Blue Fish News – November 13, 2023

What’s New at Blue Fish Canada: As open water fishing season winds down, conferences begin taking over our agenda here at Blue Fish Canada. From the Lake Links conference organized by Watersheds Canada, to the annual 3-day science symposium hosted by the St. Lawrence River Institute, and more, we are fully engaged. Snow and frost are also slowing our restoration work at the new Blue Fish Exploration Centre for the next few months due to winter road closures, but that doesn’t mean the doors are closed. Donors like Supreme Fireplaces of Montreal and Cabela’s in Ottawa are the latest corporate donors to lend support to the new Centre. Catch all the latest fish and fishing news in this week’s newsletter, and the latest episodes of The Blue Fish Radio Show.

Photo of Cabela’s GM Stephen Gagne and Blue Fish President Lawrence Gunther with a giant cheque!

This Week’s Feature – A Time Between

By Lawrence Gunther

Suddenly we have arrived at that time between when open water fishing becomes less about when we have time, and more about when will the weather permit. And then there’s the risk to one’s fishing boat that grows as temperatures drop. Never mind how cold we can tolerate as the years pile up; it’s all adding up to calling a stop to open water fishing for 2023.

I’m reminded of a man I fished with many years back who had calculated the likely number of fishing trips his life has left based on factors such as his allotted holidays, cost, bucket list, and how much time he has to live based on the average age men in Canada pass away. Literally, he was counting down his fishing trips. Talk about glass half empty, but don’t we all eventually cave to the temptation to count the days before we retire, so how is this any different?

What is it that has us putting fishing on par with retirement? Sure, both represent the opportunity to cut ties with our obligations, even if one is only temporary. But there’s more to fishing than simply the act of getting away.

There’s a primal aspect to fishing that I’m convinced all people walking the earth today carry in their DNA. Fishing could very well be one of the oldest professions, but even well before we commercialized the activity, we engaged in fishing to feed ourselves and our families. It’s a source of food that, to this day, is a main source of protein. According to those who track this number, as many as 3 billion people depend on wild caught or raised seafood as their primary source of protein.

Food security is not why I personally fish, and I doubt it’s the primary reason why more than six million Canadians claim to fish, have fished, and plan to fish again. There’s just something about fishing that resonates well within our collective soles.

Is it the act of the chase? To go out into the wild, present pray to wild fish, and then turn the tables at the last minute and become the actual predator? No doubt, the stealth factor enhances our fascination with planning for and carrying out the act of catching fishes.

Still others argue that from the moment the fish bites fishing is no longer fun, and instead becomes an often brief and occasionally disappointing source of stress. I’m sure I’m not alone by admitting to feeling both excitement and dread every time a fish connects with my tackle. The stress is exponentially greater when a record or tournament win is at stake, but thankfully far less when fishing involves tackle meant to increase the chance for fish to get away such as barbless hooks. And yet, in both, the struggle between a fish and an angler is primal.

I think we can all agree that much of the fun associated with fishing begins with selecting a destination and time, the purchase of some new tackle or even a new rod, and that moment when you join a good fishing friend in the early morning to head out for the lake or river. Actually launching a boat, kayak or canoe, or setting up on shore, may seem like a lot of work and an expenditure of effort and resources that many who don’t fish often question, and then we come home with nothing to show for our efforts other than a sun burn, empty lunch bucket, and smile. It’s impossible to explain why we do what we do in the face of all these miss-applied personal resources, but thankfully, we are able to do what we love even if we can’t explain exactly why.

No wonder then we are eager and proud to introduce youth to fishing. Kids understand play time. Unlike baseball however, where the worst that can happen, other than getting hit by a ball, is breaking a neighbor’s window. Fishing, on the other hand, can cause injury to fishes and their habitat in ways that we are learning more about each day. It’s important therefore that fishing responsibly means knowing when enough is enough; crucial to ensuring the future of fish and fishing.

It’s a fine line we as anglers must walk. To balance our desire to fish with a deeper understanding of how our fishing and our very existence impacts the environment. But, before you go to think that I’m suggesting that nothing good comes from fishing, rest assured, I as do many others understand full-well that fish have their own special role in nature, and that’s to produce many many fish so others might survive. Why else do fish lay so many eggs?

Fish DNA is tuned to their reproduction of many more fishes. We are often told this is due to the extremely low survival rate of their off-spring, but I think it has more to do with their role in providing nutrients to many other life forms – both aquatic and terrestrial. Heck, even fishes of the same species will not only predate on their own kind, but often depend on this food source for their own survival. Our challenge is to know our place in line along with all the rest of the life forms that choose to catch and eat fish.

