Atlantic Salmon and the People Helping Them

Impressions of people and rivers while driving from St. Andrews, to northern Newfoundland.

Atlantic salmon need people who care deeply about the species, and as part of a trip to Newfoundland, I have been visiting a few of these individuals to see some of the approaches they are taking, projects they are working on and rivers they care about.

Yesterday there were four.

Bill Yarn – Cobequid Salmon Association, Truro, NS

Bill Yarn - June 20 on Stewiacke

Bill Yarn - with deflectors in Stewiacke

Bill Yarn likes to see things done. From a senior position in charge of ferries and land vehicles with the NS Provincial Government he has learned the skills of marshalling resources, and knowing how to assist projects towards completion.

The Cobequid Salmon Association has a very active membership, and have a reputation for seeing to completion, many, many projects, as well as helping with conservation education.

Bill Yarn showed me around a project on the Stewiacke River where boulder deflectors were emplaced last year. “These have had a major effect in clearing out the silt that was on the bottom,” he notes.

The Stewiacke looks like a healthy river. No signs of algae build up, and quite clear in this area, although somewhat reddish with tannins and carrying a bit of silt due to the recent rains.

Bill Yarn surveys the site, pointing out not only the rocks emplaced at intervals down the river, but the bridges built carefully so that the equipment used did not impact the stream. He is passionate about Atlantic salmon.

“I started fishing in the 1970s, but it was a trip to the Miramichi in 1987 that turned this into a reall commitment,” he says. “You might catch 1,000 trout, but just one Atlantic salmon outshines them all. You remember everything about that experience.”

As part of this, Bill Yarn is a committed salmon conservationist, seeing the rivers and their fish as being important to all of us.

Joanne Mailman – St. Mary’s River Association, Sherbrooke, NS

Joanne Mailman -June 20, in St. Mary's River Assoc. Museum

Joanne Mailman - June 20, in St. Mary's River Assoc. Museum

Nova Scotia Hwy 348 is best left to someone else to drive. From near Stellarton, in theory it meets up with the St. Mary’s River near its headwaters and follows it down to the sea. In practice it is away fro the river, and is a one-time adventure in broken asphalt and bumps to set teeth on edge.

Eventually it comes out on a better road at Melrose, just a few kilometres north of the St. Mary’s River Assoc. museum and education centre. The Association dates from 1979, but built their museum around 2001, and since that time Joanne has been the manager through each summer.

The museum itself has an array of rods, reels photographs and other items from the history of this magnificent river. The association also provides a leadership role in conservation, undertaking water quality monitoring, assisting with population sampling and understanding of the population dynamics of the river.

“We have also come to appreciate all the other wildlife that helps make the St. Mary’s River special,” she says. “We also have other activities reflecting the interests of members.

As we look at a collection of flies, a photograph of Babe Ruth is spotted – he fished the St. Mary’s. So too did Michael J. Fox, although in a more discreet, quiet manner.

St. Mary's River

St. Mary's Rive: mid-afternoon June 20, 2011

Off and on through the rain, the river roars by on the other side of the road. In recent years the numbers of Atlantic salmon returning have dropped, principally through mortality at sea, and this year there is not a live release fishery on the river.

With the water high this year, it has proven to be a difficult spring, with debris affecting the smolt wheel that was deployed.

Eddie Halfyard and the Lake Ainslie (Margaree River, Cape Breton) Smallmouth Bass

Eddie Halfyard - Eliminating Smallmouth Bass in a Doubly Good Cause

Eddie Halfyard - Eliminating Smallmouth Bass in a Doubly Good Cause

Edmund Halfyard is well known to many in the Atlantic salmon community for his work in documenting the tremendous impact the liming project on West River-Sheet Harbour has had on bringing back the life in that river. He has also been involved in some of the ocean tracking work.

But this time he is being more inventive. He is leading a smallmouth bass fishing event on Saturday, June 25 in Lake Ainslie.

Here is the background – around 2000, someone introduced smallmouth base, a non-native invasive species, into Lake Ainslie, part of the incredibly important Margaree River system, and in the long term putting its salmon in jeopardy.

Eddie has organized a smallmouth fishing event with a twist – Anglers Helping the Hungry will see the fish going to Feed Nova Scotia, an organization focused on food for the needy of Nova Scotia.

Such a beautiful combination to take a good crack at an invasive species, and to see the results go to a socially important cause.

Lake Ainslie on Margaree River.

Lake Ainslie - Blowing Hard on June 20, 2011

On Monday Lake Ainslie was blowing and the wind was howling, bringing rain. The mood fit for an invasive species that could do great damage unless controlled or eradicated.

After all the adventures in travel, it was a pleasure to enter the Margaree valley, where more adventures awaited in the mist and rain.

Margaree River Valley – Changed by the Great Floods of Dec. 2010

Margaree River late on June 20

Margaree River Rising - 6 PM on June 20, 2011

The rain increased as I drove up the Margaree Valley, and once reaching the unpaved road, the potholes were brimming over with the continuing rain.

But what was truly amazing was the extent of changes in the river due to the great flood of Dec. 15, 2010. The river has changed, massive new gravel bars have been formed, and the question is not whether, but how much this flood affected the Atlantic salmon redds in the river. More on this tomorrow.

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