September 25, 2019

New Brunswick Tidal Fishing

After seeing my friend Francois successfully catch both Shortnose AND Atlantic Sturgeon in one day on the Kennebecasis River in NB, I knew I had to plan a trip! Everything came together on the weekend of September 21st, when both Alex and I were able to get the Monday off. The plan was to drive down to my cottage Friday night, pick up the boat, and then drive through Maine on Saturday to get to NB. Unfortunately, I couldn't find my trailer registration so we had to make a 3 hour detour to avoid crossing the border. Friday evening and night would consist of a bit of saltwater fishing, and the rest of the weekend would be devoted to sturgeon fishing and other touristy stuff.

After a long drive, we finally made it to the coast and had about 1 hour of fishing time before the sun was supposed to go down. We made the best of it and caught some Pollock, Shorthorn Sculpin, and Atlantic Tomcod. The Pollock were the highlights and only lifers for us that evening :)


Next I tried scouring some tidepools for Lumpfish and maybe even a Clingfish. The tide had dropped enough to make the search worthwhile, but the targets were nowhere to be found! All I found were a couple of Threespined Stickleback.


After nighttime had fallen, we made our way to the third and final spot of the day: a pier where Francois had managed to catch a Wrymouth. We saw plenty of Mackerel and Squid, but, once again, the target was nowhere to be seen. I did manage to hook one new species, but it got snagged on a ladder halfway up the pier. Thus, I had to climb down into the darkness, untangle the rig, and successfully land my lifer White Hake!


The harrowing climb down the ladder ended our night and we headed to an epic free campsite right on a beach on the Bay of Fundy! It was dark when we arrived, but we woke up to this awesome view:


The only thing on the schedule for the new day was Sturgeon fishing, one of my favourite groups of fishes. We drove to the boat ramp I had marked down, put the boat in, and headed to the waypoints some friends had sent me. The water was shallow and weedy, not at all what I was used to for Sturgeon fishing. I was not confident in the area and decided that we should fish elsewhere, so we headed upriver to a known Sturgeon wintering hole.

This spot seemed much more promising; I was marking tons of fish on the graph! We began rigging our lines and casted out our first rigs while beginning on our second ones. While tying my second rig, I turned around and saw my first rod bent over! I fought the fish to the boat and saw that I had caught what looked like an Atlantic Sturgeon, one of the rarest fish I've ever seen. I sent out a couple messages and the ID was quickly confirmed, I had really landed a true mythical beast!



The adrenaline from that catch slowly wore off, and we returned to attentively watching our rigs. The mix of tidal action, current, and high winds made bite detection quite difficult. We decided that two of our rigs would need to be fished straight down and the other two would be held by each of us. Soon after, Alex felt some bites and reeled up her first American Eel! I was happy she finally got to get the full Eel slime experience :p


Needless to say, we spent the next 15 minutes or so scraping the slime off our hands. We then untangled her rig and got back to bottom fishing. It wasn't long before Alex noticed the rod behind me bouncing. I set the hook and fought up something that felt small; I figure it would be another Eel. After bring it up to the boat, I saw that it was another Sturgeon! The blunter snout made the ID obvious, I had caught a Shortnose Sturgeon :)


Now it was time for Alex to get her Sturgeon. Unfortunately, after this catch, the incoming tide picked up and brought tons of Tomcod with it. This meant that all of our rigs were devoured almost as soon as they hit the bottom (usually within 30 seconds). She caught one more Eel, a Yellow Perch, and dozens of Tomcod... but no Sturgeon :(

Tomcods #32566 and 32567
The sun started going down and we had to end our efforts before it became to dark to find our way back to the ramp. We spent the evening driving to the town of St-Martin and found an abandoned road to camp on. The next morning was our final bit of time out east, and we spent it exploring some nearby sea caves and enjoying the best seafood chowder I've ever had :)




September 04, 2019

Endgame

I meant to write this post after catching all but 10 of the 112 QC freshwater fish species, but I've been busy with a new job up north so here's a report for the final eight. Feel free to reach out if you think you can help me find any of these guys! Even the smallest piece of information could be the clue I'm missing. Most of the fish left are pretty rare, found far from my home, or aren't currently legal to target; but one day I hope to get all of them.

