Blue Fish News – September 2020

In this September 3, 2020 issue of the Blue Fish Canada News we bust myths about dams and their fish passage systems; serve up a curated list of Links to fishing, fish health, water quality and other news; and end with an article on Newfoundland’s successful rebuilding of Atlantic Salmon numbers following the removal of a dam and a concerted long term recovery effort.

Milltown hydro Dam owned by New Brunswick Power on the St-Croix River that will soon be removed.

Dams and Fish Passage Systems

While most all dams pose barriers to fish mobility, not all rivers where dams are guilt are inhabited by migratory fish species. Further, dams equipped with fish passage systems don’t necessarily benefit non-migratory fish species. Compounding fish sustainability are reservoirs created by dams that don’t necessarily provide access to suitable spawning and rearing habitat, and the restrictions to fish mobility throughout watersheds that limit gene flow, resulting in unique and not always healthy genetic pools. The aging hydro dam on the St. Croix River in New Brunswick is one such dam that has caused all manner of fish sustainability issues for decades and is now about to be removed with the support of stakeholders including New Brunswick Power.

However, let us not forget the role dams can play in protecting and rebuilding native species like Alberta’s Cutthroat Trout from non-native migratory species like Rainbow Trout. Or how dams have prevented invasive Lamprey from moving beyond the great lakes. the paper mill dam in Georgetown Ontario on the Credit serves as an example of a structure being left in place on purpose to protect fish species introduced upstream, (Brown and Brook Trout), from having their habitat invaded by Rainbow Trout and Pacific salmon (Chinook and Coho) introduced into Lake Ontario in the 1970’s. Water exiting turbines can also serve as prime fish habitat that benefit both fish and anglers alike as they provide fish with a focussed source of food, and release the colder water located deep in reservoirs above dams that trout crave – a crucial habitat variable that is increasingly harder for fish to find as the climate continues to warm.

At the same time, thousands of abandoned commercial and private dams continue to carve watersheds into countless river-locked segments that serve no economic or practical purpose and remain largely forgotten. Professor Sean Landsman from Carleton University believes one of the main takeaways about dams and fishways is that there is hope for a better relationship between humans and migratory fish through increasing recognition that, “dam removal is warranted in many cases”, and “we are getting better at designing fish ladders and other fish passage systems that actually work”.

As humans continue to turn from carbon-based energy to electricity, the demand for hydropower will grow. The public, scientists, and perhaps most importantly, industry, recognize the need to ensure barriers to the movement of fish populations aren’t an unintended problem associated with newly constructed dams. But that doesn’t mean anglers can take for granted what’s happening at dams now.

The relationship between dams and fish is complex, which is why I asked Dr. Sean Landsman, a fellow angling nut, to help bring some clarity to a fish impact issue all of us anglers need to know. Dr. Sean Landsman is with the Institute of Environmental and Interdisciplinary Science at Carleton University.

In part one of this 2-part Blue Fish Radio series, Dr. Landsman discusses different dam configurations, movement of fish past dams in both directions, and why it makes sense to simply remove most smaller legacy dams. Link below for part one of my conversation with Dr. Landsman on Blue Fish Radio: https://bluefishradio.com/dam-busting-and-fish-passage-with-dr-sean-landsman-part-1-of-2/

Like me, many anglers may be of the mind-set that fish ladders or some other fish passage system introduced at dam sites is all that’s really needed. In this 2nd of my 2-part discussion with Dr. Sean Landsman, he explains the different fish passage systems adopted to move fish around dams, their strengths and weaknesses, and why alternative solutions to dams may be preferable in certain cases. Link below to hear the second part of my conversation with Dr. Landsman on Blue Fish Radio: https://bluefishradio.com/dam-busting-and-fish-passage-with-dr-sean-landsman-part-2-of-2/

Job creation, infrastructure projects, economic recovery, will all become priorities as we dig our way out of the pandemic. The federal government recently announced a fund to clean-up abandoned oil drill sites in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Let’s hope that something similar is in the works specific to removing the tens-of-thousands of legacy dams throughout Canada. The window for these sorts of projects is relatively short because, once the economy is up-and-running, the equipment and human resources needed to do this work will be focussed on private sector developments. No one wants to see public resources used to bid against privately funded projects for access to such services and equipment. The time to make a difference is now, so let’s make sure we get the removal of legacy dams on the table for funding consideration.

