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NB fishing season opens, but outfitters miss international anglers

Only New Brunswickers are on the province’s rivers and lakes right now

Dozens of boats dotted the Miramichi River in Blackville with cheerful fishermen eager to land an Atlantic salmon on Thursday morning.

It’s a far cry from last year when the season was delayed for two weeks because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“It’s a beautiful day, beautiful conditions, for a few fishermen, all from New Brunswick,” said Byron (Byzie) Coughlan, the owner and operator of Country Haven Lodge and cottages. “We wished we had the borders open, but that’s the way it is.”

The majority of his customers come from the United States and the U.K. So despite returning to an April 15 opening day, fishing in New Brunswick is still a lot different for businesses that rely on people coming from other countries.

Coughlan says people come from all over the world to his homestead in Grey Rapids, near Blackville, for their chance to fish for Atlantic salmon.

“I’ve got a few of them that started on the Miramichi spring fishing in 1963 and 1965 and never missed a year until last year,” said Coughlan. “Forty per cent of our clientele have been coming for 20 years.”

He’s already fielding daily calls from Denmark, Scotland, and France from anglers telling him they’ve received their second shot, are fully vaccinated, and are eager to fish, but he’s not able to invite them back to Canada yet.

The delay of the Atlantic bubble announced earlier this week was also a hit to the start of the fishing season. Several groups from Nova Scotia and PEI had to cancel their fishing trips to the Miramichi.

“Normally [we] have 440 to 470 guests a year and you’re down to 70 guests last year, it’s quite a difference,” said Coughlan.

Still, with opening date back to April 15, Coughlan said he has hope things are slowly returning to normal.