More than a decade ago, Mark Gautreau was doing research on minnows in the Red Deer River when he came across an Alberta fish guide.
Thumbing through the comprehensive book on the flight back home to Fredericton, the fish biologist at the University of New Brunswick’s Canadian Rivers Institute turned to a colleague.
“I said, ‘someone needs to do this for New Brunswick. And she said,’Well, you should do that.”
After collecting specimens and writing notes for much of his career on the great diversity of aquatic species in the province, Gautreau, along with the institute’s project director Allen Curry, are set to publish New Brunswick’s first freshwater fish guide in more than 60 years.
They hope to publish the 230-page Inland Fishes of New Brunswick, with hundreds of photos and maps, this summer.
It’s a natural fit for Gautreau, who spent countless hours as a boy fishing brook trout in the Bartibog River, a tributary of the Miramichi.
He chose his career path in part based on luck: originally planning to study forestry and silviculture, as a 19-year-old he caught a presentation by a biologist from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who described a research station that happened to be only a short distance from his father’s own camp on McGraw Brook in central New Brunswick.
”My jaw hit the floor. I couldn’t believe people got paid to do that kind of work; He told the Daily Gleaner Wednesday as he electrofished near the Mactaquac Dam as part of study of gaspereau and blueback herring.
“I ended up working there that summer before going off to university. And it was there
I solidified what I wanted to do and I haven’t looked back. I’ve been doing fish research since 1994.”
Although books have been released over the years about New Brunswick fishing, Gautreau said there hasn’t been a comprehensive guide about its freshwater fish since William B. Scott and E.J. Crossman published one in 1959.
More famous for publishing Freshwater Fishes of Canada, which Gautreau and other fish enthusiasts consider the bible on the subject, the two biologists came out with the work long before several invasive species had entered New Brunswick’s freshwater habitat.
The Canadian Rivers Institute has identified 54 inland species in New Brunswick, and Gautreau says he’s fairly certain others are out there- koi, or decorative carp from Asia. It has eluded him but others have spotted it.
The guide will give descriptions of the fish, their behaviour and habitat, where to find them, their conservation status, and how they change depending on the seasons.
Forty-two are native to the region, such as salmon and sturgeon, whereas nine, including smallmouth bass, chain pickerel and muskies were introduced from other places. Several others are hybrids, such as splake, a mixture of speckled and lake trout.
Curry, who has studied fish in New Brunswick for 25 years at UNB, said the guide would be an excellent resource for researchers, anglers, First Nations, naturalists – anyone who has an interest in what lurks in the province’s lakes and rivers.
He said it would also be useful to people in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and parts of Quebec, as all the species in New Brunswick are also present in their freshwater bodies.