Aquaculture around the world produces almost half of the over 148-million tons of seafood we consume each year. The rest is harvested from the wild. As a general rule, I try not to delve into issues of commercial fishing, not only because it’s not an objective set out in Blue Fish Canada’s charter, but mainly because there are so many others engaged in discussions over the sustainability of commercial fishing. But, as do many others, I recognize that recreational anglers also now possess the tools and technologies to harvest far more than what nature can sustain if not applied responsibly.

The Future Angler Foundation in the U.S. also gets this. It’s why they strive to not only instruct youth in the sport of fishing, but to inspire those new to angling to become stewards of nature. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with the Foundation’s president Pat Neu on a new episode of The Blue Fish Radio Show. Link below to hear more about the founding and mission of the Future Angler Foundation, and how it seeks to inform and inspire youth to fish responsibly and become the next generation of conservation-minded anglers:

As we look back on the 2023 open water fishing season and the many adventures we undertook with friends and family, it’s important that we can take pride in knowing that we also fished in a way that will ensure fish and fishing will be around for many future generations to experience. Fishing also keeps us connected to nature in ways that few other activities can replicate, and if you’re a reader of these editorials, you already know what I think about how important fishing is to our establishing one-health relationships with nature and how crucial these relationships are to our wellbeing and conservation.

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Fish Habitat News


For Alaska, federal fisheries updates can’t come soon enough / Anchorage Daily News
“The North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s management practices are doing little to address the collapse of some of the most productive ecosystems on the planet.”

“It truly is disgusting” say residents in Port Hope following this year’s salmon run / 93.3 myFM
In the last few years, local fishing enthusiast Sean Carthew has seen more and more fishermen ignoring even the most basic rules of the sport, leaving carcasses and roe to rot on the riverbank, overfishing the river and other violations.

Newfoundland fishermen get ‘best news’ on northern cod stocks in a generation / CTV 
Because of a change in their scientific method, officials at Fisheries and Oceans Canada now believe that Newfoundland’s northern cod stock has moved out of the critical zone for the first time in decades. The reassessment opens up the possibility of more commercial fishing of the resource — something that’s been heavily restricted since the federal government imposed a moratorium on the fishery in 1992.

Federal Fisheries Department doing a poor job of monitoring fishing industry / CBC
The federal Fisheries Department’s failure to properly monitor the country’s commercial fishing industry could lead to overfishing, a new audit from Canada’s environment commissioner says. Jerry DeMarco’s report released Tuesday says Fisheries and Oceans Canada lacks the ability to collect timely and dependable data on what and how much is being caught. “Many important monitoring requirements that would improve the timeliness and dependability of fish-catch data remain absent or incomplete,” the report says.


Fishing groups sue 13 US tire makers over rubber preservative that’s deadly to salmon / KNKX Public Radio
Also found in footwear, synthetic turf and playground equipment, the rubber preservative 6PPD has been used in tires for 60 years. As tires wear, tiny particles of rubber are left behind on roads and parking lots, breaking down into a byproduct, 6PPD-quinone, that is deadly to salmon, steelhead trout and other aquatic wildlife when rains wash it into rivers.

Salmon at risk after Bay of Fundy fish farm escape / Narwhal
In early August, staff with the Atlantic Salmon Federation began detecting escaped aquaculture salmon at a fishway on the Magaguadavic River in southwest New Brunswick — a significant concern in the region, since farmed salmon can mate with wild fish, threatening the health of populations. Three weeks after escapes were first detected by the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd., the salmon farming subsidiary of Cooke Aquaculture, reported to the province that three of their pens in the Bay of Fundy were breached due to damage from seals on Aug. 24. This breach would account for the fish picked up in late August and early September, but leaves the source of the earlier escapees unknown. Data gathered by Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists and others shows that there’s been hybridization and introgression — meaning genetic mixing in the population — between escapees and wild salmon in the Bay of Fundy for decades.

Atlantic Sturgeon and Climate Change: Warming Water Impacts Spawning and Development / NOAA
As water temperatures increase in the spring and summer, sturgeon move inland to await optimal spawning conditions. During spawning, some sturgeon populations are sensitive to the number of daylight hours between sunrise and sunset. Ideal spawning conditions vary from population to population. For example, in the Chesapeake Bay, females release eggs on days with about 12 hours of light between sunrise and sunset in water temperatures between 70-77°F. As temperatures continue to increase, the day length cue for spawning that sturgeon follow may eventually occur when water temperatures are above 77°F. If these two drivers of spawning happen at different times, it could have detrimental effects on their reproductive success and survival.

