By Lewis Hinks, Director of Programs for Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island
ASF Program Directors have an interesting job that can provide us with a whole range of emotions. The joy of seeing a project completed, or even approved. The satisfaction of finally getting a regulation enacted that improves the future for salmon, the thrill of seeing someone catch and release their first salmon are all great parts of the job.
Occasionally, and thankfully it is not too often, we have the feeling of absolute despair. I unfortunately had that feeling this week. I was on PEI for some meetings with the local council and some river groups when we got word of a fish kill on the Clyde River system. This seems to be an all too frequent occurrence on PEI in the summer. While the cause of this particular kill is still being investigated, it seems to follow a well known pattern. This is the time of year when crops are sprayed with pesticides and if a heavy rain occurs shortly after the spraying, the toxins wash into the river, killing fish. Again, we are not sure what the cause was, but the kill was discovered on Monday evening after a heavy rainstorm on Sunday.
I visited the site and it was heartbreaking. Staff from Forests, Fish and Wildlife Division of PEI Dept. of Communities, Land and Environment, Central Queens Wildlife Federation and Environment Canada, along with a few volunteers were all on site collecting samples and cleaning up dead fish.
Over 300 dead fish were collected, and most were wild brook trout, along with a few rainbow trout and sticklebacks. Many more fish were estimated to be not recoverable as the birds and racoons and other predators had been on the scene. Also, very young trout would not be found in the mud and grasses along the bank so it is hard to estimate the true damage.
I hope I never see this again, but I am afraid I will. Unless serious measures are taken this will continue to be a regular summer occurrence.
By Nathan Wilbur, ASF Regional Director for New Brunswick programs
Encouraging people to appreciate wild Atlantic salmon takes many forms. Working together with other organizations, one important part is to give individuals actual experiences with Atlantic salmon – to see the beauty of the fish, and the wonders of Atlantic salmon rivers.
As part of this, each year I provide "on the river" experience and assistance to just such a program on the Miramichi, working with the Miramichi Salmon Association (MSA) on its “Salmon Classic” program.
This is an event designed to draw people in to the Miramichi watershed to experience what the rivers have to offer for Atlantic salmon fishing. Participants are guided for three days and the objective is to get them on a variety of rivers, and a number of pools, both public and private, large and small.
This year the MSA arranged fishing on the Northwest, Little Southwest, Dungarvon, Renous, Southwest, and Cains rivers – and I believe fish were caught and released on all rivers over the three days. The event has been popular for over a decade, with 2016 its 11th year. It begins with a dinner and auction sometime in early July (this year on July 10). Anglers come in from all over Canada, and internationally. I have been fortunate enough to be a guide for the event for the past two years and have enjoyed introducing participants to what Atlantic salmon fishing – and our rivers – have to offer.
I guided keen anglers from New England, Ontario, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and Scotland. Although fishing conditions were picture perfect – water level just right, temperatures in the 60F range – the salmon seemed to be late and the event was really on the leading edge of the main run. Fishing was slow, but salmon were hooked and many seen jumping and rolling. From mist rising in the early morning over a salmon pool, to the sound of the singing thrushes, to moose crossing the river and the occasional glimpse of a bright Atlantic salmon, a memorable experience was had by all, and more bonds made between people and the river.
Lewis Hinks, ASF Director of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island Programs
Each year the Cheticamp River Salmon Association conducts a fly casting/fishing workshop for students from the local school. It’s a great opportunity to introduce youth to the joys of fly fishing with some instruction on casting and knot tying. We then let them fish on a pond stocked with trout which is owned by one of the CRSA members.
This year 24 students participated and everyone caught and released a fish. Many were totally hooked on the sport and some will no doubt be lifelong anglers and conservationists.
By Lewis Hinks, ASF Director of Programs for Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island
Spring is always a very busy time for the ASF regional staff. With fundraisers, annual general meetings, government advisory and science update meetings, provincial advisory meetings and many other committee meetings and planning sessions prior to the spring and summer field season we seem to be constantly on the road. We do however also get to be involved in some interesting work.
ASF is supporting a salmon tracking project in eastern PEI with PhD candidate Scott Roloson. The goal of the study was to shed light on why the populations in these rivers are so successful. To do so researchers sought to determine the migratory timing and total numbers of smolts leaving North Lake Creek. Additionally, the study used acoustic telemetry to compare movement timing and survival rates between North Lake Creek and other salmon rivers across the region.
ASF is part of the advisory committee for this project and we have loaned a number of receivers for the work. Recently I was on site with Scott as he collected smolts and inserted tiny sonic tags into them. Preliminary results show that over 90% of smolts survived the migration through the estuary. Now the waiting game as the research team anxiously waits to hear back from the receiver array at the Strait of Belle Isle to see whether any of the smolts survived their migration across the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a distance of 750 km (470 mi.). At right, Scott Roloson implanting transmitter in a smolt.
In his pre-ASF life, Nathan Wilbur, ASF’s New Brunswick’s Program Director, was an engineer designing habitat restoration projects, and I invited him along as we visited a site on the Cross River that needs serious habitat restoration work and stream channel modifications.
This ability to bring a wide range of skills to Atlantic salmon restoration, mentoring and advice is one of the strengths of ASF, and in this case Prince Edward Island’s salmon rivers are the beneficiaries. At left, Nathan Wilbur studying the Cross River on Prince Edward Island.
From Don Ivany, ASF Director of Programs for Newfoundland and Labrador
Last week I spent several days on the Great Northern Peninsula deploying ASF’s tracking equipment across the Strait of Belle Isle between the Island of Newfoundland and Southern Labrador. Our start out point on the Newfoundland side is Green Island Cove and our end point on the Labrador side is the community of L’Anse-au Loup. We have been deploying our tracking equipment across the Strait of Belle Isle, with the help of a local fisherman, Loomis Way, for about ten years now. The process involves a few days to prepare all the gear and to attach the tracking receivers to individual lines that have an anchor on one end and buoys (floats) on the other end. The receivers are deployed one kilometer apart in a straight line, and the GPS coordinates of each receiver drop site is recorded along with the date and time they are deployed. We also deploy a second line, one kilometre north of the first line to ensure the first line is accurate and not missing signals from any fish that swim by them.
For anyone not familiar with the Strait of Belle Isle, it is a passage about 12 miles wide that connects the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Labrador Sea. Ocean currents in this passage are very strong, and when wind conditions kick up, as they do most days, you have a recipe for some of the roughest sea conditions that you can imagine, especially when you are out in a 22 ft open boat loaded with gear. Needless to say, we venture out only when sea conditions are suitable, but in this area things can change fast.
On our first trip we departed the wharf in Green Island Cove at 5am and had only deployed four receivers when we developed engine trouble and had to return to shore. Four hours later we resolved the problem and deployed the rest of the gear without a hitch. The second trip went like clockwork and the receivers were deployed in their proper locations in good time.
The third deployment was a different story.
By the time we finished preparing the gear and placing it in the boat, the wind had shifted to northerly and sea conditions picked up, so we postponed our trip for a few hours until the wind seemed to be dropping. Anxious to get the last load of gear in the water we took advantage of the opportunity, and off we went. However, less than a third of the way across the strait, the winds suddenly picked up again and before we knew it we were in sea conditions that made it difficult to stand up in the boat. But we punched on through the waves knowing our boat would become lighter with every anchor we dropped at the next waypoint. By the time we got the last receiver in the water just off shore from Lance au Loup on the Labrador side, conditions were so bad I had my ‘bacon and eggs turned over’. Needless to say I was glad to make it safely back to shore in Green Island Cove. But after all that I would still prefer a day on the water to a day in the office - anytime!