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?


  1. Well said Joe. I agree it seems the root of the issue has not really been addressed.

    1. I think the only people that should be allowed up and down the river are the commercial fishermen if this is the case. ZERO "recreation" on the water should be the decree if motors are the issue. It makes no sense that pleasure boats can still churn up the water all they like, but others can't.

  2. Jon Richfield, I am a biologist mainly qualified in entomology
    Answered Oct 6, 2015
    If you can find one, good luck; they are getting rarer because they are easy to catch and people kill them for their eggs to make caviar.
    They are large, non-threatening fish, fairly slow-swimming, so they are easy to net.


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