The Latest Fishing, fish Health and Water Quality News

Fishing:

Let’s go salmon fishing — The Daily Courier
The big salmon are biting like crazy off the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee recommends halt on fishing for Chinook — Yukon News
The Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee is recommending the complete cessation of fishing for Chinook salmon this year on the Yukon River.

Wide-open spaces for August salmon fishing — Campbell River Mirror
My fishing buddy had mentioned it would be a fact-finding boat ride and wanted to know if I would come along.

Kootenay Lake anglers incentive reels in plenty of interest — Nelson Star
Local anglers continue to be incredibly supportive of the Kootenay Lake Angler Incentive Program.

A Tuna’s Worth — Hakai Magazine
Bluefin tuna are a luxury that feeds the egos of many, the bellies of few. Inside a Canadian fishery that pursues them. North Lake P.E.I. is a community too small to support an ATM but calls itself the tuna capital of the world. In the 1960s and 1970s, anglers here regularly landed bluefin that broke world records.

Fishing lines down in August during COVID times — Campbell River Mirror
Since mid-month, the salmon fishing around Campbell River has been on fire, meaning the fishing has been exceptionally good.

Fisherman ‘torn’ on closing access to salmon migration in Port Hope — Northumberland News
Port Hope council is seeking public feedback on whether to close all access lands to the salmon migration due to COVID-19.

Marathon Man Gears Up for Another Fishing World Fishing Record Attempt — Fishing Wire
Starting at 9:00am on September 9th, 2020, at Sankoty Lakes Resort and Retreat outside Peoria, Illinois, Jeff Kolodzinski will attempt to catch more than 2,172 fish on hook and line to break his own record set in 2019 as a charity fundraiser.

Why some rain falls so hard — EarthSky Watch
Some rainstorms drench you in a second, while others drop rain in a nice peaceful drizzle. A downpour or a drizzle: What causes the difference? A meteorologist explains.

Fish Health:

After 30 years of work to P.E.I.’s Miminegash River, Atlantic Salmon stocks begin long road to recovery — The Journal Pioneer
After decades of absence, Atlantic Salmon are back in Prince Edward Island’s Miminegash River.

In Ontario, it’s open season on cormorants — National Observer
Double-crested cormorants don’t have a lot of fans. Standing as tall as the average toddler, they have distinctive S-shaped necks, dark plumage and orange skin around their beaks. They sometimes vomit when threatened. Their acidic feces — called guano — kills vegetation on the islands and shorelines they settle, stripping trees bare until they look like bones. Cormorants also eat a lot of fish, and anglers have long viewed them as competition.

Salmon rivers closed in face of high temperatures, low water — The Telegram
Salmon rivers like the Exploits River in Newfoundland were closed to anglers around the province by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans earlier this week because of low water levels.

Parks Canada kills fish in remote Banff lakes to protect at-risk native species — Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF)
Federal scientists and managers are carrying out a program to remove non-native trout from some remote lakes and streams to establish a sanctuary for Westslope cutthroat. In New Brunswick, First Nations organizations and NGO’s are taking similar action after more than a decade of government inaction.

Alaska’s salmon are shrinking, impacting coastal communities and ecosystems — Oceanographic Magazine
The study concluded that the size of salmon returning to rivers in Alaska has declined dramatically over the past 60 years since they are spending fewer years at sea.

Hundreds of sea lions to be killed on Columbia River in effort to save endangered fish — Terrace Standard
U.S. government approves to kill up to 840 sea lions in a portion of the Columbia River and its tributaries over the next five years to boost the survival of salmon and steelhead at risk of extinction.

