Nathan Wilbur, ASF Director, New Brunswick Programs
5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagement, often called CFB Gagetown or simply Base Gagetown, encompasses 1,100 sq. km south of Fredericton, NB.
Last week I was taken on a tour of Base Gagetown stream restoration projects with DND Biologist, Andy Smith. The Base encompasses most of the Nerepis River watershed, including its headwaters, and has undergone considerable land clearing and bombing, literally, since the 1950s. The Nerepis empties into the Saint John River estuary at Grand Bay and is part of the Outer Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon population complex, which is being considered by SARA as being endangered. Andy pointed out that records indicate historical Atlantic salmon populations in the Nerepis may have supported a commercial salmon harvest of 8,000 lbs.
Andy Smith explained that in recent years he has found small numbers of salmon parr during electrofishing surveys, and has observed a few redds in the fall. During our tour around Base Gagetown, there was no doubt that habitat degradation, including heavy silt loads and reduced groundwater inputs to streams, had contributed to the decline in native Atlantic salmon and brook trout populations.
Biologist Andy Smith explains some of the projects now being undertaken to improve habitat within the Canadian Armed Forces Base Gagetown lands.
Andy has set out to turn that degradation around and has strategically been restoring streams on Base, along with building in best practices of crossing streams. For example, tanks used to cross streams wherever they pleased, but new practices limit them to designated Fords where Andy and his team have installed hardened crossings to reduce erosion and sediment input.
Another component of the strategy includes building small wetlands on non-fish-bearing streams to help with groundwater recharge. With the high density of restoration projects around base, it is clear that the work is starting to pay off in terms of aquatic water quality and rearing habitat for native coldwater species. We are keen to keep a close eye on improvements on Base, and congratulate Andy and his team on their hard work to restore salmon habitat in an area that so drastically needs the help.
by John Burrows, ASF Director of New England Programs
Last month, ASF and Project SHARE completed construction of a new 50-foot steel bridge over Allen Brook on the Stud Mill Road in Downeast Maine. The bridge replaces two undersized 4-foot culverts.
Allen Brook is a headwater tributary of the Narraguagus River and this project restored a nearly mile-long dead-water back to its natural, free-flowing condition and also provides access to a total of 3.55 miles of stream habitat for Atlantic salmon and brook trout along with 95 acres of pond habitat that was historically utilized by alewives.
The project was engineered and designed by Natural Resource Conservation Service engineers and Big R Bridge fabricated the bridge, sills and back walls and delivered them to the site. Hanscom Construction was hired to do the installation and site work.
Funding for the project was provided by NRCS, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided on-site technical support during construction.
Old culverts creating issues of fish passage on Allen Brook
New bridge built in 2016 to enhance migratory access for fish.
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.