to be considered.   The Federal officials did make clear they have no intention of closing this fishery and that they do wish to see people continue to enjoy it for which I am grateful.

The discussion which took place dealt with several facets of recreational fishing including reducing the number of foul hooked fish, eliminating the retention of shortnose sturgeon and ways to improve data collection.  Unfortunately the evaluation of the effect of legal recreational fishing as it exists today compared to the effect of other factors such as illegal poaching was not discussed to the level I feel it deserved.  It may be the cynic in me but perhaps this is because combating poaching is both difficult and expensive while tightening restrictions on law abiding anglers is relatively easy.

Out of this discussion there appears to be three main changes being considered.

Gear Restrictions

There is a strong likelihood that we will see a new restriction brought in, at least during the peak sturgeon fishing seasons (Spring and Fall) on the main stretch of the Kennebecasis where sturgeon fishing is most popular.  Exact details on what may be decided on time and location I cannot speak to.  Currently the regulations are the same as tidal fishing regulations in most areas, which are up to 5 hooks per rod, and up to 6 rods per person.   The new restriction would be to limit fishing to a single hook per rod, the 6 rods per person remaining.

The reason behind this is that for each additional hook that is on a rod, the chances of a foul hook increase significantly, at least according to anecdotal evidence and to which I agree.   I can't argue with the fact that there are a lot of foul hooks taking place, especially with a 3 hook rig as I tend to use.   It sounds ugly and unsportsmanlike and anyone who has foul hooked a trout or salmon would attest to the mortal damage being caused to the fish.   But will this change actually make any different to the mortality rate of sturgeon?  Comparing trout to sturgeon would be like comparing kayaks to cars, and I don't see us adding seatbelts to kayaks anytime soon.

Unlike trout, salmon, bass and other species, a sturgeon has a very tough skin, and the body is covered with 5 rows of bony plates called scutes which I would deem impossible for an angler to pierce with a hook while fishing.  When you foul hook a sturgeon, it is like putting the tip of the hook into a piece of pine wood.   While you can move the block of wood around with the hook, you almost never see the hook penetrate near to the barb and will often fall out in it's own when there is any slack or if lifted straight up.  The damage that happens to the fish is often times non-existent, even less damage I would contend than a hook fully penetrating the mouth.    Of the hundreds of sturgeon I have landed, only one has ever bled profusely, and that a few years back from a hook swallowed deep.   Since then I use slightly larger hooks to try to prevent such an injury from re-occurring.

All this being said, switching to a single baited hook (single shank, treble hooks still permitted not that anyone would ever fish sturgeon with a treble hook) should not affect the catch rate of sturgeon which are not foul hooked significantly.   There are a lot of anglers on the river who only ever use a single hook and they often enjoy great success.   So while I do not feel this regulation will have any measurable impact on the population as a whole, I am not particularly opposed to it.

Retention Size - Catch and Release Only

During the discussion with the group, the topic of the 120 cm minimum retention was raised by Mr. Stevens in that he seemed to imply the length was intended to be fork length and not tail length as everyone has been accustomed to.   It was expressed that the current regulation may be changed to either state retention size would be 120 fork length, or the 120 cm tail length would be increased.   Either would essentially eliminate all legal retention of shortnose sturgeon.   This is a position I am very disappointed in.

I asked Mr. Stevens directly after the discussion, if the intent is to eliminate all retention of the fish, why not make a no retention rule?   The answer was because that would be more difficult to do legally as a change in federal law required to remove the bag limit.  Changing the minimum size limitation on the other hand is something they can do very easily and is in essence a backhanded way of making the entire fishery catch and release.

Now I catch over 100 sturgeon a year, and I have several friends who catch as many or more, and the number of sturgeon we catch which are legal to keep is roughly around 2%.   I only witnessed two or three fish that large in total this past year.   Of those I have witnessed that were 120 cm or more, the vast majority are returned to the water (including my one 50"er last Spring).    I generally do like to keep one a year as a treat for my family, though I didn't retain any in 2016.   Going forward it looks like no one may be able to retain a sturgeon again.

Now I ask, what effect with this have on the population?   Currently, with only the very oldest sturgeon available to be retained (those with just a few years left in their lifespan), can the impact of recreation fishing really be significant?  Personally I feel recreational anglers legally retaining the rare 120 cm fish is not having a measureable effect and that preventing even the possibility of catching a fish that is legal to retain will have a detrimental effect on the participation rates for the fishery.  Look what happened the the salmon fishery participation rates in NB when it became catch and release only as an example.

