Hot summer temps stifle salmon fishing

By Samantha Magee

MIRAMICHI — Avid fishermen understand the reasoning behind salmon pools being closed during heat spells.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada officially closed down 22 cold water pools July 17. However the closures are not as big of a deterrent to fishermen as the hot weather has been, according to some in the salmon fishing sector.

The closures were put into effect to protect the well being of Salmon along the Miramichi River leading into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

When it becomes very warm, fish become lethargic and congregate in on cold water pools in an attempt to cool down, making them unfairly vulnerable to anglers. Lactic acid builds in the salmon’s bodies with the stress of the warmer temperatures and can only be released when it cools down, should the fish not find cooler waters they could die, explained Mark Hambrook of the Miramichi Salmon Association in a previous interview with the Miramichi Leader.

Beverly Gaston, mayor of Doaktown and owner/operator of Gaston Adventure Tours, said the cold water pool closures are necessary and not overly harmful to businesses or tourism. 

“I took two people out from West Virginia (July 18) to an open pool and they fished early in the morning… They didn’t catch anything but they had good fun and they’re coming back next June,” he said.

He said most of the pools around Doaktown, the main Southwest portion of the river, are still open and that a lot of fishermen know the vulnerability of the fish and ease up to protect them.

“Had they have closed the whole river, then it would have been tough on our outfitters and guides but … We are more concerned about saving the fish than catching them in a lot of cases,” said Beverly, who explained most fishermen he has spoken with understand the importance of conservation. In the meantime, he said he is hoping for rain and a small temperature drop.

“No need to panic, if it rains real good here on the weekend all will be forgotten,” he said.

Of the 22 cold-water pool closures, 12 of those are private, explained Hambrook. He said the majority of anglers won’t even notice a difference because many of the closures were for private pools anyway, another three of those were concerning tide water pools which have mandatory closure dates Aug. 1, that are now shut down for the season, about two weeks earlier than initially planned.

“Most people who own those pools are non-residents and don’t fish them anyway…So really it’s  not affecting much, it’s not a major impact but hot days are. When it’s 35 degrees no one wants to go fishing,” he said.

Jake Stewart, MLA for Southwest Miramichi and an experienced angler agrees the hot weather can be an obstacle.

“That makes it really tough for businesses and outfitters, they have to think long and hard about where they can take people when tourists come to fish,” said Stewart “DFO has a responsibility even though not a lot people may agree with that, certainly conservationists do and deep down, a seasoned fishermen totally understands you can’t be fishing salmon when they’re in a bath tub.”

He recommended anglers find an open pool but stick to early morning fishing between 5 a.m. until 8 a.m.

That’s just what most fishermen are doing in Blackville, if they’re going out at all, said Norma Brennan, co-owner of Curtis Miramichi River Outfitting with Brock Curtis.

She’s noticed  a slump in sales even before the closures took effect. The store is a fully equipped tackle shop that carries various fishing-related gear and equipment.

“It is just too warm to be out there fishing. A lot of people just don’t go to the river when it gets warm,” said Brennan.

She explained many local fishermen abstain from fishing because they know how vulnerable the fish are.

Brennan acknowledged that things could be a lot worse and said she hopes that temperatures drop a bit so the Department of Fisheries and Oceans doesn’t impose further restriction on fishing like they had to last summer.

Last August the department banned angling completely in 15 cold water pools as well as imposed a morning curfew being for fishing on the entire Miramichi River.

“We may as well have just stayed home, plain and simple. If that goes on too much longer we probably will be home,” said Brennan.

Hambrook explained that in order for the currently closed pools to re-open without any restrictions, water temperatures have to register at a minimum temperature of 20 degrees Celsius or less, for two days in a row, with no extreme heat forecasted in the next coming days to re-open the pools.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans monitors the temperatures and will make that call.

For those worrying about a repeat of last year’s restriction to morning fishing only, river temperatures have to register at a minimum of 23 C for that to happen.

“As long as it comes down below 23 C at night, the fish will recover. It doesn’t matter how hot it gets during the day, the fish can tolerate warm water temperatures for a period of time but if it cools off at night they can recover and they’re OK, so it’s the minimum temperature that is important. Those warm, hot nights are the killers.”

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