1. Atlantic Sturgeon EDIT: Caught September, 2019

The Atlantic Sturgeon is the largest of all QC fish that can be found in freshwater. They apparently spawn in certain areas around Quebec City, but I have yet to see any confirmed catches. The closest "targetable" population seems to be in New Brunswick, where they are an occasional by-catch while targeting Shortnose Sturgeon. That is where my buddy, Francois Guay, caught the beast pictured above!
I was able to finally land one of these mythical beasts in September 2019 after dragging my old boat all they way to New Brunswick. Picture of my trophy catch is above, definitely one of the coolest fish I've caught to date! For more info, check out my full report here.

2. Round Whitefish EDIT: Caught March, 2021

These cryptic salmonids have been tough to track down, but I recently came across a blog post detailing a potential targetable population in Vermont. I'll definitely keep you guys posted if that works out! Otherwise, it seems like they are mostly caught accidentally in the salmon rivers of Gasp├ęsie.
Finally made a crazy 12hr drive out to lake Superior and back to spend a single day ice fishing before the ice started going out on the big lake. The bite was tough but we persisted (and lost many fish), and I was very excited to see this guy show up in the hole!!

3. Cutthroat Trout EDIT: Caught August, 2020

Apparently these Cutthroat Trout were stocked in a couple QC rivers back in the 60's or 70's, but I've only found rumours as to where they are, and I think it's likely that they have mostly died out. I haven't seen a single confirmed catch within the province so far, but maybe they still exist somewhere! The easiest solution will probably be for me to travel out west, but I'll still cling to the hopes that I may find them on the east coast for now. The fish pictured above was caught by my friend Rowan over at Connecticut Fly Angler.
Alex and I made a second run across the country to western Canada and this time we had favourable conditions to land a Cutthroat Trout! We caught our first ones in a small river in the Castle mountains and then caught plenty more in an alpine lake in Kananaskis Country :)

4. Copper Redhorse
Image Source: Oceans and Fisheries Canada
These rare Redhorse are listed as endangered throughout the entirety of their very small range, so are not legal for the time being. Hopefully their population will rebuild and they will be de-listed one day so that they can enjoyed by all.

5. Spoonhead Sculpin EDIT: Caught September, 2021

I have found very little info about these small Sculpins. As far as I know, no one has been able to catch one on hook and line and they aren't studied very often. I believe they are more of a lake-dwelling species that prefers deeper water of around 60', making them difficult to target. Apparently they are sometimes found in streams as well, but only out west, meaning the closest ones to me would be in Alberta.
Turns out the secret was to go seek them out in the northern streams of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta. I was able to catch three individuals in two different creeks. Such a gnarly-looking freshwater sculpin!

6. Fourhorn Sculpin EDIT: Caught August, 2021

These guys seem to be pretty common where they are found. Unfortunately, they are only found in the Arctic Ocean. They are on the list of QC freshwater fish because there is a freshwater form that lives in the rivers of James Bay. I'm hoping to eventually do a trip up to Wemindji or Chisasibi to catch one! Or, if that fails, I may travel to far northern Sweden.
Or... just go wayyyyy up north!

7. Deepwater Sculpin
Image Source: Justin Londer
This may be the most challenging freshwater fish to catch in QC. I say that because they are only a couple of inches long, and prefer water of depths over 200'. They have been sampled in a couple glacial lakes in the Outaouais region of QC, but are also found in some of the Great Lakes. Catching one will likely require many hours with a 4oz weight and a size 20 hook!

8. Grass Carp EDIT: Caught August, 2021

The Grass Carp was the most recent addition to the list of QC freshwater species. Only one specimen has been sampled within the province, so I doubt I'll be able to catch one here in the near future. I think I may have found the closest population down near Albany in New York, but I have yet to confirm if they are actually there. The picture above is yet another awesome catch by Rowan from Connecticut Fly Angler!
With all the covid border closures, I actually ended up catching this one in southern Alberta, where sterile triploids are stocked for weed control! They put up a hell of a fight, and I was sure I would lose this guy when he went on a screaming run halfway across the pond, but it finally came together :)