Angling experts say good fishing expected over May long weekend
From salmon to stripers, trout to pickerel, anglers ready for tight lines on waterways across New Brunswick this weekend
Adam Bowie The Daily Gleaner
May 20, 2016.
Anglers across New Brunswick will be hoping for some tight lines over the May long weekend as they take to provincial waterways to reel in a magnificent Atlantic salmon, a feisty brook trout or a beautiful striped bass.
Angling is one of the province’s most popular outdoor sports, with more than 65,000 fishing licenses sold in New Brunswick each year.
Fish are running in all corners of the province,with outfitters reporting action on the St. John, Nashwaak and Restigouche rivers.
But if one were to name the hottest river in the province these days, it’s clear that many New Brunswick anglers are making plans to visit the City of Miramichi this weekend, where they hope to capitalize on the world-renowned waterway’s plentiful offerings.
Jeff MacTavish, the City of Miramichi’s director of economic development and tourism, said more than 1,000 anglers are expected to take part in the second annual Miramichi Striper Cup, a friendly catch and release competition to see who can haul in the four biggest striped bass over a two-day period, which happens between May 27 to 29.
Tales are already making the rounds in angling circles that old pros and novices alike are hauling in as many as 100 bass per day during a good trip to the river, which is attracting attention from fishing enthusiasts across the globe.
MacTavish said more than 1,200 anglers participated in last year’s tournament, with that number expected to grow this year. Even though the tournament isn’t kicking off until the end of the month, many anglers are visiting the region now to check out the conditions on the river, he said.
“People just want to be part of this. We’ve got a film crew in from Ontario. Henry Waszczuk from the Fins & Skins Classic Adventures [program] is here. They’re out there fishing and filming,” he said.
“Every day for the past two weeks, our restaurants are full with people here visiting. I know it’s good for the City of Miramichi, but I also think it’s good for the province.”
Nobody can believe how much fun the fishing is, he said.
“It’s ridiculous. People are pulling their arms off out there,”he said.“They’re getting them on almost every cast, sometimes.”
Conditions have been favourable all along the mighty Miramichi, which is famous for its remarkable Atlantic salmon fishery.
Mark Hambrook, president of the Miramichi Salmon Association, said that even though catch-and-release restrictions are still in place for the province’s most famous fish, anglers are still having fun, telling him they’re pleased with the numbers of spring salmon they’ve been seeing so far.
“It’s going very well. We had more fish last summer so they spent the winter under the ice and this spring the angling conditions have been excellent,”he said.
“We didn’t have a big freshet. So after the ice went out, the water levels were good, the water was clear and that made for excellent angling.”
Miramichi resident Jamie Sullivan has been fishing nearly every day since the middle of April.
And with such strong salmon and bass stocks in these early days, he hasn’t been alone.
Just the other day, four first-time fishermen wandered up to ask him where they should cast their lines. He offered them some guidance and sent them off in search of a few big fish.
“They’re coming out of the woodwork,”he said, laughing.
Sullivan has already hooked a large spring salmon, a nice trout, and several mammoth stripers in this young season.
However, salmon and bass aren’t the only fish bringing people to Miramichi waterways.
Metepenagiag, the First Nations community formerly known as Red Bank, is holding a special trout-fishing derby this weekend, an event that should attract hundreds of anglers to the mighty Miramichi.
A little further south, Chris Munn, owner of Fredericton Outfitters and Anglers, said people are already patrolling the banks of the Nashwaak and St. John rivers in the province’s capital region.
“People are getting off to a really good start,” he said.“The sea trout seem to be running a bit earlier than normal.”
In this part of the province, anglers enjoy reeling in brook trout, smallmouth bass, striper bass, pickerel and muskie.
“One of the great things about the Nashwaak, for people in the Fredericton area, is that there’s great fishing for so many different species of fish.You can catch trout, bass, pickerel, perch,” said Munn.
“It’s a beautiful river with good access. It’s mostly all public.If you go to the Miramichi, the Restigouche, a lot of the better places on those rivers are privately owned. So it’s harder to fish them sometimes.”
Munn said this holiday weekend is always popular with local anglers.
“Even though the die-hards are usually out a bit earlier, this is when a lot of people get out for their first fish of the year,”he said.
“A lot of people coming in said they were planning to take their kids out this weekend.”
What are they biting on along Fredericton’s waterways? According to Munn, there are a few preferred flies.
“The Muddler Minnows, the Wooly Buggers, the Mayfly patterns,”he said.
New to the province and looking for some advice on where to get started? Just drop by your local outfitter’s establishment and ask for a few tips.
“If you’re new to the area, come to the shop and we have map-books here for you. We also know the rivers inside and out,”he said.“I can point you in the right direction.”
Marc Doiron, a spokesman for Doiron Outfitters in Saint John, said that at the southern end of the St. John River, anglers will be out on the water this weekend seeking striped bass, small-mouth bass and pickerel.
He said they’re off to a good fishing season in his neck of the woods, with anglers splitting their time between their own river systems and quick day-trips up to the Miramichi.
“So far so good. Obviously, everyone is talking about the Miramichi. That’s really where all the action is,but people have been getting out here as well,”he said.
Lots of people have been dropping by the shop, he said, gearing up for an upcoming trip to the river’s edge.
“We’ve had lots of newbies in. There are lots of guys who want to get out with their kids, just like the old days,”he said.
In the Northwestern tip of the province, William Hartnett, co-owner of the Restigouche River Lodge at Mann’s Mountain, said he opened his picturesque camp on the shores of the mighty Restigouche on Tuesday.
Hartnett said he has eight guests in to cast lines this weekend, noting they’ll be the first this season to fish his business’s private 5.6-kilometre stretch of the famous salmon river.
“There’s a lot of water out there right now,”he said.
“It’s moving along. We had a guest out this morning and he rolled a fish. We’re looking forward to some good action. Supposedly it’s getting warmer [this weekend]. We’re hoping for some great fishing.”
Although guests occasionally reel in a brook trout, Hartnett oversees a salmon-fishing camp, where “sports” from across the globe come to reel in a monster from the Atlantic.
“We’ve had low water over the past couple of years. Very little rain. That’s been tough. But we still see some really nice,really big fish,every year at this time of the year, going into June,”he said.
“Big salmon – 30 to 35-pound salmon. Right now, the river is full. It’s in good shape. It’s high, but we can fish still.”
He said he’s hopeful the stocks will rebound this year, thanks to more favourable conditions and the recent conservation efforts that have decreed salmon to be catch-and-release only on New Brunswick waters.
“I can’t say because they come from the ocean. There are a lot of factors. Every year’s a different year,”he said.
“We’re pretty well booked up through our prime times.We’ve got a lot of guests coming throughout the season.”
If you’re heading out on the waterways this weekend, Sullivan has got some friendly advice to offer: Keep the area as clean as you found it.
“We need to look after our rivers,” he said.