Margaree Salmon Association Spring newsletter ~ 2018

President’s Message

Many would think the "off season" would be slow for an angling association, but for MSA, activities continue. Applications for various types of funding are due in December, January and February each year. Preparation for staffing is completed by April then interviews in May. We also hope to hire a full time Conservation Coordinator to manage many of MSA's science and business activities.

We have signed a lease with the Cranton Crossroads Community Center for the next five years. We are considering a more permanent location for the MSA office, but wish to have stability in our accommodations while options are considered and various details worked out.

The Margaree Watershed Stream Health Report we commissioned with Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources to complete is now available for review on our website. It is very thorough and gives our river high scores.

We were pleased to represent our members at the Atlantic Outdoor Sports Show in Halifax (March) and the Sydney Mines Outdoor Show (May).

We continue to support the Department of Inland Fisheries and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans through participation in several studies including salmon capture (trap net summer and fall), salmon recapture (kelts, spring), smolt collection & DNA sampling, and water temperature monitoring (now with 10 Vemco® reporting temperature stations in our watershed). We work with Inland Fisheries collecting broodstock for the Margaree, Mabou, Grahams, Middle and Baddeck Rivers. We also assist with the fin clipping of 200,000 parr and smolt at the Margaree Fish Hatchery.

We look forward this year to working with Cape Breton University’s Sr. Laboratory Instructor and Biologist Kellie White on Eastern Pearl Mussel research. We also plan to test sonar fish counting equipment with DFO, exciting new technology that allows us to determine more precise numbers by differentiating species. We will continue to count redds into the fall. For those new to the sport, we again will present a Learn to Fly Fish event for the Celtic Colours Festival.

Habitat restoration is our main activity. The Margaree continues to grow and release significant populations of healthy fish. We work with the Nova Scotia Salmon Association and NSLC sponsored Adopt-A-Stream to change areas of tributaries so they are more suitable as nurseries for young salmon and trout. Our work crew (5-6 individuals for 14 weeks) adds excellent habitat, economic activity, and community involvement to our area.

I consider MSA lucky to have such loyal, conservation-minded members served by an accomplished board of directors. I thank you for your continued support as we protect the Margaree watershed and the salmon and trout that live there.

Bill Haley

Repeat Spawner

Ever wondered if you’ve landed the same fish twice? The only person we know who can definitively back up such a claim is MSA Director Greg Lovely.

This past November a fish collected in the Middle River broodstock sweep showed a scar in an unusual place. To hatchery operator Bobby Ingraham, this had the unmistakable signs of an internal radio tag.

Go back to November and December 2015. MSA was assisting the Margaree Fish Hatchery and Dal University’s Xavier Bordeleau on a kelt monitoring research project. Volunteers angled Atlantic Salmon which were then sedated in an anesthetic bath on the riverbank. They were inserted with an acoustic ID tag in a brief surgery. Fish were returned to the river after being revived a (very) short time later. Tracking began immediately.

Greg Lovely holds fish he angled in 2015. Bobby Ingraham looks on

The tag on the fish collected this past fall (“MW22”) revealed that it had been tagged in December 2015, and logged with length of 74.5cm and a weight of 2.9kg. Listed as Technician/Angler was Greg.

In November of 2015 this 2SW (two sea winter) fish had returned to the river and just completed her first spawn. After having spent all of 2016 at sea, this hen completed her second spawn last fall, and tipped the scales at 6.9kg, having grown to 87cm. To have tangible proof of a multiple spawner was very exciting. To post a 16.7% increase in size and 137% increase in weight is satisfying science. It is also worth noting that with her second spawn she left almost 15,000 eggs in the river. At a 2% survival rate, this could be almost three hundred salmon

Digging into Bordeleau’s data was fascinating. MW22 left the Bras D’Or Lakes on — ahem, precisely — June 16th 2016 and crossed the Cabot Strait two day later. Several receivers picked up her trail through the Strait of Belle Isle in July. She spent the rest of that year in the ocean and a glider operated by the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) picked up her signal, south of Newfoundland in the summer of 2017. She was on her way home.

Repeat Spawning Hen with Radio ID Tag

Oh, did I say Greg caught her twice? Alerted by phone she was in the Hatchery, Greg drove with the due care and caution of a first time father en route to the hospital — where once again he was lucky enough to hold gently in his hands, this gift of nature.


Emma Garden, an MSA Director and Research Assistant (MEng, BSc) at Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources, completed and tabled her report, Margaree Watershed Stream Health this past March. A generous donation by Graham Smith made the multi-year report possible and is a key part of our continuing Watershed Plan.

Emma selected six sites for a range of conditions. Some were chosen for their high gradient and shady conditions (think of pools like Sunday Run), others for their low-lying, more open and slower water movement (think of Forks or Gillis Island Pools). All sites had evidence of habitat stressors including stream bank erosion, exposed roots, and fallen trees.

CABIN study use large invertebrates to track water quality and history of water conditions

Encouragingly, all sites returned water qualities that ranged from very good to excellent, with occasional stresses found on the system.

MSA and Unama'ki Natural Resoures Institute studied six locations in the Margaree Watershed

Garden and her team worked on Big Brook, NE Margaree (Big Intervale), Ingram Brook, Lake O’Law Brook, Gallant Brook, and, using data compiled by Environment & Climate Change Canada (ECCC), Mt. Pleasant Brook on the SW Margaree.

