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?