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Pop Goes the Satellite Tag
by Graham on 

Map showing the current locations of four of ASF's satellite tags in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.So far in June, four of the eleven pop-up satellite tags we attached to Northwest Miramichi salmon kelts have begun transmitting. These tags measure light, depth and temperature while they are on the fish and use some of that data to calculate a position for each day that they are deployed. Unlike similar, but much smaller, tags on terrestrial or avian animals, they cannot communicate with satellites on a day to day basis. In order to do so they must be released from the fish and float to the surface. So they store the data until a pre-determined date when they pop off and begin transmissions.

Our tags for 2015 are programmed to pop off at the end of August, September or October. The other reason a tag will pop is if the fish's depth does not change for four days. We know from previous data that this is not at all typical behaviour of salmon kelts, so when a tag pops early, like these four have, it suggests that they have died for some reason. Once the reams of data have been initially analyzed, we can sometimes tell if that mortality occurred from a predator or not.

Two fo the four tags popped in the general vicinity of the Iles de la Madeleine. They were possibly headed toward the NW Atlantic. The other two were off the northern tip of PEI, directly east of Miramichi Bay. This would suggest, though it is an educated guess at this point, that they were attempting to return to spawn again this year. While it is unfortunate that these fish have likely died, they carried the tags long enough for us to further investigate their movements in the early part of their ocean migration, before they either go to the NW Atlantic or return to spawn. This will be invaluable in understanding what habitats are critical for Atlantic salmon off our shores.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Short Fish, Long Migration
by Graham on 

Graham Chafe and Jason Daniels tagging alewife on the St Croix River.This week has been mostly about the St. Croix River. This river runs in the southwest part of New Brunswick and forms the border with the United States for some distance. Jon Carr and I tagged 29 alewife in the past week, with the help of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the St. Croix International Waterway Commission. The fish were sampled at the counting trap on top of the fish ladder at the Milltown Dam. Once acoustically tagged, they were released about 800m upstream with a larger school of fish. Tracking in 2014 and now this year will help us understand how these anadromous fish are re-colonizing the upper reaches of the river that were previously blocked to fish passage.

In addition to the tagging, I took part in the St. Croix International Waterway Commission's annual public meeting in St. Stephen. I presented on the counts at the fish ladder as well as summarizing our tracking results from last year and updating the activities for 2015. Members of the public proved to be interested and well-informed about their river. As of Wednesday morning, just over 58,000 alewife had been counted at Milltown. That is a significant  increase over recent years by this date. It is an encouraging of the recovery of this population.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Help from Anglers and Beach-Goers
by Graham on 

A Satellite tag and two sizes of acoustic tags.In the past week we've received unexpected and welcome news. Three people have contacted us regarding equipment they have chanced upon. One receiver and two tags were found. Though we haven't examined the receiver yet, we believe it is from our Chaleur line and was found near Miscou. Sometimes props or commercial fishing equipment can become entangled and cut a receiver loose. Sometimes luck is on our side and they are found again. Then the data can be extracted and they do not need to be replaced.

Yesterday, an angler contacted me about a tag  discovered on a kelt he had caught and released on the Northwest Miramichi. When he noticed the tag, he recorded the number and alerted the ASF. It turns out it was a Department of Fisheries and Oceans tag, but we passed along the information.

The third tag is perhaps the most interesting, it was discovered on a beach far, far away by someone one vacation. Until they return from vacation, I won't receive all the information, but I will update the blog with the details when possible.

Everyone can help us out by alerting us when they chance upon a piece of equipment that has washed ashore or angle a fish with a tag. The information gained from someone who angles a tagged fish, whether or not they release it, is very valuable. It can help place the fish in time and space relative to our monitoring equipment. All of our tags and monitoring equipment have phone numbers or email addresses on them. If you find yourself with a tag or equipment, please record the date, time and location found as well as the serial and/or ID number. Any further information regarding the condition of the fish or circumstances of the discovery can help as well. We will happily come and pick it up or arrange for postage.

Thanks for your help.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Tagging a Ride to the Sea
by Graham on 

Shawna Wallace releases tagged smolt on the Main Southwest Miramichi.

Tagging continued this week on both the Main Southwest and Northwest branches of the Miramichi River. Steve Tinker and Shawna Wallace tagged 80 smolt from the Southwest at Rocky Brook. Steve has been tagging Rocky Brook smolt for 14 years and is ending his tagging career this season.  