CABIN (Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network) is a program to measure freshwater ecosystem health with standardized methods across Canada. Parks Canada uses it, as does ACAP Cape Breton, Environmental & Climate Change Canada, and the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources, to name a few. The process is to use a group of macro-invertebrates such as aquatic insects, snails, crustaceans, worms and mites (think: large, buggy, spineless) to infer water quality. Because such organisms are widespread, abundant, have a long life cycle, and are susceptible to stressors, they reflect not only a watercourse’s current health, but it’s history too. A high incidence of such organisms suggests ample resource for larger predators. If you’ve got food, you’re likely to have fish.

This study was as a collaboration between UNIR and MSA, each with their own special interests. UNIR works on behalf of five Mi’kmaq communities with inherent rights to harvest food for nutrition and for social and spiritual needs. MSA’s focus on the recreational fishery supports the culture and community of Margaree.

High scores, low possible impairment...

And the conclusions? Despite some indications of stream health impairment, over all conditions are reported very good to excellent. Please be sure to read Ms. Garden’s full report. A copy is on our Website under News & Events, Projects tab or by the link found in this newsletter.

Watershed Update

The Watershed Committee handles some of the toughest and most demanding work by MSA—work on the river itself. Science-based decision making is the Association's commitment.

Sometimes you hear the comment, ‘something needs to be done’. We’d all like to see more salmon in the river (think back to the bountiful summer of 2011), or to have more pristine holding pools holding fish. But the science is telling us to go slow. Adamantly, MSA will go only as fast as the science lets us make good decisions.

We are now well into our documented river plan. For those unfamiliar with this plan, please look to the website, News & Events, Projects tab. The EXP River Management Report, commissioned in 2016 is the backbone of our planning, and was presented in to a public forum in July 2016.

Phase 1 of the plan identified and invited participation from interested parties for research projects. It also initiated and collated data for a Geospatial Database (GIS). Finally, research projects were costed and prioritized. Implementation of research programs is Phase 2.

The report reviews twenty-three areas areas of primary concern including: Watershed Boundaries; Channel Activity; Degradation and Aggradation of pools; Increasing Water Temperatures; Fish Passage; Habitat; Water Quality and Monitoring — just to name a few.

Of significant note, 2017 saw the completion and delivery of the Geomorphic Assessment of the Margaree River, by Matrix Solutions led by Sr. Project Manager Ron Jenkins. This report is on our website. There is a link to it below.

Featuring almost two hundred pages of detailed undertaking, it summarizes a thorough transit of the Margaree River from Forest Glen Brook high in the Sanctuary all the way down to Tidal Pool in East Margaree. The geomorphic assessment tells us what the river is doing and gives us good reasons for working—or not working—on parts of it.

It turns out that there are sound reasons for avoiding direct action. The entire Margaree River is in a high rate of change, historically high. For those of us who have noticed significant changes over the past five years, let alone fifty, this is exactly what the engineers documented. Divided into 28 ‘reaches’ or sections of the river, the average rate of change is 5.3 feet per year. This means that most outside corners of river bends are annually cutting away several meters of land. Some reaches were moving over eight feet per year, and the most unstable the section, the area below Cemetery Pool, is escaping its bed by more than twelve feet per year. All 28 reaches were in a negative state. Widening, aggrading, or degrading, our river is in an unprecedented process of change.

There are many recommendations. One was for Reach 11 up near the Old Bridge Pool. This could be a place to try narrowing the channel without adding bed-load material. However, part of our redd counting and observation activities later in the fall brought us a startling observation. Reach 11 was full of salmon redds! While it's tempting to joke about salmon not reading scientific reports, such a turn of events highlights the complex interconnectedness that is so difficult for science to unravel. To forge ahead on the strength of one of many recommendations from one report holds the risk of making things worse, not better.

One of many recommendations contained in the Jenkins Report

Re-assessment and re-evaluation are the themes for 2018. The errors of previous efforts are there for all to see. Strewn below their installation points, the river has many instances of washed over dams, diggers, deflectors, and cabling. Habitat restoration work in the tributaries completed over the past five years has been much more productive than decades of larger river projects.

Please take the time to review these two reports and information we have secured. Attend if you can our public meetings and help us by reporting things you see and find while you are out on the river.

MSA Board of Directors: (Back L-R) Eugene Leblanc, Emma Garden, Paul MacNeil, John Stinson, Liam Fraser, Jack Aikens. (Front L-R) Leonard Forsyth, Wayne Cleveland, Bill Haley, Lester Wood, Greg Lovely. Absent from sketch: Joel Robinson
Harry Lemire ~ 1932 to 2012

A Gift For All Ages

We bogged down in April. Planning through a Margaree winter seemed like ample time to prepare a presentation and display case at the Margaree Salmon Museum for the incredible Harry Lemire collection. But a few late winter storms, some conflicting travel requirements, and the usual vagaries of raising funds seemed to conspire against us. Then the phone rang.

“Just do it. We’ll make the whole thing our gift to the museum.”
Tyiing "in-hand" was Lemire's signature skill

It took a moment to digest the depth of commitment. The generosity of what was being offered. “Are you sure? This is no small undertaking…”

“Just make sure it’s done properly. Use as much local material as you can, and for Heaven’s sake, find one of the many talented Margaree builders to show their skill.” Bill Jollymore’s strong voice crackled through wires all the way from Washington State. A voice that knows what commitment is. And won't and back down.

Now it is early June and we are days away from installing a beautiful new display case handcrafted by Brian Peters and designed by summer-resident Allen Moore. Made locally. A beautiful addition to the museum.