Water Quality:

Silt cloud in Great Slave Lake spells trouble for fishers and fish — Cabin Radio
A large silt plume spreading through Great Slave Lake is being attributed to high water levels in the Slave River. It’s not helping a tough year for fishers.

Catastrophic failures raise alarm about dams containing muddy mine wastes — Science Magazine
Poor design and construction lead to deadly disasters.

The Site C dam has become an albatross and a serious objective review is needed urgently — The Globe and Mail
A geological snafu is just the latest challenge for the increasingly expensive and uneconomic BC Hydro project.

BC government takes steps toward watershed cleanup — The Cordova Times
After the Tulsequah Chief Mine shut down, while continuing to leach acidic runoff into the Taku River watershed, B.C.’s government has committed to a long-term plan to halt the pollution.

U.S. Army Corps Decides Pebble Mine Can’t Be Permitted as is — American Sportfishing Association (ASA)
The ASA supports the announcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the proposed Pebble Mine, a massive mineral extraction mining development in Alaska’s Bristol Bay area, cannot be permitted as proposed. The Pebble Mine threatens one of the world’s most productive wild salmon strongholds.

Ontario’s Bill 197, COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act — Federation of Ontario Cottagers Association (FOCA)
FOCA is concerned that major changes to environmental oversight are underway, with the July 2020 introduction of the omnibus Bill 197, COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020. This Bill affects 43 different pieces of Provincial Legislation. FOCA believes that all environmentally significant undertakings should be reviewed through an appropriate and efficient EA process that is open, fair, and evidence-based. Further proposals to change the Planning Act would give Ministerial discretion to issue zoning orders, and to overrule decisions by municipal council and planning staff, even to the extent of a specific project and site details.

No environmental charges as 6th anniversary of Mt. Polley mine dam collapse looms — Prince George Citizen
Nearly six years after the collapse of the tailings dam at Imperial Metal’s Mount Polley mine, no charges for environmental damage have been laid and there is no word on timing of a decision.

Indigenous:

We are poisoning our future — Prince George Citizen
Six years ago, the Imperial Metals Mount Polley mine waste dump failed. Billions of litres of contaminants flooded into Quesnel Lake and the Fraser River watershed, where my people, members of the Xat’sull First Nation, have drunk water and caught salmon since time immemorial.

Let’s heal our rivers and restore salmon — Bend Bulletin
“For some people, “water is life” is a slogan. For us it’s who we are. It’s in our DNA. As tribal members, citizens and fishing guides, we consider it our privilege and our duty to share our truth with others any way we can.”

First Nation celebrates sockeye harvest with free fish distribution — CBC News
The Westbank First Nation’s annual “Salmon Day” aims to restore traditional food systems in pandemic times and help members prepare for the winter.

Industry:

Canadian Tire Corp reports ‘extraordinary’ Q2 sales growth — Angling International
Canada’s leading supplier of fishing tackle has reported sales growth of 9.3% in the second quarter of its financial year, despite 80% of its stores operating under closures and restrictions for much of the period. Canadian Tire Corporation (CTC) also reported that its digital and e-commerce business across all banners reached CN$600m in the quarter.

American Tackle to host prestigious rod building challenge — Angling International
American Tackle Company, the creator of the multi-award-winning Microwave Guide System, is set to host the 2021 International Rod Building Challenge. The Florida-based company describes its latest move to promote the sector as delivering another chance to custom rod builders to showcase their ingenuity, creativity and craftmanship. The event will take place during the International Custom Rod Building Exposition (ICRBE) next year.

B.C. boat dealers report record-breaking sales amid COVID-19 restrictions — CBC News
Sales boon comes as many coastal communities ask visitors to stay away.

Sweden experiences ‘veritable boom’ in recreational fishing — Angling International
Sweden is experiencing a ‘veritable boom’ in recreational fishing following the onset of COVID-19. That is according to the Swedish Maritime Administration, which monitors participation in the sport. It says: “Consistent data from fishing licence sales nationally this year show a very sharp increase.