 

On the other end of the spectrum, Holly Labadie, biologist with the Miramichi Salmon Association, put her tagging training to the test on the Northwest Miramichi with the help of Malcolm Little and ASF Biologist, Jason Daniels. The tagging of 80 smolt on the Northwest was completed Tuesday.

 

Malcolm Little and Scott Roloson, student researchers assisting ASF, are actively tracking the newly tagged smolt on the Miramichi.

 

In non-salmon Research Department news, receiver deployment on the St. Croix river has started for the second year to track alewife movement. Alewife tagging will begin in early June.

 

Finally, congratulations go out to Graham Chafe, the regular blog author, who spent this week welcoming his newborn daughter, Lucy.

 

Shawna Wallace and Jason Daniels, ASF Research

 

 

 

 

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Moving Along After the May Long.
by Graham on 

Alewife moving through the fishway on the Magaguadavic River.The long weekend has come and gone and saw many anglers on the water. The alewife also arrived on the scene on the Magaguadavic River this weekend. We started fishing the fishway trap in St. George early last week. We hadn't seen anything as of Friday, but on Saturday the alewife had begun to run. Those in the trap were gently lifted over and we altered the water path to allow free access to river for the thousands of alewife yet to arrive. Once the run has passed sometime in June, we'll begin fishing the trap again to count wild salmon ascending the river and to watch for any escapees that may find their way there.

The weekend also saw Mike Best deploying the receivers across the Baie des Chaleurs. Now all the monitoring equipment is out for the Restigouche and Miramichi kelts and smolts in Maritime waters. The Strait of Belle Isle line will go in in June.

Steve Tinker and Shawna Wallace are spending a few days at Rocky Brook on the Main Southwest Miramichi tagging smolts. They should have met their quota by the end of the week. Jason Daniels is working with Miramichi Salmon Association staff on the Northwest tagging smolts, monitoring the smolt wheel and other duties. Once the tagged smolts are released, they'll be live tracking the fish as they move down river. This involves using a portable receiver to investigate areas between our regular equipment. Long days on the water but they'll likely have sunburns and smiles by the time they're done.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Big Projects, Big Waves.
by Graham on 

Releasing a satellite tagged kelt.For the second weekend in a row, ASF and Miramichi Salmon Association staff were tagging kelts on the Northwest Miramichi. Members of the Moncton Fish and Game Association were a big help with both angling and support for the program. They, and other volunteers encountered some great fishing, some slow fishing, enjoyed the sunshine and persevered through the rain and wind. Not all fish that were hooked ended up with a tag of course, more than a few escaped lines at the last minute. The biggest fish of the weekend even leapt straight from a live box back into the river, escaping the clutches of two expert anglers on the way. Of course no witnesses were present to confirm its 'massive' size...


Elsewhere, Jon Carr was also tagging kelts on the Restigouche River. The receivers, equipment that records the tagged fish as they pass, have been put out in the Campbelton, Dalhousie Junction and Dalhousie areas by ASF staff, Listiguj Rangers, the Restigouche River Watershed Management Council staff over the past few days. They dealt with high winds and rough waters in some areas, but managed to successfully deploy all the gear as planned.


A special thanks to the volunteers and project supporters on both rivers. Without them and their considerable efforts, we wouldn't be able to continue such wide-ranging and important projects for the conservation of Atlantic salmon.

The Chaleur and Strait of Belle Isle receiver lines are all that is left for our regular smolt and kelt tracking project deployments. The Chaleur line should go in early next week when the weather calms down, the fish aren't likely to arrive there until the end of next week. The Strait of Belle Isle line isn't deployed until mid-June due to conditions, and the fact that it is 700km from the Miramichi and Restigouche receivers, the fish take a bit to get there so we have a bit of time to play with.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Keltic Connections
by Graham on 

A crew of volunteer anglers helping with kelt collection. Photo: Nelson Cloud.Last Sunday we began our tagging efforts for the season. Sunday found ASF staff on the banks of the Northwest Miramichi while volunteer anglers were on the water searching for kelts to tag. The fishing wasn’t great in the area, but we did manage to tag ten salmon. Six of those were given acoustic tags and four ended up with satellite pop-off tags. After getting nothing at all on Tuesday, we headed back to headquarters.