Museum directors Del Muise and Anita Coady flank Bill and Lori Jollymore

Last summer Bill and Lori Jollymore coordinated the donation of this tremendous collection of classic flies, tools, and materials from the late Harry Lemire. Internationally recognized both as tyer and fisherman, Lemire was a west coaster known for steelhead but considered Atlantic Salmon the high end of fly tying. He made a special trip to fish the Margaree a few decades ago. His widow Marlene plans to return this summer to view the collection in its new home.

Lemire (1932~2012) is noted for tying classical flies “in hand”. He tied at age 10, but it raised his art to new heights in 1990 after Marlene gave him a present of the famous work of T.E. Price-Tannatt: How to Dress Salmon Flies: A Handbook for Amateurs (1914). What hooked Lemire was how such beautiful flies could be tied “in-hand”, that is, without a vice to hold things steady. In recent years many of his flies have fetched upwards of US$1500 at charity auction.

JockScot (Lemire, H)
Infallible (Lemire, H)
Kilarney (Lemire, H)
Kate (Lemire, H)

Harry loved the idea of flies tied in-hand. “I knew that Lee Wulff tied his dry flies by holding the hook in his fingers…and that many years ago gillies in England and Europe mastered the method when tying flies for their clients.”

Lemire was constantly innovating. Not satisfied with excellent flies, he spent many hours cutting lines of various weights and densities creating new ways to place his flies in the optimal space of the water column. He published his formulas for such lines as early as 1974 - years ahead of today’s line tip systems.

A veteran of many international flying tying shows, Lemire entertained audiences, sometimes taking up to seven hours to complete a single fly.

Lemire's travel case: organised perfection in tying

Along with 194 Lemire crafted flies, the Jollymore donation also includes Lemire’s travel case. He used this to stay organized while attending various fly-tying shows and exhibitions. It is a meticulous work. In it are Altoid mint boxes preset with every part of a fly already measured, matched, and ready to be tied.

“Well, material preparation is the key. I select the materials I will be using for each fly prior to tying it. I match up all the materials and marry the wings before I begin tying. For materials like golden pheasant crest, which is use for topping and most Atlantic salmon patterns, I clean, pluck, and sort the crest feathers and grade them after I buy a pheasant crest. I store the graded crests by size in boxes for selection when I’m tying.”

Of the hooks he used, Lemire said, “Tyers who really get into the art of dressing Atlantic salmon flies use blind-eye hood used in England. To really dress an original salmon fly—or a presentation fly that will be framed and sold—you should use a blind-eye hook with a hand-wrapped, silk gut eye.”

Bill and Lori Jollymore had both the pleasure of fishing with Harry Lemire and hosting him at their camp in British Columbia. “He was a gentleman on and off the river,” remembered Lori. “He always had a story to share, but was also a tremendous listener. Very few people are like that.”

If you've seen a longer tighter loop, please send photo...

And Bill, a Sydney boy whose first trip to the Margaree was in 1942, always thought Margaree was the best home for Lemire’s Atlantic salmon flies. When he approached Dr. Rockwell “Rocky” Hammond for a fly for the museum, he learned that Rocky was the custodian for the collection. And so discussion began...

Not long ago, Lemire was interviewed for Sean Gallagher’s book Wild Steelhead. Just a few weeks before he passed away. In his typically neat, controlled handwriting he sent word to Gallagher, "Well that's it. I've told you all my secrets."

Brian Peters checks alignment on one of the Lemire display insets at his shop in Big Brook

Two display features are prepared for both sides of the display...

The lower unit is well ventillated and ready for the addition of AV equipment

Brian demonstrates the lift for the display’s protective glass

The phone rang again this past week, and Bill’s voice boomed through.

“I’ll be in Margaree the morning of the 13th. We need to make sure the collection is properly curated and displayed. We’ll need tags and marking materials. I’ve sourced our reference material. We want this job done properly, and we’re almost there!”

The unstoppable generosity of spirit displayed by the Jollymores is an incredible gift to the culture, history, and community of Margaree. Stop in at the museum this summer and have Frances or Bernadine take you through this exciting new addition.

Margaree: The First Catch-and-Release Salmon River in the World.

He was a boy in a man’s body stomping through the riffle, water spraying in all directions. The river guide thought out loud, ‘Oh boy, this is serious.’

“Who do you think you are spreading the word that I should be careful out on the river?”

Backing up a few steps, the guide managed to get himself and his guest enough space to calm yelling down into heated conversation. It was late July 1979 and tension was high The Margaree had just become the first catch-and-release salmon river in the world.

Human nature, being what it is, gets everyone hot now and again. People in Margaree tend to be open to discussion and new ideas—but you’d better be right about it. That summer guide explained he wasn’t spreading any word against anyone, but trying to make sure that everyone knew there were new regulations that like them or not, and in the spirit of fair warning, were going to fundamentally change the way we all would use our river. Even those born and raised here.

It’s amazing to think now, thirty-eight years later, that any thinking person could be against conserving, protecting, and enhancing our environmental resources. But in 1979 many organizations were just getting their feet wet. Pollution Probe was introducing recycling as a new idea. We could even do in our very own homes. Attention was zeroing in on DDT as the culprit behind our disappearing eagle population. Look how that one turned out.

Many good ideas that burst from the kitchens and front rooms of Margaree, but it was news to me that catch-and-release for salmon started here. When asked, I was told, “We weren’t trying to make history. We were trying to save fish.”

We weren’t trying to make history. We were trying to save fish.

But is it true? Yes. As numerous books and published papers attest.

