Broaden bass-fishing season, save salmon: group
CHRIS MORRIS Legislature Bureau
26 Nov 2013
FREDERICTON – A leading New Brunswick salmon conservation organization is calling for an unrestricted fishing season for striped bass in the Miramichi River estuary to help save struggling Atlantic salmon populations.
The Miramichi Salmon Association said in a statement Tuesday it is gravely concerned about the large number of striped bass spawning in the estuary with estimates as high as 400,000 of these fish.
Mark Hambrook, president of the association, and Bud Bird, a long-time angler and member of the association, said the bass are killing untold numbers salmon smolts trying to make their way from the river to the open sea.
“Each spring there are approximately1.8 million small Atlantic salmon smolts migrating from the Miramichi watershed towards the ocean,” Hambrook and Bird state in their release.
“As these salmon smolts pass through the concentrated schools of striped bass, there is a dramatic risk that almost an entire smolt run could be consumed. Simple math indicates that if each bass ate only five salmon smolts, an entire year class of Miramichi salmon would be extinguished.”
The salmon association said the federal Fisheries Department needs to take action to reduce the risk.
It is recommending to DFO that an unrestricted fishing season should be introduced immediately to diminish the striped bass populations.
“Not only would this relieve conservation pressures on Atlantic salmon smolts, but would also provide for both a commercial striped bass fishery by First Nations and a very productive fishing season for New Brunswick anglers young and old. “
The association has passed a resolution calling on DFO to implement a two-month unrestricted fishing season for striped bass in the Miramichi estuary, running from April 15 to June 15, 2014.
The salmon conservation group wants the unrestricted season continued until “the striped bass populations are brought down to a balanced conservation level.”
According to a recent DFO report, only about 8,000 grilse, which are young, small salmon, returned to their Miramichi spawning grounds last year. In 2011, 45,000 grilse returned.
The runs for adult salmon were slightly better, but not much – roughly 13,600 large salmon returned.
It is estimated that as many as 50 per cent of salmon entering the salt waters of the estuary do not survive. Predation by bass long has been suspected as a cause.