Miramichi Brook Trout

Kris LeBlanc with an amazing Cains River brookie.

Fishing Friends – I received a fair education on the history of Cains River brook trout fishing when I was researching On the Cains.  One thing that I was quite surprised to learn was that many of the largest sea run brookies caught in the last century were actually caught within the last ten or fifteen years.  As recently seven or eight years ago some very good catches of brook trout of Labrador proportions were being regularly made up on the Miramichi and the Cains from late May to early July. Those catches have dropped off alarmingly at all locations.  Many people suspect that the main culprit is the out-of-whack striped bass population that appears to be gobbling up not only Atlantic salmon smolts but brook trout, smelts and gasperaux.

Keith Wilson whose family is outfitted the upper Cains for generations with a very nice sea run brookie.

Just continuing to complain about DFO’s frustratingly slow response to correct the bass problem is not the only option available to us to help these other fish populations recover.  I received a letter the other day from my friend Kris LeBlanc of Moncton who has been fishing the Miramichi and the Cains for many years.  He is concerned that too many anglers continue to view brook trout simply as pan fish and that current regulations are far too permissive on the retention of them – especially the larger ones that are in most cases sea-run brook trout.  I’m going to paste in Kris’s letter to The Honorable Mike Holland PC below along with Mike Holland’s e-mail address for you to send in your own comments.  Here is that e-mail address:   Mike.Holland@gnb.ca

I’m going to send in a letter similar to Kris’s, but am going to add my special concern that all brook trout larger than 12 inches taken on the Miramichi system and tributaries should be released.  Many of these are sea run fish, and they are simply too valuable as spawning stock, and for providing other anglers with fishing opportunities, to be killed.

Here is Kris’s letter:

April 4th, 2020
Honorable Mike Holland,
Minister of Department of Energy and Resource Development

Minister Holland,

I am writing today in regards to my concerns around the April 15th opening of the recreational sport fishery in New Brunswick.

As an avid salmon and trout fisherman for over 40 years, I am truly looking forward to choosing a fly rod and heading out to the mighty Miramichi to enjoy some much needed time on the water. Along with many like-minded outdoors people, I am overjoyed by the fact that you and the rest of our government have made the decision to move forward with the opening of our season. Thank you for advocating for us Minister Holland. In speaking with a number of people, we realize this privilege can, and will be revoked if people do not adhere to government directives. This only makes sense…

My concern is the following: With the ever growing number of individuals unfortunately out of work and looking for ways to pass time, I anticipate a larger than usual number of fishermen and fisherwomen in our brooks, rivers and lakes. Please note that an anticipated increase in fishing pressure is purely my opinion and I admit to having no evidence or data to back up that assumption. It is solely based on the fact that thousands of people now have much more time on their hands.

Fortunately, sound conservation measures around Atlantic salmon have already been implemented and recreational fishermen and fisherwomen cannot retain this species. However, given the Covid-19 circumstances, I believe our brook trout population is in grave danger and I am truly concerned about their retention limits. If we see an increase in fishing pressure and nothing is done to reduce the number of retained fish, I believe our brook trout population could be negatively impacted. Limits of Five and 10 trout is a relatively small number. However, if multiple people retain 5 or 10 trout multiple times per week, our trout population could be compromised in a matter of months. As you’re already aware, once that damage is done, it is extremely difficult to repair. The demise of the once abundant runs of Atlantic salmon is a great example of a decline that is very challenging to mitigate. We are extremely fortunate that our brook trout population is not yet in this situation. Minister Holland, you are now faced with an opportunity to make substantial changes to our regulations in order to protect our native brook trout. I would encourage you and your ministry to act before it is too late. Because of Covid-19, I am convinced the fishing population will more than ever support retention limit modifications. The time is now Mr. minister.