Sutterby&Greenhalgh Stackpole Books, 2005

There is lots to ponder. What and how we try to bring forth change. For MSA, the protection, enhancement, and conservation of has centred on the support of the recreational fishery. For over a century people came to fish the large distinctive native Margaree breed of Atlantic salmon, and in doing so added to the culture, community and economy of the area. The river provided residents a source of food, part of the bounty of nature. As Fraser Etheridge, one of ten who grew up on Etheridge Pool once told me, “Mother used to pick one of us out of chores and send us down to the river to fetch something for dinner.” From the point of view of someone born and raised in Margaree, being told of any regulations would be as near an insult as dammit is to swearing. And so without surprise the regulations of 1979 — the mandatory release of multi-sea-winter salmon hooked in July and August — posed a threat of sorts to the catch-and-keep fish of the fall run, and of future years. And for those who decried it, sure enough, that’s pretty much what happened, as stocks fluctuated ever downwards and climate change has left us with rivers now periodically too hot to support any planned retention.

Catch-and-release isn’t everyone’s solution. If you were to go out fishing in Germany today, caught a nice Brown trout, captured the grip-and-grin ubiquitous photo, and then released it to its native element — you might face arrest. Germany’s Animal Welfare Act prohibits catch-and-release on the grounds of prohibiting cruelty towards animals.

There is another group who will never embrace catch-and-release: the Mi'kmaq. You can pick whichever side of any argument you like and plunk yourself down on it. But no one should look at things just one way. Different people, different cultures, these are the elements that add diversity to the core of our thinking. Yes, the majority support science-based decision making, but it’s worth asking, Who’s the scientist? Behind every scientific process, behind each hypothesis stands an individual who speculated, derived an hypothesis, and designed a test. If we value comprehensive and thorough scientific thinking to help us make good decisions—well, you can pick no better argument in favour of diversity of gender, age, and culture in our institutions. This may be the counter to that dismissive quip, “not from here". That baldly hypocritical thought so constricting to progress.

It is worth noting that the MSA’s primary objective of protection includes ‘harvesting’—according to its constitution—as long as its in the spirit of cooperation while recognizing the need for conservation measures. This helps us acknowledge a community with Mi’kmaq peoples whose own objective includes salmon as food critical for social and ceremonial needs. You could think of ‘Plamu’ as the food that supports knowledge and cultural practice as well as nutrition. Sharing in that culture is as rooted as any of our cherished beliefs.

The Mi’kmaq communities of Unama’ki are inherently recognized for their Aboriginal Rights, meaning anything done prior to European contact is theirs to continue. They are using the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources to add scientific process to their deep belief in conservation. That they are forthcoming in sharing their resources, research, and inter-generational knowledge with the MSA and all members of the Margaree community is an unbelievably welcome gift. We can do more though. We can, and need, to dig deeper than this.

When the Mi’kmaq speak of sharing, they mean more than sharing with each other. They mean all of us, all people, all animals, organisms, ideas, everything. It means we are all connected in a giant web of otherwise insignificant touch points. Seen that way, you could say that rather than ‘our river’, we are more likely its.

Outdoor Shows

MSA took part in two sportsman’s shows this winter. Manning a booth at a trade show over several days allows for something we all seem to being seeing less of these days - taking time to chat with fellow fishers, volunteers, and meet new people.

Ticket on sale for Pieroway custom switch rods. Please see Facebook post or email the MSA

The Halifax show suffered one of those late winter storms that made driving tough and prevented people from coming out on what is normally a very busy Friday night. The rest of the weekend was solid, and attendance for the weekend topped 18,000 visitors. MSA Vice-president Paul MacNeil and volunteer Mike Allen estimated they spoke with over a thousand people, all showing interest in what’s going on in Margaree.

Memberships, Rod Draws - and a chance to chat away the wintertime blahs

The Sydney Mines show is more modest in attendance (around 4,000) but possibly deeper in terms of the visit. Many people are interested in and want to help with habitat restoration and environmental issues in the Margaree Watershed. Once again Paul MacNeil ran our booth although this time he had extra help from volunteers Eddie Hillman and Peter Hill.

Both shows featured draw tickets for TWO Pieroway switch rods with a map of the Margaree pools engraved into the cork handles. Tickets remain on sale via email — please note our advertisement in this issue, or on our Facebook page.

Kelt and Counting Studies

MSA continued their partnership with DFO’s spring kelt recapture study in 2018. This year’s angling began much earlier than previous years, with technicians heading out in early March. Conditions were bright and cold and the water was stable/low with incredible clarity. Participants used only fly gear with floating lines and single barbless hooks.

A healthy kelt showing the silvery sides as it 're-smoltifies'

Kelts were checked for wild vs. hatchery (presence of adipose fin just ahead of tail), male/female, MSW vs. grilse, and if any tag was at the base of the dorsal fin.

The kelt study seeks to track fish tagged last fall that were picked up either in broodstock sweeps for the Hatchery’s stocking program or caught in the new DFO trap net in the lower river.

By the numbers: 148 fish captured, two with blue 2017 tags. Data is still being compiled, but this suggests that fish spawned for stocking have left the river. MSA monitors conditions throughout the year, and there is no evidence of salmon mortality from broodstocking.

Intriguingly, one kelt came to hand with a white tag, which was not familiar to anyone in the study. We sent an image of the tag to DFO in Moncton and await the answer to this mystery.

Encouragingly, the high numbers this spring suggest a stronger population of fish in the river than earlier models might suggest. Based on 2017 data, an estimated population of 1500 MSW fish plus 350 grilse, when divided into the capture subset of 75 broodstock/trapnet sampling, yields a 4% ratio. Using this same figure, this spring’s sampling suggests a fish population closer to 3,700 salmon.