Feature Article:

Newfoundland’s Rattling Brook Atlantic salmon Recovery Effort is Bearing Fruit!

(Notes from the Atlantic Salmon Federation Aug 28 2020)

The Rattling Brook watershed in central Newfoundland is small by the standard of other salmon rivers, but its 384 square kilometre (150 square mile) watershed includes some remarkably productive habitat

For example, an archaeological dig at the mouth of the river in 2005 uncovered artifacts from three waves of Indigenous settlement, one more than 5,000 years old. The lead archaeologist at the time proclaimed, “this site is probably the largest warm season salmon processing site in all of North America.”

Angling on Rattling Brook caught on in the early 20th century, but then salmon were completely blocked by the construction of a hydro dam with no fish passage in the 1950s.

Some Rattling Brook salmon were moved to the nearby Big Rattling Brook and other waterways. They established themselves, but the run on Rattling Brook was finished.

That’s until the nearby town of Norris Arm struck a committee in 1999 to investigate the possibility of a recovery program. Officials determined that restoration could provide $3 million in annual revenue to the community through a sustainable recreation fishery and the Rattling Brook Salmon Restoration Committee was born.

Starting in 2011, 50 adult salmon were captured from Big Rattling Brook, where the original Rattling Brook salmon were relocated, and placed back in their ancestral stream.

By 2013, Newfoundland Power, had completed their contribution to the project; a $5 million project to establish fish passage at the utility’s hydro dam on Rattling Brook.

Transplanting adults continued for four more season. When stocking was complete, 2,310 fish had been placed throughout the Rattling Brook watershed. With primary problems like fish passage addressed, the number of salmon returning kept increasing, hitting a milestone 1,000 and counting this year.

The perseverance of the Rattling Brook Salmon Restoration Committee, and the willing participation of partners like the Exploits River Environmental Resources Management Association, DFO, and NL Power are a model to follow.

Salmon conservation is a marathon, and Rattling Brook is proof that when the right decisions are made, wild Atlantic Salmon respond.

As for fishing in Newfoundland up to August 20th, most rivers in the province were experiencing very low water levels and very high-water temperatures. This led DFO to close most rivers throughout the Island portion of the province, and/or they restricted fishing to early morning outings only. The poor fishing conditions and river closures during the past two weeks meant very few anglers were fishing. For those who did fish, angling success was exceptionally low. But the Atlantic salmon were there, indicated by reports of many fish seen in the rivers on the island and at river mouths.

In Labrador, no rivers were closed for environmental reasons, although some probably should have been closed, given the low water conditions and warm water temperatures that were experienced in some areas. This was especially true in Southern Labrador.

Yet despite the hot and dry summer this year, Atlantic salmon have showed up in respectable numbers compared to recent years. It seems Atlantic salmon at sea experienced a better winter, with some combination of sufficient food supply, lower predation, and lower levels of fishing in Greenland waters.

About us:

You can read current and back issues of Blue Fish Canada’s Newsletters by visiting: www.BlueFishCanada.ca

For more about Lawrence Gunther, North America’s only blind professional angler, conservationist, writer, blogger, podcaster, film maker and TV personality, visit: www.LawrenceGunther.com

Gunther founded the charity Blue Fish Canada in 2012 and launched the podcast Blue Fish Radio in 2013.

Please rate The Blue fish Radio Show on Apple Podcast so others will learn of this unique Canadian resource by visiting: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-blue-fish-radio-show/id1090189487

Should you have a podcast suggestion or resource you would like to share, please send us a message to: Admin@BlueFishCanada.ca

Blue Fish Canada is a federally incorporated registered Canadian charity. Please consider making a small monthly donation to off-set the costs of this Newsletter and our other Blue Fish Canada programs by visiting: https://bluefishcanada.ca/donations/

Yours truly,

Lawrence Gunther Euteneier M.E.S. M.S.M.
President / Blue Fish Canada

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