Saturday, March 21, 2020


    This past winter has been a pretty good one here at home on Salmon River. Winter took a long time to get started this year and when it did get rolling, it had very little punch. A couple of storms and a couple of days of extreme temperatures (that I fished in) and that was about it. This kind of winter makes outdoor activities so much more enjoyable and adds many more days to the activity calendar. We had lots of good weather for ice fishing and all the snowmobilers had great going all winter.. There was enough snow for the sledders to travel good groomed trails but not so much that ice fishermen couldn't access the hard water. We drove on all the lakes and only had some trouble with slush at French Lake Being able to access the lakes is a big deal especially if you are older. There is a lot of gear and work that goes into ice fishing and if you can drive to your spot, it really makes it easier.
    We fished all of the tournaments in our area with varying degrees of success. I should clarify that statement. We caught fish every time we went out but only got to the winners circle once. It was a great year for me personally because I had a lot of hookups every time out. My fishing partners got bigger ones on several trips but I seemed to rack up more in terms of numbers. I know I lost some dandies at the hole. One in particular looked too big to easily come up through an 8 inch hole. This was at French Lake and tournament organizer Sam Daigle suggested it may have been a small musky. Possibly but it could very well have been a big pickerel. We had caught a few 23+inchers so we knew there were some nice ones around. I can see the day coming when fishermen will start hooking muskies in the Grand Lake system. They are there so it's just a matter of time. Here is a photo of one of  George Palmers pickerel caught at French Lake during one of our trips.
 George caught some nice pickerel this year which isn't unusual. He seems to be able to land the big ones and many times it's because he can think outside the box. By that I mean he will try the strangest things and to my surprise, many times these quirky things will catch nice fish. Whatever works, I guess! Here is a photo of an average sized pickerel I caught at French Lake. I caught 5-6 that day jigging one hole in the shack. I think the chum helped!
Georges girlfriend Karla fished with us several times and caught her share, including some nice ones. This next photo shows her trying to hang onto a lively pickerel while I took the picture,
Karla also got a couple of decent yellow perch. I think the biggest one was 10.5 inches. Here is a photo of  a small yellow perch I caught jigging with a Lindy perch talker and a worm. 
The biggest trick to catching perch, as well as most other species, is to first find them and then to stay on them when they move. I like to fish contour lines at the depths that whatever species I'm targeting preferers. There are hotspots for all the species in our area and a good fisherman will figure them out through trial and error over time. Judging by the success of local anglers, there is no shortage of good, knowledgeable ice fishermen in the Grand Lake area. Most of these guys are also quite willing to help people from away with tips on areas, depths and strategy for ice fishing the Grand lake system. That is all very commendable but it also has a down side but I'll talk about that later.
    The annual Family Tournament at the Key-Hole was well attended despite brutally cold temperatures. When I left the house at 7:00 AM the thermometer read a balmy -32 C. It's just a good thing there was no wind. I fished with my grandson Jackson and stepson Colton and we did pretty good. We jigged in three holes in our shack and set another seven tip ups outside. We caught a total of six pickerel and although we fished for other species, we didn't hook anything else. Jackson registered a 19.5 inch fish and I registered a 21 incher. Jack was just out of the running but much to my amazement, I took first place in the adult category with the fish I registered. Normally, this fish wouldn't have made even third place but not this year. Although I was happy with the win, it did cause some concern for me because it really wasn't that big. This tournament usually sees the kids category register the biggest fish and that was the case this year. This years winner in the kids category was Elijah Kassiram with a 23 inch pickerel. As I said already, I took first place in the adult category with a 21 inch pickerel.The lucky winner of the $2500 ice fishing package donated by JDI was Troy Walsh. This prize was awarded by draw which is a good idea because it removes the temptation for some fishermen to cheat. Here is a group photo of the winners of this years tournament.