Technician/Angler Eddie Hillmam prepares to release a healthy kelt

DFO biologist Sophie Leblanc is spending time this spring siting locations for two enhanced counting projects.

Several years ago MSA researched a Didson Sonar counter to use technology to ‘flash count’ fish passing through the river. Unfortunately, the technology at that time could not distinguish species (size was the distinctive feature, but how do you differentiate between a small salmon and a large striper?). There were also problems with passage direction. Lots of data came in, but between gaspereau, smolt, sea trout, and stripers the usefulness of the data was compromised.

Leblanc is working with Dr. Tommi Linnansaari at UNB to develop technology involving advanced software design to differentiate not only by species, but possibly even by the individual. Whether this will come about by a Facebook-like facial recognition algorithm or some new technology remains to be seen. This is technology well worth investing in, and MSA is keen to assist Leblanc every way we can.

A Great Day for Kelt Study Angling

Sites are being vetted this spring to find that right location that combines power, access, security, and won’t disturb fishers using the river.

Along with the sonar counting project, DFO has secured and is preparing to install a new smolt counting wheel on the Margaree.

Being mechanical, such gear requires a significant amount of manpower and hands-on supervision. To have a good run at data collection, training, preparation, and staffing requires up to a year of preparation, and we look forward to assisting this project in 2019.

Margaree Celebrates 20th Anniversary as a Canadian Heritage River

In 2018 the Margaree River will celebrate its second completed decade designated as Canadian Heritage River. The CHR designation is a joint program administered by federal, provincial and territorial governments to conserve and protect the best examples of Canada’s river heritage. By providing and encouraging national recognition, Canadians gain a deeper appreciation of key rivers. They also increase their opportunities to enjoy them.

The Margaree is one of just two Nova Scotian Canadian Heritage Rivers

Set up in 1984, the CHR enjoyed nationwide coverage in all provinces and territories. There are 39 listed heritage rivers in the program. The Margaree became the second Nova Scotian river in 1998, just a year after the Shelburne. In 2006 Quebec withdrew from the program, but efforts are being made to reintegrate them and return the project to full national status.

The Margaree-Lake Ainslie Canadian Heritage River Society manages the river's registration. Its name reflects the larger scale of the river’s watershed. Del Muise is the society’s chair. Designation is for ten years, and this year requires renewal. The original nomination was not for cultural values, and there is widespread acceptance that the original Mi’kmaq and later European culture of the Margaree only adds to the value of our common heritage. Del leads a group of dedicated volunteers that is raising awareness and starting new projects.

New signage on the Cabot Trail will assist travellers link location and heritage

One to watch out for in the next few weeks in new interpretive signage to be posted along the roadsides of the river. Del writes:

The Margaree-Lake Ainslie Canadian Heritage River Society is following up its very successful interpretive banner program from last summer’s CANADA150 celebration with a series of informative signs reflecting on the history of the Margaree watershed. The twelve signs in the project -- the graphic work for which was designed by Leslie Shaw of Northeast Margaree -- feature stylized map of the watershed and a historical photograph appropriate to the site of each sign. They can be found at convenient stopping places -- from Lake O’Law, Lake Ainslie and Big Intervale -- through to the Harbour. Seven will be installed early in June; an additional five later in the month as funds permit. So, look for them at such places as Lake O’Law, Doyle’s Bridge and other sites. The one below? is the East Margaree Crossing, featuring a photo from a century ago taken from the Notman Archives at the McCord Museum in Montreal.

What Do Mussels Have To Do with Salmon?

Ever held an animal that’s over 200 years old? You may have the opportunity to do exactly that this summer.

The Eastern Pearl Mussel improves water quality, removes harmful metals from the environment, clears sediment from spawning areas, and helps predict Atlantic Salmon population. All this from a fellow with one foot that creates a misshapen pearl on the rare event icreates one at all.

Freshwater pearls, made popular in Scotland during medieval times, are largely the cause for their endangered status in Europe. The chance of finding an oyster pearl in the wild is estimated to be one in twelve thousand. It’s much less likely in a freshwater mussel, so your chances are vanishingly small. In fact, most freshwater pearls (the lumpy shaped ones) today are ‘seeded’ and grown in pearl farms China. Freshwater mussels were also used to make buttons and glasses (mother-of-pearl), and were crushed up to form the ‘grit’ required for oysters and other mussels to grow pearls. It takes about 25 years to grow a 4mm pearl so harvesting wild mussels is clearly a wasteful activity. Protected throughout the European Union, great efforts are being made to stock and re-establish this amazing creature. Much less is known about our native freshwater pearl mussels.

We welcome the chance to work with Kellie White at Cape Breton University developing and building our understanding of this amazing creature.

Adults are between 12 and 15cm long and live between two shells hinged at one end. The inside of the shell is pearly white and may be tinged with iridescent colours. Some are over two hundred years old. More commonly one finds them in the 80 to 100 range. Imagine mussels in the river right now born before the original Remembrance Day.

Pearl mussels love cold, fast flowing freshwater streams and rivers. The Margaree and her tributaries are likely to support large populations due to the prevalence of springs that feed the river, keeping it chilled even in these climate-change affected summers.

The source of the name ‘Margaree’ is unknown and its etymology offers many suggestions. Perhaps we can add to the speculation the Latin name for these mussels: margaritifera margaritifera.

I spoke to Kellie White at her office at CBU. Kellie has been studying mussels since the early 2000s and is expanding her work to include our river and its watershed. In fact, there is a great opportunity to help with her work by volunteering to screen areas of the river for Eastern Pearl Mussels later this summer (likely around the end of July).