I respectfully ask that you look at reducing the retention limit of brook trout for the 2020 season. Ideally, I, and many others, would like to see a 100% live release trout fishery for this upcoming season. Minister Holland, as our minister of Department of Energy and Resource Development, you are now faced with an opportunity to leave your legacy. Making this difficult decision will benefit fishermen and fisherwomen for generations to come and you will be remembered as the pivotal individual who had the courage to make this difficult, but right decision. If we look back at our province’s history, the politicians who made the most difficult decisions are the ones we remember most today. I think we can both agree that Louis J Robichaud’s decisions were likely not always the easy ones to make…

If you would like to discuss this matter further, I would be very happy to speak with you at your convenience.

Warmest regards,

Kris LeBlanc
135 Portage st,
Memramcook, NB
E4K 3Y5
506-382-5515

CC. Megan Mitton
MLA Memramcook, Tantramar

7 Comments on “Miramichi Brook Trout

  1. Brad,

    Thank you for sharing my letter to minister Holland on your blog. I truly appreciate your support in the quest to save our native NB brook trout.

    Best regards,

    Kris

  2. Brad and all,

    I realize that not all New Brunswickers will agree with me on my desire to modify brook trout retention regulations. However, if you do, I would encourage you to take a few minutes to write our minister. If you would like to you use the letter I wrote and sign it, I am 100% ok with that. I do not have a facebook account , nor do I frequent fishing web sites. If anyone wants to cut and paste my letter in any of those sites, please feel free to do so. It may reach many additional people if it is shared online. If nothing else, it will likely generate a lot of discussion…

    If we go back to the 80’s when the retention of large salmon was prohibited, you will likely recall that some people were very unhappy. Today, I would say that 99% are in agreement with this regulation. Fast forward 35 years, DFO implemented live release regulations for all grilse in our rivers. Again, many people were up in arms about this regulation change. Although I concede that some anglers are still not in agreement with releasing grilse, I would argue that many anglers have come to terms with this and would continue to release their grilse even if retention was once again allowed. Changing mindsets is a long and arduous process and I hope this letter will kickstart a culture shift for many fellow New Brunswickers.

    Brad, thank you once again for adding this to your blog. I really appreciate having a vehicle that has reached far more individuals than I could on my own.

    Best regards,

    Kris

  3. Hello Brad,

    thank you for your post regarding anadromous (“Sea-run”) brook trout.

    I would like it to be known that our Collaboration for Atlantic Salmon Tomorrow (CAST) research consortium at the Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of New Brunswick, has started a research project specific to investigating the population status, migrations, and threats to sea-run trout population in the Miramichi River. This research consists of two components; 1) establishing a count of returns in the Juniper area using an Adaptive Resolution Imaging Sonar (ARIS), and 2) a tracking study where we have been (since last summer), and continue to (this summer, and next) tag sea-run trout using acoustic transmitters. The tracking study is geared to understand the trout migrations (timing, extent) but also understand the risk level to trout from the potential interaction with the increased striped bass fishery in the Miramichi Estuary. I can attest myself that the largest trout I have caught (and released) in the Miramichi have been “accidental by-catch” during striped bass fishing. We at UNB believe this phenomenon is probably not only limited to me (!), but we may have a situation where trout harvest has increased by the fact that tens of boats are fishing in the estuary, and may have these “collateral” trophy-sized trout at the end of their lines, and therefore, harvest may have coincidentally increased. The current plan to track sea-trout include the Juniper area and the Northwest Miramichi; receivers are distributed along the Miramichi system.

    Two notes regarding this:

    1) If the members of the public observe “black round cylinders that remind you of a coffee-thermos”, please leave them alone. These are our stationary acoustic receivers collecting data. They will NOT be of any value to you (to steal) because they all have individual tracking number, and you can not “sell them off in kijiji”. They offer no value to anyone else than those involved in fisheries research. If you observe them, please leave them alone.
    2) IF the members of the public capture a sea-trout that has any observable marking of surgical sutures (“stitches”) on their “belly”, it would be very much appreciated if we’d be informed (contact below). It is your prerogative to either keep or release such fish (we do not want to bias our study by asking people to necessarily release them IF they would have otherwise intended to keep such trout), but nevertheless, we’d like to know if any member of the public have captured any of such fish (and whether you kept or released the fish; we will keep the information confidential). Unfortunately, the acoustically tagged fish do not carry an external tag or marking of any kind as we want to keep the intervention minimal to the fish., but the underside of the belly may carry a scar from the tagging and suturing. Also, in cases where you have kept a fish and observe a small roughly inch-long black cylinder when you clean the fish, we’d very much like to get the tag back to observe its ID number and (potentially) be able to re-delpoy the tag in a new fish. Every year, we receive information from various fish species we tag and track, and these pieces of information ALWAYS add to the puzzle of their whereabouts or if they “mystically” disappear from water.