I want to take this opportunity to thank long time tournament organizers and volunteers Sam Daigle and Ralph Goodwin for their dedication to the sport and the good work they do. A lot of these tournaments wouldn't be happening without them. A tip of the hat to you guys!  Here is a photo of Sam measuring a fish at one of the events. Ralph is to his immediate left.
    I want to touch base on a subject that brought certain realities to light at this years tournament. I alluded to the fact that there are some really good ice fishermen in the Grand Lake area and some of these guys are very generous when it comes to helping out other fishermen who may not be familiar with the area and the tactics used to catch fish in the broad expanse of the lakes that comprise the Grand Lake system. The Key-Hole is a relatively small pond off of Grand Lake that has been popular with local fishermen for decades. As the popularity of this sport has increased over the last few years, the pond has been receiving increased pressure. A few of the better ice fishermen have been more than generous with the outsiders and that is to be commended. That being said, some of these same guys, in my opinion, have been taken advantage of by the very people they have helped out. By this I mean they don't follow the same standards as their benefactors. This has caused a very noticeable reduction in the upper age class of pickerel at the Key-Hole. To illustrate this point, at this years tournament I had ten holes and caught six fish with the biggest being 21 inches. The Collette team had around twenty traps and caught 15 fish and none were over 18 inches. Add that up and you have 30 holes with a catch of 21 fish with only two over 18 inches. Compared to other years that is a very poor showing in terms of the size of fish caught.This is the first indicator of fishing pressure having a negative impact on the fishery. The pond only gets refreshed for a short time in the spring and from then on new fish are supplied through internal spawning. I think my readers can see where I'm going with this.
    I would encourage local fishermen to get to know the people they are assisting to see if they are on the same page as those helping them out. Fishing ethics is a personal thing and some fishermen, unfortunately, don't have any. This point was driven home to me when I seen one individual with a sink full of large pickerel on more than one occasion posted on Facebook. This person was helped out by one of the local nice guys who is a good fisherman and it came back to bite him in the ass. There are more than one person taking these trophy sized fish out of the system and we are seeing the affects of this practice now. A 20 inch pickerel is 8-10 years old. That is, or was, considered an average sized pickerel. A 24 inch pickerel is around 15 years old. Let that sink in. When you remove fish of this size, it takes a long time for them to get replaced in the system especially in a closed one.
    I'm sure many of these local, nice guy fishermen have had their eyes opened lately concerning this issue and it's too bad. Lets weed the ignorant fishermen out of this equation BEFORE they do their damage.

The deer in our area had a good winter and it was nice to see many hunters going after coyotes this year. Coyotes take a terrible toll on our deer herd during the winter and the more we can take out of the system, the less pressure they can exert on the herd. Although snaring is the easiest way to take coyotes, knowledgeable hunters can have good success pursuing these cagey predators. This next photo shows Kevin Bergoine with four dogs he laid low in one sitting. Kevin is a well known hunter from the Fredericton area and certainly knows how to get the job done. Kudos to you Kevin!
The hot spot for deer in our zone is the private land around the Four Lakes area. I was amazed at the number of deer running around peoples yards and to the chagrin of many, the roads in the area. Drivers must use extra caution in this area because these deer have no fear and are constantly crossing the roads especially during peak travel times in the morning and evening. Here is a photo of a small group of deer near Scotchtown. 
As you can see from this photo, the deer around this area are in terrific shape. No shortage of good forage around there!

    I have been watching for the first ducks to arrive back to the pond on my property on Salmon River but I think we are still about a week away. The pond is just starting to fill up from the slow melt so they should be arriving anytime. I use this event to officially signal that spring has finally arrived.

    Looking forward, the spring salmon fishery is set to open on April 15th. It's still too early to say whether the ice will be out but I will make one prediction. The current crises with the COVID-19 virus will be the final nail in the coffin for the Miramichi salmon outfitting industry. This is a very sad situation and many camps up and down the river will suffer severe financial losses which will spill over into the communities along the river. Hopefully, after this bottoming out, measures that have been put on hold will move forward to help restore this great fishery to it's former glory. I predict this will also happen so it's not all doom and gloom coming from this scribe.I have faith that the love for this sport will prevail in the end and once again we will see the great runs of salmon returning to the mighty Miramichi River.

H&BOA wants all our friends here and abroad to know that we are taking this situation very seriously and won't be guiding any foreign sports this spring . We may be able to guide local bear hunters looking for some expertise but this situation is just starting to unfold so we won't know anything definite for a while yet. Please feel free to contact me through the channels provided to confirm any dates going forward into the future. In the meantime, I encourage all my readers to have faith and practice the protocol. Stay safe and love your neighbor. The world is as one and we will defeat this virus. That's my final prediction for this blog entry!

This is Dale Bauer saying " Happy Trails to You....Until we Meet Again " 

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