Having worked with CBRM (the regional municipality formerly known as ‘Sydney’) for several years, White made this astonishing finding: the primary fresh water source for Sydney, Pottle Lake, has the freshest water of any lake in Nova Scotia. For a place we too often and too sadly have associated with environmental problems, we should all give Sydney a rousing, ‘Way to go, Bud!’

Most of the mussels in Pottle Lake are Yellow Lampmussels, a more oyster-looking relation. But a significant number of the Lake’s mussels are Pearl, and Ms. White thinks these are worth of deeper study.

An intriguing part of the work on Pearl Mussels found that the larvae, known as glochidia, once ejected from the female mussel require a host to feed, nurture and carry them to new areas. Enter our king of fish, the Atlantic Salmon.

Cruising salmon inhale glochidia which latch on to their oxygen rich gills. Here they’ll stay (hanging on for dear life) overwintering with the kelts until the following May or June when they’ll drop off, hopefully in fresh new grounds. This inhaling and travelling process has a very low success rate. Each female releases between one and four million glochidia, who have to find themselves in the path of a fish in order to survive. The majority of them are swept away, feeding other organisms. This means they make a very dependable bio-indicator for the presence of salmon. You can’t have a good population of 2-3 year old mussels if you don’t have a good population of fish. Along with the salmon, Brook and Brown trout are also thought to be good hosts.

Mussels that do settle into the substrate grow quickly. From a larva stage size of 0.6-0.7mm, they’ll be recognizable at less than a centimetre as tiny mussels seeking a space between bits of gravel and rock in the river. There they’ll bury about a third of their length in the riverbed using their muscular ‘foot’. They can move about this way too although it is thought they don’t move very far over their lifetimes.

At homes in their shells, they get down to work feeding on water-borne particles siphoned into their soft bodies. This cleans a lot of water. Along with clarifying it, they also remove from the environment many things we consider dangerous. Metals like cadmium, magnesium, and iron are sucked out of the water and stored in their shells and bodies - removed from the active environment for a century or two.

In Sydney, Kellie’s studies are helping the Municipality to work on a plan to use organic mussels as the first line of water treatment for its residents. Water may pumped into tanks containing mussels for twenty-four hours or so, lowering the amount of time and money required to purify drinking water.

Pearl Mussels mature in about ten or fifteen years. They will then populate and procreate for another seventy-five years or so - and releasing an astonishing 200m larvae during their lifetimes.

MSA will be assisting CBU and Kellie White in her studies this summer. If you would like to participate in surveying stretches of stream, tributary and the river, please email or contact the office.

Winter Work at the Margaree Fish Hatchery

In March I stopped by the Margaree Fish Hatchery — and was promptly put to work!

Trout and salmon parr grown over the fall and winter will soon be ready for release into the river. To ensure the integrity of wild fish, all hatchery fish are ‘fin clipped’ making identification of bred fish quick and definitive in subsequent studies.

The adipose fin is on the ventral surface just ahead of a fish’s tail or caudal fin. It is a soft, fleshy fin. Fins serve many functions on a fish—stabilizing, turning, stopping, dynamic lift—yet only a select few families of fish have adipose fins. Salmon and trout are our prime area of interest, but catfish have them too.

Wendy MacEachern preps parr from growing pond (left) through the anesthsia bath. Clipped fish will end up in the recovery pond (right) and grow until they are released.

The adipose is not a rayed fin. Other fins have an internal structure that radiates out. The reason for the adipose is a bit of a mystery. One early hypothesis tested that it's for storing fat, or adipose tissue. Subsequent studies show that these fins do not in fact store adipose, but the name stuck. Another study has showed fish require as much as an 8% increased effort to swim without an adipose fin. Other studies show that adipose fins are prevalent in populations inhabiting fast flowing water, but less common in tranquil stretches or lakes. There is no known purpose for it. Fin clipping is a standard practice for hatchery breeding worldwide.

200,000 fish are clipped each year in our hatchery. It is a well organized and effective process. Parr are gently lifted by scoop net into an anesthetic bath. Once ‘asleep’ they are distributed to as many as 15 volunteers at a time who sit behind mesh-topped workstations. Sleeping fish are brought to them. Each clipper then scoops, clips and returns the young fish to a new growing pond as quickly as possible. Acting manager Bobby Ingraham does this in what appears as one fell motion. He can entertain you and out-clip you at the same time.

Nick Baker and Greg Lovely keep the pace of fast clipping

Volunteers use small sharp scissors to make the clip. The adipose are tiny. The cut starts in at an angle to ensure a clean quick operation. It doesn’t take long to build a comfortable skill level. If you are slow and have ‘patients’ waiting while the person beside you is done, they’ll scoop some of yours. It's all about getting the fish back into water quickly.

Now volunteering with friends is no place to cry foul. But one clipper clearly seemed to have a Green Machine embedded in the side of his work station. He seemed like he was making sure that each little salmon-to-be got a good look at it en route to the recovery pool. I won’t name names. Just know he's one of the best fishers on the Margaree…

Trap Net In the Lower Margaree

Last September, MSA partnered with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to install a trap net on the Margaree River. In the fall of 2017 we assisted the installation of trap net to test location and prepare for a full study in 2018.

"Test" installation September 2017

We are now weeks away from installing and beginning the full study . In deference to the gaspereau fishermen on the river, the net will go in after their run, later in July.

DFO Biologist Sophie LeBlanc successfully fished the trap from September 20 to October 7, 2017. The trap is a T-type net which is a version of weir design, although we used modern rebar spikes rather than the traditional wooden stakes. There were no significant rain or flooding events, just typically fine fall Margaree weather.

