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Downloads from Upstream
by Graham on 

This week is all about data capture. Mike and Eric are waiting on the weather to visit Miramichi receiver installations to download some and retrieve others. The smolts have passed by now and are on their way to the Strait of Belle Isle. At the strait, Don Ivany and a local fisher are gearing up to get the array into the water there to be ready for the smolts' passing. Some receivers will be left in Miramichi to monitor returning adults.



Michael, our summer student from Dalhousie University, and I spent a long day yesterday around both branches of the Miramichi. We were collecting receivers we had placed there a month ago to detect passing smolts. While some receivers further downstream are left in, these are removed much earlier. Since the smolts have passed and the adults are detected eslewhere, we remove these receivers to make sure we get the data and so that they are out of the way of any anglers in those sections.

Eric and Heather, our other Dalhousie University summer student, will be headed to Newfoundland on the weekend to begin our expanded activites there. They'll be looking to capture post-smolts to collect information from them before releasing them on their way. They'll also be sampling for a fish health program, looking at the presence of certain pathogens from Gulf of St. Lawrence salmon. They'll be gone for a few weeks and working hard with local fishers, I'm sure they'll take the some time here and there to enjoy the local scenery.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Live Trapping Smolt at Sea
by Atlantic Salmon Federation on 

by Graham Chafe, ASF Biologist

In about three weeks, ASF Biologist Eric Brunsdon and Dalhousie University student Heather Perry will be packing the truck and skiff and heading towards Newfoundland and Labrador. They'll be undertaking a reconnaissance mission in the Strait of Belle Isle for a few weeks. They'll be in the same area as our receiver array, and will check on it while they are there.
 
Tagging technology is incredible right now, but we can't tag a smolt leaving a river and track it for long enough to cover the portion of the migration from post-smolt to returning adult, either grilse or multi-winter. Technology is improving though, and we plan to be able to maximize the opportunity when it arises.
 
In order to tag fish up there, we'll have to catch fish up there. To that end, Eric and Heather, with the help of a crew of local fishers, will be using a trawl net specially designed to keep fish alive and safe in the cod end. We tested that out on Passamaquoddy Bay a few weeks ago, you can see a video on ASF's Facebook page.


Inspecting a trap net that will be used in Strait of Belle Isle. Photo Graham Chafe/ASF

On Monday of this week, we went out on a Huntsman Marine Science Centre boat to test out the deployment of a large fyke net.


Deploying a floating trap net experimentally in Passamaquoddy Bay. Photo: Graham Chafe/ASF

This type of net is fixed in place near shore. Fish that are moving parallel to the shore encounter a lead net that diverts them to the trap portion of the net. Widely used in both scientific and small scale food fishing, fyke nets are easy to deploy and tend when they are of smaller size. Ours is quite large, Heather and Eric have their work cut out for them. They'll be checking the net one or more times a day and taking measurements and biological information from any salmon that are caught before releasing them on their way.
 
Graham Chafe, ASF Research.
 

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Keep Calm and Tag On
by Graham on 

The bulk of the big rush of fieldwork is over, with some tasks remaining. All the fish have been tagged save for the smolts on the Cascapedia, which should happen next week. The receivers are out, except for the Strait of Belle Isle lines, due to hit the water in mid-June. Most of us will soon settle in to our summer schedule which consists of a healthy mix of office and field work.

The kelts were angled in order to insert the acoustic tags, and the smolts trapped with smoltwheels. Here are the numbers:



We're keeping an eye on the downstream passage at St. George on the Magaguadavic River, where we're seeing a few salmon daily that probably leaked out of hatcheries. We've also seen a few adult alewife, the ones that ascended early and are on their way out already. To date, we've also counted three small chain pickerel, an invasive species in the system that have taken hold.



The upstream passage on the same system is busy with alewife on their way to spawn in the river. While we don't count them, nor are there facilities to do so, the run last year seemed larger than usual. It definitely was a bigger year for the neighbouring St. Croix River and early indications for 2018 seem to suggest the same. The photo above shows a few alewife climbing from pool to pool on the fish ladder. The pools are full of them and they move mostly in sunny weather. There was at least one larger predator after them just below the ladder the other day. Although we didn't see it directly, it did create a very large wake as it scattered the alewife all over the place. Seals have occasionally been seen there before, but this was a fish, perhaps a striped bass.


 Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Canoes, Waders and Automobiles
by Graham on 

Tagging efforts continued over the long weekend on three Rivers. Eric and Michael were up on the Restigouche tagging kelts. Thanks to David Leblanc, the Restigouche River Watershed Management Council and all the volunteer anglers for making it a success. They didn't manage to tag all the fish we had planned, but considering the late season and tricky conditions, it went very well. Meanwhile, Jason and I were on the Northwest Miramichi after smolts. The run wasn't too strong while we were there so Eric and Michael stopped by on the way home and finished up for us so we could head to the Southwest Miramichi for another batch of tagging. The Miramichi Salmon Association and Kelsey McGee get a big thanks for setting up and operating the smolt wheel and fishing it every day for us.  Thanks also goes to Debbie Norton and the Upper Oxbow camp for supporting us while we were there. We enjoyed our stay and met several anglers, of both the salmon and bass groups who were all enjoying a great weekend.



Between the two branches of the Miramichi, Jason and I had some receivers to deploy further upstream than our main groups of equipment. Thanks to The Ledges, Vince Swayze, Salmon Brook Lodge and Black Brook Lodge for allowing us to use their camps and pools for this work. We'll be back in a few weeks, after the smolt run, to collect them and make sure they're out of the way of the anglers when the brights are in.

Jason and I also tagged 80 smolt at Rocky Brook camp, who support us every year with this work. It's a great place to go for this as the smolt wheel is right there and they give us a spot to tag indoors when it is raining. This little Pine Siskin came for to watch the proceedings and eventually had to be escorted outside. After tagging the fish in two days, we found a little time on the way home to make a couple of quick hikes through the beautiful country in that area.

Only the Restigouche and Grand Cascapedia River smolts left to tag this season. That should happen over the next couple of weeks and then we're working more locally for a while before mid-season download of the receivers begin.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Seven Staff, Four Rivers, Three Trucks, One day
by Graham on 

The work continues this week with just about everything happening at once. Typically, we deploy receivers and tag kelts early on and then work with the smolts a week or two later. Not in 2018 however. The second half of this week will see all three activities on the same day.



Eric and Michael, a summer student from Dalhousie, are tagging kelts on the Restigouche today and tomorrow. Conditions have been far from perfect and it has been delayed much later than usual but looks to be improving now. Mike was deploying the receiver array in the outer bay of Miramichi yesterday and will be heading up to the Baie des Chaleurs as soon as sea conditions permit. Meanwhile Ellen and Heather, another summer student from Dalhousie, were taking care of monitoring the downtream passage on the Magaguadavic River at the St. George Dam and beginning the weekly surveys of the Chamcook watershed.


Jason and I have been up and down both branches of the Miramichi, placing a few last receivers in upstream spots. We'll be tagging smolt on the Northwest for the next two days and expect to be doing the same on the Main Southwest for the rest of the long weekend. A big thanks to Upper Oxbow Adventures and Rocky Brook camp for all the help and accomodation. Both are great spots from which to start any day on the river.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Tagging Trials and Deployments
by Graham on 

Water conditions continue to hamper our kelt tagging efforts, but some progress is being made. We had to postpone the Restigouche kelt tagging until further notice. The river had dropped some, but not enough and then it climbed again before holding steady. The water is turbid and cold, making for terrible angling from all the reports we've received. We'll plan again, but will wait for conditions to improve significantly.



Meanwhile, the Miramichi is full of activity today. ASF biologist Eric and summer student Heather, from Dalhousie, are at Red Bank tagging kelts, earlier today they had three done. Hopefully by the end of tomorrow they will have another 22. Miramichi Salmon Association staff are a big part of the project, helping with tagging and organizing anglers as well as running the boat to collect fish from anglers. Fingers crossed it goes well despite less than optimal conditions.

ASF staff Jason and Mike were also on the Miramichi today. They deployed the receivers from Loggieville up to the forks and up each main branch of the river. This is the equipment that will 'listen' for and record the passing tags in kelts and smolts. Conditions on Miramichi Bay and Chaleur Bay are not suitable yet for deployments there, but the trucks are loaded and the gear ready for the minute we can get out on those waters. It's been a slow start to field season this year, but with everything going on with rivers in New Brunswick, it is no wonder.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Kelt Tagging Continues, But When?
by Graham on 

After the successful kelt tagging on the Cascapedia River last week, we'd hoped to continue the trend on the Northwest Miramichi and Restigouche Rivers this week. Conditions and the weather have other plans however. We will still go, but the difficult part is deciding when to hit the rivers. Most of the ice has moved out, but water is still high and dirty, making for poor fishing in several areas and possibly unsafe conditions.