Marine Recreational Fishing License

Finally the third significant change being considered, not for 2017 but perhaps soon thereafter is the introduction of a new Marine Recreational Fishing License.   The goal here, as stated by Mr. Stevens, is not to be a money grab, he did want to make that clear, it would be in the $10 range.  Rather, it would bring with it a possible mandatory reporting system for species not currently covered by provincial laws, for example sturgeon, stripers and mackerel.

The goal here would be to have a system where recreational anglers for species like this in tidal waters would report their catches and with that information the Federal department would be better able to assess shifts and changes in the population.

I am a science guy (degree in Computer Science, minors in Math and Physics) so I firmly believe that gathering more information is always a positive thing.   That is, of course, as long as the information is judged through sound scientific means and not political or other bias.   Statistics after all can be easily skewed are commonly used to re-enforce some of the biggest untruths we are told by political figures.

Would a new license and mandatory reporting scheme for fisheries like the striper and sturgeon fisheries on the Kennebecasis work?   Would it be effective for say recreational mackerel fishing?  Or would there be more effective ways for this information to be gathered?

So, there you have it, the three big changes that may be coming to our fishery.   What do you think?   I feel that targeting the recreational angler with new regulations and restrictions simply because the fishery has become more popular is a poor direction to take.   If protecting the species is really the ultimate goal then the focus should be on main threats, of which I would consider poaching and illegal fishing to be more significant.

Note, by the Federal Governments own 2016 report, that the threat level posed to shortnose sturgeon by directed recreational fishing has been deemed as 'Medium' but with a 'Low' level of certainty.  "Low:  there is a plausible link with limited evidence that the threat has stressed the population."   In comparison the threat to the population posed by illegal fishing in this same report has been deemed Low, meaning the Federal Government believes that recreational anglers are a greater threat to the species than poachers.   I personally find this absurd, but that is only based on my own experience and observations.     If more people reported poaching of sturgeon, perhaps it would become a greater concern to the Federal decision makers and more action would be taken there.

Instead of new regulations I would prefer the first course of action to be an increase the budgets for enforcement personnel and patrols both at the Federal and Provincial levels.   I would love to see a patrol boat in the water at all times during the prime fishing seasons on the Kennebecasis River (and other popular locations), either on patrol or ready to be dispatched should another angler like you or I spot an infraction and report it.  Spot checks at public launch points should be far more frequent to ensure anglers are not returning with poached fish, and a public awareness campaign be launched to encourage others to report offenses they spot on the water.

So what can you do if you feel strongly, one way or another about this subject?   Well I know from the discussions today that my blog here is closely followed by the major stakeholders.  Feel free to leave your comments below.   Keep comments polite, refrain from insults and profanity or I will remove your comment.   I welcome differing opinion to mine, but keep it above the belt.  Do not feel compelled to leave your name, though I suspect having your name behind your comments may help it carry more weight with those who may be watching.      If you do wish to contact Mr. Stevens directly, please e-mail me and I will try to assist.  

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Ready to get back on the water!

We are now into the beginning of March and it has been a mild Winter.   Although today is pretty cold, the forecast calls for another string of mild days with not a lot of precipitation, so it is certianly possible that we could be out fishing this year before the end of the month!

Last year I found that many of the larger fish for the year were landed in the Spring.   My biggest of 2016 was a 50"er caught in April, and there were several other 48"+ fish landed that Spring as well.  Hopefully that trend continues this year!

Now is the time for anyone looking to book a guided fishing trip for Sturgeon this Spring.   Usually it is around a month or so after ice out that the fish move out of their wintering holes and back into the main segments of the Saint John river system.   So we only have about a month or so to enjoy the best sturgeon fishing.

Also, it is this time of year when many people are considering purchasing a fishing kayak for the Summer.   Not all fishing kayaks are created equal and the boat that is deemed to be the best for one person may not be the right choice for someone else.  To best assess what kayak may be best for you, you really want to try it out first.  Folk who come out for a guided fishing trip with me will be able to choose from one of several models, and we can switch part way through.   This will give you a great chance to spend several hours in a couple of models to really discover what features of a fishing kayak may be most important for you, and evaluate if the models we use that day may meet your needs.

The models of fishing kayaks I have available are:

From Old Town:
Predator PDL
Predator 13
Predator MX

From Ocean Kayak:
Big Game 2
Trident 11
Tetra 10

So if you are an angler who would love to experience the joy of catching a dinosaur from a kayak, or if you are in the market for your own fishing kayak, consider booking at trip with me and enjoy some time out on the water this Spring!