Monday, December 31, 2018


As 2018 comes to a close, I was reflecting back on what was different from recent years in the outdoor world in the Grand Lake area and I was struck by how little things had changed. In some instances, that was a good thing. In other areas, not so much.
   The year started off with what I thought was one of the best ice fishing seasons in years. After just one thaw early in the year, there was lots of ice and good weather right through to the end of the season in late March. I spent a lot of days on the ice and I had great luck fishing chain pickerel near home and occasionally at the Key Hole on Grand Lake. I usually don't bother going all the way to Indian, French, or Maquapit Lakes simply because there is great fishing closer to home. A lack of snow fall made for some easy travelling and I didn't even bother with a shack just because the weather was good and I had the luxury of being able to pick my days. Here is a video from last season. I thought this fish was a lot bigger than it was. Just excited, I guess!

The biggest pickerel we got this past year through the ice was one my son Curtis caught. It was 24 inches on the board. We released that fish to be caught another day. Here is a photo of that fish.

 If fishermen practice hook and release, the fishing stays good all season. On smaller bodies of water such as the ponds and coves on Salmon River, the catching goes south very early in the season if fishermen keep too many pickerel. I hear the arguments every year. Oh, the limit is ten pickerel. I only kept six. Well, if you keep six and the other ten guys that fished that day kept six or more, that adds up to over sixty fish out of one small area. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what the fishing is going to be like in a very short time. We have seen this exact scenario being played out over the last few years and it's really frustrating. If any fisherman takes more than two pickerel a day, you are either a moron or a pig. Please don't be either of these!

    The 2018 New Brunswick salmon season was nothing short of disastrous. I don't believe in sugar coating any of my reports and this is how I see the past season. The spring, summer and fall fisheries were all plagued by a shortage of fish and terrible weather conditions. How could that possibly add up to even decent fishing? If DFO doesn't get a handle on what's happening with this fishery, we may well be seeing this great sport in it's death throes. Striped bass are having a huge impact on smolt survival. Global warming is also having a negative impact on our cold water species. One bright spot is Greenland agreeing to be bought off to cease their annual rape of our fish off of their coast. This will allow more large spawners to return to their home waters. Hopefully, we will soon turn a corner on this issue before all is lost.

Striped bass have exploded in both numbers and popularity and last season was another fabulous one on the lower Miramichi River and the Gulf coast. With numbers approaching one million fish, sportsmen pursuing this species had lots to cheer about. We had very good fishing every time we were out and reports were positive right across the province, Most of the tidal rivers had good runs and as I've already said, the Miramichi had tremendous numbers. Too many really. Steps are being taken to reduce their numbers such as increasing the daily limit to three and allowing natives to have a limited commercial fishery. These are good steps but lets hope the pendulum doesn't swing too far the other way. One fault of DFO is their slow response to changing conditions. Keep a close eye on this situation.Here is a video clip of my buddy Jake Doherty landing a fish on the Miramichi River. We both got a limit of fish in the upper slot bracket. A bonus of this species is their delicious table fare. This next photo shows my three fish limit for the day.

Native brook trout on inland waters continue to do well but sea trout on the Miramichi and her tributaries have taken a huge drop. The Cains River run failed to appear and many fear it may be lost. Stripers are the most logical problem but the annual trout derby in Redbank is seeing a lot of trout being taken out of the system each year. This could be hurting the population to some extent. Hopefully, as the high striped bass numbers are being addressed we will see our sea trout numbers rebound. Keep your fingers crossed on this issue.

Our black bear numbers remain stable for now and success rates remain high for non-residents. The fall hunt is usually a little more unpredictable but if you start early and  have a consistent baiting regime, good results are almost guaranteed. One of the biggest problems at our deer sites is keeping bears off of our bait. Bears will push deer off of a bait because they have a habit of staying right on the bait and the deer will just find other feeding areas. Sometimes this situation takes a positive turn when a nice boar shows up like this one did. It's hard to get pissed when this happens!
We have a two bear limit in New Brunswick right now and I can't say I am a fan of this situation as it stands. I think the hunt would have been much better if the season was split with one bear in the spring and one in the fall. This would have benefited the outfitting industry and controlled the population in a more fitting fashion by reducing the number of bears shot recklessly just because of hunters knowing they can get another tag if the first bear is too small for their liking. Perhaps DNR will see how a change to the hunt such as I've suggested would benefit all concerned in the near future. Time will tell.

Moose numbers remain steady over much of the province but there is cause for concern. This years hunt was held during a period of excellent weather. Cool days and frosty nights made for great calling conditions and many nice bulls were taken in all areas of the province except for the extreme south. Kill numbers were up slightly in the north but down a bit more in the southern half to give a slight decrease in the kill overall. I find this concerting because the weather conditions were near perfect yet there was an overall decrease in the kill. This tells me that the moose population has slipped in the southern half of the province and this fact has been borne out by our sightings during our travels in our hunting zones in the central part of the province. Hopefully. DNR will make the necessary adjustments to address this fact when allotting tag numbers for the southern zones for next year. Here is a photo of a tremendous bull taken in one of the northern zones.
This bull had 26 points and a 63 inch spread. 

If there is one place where New Brunswick's  DNR has failed miserably in it's mandate as managers of wildlife, it is in the care (or lack of) our poor deer herd. How bad is it? It's that bad that the DNR/government won't even release the kill numbers in the same calendar year! This past season was also the first one I can remember where we had snow that stayed for most of the season. This should have optimized the kill numbers but that didn't happen. This situation borders on being criminal and I don't make that statement in jest. I'm being serious. New Brunswick's former deer biologist quit in disgust and pointed the finger squarely at the culprits who are to blame. Still,. government refuses  to act on any recommendations put forth by their own people and the wildlife federation. To act in this fashion is unconscionable. I'm not going to point fingers. I don't have to. The cat is out of the bag. Every deer hunter in this province knows what the problem is and who bears the blame. Things had better change soon or there are going to be a lot of old style politicians standing on the side lines twiddling their thumbs while their newer, younger comrades are seizing the day. We seen the beginning of this scenario being played out in our last election. The status quo will no longer suffice and sportsmen across the province are exercising the power of their vote. I say good for them! It's about time!
     We had a grand total of eighteen deer registered at our local station this past season. I can remember when we had successive kill numbers of over one hundred deer just out of the Harley Road area back in the 80's. What a sad state of affairs! Brooke was the only one in our group to take a deer although we had some misses and close encounters. Here is a photo of Brooke's buck taken a few days into the season.

I hope this post doesn't come across too negatively because I am an optimist by nature. I think things can and will be better in the future if we all work hard and remain vigilant in our care for our wildlife. This should be a labour of love for all sportsmen in our beautiful province and I truly believe we are up to the task.
I want to wish all my readers a Happy New Year from our crew here at home on Salmon River and we hope to see you in the coming year!

Until then, this is Dale Bauer saying "Happy Trails to You....Until we Meet Again!'


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