    We’d be happy to talk more about the project, and we will be posting a brief information blurb on our research website, and will be frequently posting news about the project on our twitter feed, and we encourage you to follow us on twitter @UNBsalmon

    All the best,

    Tommi Linnansaari
    Research Coordinator for the CAST
    Associate Professor, UNB

  4. I agree 100 percent with kris trout should be hook and release also and should have been for years. The trout numbers have dropped big time on on the river it seems and bass deffintly plays a major factor but a lot of people like to keep every trout they catch no matter the size. We have a unique trout run that should be well protected not just this year cause of covid 19 but for the future. Hook and release

  5. Good day all you merry ladies and gentlemen; this one is from Geneva-Switzerland (with a 20-year camp-link to the Bartholomew River …).
    The Barth has for years been a fine ressource for brook trout. Not unusual to hook into some fine speckled beauties, usually on leech-pattern streamers et al.
    Alas, when the river changes from bait- and lure casting to “salmon/fly-fishing only rules”, it is not uncommon to see multiple canoe-parties sailing downstream, happily using worms as long as garter snakes, sometimes on trebble-hooks with the little spinner-combo on top. Nice, huh?
    One-hundred percent in agreement with Kris Le Blanc about protecting this fine, elegant and … voracious fish (a char, really, isn’t it?).
    But, Brad and Kris: One hell of an uphill (or rather upriver) struggle to take away from the local fishermen yet another “privilege”, to be sure.
    As an afterthought: Nowaday that everyone, without you asking, flashes the screen of their i-phone in your face to show you their daily stretch of 25 brook trout, neatly aligned by size, from 35 cm down to 10, waddawegonna do about that? I don’t have the fishing synopsis in front of me, but who cares, when the brook trout fishing in the Bartholomew closes as early as July 1st? Lots of guys just continue to fish for brookies. Ignorance or “duty of civil disobedience” ?
    One person alone, fishing a small tributary of the Bartholomew, upriver from my camp, (I’m not going to disclose the name of the stream …), can do substantial damage to the stock, especially since brook trout spawn early and are particularly vulnerable at that time, when they practically lay up on sandbanks.
    There you go, guys. Keep up the good work and spread the gospel: P.R.O.T.E.C.T.
    John Stucki, Geneva/Switzerland and Blackville/NB – 10 April 2020

  6. Brad and Kris,
    I’ve spent 3 weeks on the Cains every spring since 2006 hopefully catching the mysterious brook trout run. Some years were better than others. One particularly good year(2008) we landed and released 15 trout all in the 15-22 inch range. In 2015 I had another really good year. Unfortunately the fish were 12-16 inches. Still very nice trout. Since then things have really gone downhill. The last few years I’ve wondered if there even was a run. I try to convince myself that I am just not fishing hard enough and the run has snuck by. Reading your report has confirmed my suspicion that the run really has been drastically depleted. I agree with your proposal to reduce the creel limit and put a no kill restriction on 12 inch and larger fish. Until they get the situation in the bay straightened out it is the least we can do. My brother and I are both contacting Minister Holland.

    • Thanks Brian. Sorry about the delay in approving your comment. I saw it earlier, but I didn’t realize it wasn’t already approved. Once you make an approved comment any more that you make in the future are automatically approved on the spot.

      Jason Curtis told me about your good fishing in 2015, and it motivated me to give it more of a try myself. I did catch a couple of 12 to 14 inch range fish last spring. We went up the river in a jet canoe and fished many of the better known pools between Mahoney Brook and Brophy. The caretaker at Sabbies River said that he saw a couple of good trout caught there the week before, but we got nothing. There aren’t a lot of them, that’s for sure.

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