Larry Forsyth, Peter Poirier and Derwin Hart set stakes

Test period data revealed quite a flow of fish. 28 salmon were caught, 25 were tagged, and four recaptured. 282 striped bass were caught, with 191 tagged and just three recaptured. 1,269 gaspereau were taken, of which 849 were measured and logged. Other fish included eel, trout, and white perch.

Atlantic Salmon – an ASF Overview

By Tom Moffat and Lewis Hinks

The following is a brief overview of some of the initiatives and activities ASF is undertaking to understanding impacts on wild Atlantic salmon in western North Atlantic.

Greenland Fishery

What happens in the oceans beyond Cape Breton has great impact on wild Atlantic salmon. Harvests taking place on far feeding grounds, mortality in migration, and impacts of salmon farms plus invasive species – they all take a toll on returns to the Margaree and our other salmon rivers.

ASF continues to work with Greenland fishermen, and especially their organization KNAPK, to come to an agreement on reducing the harvest in Greenland waters to the lowest possible level.

Greenland’s harvest was reported to be 27 metric tonnes (8,100 salmon) in 2017, below the 45-tonne (50 ton) quota proclaimed by Greenland in 2014. In most years 70 to 90% of the Greenland catch are North American origin. The reported Greenland harvest in 2016 was also 27 tonnes and 58 tonnes (17,400 salmon) in 2015.

With this being a decision year on harvests, ASF is hoping to have the Greenlanders proclaim at the NASCO meeting in Portland, ME in June that there will be a suspension of the commercial harvest. There would still be a small subsistence fishery for residents.

Research has also shown that up to 20% of Atlantic salmon on feeding grounds near the Faroe Islands are of North American origin, and ASF is continuing to assist with an agreement suspending the commercial salmon fisheries there.

Given the need to improve returns to North American rivers to increase the egg counts in our streams, these are truly important actions.

Note: The ASF has been successful in reaching multi-year agreements for both the Greenland and Faroe Islands fisheries. This is a HUGE development in the protection and enhancement of salmon stocks - Ed.
Lewis Hinks: ASF Director of Programs for Nova Scotia

Placentia Bay Court Challenge and Environmental Assessment

Recent science has shown that salmon farms, with problems of escapes, disease and parasites are a major issue for wild Atlantic salmon. From 2016 onward, ASF has been involved in a Newfoundland court challenge over a proposed massive aquaculture project in Placentia Bay that would be the greatest single expansion of the industry in Canadian history.

ASF took the province to court over the need for a full environmental assessment of the project that would see 11 new salmon farms, with about 7 million adult salmon produced every year. ASF won in court, and the province has appealed. Although the appeal has not yet been ruled on, the province has been following guidelines for a full assessment. ASF has found significant shortcomings, including public meetings limited to a single event, and has influenced the expansion of the scientific advisory panel for the process. The project has the potential for causing great harm for both nearby salmon runs, and for fish passing on their way to home rivers more distant, potentially even the Margaree.

"A Salmon is too beautiful to catch only once." ~ Lee Wulff

Tracking Atlantic salmon at sea

There is a significant expansion of tracking science in 2018, an expansion made possible by the Atlantic Salmon Joint Venture, that involves support from DFO.

There will be tracking of smolts from a salmon river near Goose Bay-Happy Valley, Labrador, from Western Arm Brook, up Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula, and from the North Lake watershed in P.E.I. Plus, there will be tracking from existing river programs in the Miramichi, Restigouche and Cascapedia.

Of special significance are two new programs. One will be the attempt to capture post-smolts travelling through the Strait of Belle Isle, to follow them further to the north. The second is the hope of initiating by early autumn a tracking program based in Greenland to follow adult Atlantic salmon in their winter feeding and return to home rivers in Atlantic Canada.

Striped Bass

ASF’s tracking research has also proven invaluable in understanding the impact of striped bass in the Miramichi River system and beyond. ASF researchers analyzed data on smolts, and in January of this year a peer-reviewed paper was published in the Canadian Journal and Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences and this publication can be downloaded for free.

ASF’s research showed that up to 18% of smolts were being eaten by the striped bass.

Atlantic Salmon Stock Status Overview

These actions are all taken against a salmon backdrop that sees some concerns arising from 2017 numbers:

• Total Miramichi return in 2017 was 27,900, by DFO estimates, which is a stabilization of numbers, but down 25% from 12 years ago.

• Restigouche had 134% of conservation requirement

• Margaree had 1,508 large salmon. While the trend is of some concern, the river continues to post relatively good numbers

• Newfoundland is in a salmon crisis, with major declines in past two years, and in 2018 DFO has instituted a greatly reduced recreational harvest and a mid-season assessment

• In Quebec, runs are among the healthiest in North America, and a progressive management plan has seen angler participation rising. 23 of 38 assessed rivers exceeded spawning requirements

Overall, it is a race to discover where the mortality is taking place and finding ways to reduce it, plus to improve freshwater conditions for this most magnificent of fish.

We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Margaree Salmon Association on all its great work to date and look forward to working with you in the future.

The Needs of the Few

Joel Robinson, Project Coordinator, Barrier-Free Fishing

It’s mid-April and fishing season, for trout at least, has officially started. Most of us have been patiently waiting to get out and wet a line. Winter is holding on a bit longer than anticipated this year, but it will not be long before the ice is gone, mayflies and caddis hatch and we walk and wade our favorite stretches of the river in search of elusive prey. Spring is always short in Margaree, and soon we will be casting to returning summer run bright silver salmon.