Second snow crab season canceled as researchers pinpoint cause of decline / Anchorage Daily News
Billions of snow crabs in the east Bering Sea died between 2018 and 2021. Scientists now believe they know why.

Research Confirms Link Between Snow Crab Decline and Marine Heatwave / NOAA
In 2022, the Alaska snow crab fishery was closed for the first time in history due to a sudden, dramatic decline in adult and juvenile crabs. Using a combination of survey data and laboratory studies, NOAA Fisheries scientists identified starvation as the most likely cause of this mass mortality event, linked to a marine heatwave.

On the hunt for thousands of salmon that escaped Icelandic fish farm / New Scientist
Some 3,500 salmon have escaped from a fish farm pen in Iceland and now the hunt is on to catch them before they hybridize with the local wild, genetically distinct salmon in the fjords.


Fish farm giant Mowi suing fisheries ministers, taxpayers for Discovery Islands closures / National Observer
Factory fish farming giant Mowi is suing Canadians for lost profits because the federal government canceled 11 of their sites in the Discovery Islands. And Mowi doesn’t seem to want Canadians to know about it. There is no mention of the lawsuit on their website or social media channels, though they’re more than happy to talk about how their company is benefitting B.C. communities, while ignoring the damage they do to our wild salmon and our coast.

Climate change is pushing salmon north in Alaska, scientists say / Smithsonian Magazine
Researchers recently found about 100 chum salmon spawning in the Arctic, suggesting the species is shifting to new habitats.

Whirling disease closes lakes in Yoho, Kootenay National Parks / CTV 
Parks Canada has closed lakes in Yoho and Kootenay National Parks, in an attempt to limit the spread of a suspected case of whirling disease.

Who’s in and who’s out in landmark fight over Nova Scotia salmon farm expansion / CBC 
Regulators have chosen who will be allowed to intervene in hearings on a massive salmon farm expansion proposed on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. They do not include the Lunenburg-based authors of Salmon Wars, a book sharply critical of the salmon farming industry.

What is Ontario’s experimental lakes area? / Narwhal
Deep in northwestern Ontario is a collection of 58 small, pristine lakes where, for the past half century, scientists worried about water have gathered to take their laboratory outside. This is the world’s largest outdoor experimental freshwater research facility, allowing scientists to develop invaluable long-term data about the effects of pollutants, clean-up processes and climate change on a finite resource.

Cooling down rivers may protect fish from climate change / Time Magazine
Researchers in Canada are experimenting with ways of creating cold spots in warming rivers to help migrating salmon cool down.

NOAA Fisheries will receive an unprecedented investment in strengthening the agency’s core mission to provide science-based management and conservation of the nation’s marine resources as we confront climate change.


Canada, U.S. to meet with Indigenous leaders next week on transboundary pollution / Victoria Times Colonist
Canadian and U.S. officials to meet with Indigenous leaders as they work on cleaning up toxic mining run-off that’s polluting waters on both sides of the border.

Why Okanagan salmon hatcheries are more successful than their controversial counterparts / iNFOnews
Large hatcheries are causing problems worldwide but, locally, the Okanagan Nation Alliance has been seeing positive results.

First Nations-led AI technology holds promise for salmon recovery /
Scientists and natural resource managers from Canadian First Nations, governments, academic institutions, and conservation organizations published the first results of a unique salmon population monitoring tool in Frontiers in Marine Science.


What does the law of the sea say about climate change? / Hakai 
A team of 21 judges is going to figure it out.


Lawrence speaks with Future Angler Foundation President Patrick Neu about the origin, mission and future plans to get more youth out fishing. Pat describes how they were able to achieve TV broadcasting success on PBS, and why youth need to learn about boating safety and responsible fishing as part of their introduction to the sport. Lawrence and Pat also discuss the many new challenges facing fish and fishing, and why youth seek to become stewards of the resource.


Canadian-led mission enforces international fishing regulations / Rossland News
Fishery officer Jessica Bouwers’ effort to climb aboard a vessel heaving from three meter waves was a tiny speck of human drama playing out on the vast expanse of the North Pacific Ocean.

Calls to Action:

Huntsman Marine Centre seeks species tips from citizen scientists / CBC 
A new project at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in Saint Andrews is looking for citizen scientists to help catalogue the species living in the Bay of Fundy. The centre, in southwestern New Brunswick, is asking people who live and work around the bay to keep an eye out for any interesting or unexpected finds. Claire Goodwin, a research scientist at the centre, said the project, funded by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is the formalization of ongoing monitoring already carried out by sea-life enthusiasts.

Petition – Save Blind Bay / Save the River
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is proposing a new Border Patrol facility in Blind Bay. The proposed facility would consist of approximately 48,000 square feet of building space, detention center, an impermeable parking lot for up to 100 vehicles,  canine facility, marine storage, boat ramp/docks, car wash, fuel depot, communication towers, perimeter fencing and high-intensity lighting.  The industrial-scale facility will accommodate up to 75 agents and enable future expansion. Blind Bay has been one of the most prolific muskellunge spawning areas in the region and has been monitored since 1990. St. Lawrence River muskellunge have experienced a significant and recent decline due to losses associated with viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) and habitat degradation. Maintenance of high quality spawning and nursery habitat is critical to ensuring population recovery and sustainability. Other important fish species at the site are small and largemouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch, black crappie, bluegill, pumpkinseed, and bullhead; 53 fish species have been recorded at this location.

Scientists and Local Champions:

Event recap: Lake Links 2023 Watersheds Canada
The 22nd Annual Lake Links workshop took place on Saturday, October 21st, 2023. The theme this year was “Hooked on Habitat: Sustainable Fisheries for the Future”. Check out the videos and presentation slide decks from this year’s workshop:

Dr. Steven J. Cooke – Carleton University – “In Search of Sustainable and Responsible Recreational Fisheries” slides
Robert McGowan – Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters – “Aquatic Invasive Species Threatening Eastern Ontario Fisheries” slides
Gord Rodgers Memorial Award presentation
Joffre Côté – Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry – “From Science to Regs – How science is shaping fishing regulations and addressing fisheries concerns” slides

Panel discussion:
Michael Peterson – Rideau Lake Environmental Foundation slides
Margie Manthey – Get the Lead Out Program slides
Melissa Dakers – Watersheds Canada – Fish Habitat Restoration Program slides
Conservation Authorities – Fish Projects slides

Coming Up:

Nov 21: Building Resilient Shorelands: How to take positive land use action in a changing environmental and legislative climate / Watersheds Canada 
To protect Ontario’s freshwater ecosystems and increase the resiliency of waterfront communities in the face of climate change, Watersheds Canada has created a free policy toolkit through its Planning for our Shorelands program. This new toolkit contains education and action resources for municipal decision-makers, Conservation Authorities, freshwater stakeholders, and the public. During this session, you will discover the science behind vegetated buffers, strategies for achieving environmental net gain at the waterfront, shoreline planting restoration templates, and other resources promoting sustainable development along waterfront lands.

International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species (ICAIS) 
Please join us for the International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species, ICAIS 2024, to be held May 12 – 16, 2024 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Invasive Species Forum
SAVE THE DATE | The Invasive Species Forum is taking place Feb. 12-15, 2024. The virtual Invasive Species Forum is an annual event that brings attention to invasive species issues, research, and advances in prevention and management occurring across Canada, and in neighboring U.S. States.

Special Guest Feature – “Frankenfish” / FishingWire

Almost as scary as Frankenstein’s Monster, northern snakehead are an invasive, predatory fish species native to Asia. Dubbed the “frankenfish,” northern snakehead can breathe air and survive for days out of water. Once established, these voracious predators have the potential to wreak havoc on an aquatic ecosystem: out-competing top predators, throwing off the balance of native fish communities, and more.

When it comes to identifying northern snakehead, they’re commonly confused with bowfin and burbot, which are both native to Canada. They are long, thin fish with a flattened head and a single dorsal (top) fin running the length of its back. They also tend to have a more pronounced blotchy pattern along their sides. Bowfin can most easily be distinguished from northern snakehead by a shorter anal fin and a rounded tail fin, while burbot have two dorsal fins and a single chin barbel.

How you can help:

  • Do not dump aquarium contents in any waterbodies, drainage ditches, or sewers.
  • Use certified bait that is non-invasive and disease free.
  • Learn how to identify northern snakehead and report any encounters.
  • If you believe you have caught a northern snakehead
  • Take several photos of it from different angles, including the fins, and freeze it, then:
  • Report the catch to your area invasive species authority, or through the Fish Health Tracker App.

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