The acoustic tags emit a coded signal that is picked up and recorded by the receivers we have placed down the river and at the mouth of the bay. The satellite tags record their own information and will pop off, float to the surface and transmit the data to passing satellites. The pop-off tags are divided into three groups that are due to transmit at the end of August, September and October.
Mike Best and Holly Labadie searching for kelts and enjoying the day. Photo: Nelson Cloud.
We’ll be up again tomorrow and into the weekend, so if you’re fishing in the Red Bank area, stop by and say hello. On Sunday, Jon Carr  will be doing the same thing at the Rafting Grounds on the Restigouche River. Meanwhile, Jason Daniels and Mike Best will be deploying the final receivers in Miramichi Bay and then heading up to Dalhousie and other areas that the Restigouche fish will pass to deploy there. Busy times, but the weather is fine and there is nowehere we’d rather be than out on the water.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.


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And They're Off!
by Graham on 

ASF Biologist Jason Daniels and a load of gear for the Miramichi.Today marks the first day of field work after weeks of preparation. The crew has been hard at work gathering gear, programming receivers, measuring line and tying rigs for deployments. Jason Daniels and Mike Best are headed north this afternoon, to the Miramichi where they will be deploying acoustic receivers in both branches of the river. This is part of our continuing smolt and kelt tracking project.  Once the ice is cleared, we'll be putting out equipment in Miramichi Bay as well as several locations for tracking Restigouche and Grand Cascapedia salmon.

ASF and Miramichi Salmon Association staff will be tagging kelts at Red Bank on the Northwest Miramichi on Sunday and Monday. The effort depends on the help of volunteer anglers who have come out in good numbers in the last few years and are critical to the success of the project, without them we wouldn't be able to tag fish at all. With the temperature set to climb and the clouds depart, it should be a great couple of days to spend on the river. Soon after that, we'll be looking for the right timing to acoustically tag kelts and smolts on the Restigouche and smolts on the Northwest and Main Southwest Miramichi rivers.

So if you see us on the river, stop and say hello. We're always eager for news and thoughts from anglers and are happy to show people how all this equipment that they read about works in real life.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.

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Arrivals and Departures.
by Graham on 


The snow is disappearing, the rains are falling and the kelt are looking toward the sea this week. We will soon be out on the Northwest Miramichi River looking for kelt to tag with both acoustic and satellite tags. It is part of our continued research on their movements, timing and survival through the river, estuary, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and even further. Before the tags go in, the receivers must go out. It is a big job but fortunately Mike Best’s season with ASF has begun again. He is hard at work preparing the rigging necessary to deploy acoustic receivers throughout both main branches of the river as well as at the exit to the Gulf. Of course there are more to go once that is done, the Baie des Chaleurs, Restigouche and Strait of Belle Isle receivers also need to be deployed in a timely fashion.  Other members of the Research Team will be tagging kelt and smolt on the Restigouche and smolt on the Northwest and Main Southwest branches of the Miramichi.

Sad to say that just as our season is heating up, we are losing one of our biologists. Michelle Charest has been with us for only a year but has become an integral part of the team. She’s led ASF’s participation in the Tag Retention study and has been involved in basically everything else we’ve been doing throughout the past year. She is as good with the data we accumulate as she is avoiding her picture being posted in the Research Blog. Thanks for your help and hard work Michelle, best of luck with your travels. 

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.



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Looking Out for Salmon in Nova Scotia
by Graham on 

Graham Chafe presenting to the Nova Scotia Salmon Association in Halifax.Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Annual General Meeting of the Nova Scotia Salmon Association (NSSA). The NSSA is a group of dedicated people and affiliate organizations that work very hard to give Atlantic salmon the protection and attention they and their habitat deserve. Formed in 1963, this charitable organization has been working towards responsible management and conservation of native Atlantic Salmon and trout stocks in Nova Scotia ever since. They are contending with issues such as habitat problems, acid rain and aquaculture.

The meeting gave an update on the various projects the NSSA is undertaking as well as reports from some affiliate groups. . They are active in the Fish Friends program, where school children learn about Atlantic salmon and the environment through the placement of salmon eggs in the classroom. Another great program from the NSSA is the Adopt-a-Stream program where community groups improve the habitat and condition of local streams. Restorations and clean-ups are conducted on waterways throughout Nova Scotia resulting in a greater sense of community and connection between citizens and the environment. It was a pleasure to meet the people involved and learn about the great projects and work they are doing.

Graham Chafe, ASF Research.


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