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Retreiving the Data With a Small Boat
by Atlantic Salmon Federation on 

Graham Chafe, ASF Biologist


Now that Atlantic salmon smolts and kelts have passed through to the open ocean from the Miramichi, it is time to bring up the units and download the data.




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North-Bound
by Graham on 

ASF's tracking program encompasses kelts and smolts. The kelt tags, due to their larger size, can last up to three years. The smolt tags are much, much smaller and last a little over 100 days. With kelts, we can track the fish out of the river and back in again the next year if they are consecutive spawners or the year after if they are alternate, or even a combination of the two. Smolts can only be tracked to the Strait of Belle Isle, the batteries don't last too far past that. After they pass the strait, the now post-smolts face their first winter at sea and that is what we, and others, are concerned about. Survival through their first winter is an important issue and is also one of the hardest to investigate due to the length of time, remoteness, limitations of technology and sheer size of the North Atlantic.



A new ASF project aims to investigate the potential of reducing the unknown time by catching and tagging post-smolts in the Strait of Belle Isle. The fish that were 13cm when they left the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence rivers in May will be larger by the time they cross the strait in July. Tags that are even just a bit bigger can have a much longer battery life, so we are undertaking a reconnaissance mission to the strait in 2017, so if feasible, we can make plans for 2018.

Eric and James are driving up to Green Island Cove, where our receiver line is, with a ton of gear. They will be using a trawl net fitted with a custom box at the end that will keep any fish caught out of the current and safe from harm. It is a preliminary trip, but we have high hopes for proof of concept. Thanks to Justin, Tim and others from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Maine for exploring this idea and particularly for sharing experiences with the trawl. The equipment was new to us and being able to go out on a trawl in Penobscot Bay was a great help in preparing for this trip. At-sea mortality is a big issue for salmon in their first winter and we aim to reduce the knowledge gap with this project.

 Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Waiting on the Weather
by Graham on 

It's a different world up in the Strait of Belle Isle. While those of us in southern New Brunswick are basking in the sun today, the folks in northern Newfoundland are a little bit cooler. The ASF's Director of Newfoundland and Labrador Programs has been waiting for the weather to clear to deploy our acoustic tracking equipment in the strait. He and Loomis Way, a local fisherman who has been taking us out to deploy and recover gear for years have everything ready by he wharf, but they can't leave the harbour.



If all things went according to plan, and they never quite do, this line of equipment would have been out by now. First, they had to wait for the ice to clear, since then it has been waves, wind or fog that has kept them high and dry. This morning, Don mentioned that they had to move their cars off the wharf as waves were crashing right over it. There is still time left before the kelts tend to arrive so all is far from lost. The smolts will pass through a little later than the kelts and by late August, the gear will have been removed for the season again. Looks like they might get on the water Friday, fingers crossed.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.


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The King of Fish, Far from the Sea
by Graham on 

Last week I was in our nation's capital and found myself wandering the Byward Market. On the corner of Murray and Sussex, just across from the American embassy and up from the National Gallery of Canada, I found a small, bright store full of rare and antiquarian books. While talking to the store's owner, I wandered the aisles around the shelf-ladders and glanced at titles. Arctic exploration, Irish history (no doubt mentioning the Miramichi area), natural history and atlases all grabbed my attention for a time but one section really jumped out at me, the one on angling.


At first I saw "How To Tie Salmon Flies" by a Captain Hale, followed by "Return To The River" by Haig-Brown and "Let's Go Fishing" by Lee Wulf. All older, early run hard covers, all carefully maintained and behind glass, they sat there as proof of the Atlantic salmon's ability to grab the attention and imagination of generations of anglers and conservationists. Books are still being written about the species that we all care so much about and it was good to see that the older knowledge and experiences were well kept for future generations. I wonder if Captain Hale's flies are as effective now as he found them in 1892.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Smolts Away!
by Graham on 

The last of the 2017 smolts have been tagged and released this week. Eric and Kelsey were on the Grand Cascapedia for a couple of days earlier this week. Despite all the difficulties the locals faced with the high waters, they managed to get the smolt wheel out for us to keep our time series of records from that river.


 

They tagged and released 60 smolts, 20 more than the usual. The receivers in the mouth of the river as well as Chaleur Bay are deployed and waiting for the little fish to pass by. That's the end of the spring fieldwork, but we're not resting on our laurels. We're monitoring the up and downstream passage facilities on the Magaguadavic and mid-season downloads of Miramichi gear will take place pretty soon. The Strait of Belle Isle line will go out in a week and ahalf and at the beginning of July, Eric will be headed up there to do some investigation of post-smolts as they pass the strait. It isn't always super-busy, but it is never slow.


Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Smolts Ready to Bolt
by Graham on 

The field work continued this week as the smolt runs had started in strength on both branches of the Miramichi River. Heather is on the Northwest, tagging smolt near Trout Brook. I've just returned from the Main Southwest where we released 80 tagged smolt. In both cases the fish were caught and relesed in the same location. Thanks to staff at the Miramichi Salmon Association and Rocky Brook camp for all their help with this project.


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Down But Not Out.
by Graham on 

The enormous rains over Eastern Canada over the past week have left (or maybe they haven't left yet) the rivers high and the tags dry. Conditions are difficult and dangerous for anglers in many places and we haven't been able to tag the kelts as we normally would. The Restigouche and Cascapedia Rivers are in such a state that we're not sure conditions will allow us to tag before the salmon leave the river. This is a yearly activity that would normally be done by about now, but we're still waiting to go.


Not all is lost however, eight kelts were acoustically tagged on the Northwest Miramichi on Friday. Thanks go as always to the volunteer anglers who caught the fish for the exercise. We were planning on tagging 25 on each of the three rivers, so eight isn't great, but when working with wild animals and in the field, things don't always go as planned.


We'll keep a weather eye on conditions and the outllook and maybe we'll get out again. Otherwise it will be on to smolt tagging on the same three rivers, hopefully the rivers don't stay too high for the smolt wheels to operate for too long, we'd like to see the entire range of the runs and not just the tail end. Fingers crossed.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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River Takes Early Series Lead, Anglers Look to Rebound in Game 2
by Graham on 

This blog could also have been titled "Muddy Waters Sings the Blues". Despite a great showing by volunteers on the Northwest Miramichi on Sunday, anglers were skunked and no fish were tagged. The water was very high and looked more like a double double than a salmon river.  The continued rains continue to keep the water high so as of now, we're planning to try again on Friday and Saturday, May 5th and 6th. The forecast suggests a lot of rain on Saturday, but if people will fish, the water won't have risen yet and it might be okay.

If you or someone you know are interested in angling and helping out near Red Bank on Friday and/or Saturday, please contact me by email; gchafe@asf.ca I can then update folks if the situation changes.




The Restigouche and Cascapedia Rivers are in the same situation, so we won't be trying them until next week.   Hopefully conditions improve by then.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Ready, Set, Go.
by Graham on 

This week begins a flurry of field work for the Research Department that will see us tagging on three rivers, deploying equipment in fresh and sea water and travelling from southwest New Brunswick to Newfoundland and possibly beyond.

Weeks of preparation paid off this morning at 6am when Mike and Eric left with the boat to go deploy acoustic receivers in the Miramichi River.They'll be back in a day or two, only to pick up more gear and head north again. If all goes well the Chaleur line will be out this weekend followed by more in the Miramichi, Restigouche and Cascapedia Rivers.



For my part, I've been preparing the tags and tagging equipment. I'll be leaving early Sunday morning for Red Bank on the Miramichi where we hope to acoustically tag 25 kelts from the Northwest on Sunday and Monday. We rely on volunteer anglers to capture the fish so anyone in the area can look for ASF and MSA staff on the river and at the Red Bank boat launch if you want to help out. We couldn't do this without the volunteer anglers and we really appreciate the help from everyone that lends a hand. It is always a fun and interesting couple of days and it looks like the weather will be good this year.

From there, I'll be headed to the Restigouche River for another 25 tags on Tuesday and Wednesday where we'll be happy to have any help we can get with the angling. We'll be stationed on the Quebec side, just up from the Matapedia and easy to find. Once that is done I'm off to the Cascapedia with the last 25 kelt tags. One week, three great rivers and hopefully 75 beautiful salmon.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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You Know Nothing, Jon Snow
by Graham on 

The spring and open water are in sight. Though the winter wasn't too harsh for many of us, it is always nice to feel the sun and see it warm things up. Many of the rivers in southern New Brunswick have been free for a few weeks but the lakes are still quiet under the ice.

Along with the warm weather, the ASF Research Department is getting ready to head out across Atlantic Canada for field work. It is always an exciting and hectic time of year. Despite the best planning, the season seems to sneak up on us. We have more on deck than usual this year so even more preparations are required. Mike is hard at work rigging up the receiver deployments and getting the boats ready, Jason and Heather are trying to get as much 'winter' stuff done before we head out of the office for a few weeks and Eric and I are planning logistics and readying equipment. Lots to do but we'll be ready.

First up will be deployments as soon as the ice is more or less out followed quickly (and potentially before if the ice doesn't cooperate) will be kelt tagging. This year we'll be tagging post-spawn salmon on three rivers instead of two. Cascapedia kelts will join the ranks of tracked fish for us this year and we're excited to compare timing and patterns to our two more established tracking rivers.

A few weeks yet to go, but as nobody ever said on Game of Thrones, "Spring is Coming".

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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