Miramichi Ice-Out 2021

Fishing Friends – while the season on the Miramichi won’t be open until April 15, and from everything we hear the border probably won’t be open until at least some time in the summer, it is uplifting to note that the season is progressing, and the ice is running out of the Miramichi.

We still have a way to go before the rivers are completely empty of ice, and even longer until the banks are clear. But it is a sure bet that all floating ice will be out of the river before the season starts on April 15.

We had a crazy winter, and the Miramichi wasn’t really frozen until into early January, which is by far the latest that I have ever heard for freeze up.  It was plenty cold enough at times after that, but when you don’t get ice until that late it never achieves the thickness that it normally does.  None-the-less, many of us are happy to see spring coming to the river a little early.

Miramichi water height in meters 3/17 through 3/24/2021 taken in Blackville, NB.

All the big changes came in this last week.  If you look at the attached water height spreadsheet from the time period March 17 to March 24, you will see that because of more or less normal temperatures and little precipitation the water was coming down consistently until on March 21 it hit a low of 1.2 meters.  (double click the graphic for a better view) By my experience that is a more or less normal river height for the winter time.

Beginning on March 21 the weather started to warm up, and since then it has been consistently warmer than normal.  We have additionally had some rain fog and this both thinned the ice and melted snow, causing the river to rise steadily.  On March 23 a puddle of snow melt could be seen covering the channel on the MSA web cam at Bullock’s Lodge in Boiestown.  The morning of the next day, March 22nd, Jason Curtis e-mailed me a picture of McKenzie Brook across from his home in Blackville.  It’s starting said Jason, as it always does, with the mouth of the brook opening up.

The changes were slow but progressive the next couple of days, and on March 25th there were patches of open water in the channel up at Bullocks. The open area at the mouth of McKenzie Brook was a little larger, and you could see that the river had risen.  At this point it was up at 18 inches from its low.  The height is very important because as the river rises the floating ice starts to lift up above the points of land that lock it in place, and it begins to move downstream.

3/26/21 looking over at Campbell’s Pool.

On March 26th the channel at Bullock’s was open and running hard enough to start to push aside the ice that lay in the direct path of the current.  Also on the 26th, Jason e-mailed a picture showing that while the ice on the far side of the river was still holding it had all shifted, and a channel was open along the shore on the Keenan side of the river.

On March 27th Jason sent me an e-mail that said the ice started to run by his house at 5:30 AM.  It started with a roar that woke him up.  Click the video link next.   March 27 2021 morning   The ice was blocked somewhere downstream – the upriver end of Doctor’s Island being a very likely spot – and the river was rising rapidly.  You can look across the river in the video and see that the river was at the top of the bank, but it never got any further.  In the early afternoon Jason sent another picture showing the river all clear, the dam had let go and the ice had run off down river.

Open water 3/27/2021, same day as the ice run.

In the last graph of the water height that I ran this morning you can see the height building up to a little over 3 meters at the beginning of the day on March 27th.  That was a raise of about 6 feet from the low, and that is what put everything in motion.  During the day on the 27th you will see 5 periods where the river rose rapidly then dropped abruptly.  These would indicate that the river blocked up with ice, then the ice let go causing the river to almost instantly drop several feet.  After the last dam let go the river rose until a little after midnight and it has been slowly dropping today.

The peak height that was reached was about 4.7 meters and that represents about an 11 foot rise from the lows of March 20th.  There will be some more ice from up river, especially with the forecast rain later tonight, but it looks as if we have had a smooth ice out with a decent height of water that should produce minimum damage to pools and property along the river.  It all took place a little earlier than normal, but nothing at all unusual.  It will be very interesting to see how the observed salmon runs of last summer translate into numbers of kelts for spring salmon anglers to catch.  Unfortunately it does not look like I will be there myself to see, but hopefully the outfitters who participate in this fishery will do well.

Eddie Colford, head guide at Black Brook Salmon Club with a nice kelt from a couple of years back.

10 Comments on “Miramichi Ice-Out 2021

  1. Hi Brad,

    Thanks for the update. Any rumors on when the border might open? Even a rumor at this point would be good news.

    Roger Earle

  2. Hi Brad
    Just wanted to let you know the mouth of Miramichi in Miramichi City is still frozen bank to bank. I’m in Blackville above Grey Rapids a couple of kilometres and it is still iced in here bank to bank although it is breaking up some.It’s open around Doctors Island but not above it that you can see.Hope you can get back this season
    Take care
    Wayne

    • Thanks Wayne. The running water and then open water pictures in my recent blog were from Campbell’s Pool which is 4 miles upriver from Doctor’s island. Just looked at Bullock’s web cam in Boiestown and it is running with a little floating ice up there too. I suspect there will be ice moving along for the next few days, but the rain coming tonight should move most of it out pretty rapidly.

  3. If they don’t open up by July, who’s up for a massive group taking a swim across the St. Croix below the bridge at Calais…we will have to ship our gear ahead of time…..

    • I was telling Roger below in an e-mail that I’m hearing July if not sooner, but no one knows for sure. I’m also hearing it depends on how quickly NB gets vaccinated. A friend there says the pace has picked up quite a bit.

  4. You don’t realize how much you miss something when you have been doing it for 30+ years, and then you are not allowed to do it….miss it a lot, hoping for this year, all booked……

  5. Brad, Thanks for the ice-out pictures. Very interesting for those of us who have never seen such an event. Must be an exciting episode to witness, even if you have seen it before, Ben Taylor, CA, USA

    • Hi Ben. I’ve never seen the ice out event myself either. I was up there one spring just before the ice out which was a little late that year, but I still missed. It is often a little more dramatic with the ice being much thicker and giving up with more of a fight. The fact that this winter has been so mild at times kept the ice from ever becoming that thick. It is actually very good in some ways because the ice tears up the banks and it can scour out or fill in fishing pool.

  6. Agree, it would be neat to live along the river and witness this process. Very interesting.

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