Most of us, that is. Some of us that are less fortunate, that may indeed have a passion for fishing but can’t participate due to physical restrictions. I speak of those members of our society that have become physically impaired due to service-for-country, injury, impairment from birth, or simply age. The list goes on.

Climbing embankments, walking trails and wading can be difficult if not impossible for many individuals. A barrier-free environment however might allow the experience and joy of getting out in nature. Maybe even catch a fish or two!

Last year Jack Aikens approached me for some expertise on providing an appropriate site where the physically impaired might be able to sportfish on the Margaree River. The initial idea was to create an accessible fishing access site along the Margaree River, which would provide an opportunity for the less fortunate to fly fish for Atlantic salmon. We reviewed several locations including the Hatchery and the Lower Tompkins pools. While it may be possible to provide access at these sites, it would not be inclusive to all individuals with disabilities and because of fluctuating river elevations and storm events.

Furthermore, high maintenance offers no assurance for safety. To understand the severity of our floods, one only has to look at the debris and uprooted trees along the river banks. Another challenge is the safe handling and release of salmon which without assistance might be difficult.

However, the Board of Directors felt it was not practical to pursue such a project in 2018. They wished to see proven facilities to meet the challenges of such a project. Yet our commitment to this project remains strong.

Jack and I have found an alternative location we recommend at Lake O’Law. Located along the Cabot Trail between Middle River and Northeast Margaree, the lakes serve as the headwaters of Lake O’Law Brook, one of our watershed’s most productive tributaries. Found here is an excellent population of trout as well as the occasional salmon. The site under study is within a Provincial Park and maintained by the Department of Natural Resources. For a relatively low cost, an accessible dock along with adjoining accessible parking spaces and pathway could be installed.

Agreements with the Department and the Province will need to be made before we can proceed to final design, but we hope this project will bring enjoyment to those that cannot enjoy sport fishing the same as us. This might be will be your Salmon Association’s contribution to Nova Scotia becoming barrier-free for all.

Learn-to-Fish Under Celtic Colours

MSA is committed to helping as many people as we can enjoy and experience fly fishing on the Margaree. In 2017 we ran two events with exactly this in mind.

MSA Vice President Paul MacNeil assists a new fly fisher land his first catch at Ol' Miller Trout Farm as part of MSA's Learn-to-Fish event at Celtic Colours 2017

Director John Stinson and his ever so patient wife Pat hosted a Learn-to-Fly-Fish session in conjunction with the Celtic Colours festival at their trout farm (Ol’ Miller) just up from Doyle’s Pool. Their site is almost perfect for teaching. Long grassy stretches and ample space allow for relaxed instruction for both rank beginners and those who either fished long ago or just not enough.

Pieroway Rods' Rob Healhy assembles the advanced class of future fly fishers

Guidelines' Neil Houlding prepares his lecture, "If You're Short, Throw it Long"

Tying phenom Julian Furlaga demonstrates at the Margaree Salmon Museum

Geoff Pieroway explains how Pieroway Rods handcrafts cork handles

Once comfortable with the mechanics of casting, hookless flies could be used in the trout ponds, giving what might be the shortest time ever between knowing how to get a line out, and seeing a fish rise to a fly. We’ll have to time that next year. Almost thirty participants learned and enjoyed, laughed and felt the drug of the tug, all through gorgeous autumn weather.

A week later Pieroway Rods returned to the Margarees with their rockin’ roadshow they call Flies, Lies, and Fiddles. Combining the Blue Barn (food, fun, and a seminar or two) and the Margaree Salmon Museum (guest fly tyers, turning rod handles, unveiling the Lemire donation) a grand time was had. Guideline’s Neil Houlding ran a special session just for kids. Neil is a gruff ol’ Scot who barked the kids into line — and then had them laughing, learning, and throwing heaps of line in a ridiculously short order.

"Iron Fly" 2017. Move over ol' fellahs...there's new kids on the block...

On the third and final night of Flies, Lies, and Fiddles tradition calls for the staging of the Iron Fly - a time limited, material restricted, high intensity tie-off that screams fun and entertainment. Pieroway’s Rob Healy and Geoff Pieorway conspired to start the evening with a special kids session. And the same kids who trained in the afternoon whipped the adults at their own game. Salmon are critically important to our sport, but fly-fishing offers hours and hours of fun on and off the river. To see new interest catch old, to watch young kids dive in with happy abandon — well, it’s great to see for our sport.

Stop by the cemetery at St. Michaels in East Margaree some day...Peter Arsenault passed on the river doing what he loved best...

Verses on tombstones/are but idly spent/the living character/is the monument

A love of the river that runs deeper than any one lifetime

Adopt-A-Stream Celebrates Twenty Years of Restoration

The Association gives a big shout out to the NSLC Adopt-A-Stream, celebrating twenty years of habitat restoration across the province. Many thanks to Bob Rutherford and Amy Weston for managing this program so effectively. Amy has been with the program since its start.

Restoration has occurred on over 40 watersheds - enhancing more than 2 million square meters of habitat.

Thanks also to the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission for their financial support over the years. Funding also comes anglers of Nova Scotia of which $5.91 of their angling licence fee goes to the program. In 2017 that amounted to $306,794.

Since 1998 over 30 groups have ‘leaned in’ donating a staggering 144,625 hours of effort. That’s more than 18,000 work-days. Groups that hire seasonal crews also help put funds to work right in their own communities.

Eels Remain Mysterious

Overlooking Big McDaniel Pool one autumn afternoon a few years ago, