May 24th – Deception & Exhaustion
Day 5 began with a visit to Kouchibouguac National Park, where we would finally get to take a shower! Since it was the first shower of the trip, it was an incredible morale booster to finally feel clean. Despite being in a relatively uninteresting location compared to the national parks out west or even in Cape Breton, Kouchibouguac had a large beach and a cool saltwater marsh. This latter area particularly interested me as I had some intel that it contained the 2 remaining Sticklebacks that I needed to complete my slam. We ate lunch on the boardwalk that crosses over the marsh before I set up to catch some micros. I could see large schools of something small below us so I was excited to get started. The fish I was seeing ended up all being Mummichog, but I was noticing some smaller, more discrete fish darting in and out of the kelp. They were Stickleback! I caught many of them, but did not have a field guide so was unsure as to whether they were Threespines or the Blackspotteds I was looking for. After a good amount of tanago fishing, I switched to my dipnet and succeeded in catching a consolation Fourspine Stickleback! On the way out of the park, we stopped to use the internet and I confirmed that I had caught a Blackspotted Stickleback! Slam complete.
Leaving the park, we drove to our next destination: the Miramichi River. The plan was to stop at an Acadian restaurant for lunch on the way and sample some of the traditional cuisine. To our dismay, the restaurant we had selected was closed permanently L After looking around a bit, we gave up and continued on our way to the supposed Striped Bass paradise.
Arriving in Miramichi, we were simultaneously amazed and dismayed to see at least 200 boats on the river in front of us :o It was the day before the annual Striper Cup so there were many anglers prefishing. With stories of 600 fish days and non-stop action, we were getting antsy to cast a line in the water. Armed with 50lb braid and heavy swimbaits, we launched our lures as far as we could into the strong current of the river. Unfortunately, I was having an issue with my reel where the bail would snap shut if I made powerful casts. This led to me quickly losing all of the expensive baits I had bought specifically for Stripers. The day did not pan out as expected; the bite was off. We fished for hours without seeing a fish or getting a single hit; other fishermen we met on the bank told similar stories. After trying every spot I had researched, we were losing hope so gave up and made PB&J’s. Before leaving, we tried one last Hail Mary spot located on a rocky shoal where we could wade a good distance out into the river. It payed off! First cast and I had a fish on! Same for Alex! We were getting hits and/or catching fish every cast. We ended up catching about 50 Striped Bass total, even after the tails on our last swimbaits had been ripped off by the aggressive fish.
The sun had set while we were catching fish so we made our way back to the car before it got too dark to find our way. We then gunned it to make some headway back towards home. Alex did the bulk of the driving and kept us on the road until 2AM despite bad driving conditions. We made camp down a rough road into crown land.