As of today, we are planning to go Sunday and Monday to tag 25 kelts at Red Bank on the Northwest Miramichi. Rains tonight and tomorrow may change that, but fingers are crossed. The plans for the Restigouche are on hold until further notice. We may know more on Monday.

Anyone wishing to help us out with the angling for the kelts to be tagged can get in touch with me for the Restigouche at gchafe@asf.ca or Eric Brunsdon for the Miramichi at ebrunsdon@asf.ca.

Stay safe near the water, it isn't just the St. John river that is high and dangerous, at this time of year caution is needed around all waters.

 Graham Chafe, ASF Research.



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And It Begins...
by Graham on 

This week marks the first tagging events of the 2018 season. Eric and Ellen went up to the Grand Cascapedia River a few days ago to acoustically tag kelts. This is the first year we've tagged kelts in that river and hope for some good results. This project is being undertaken with the Cascapedia River Society and with big help from anglers from the Gesgapegiag First Nation. The folks on the river clearly knew when and where the fish would be, they caught and tagged 17 on the first day and the last 6 on the second. It was Ellen's first bit of field work since starting at the ASF a couple of months ago, not a bad first trip!



The tagged kelts will be recorded as they pass receivers that they placed in the river. Depending on ice conditions in the bay and when we can get the Chaleur line out, they will be recorded there as well. Fish destined to be alternate spawners are likely to cross the Strait of Belle Isle in early July and our receiver line there will be in place by then.It will be interesting to see how their timing compares to the nearby Restigouche River where we've been tagging black salmon for several years.



Speaking of the Restigouche, we'll be tagging kelts there in about a week and a half, sometime between the 5th and 8th of May, and several days earlier on the Northwest Miramichi. The dates are completely subject to change according to river conditions of course. If you're interested in angling to help us out there, please send me an email at gchafe@asf.ca and I'll add you to the mail-out for either or both rivers.

Graham Cjafe, ASF Research.

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Go Go Gadget Trawl
by Graham on 

In efforts to expand both our knowledge and reach in regards to migrating Atlantic salmon, we'll be headed up to the Strait of Belle Isle this summer for some interesting activities. We'll be investigating our ability to capture post-smolt as they move through the strait on their way to the North Atlantic. Any salmon captured will be have some measurements taken and samples of a few scales and a tiny bit of tissue. This will yield more knowledge about what conditions and changes these fish faced as they moved through the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Additionally, knowing the size and weights of the fish allow us to plan for future technologies for potential tagging opportunities when they present themselves. Currently we can't track fish much past that point, but in the future it may well be an option and we'd like to be ready.



The trawl itself has a live box, adapted from some friendly researchers south of the border, that will move fish into a chamber out of the push of the water and be well-protected. Once the box is lifted aboard, the fish remain in the water for sorting and measurements. They will be released on their way after a short time on the vessel.

We recently went out for a test run on Passamaquoddy Bay on a boat and with some staff from the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in St. Andrews, NB. Everything went very well, from deployment, through trawling and to recovery of the net. We couldn't have asked for much more in terms of performance from the net and live box. We're looking forward to seeing post-smolts in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Movie Night
by Graham on 

Over the past two weeks the Atlantic Salmon Federation various Nova Scotia and New Brunswick universities has been hosting screenings of the documentary "Lost at Sea". The film was directed by Dierdre Brennan who also organized a Kickstarter campaign to get the film made.



With footage and interviews from across the Atlantic salmon's range, the film takes viewers on a tour of habitats and issues concerning the species and its migration. Clips of interviews with salmon researchers interspersed with beautiful scenic shots keep the viewer tuned in throughout the film. Our own Jon Carr and Graham Chafe make an appearance in the film while examining scale samples from the Magaguadavic River in New Brunswick.

Three screenings have been held so far in the Maritimes, at Acadia, St. Francis Xavier and Mount Allison Universities. Great questions and discussions followed each screening highlighting people's interest in Atlantic salmon and  conservation issues. Next week, on the 15th of March, it will be shown at Dalhousie University in Halifax. The film begins at 7:30pm.

Here is a link to the Facebook page for the movie: https://www.facebook.com/atlanicsalmonlostatsea/


Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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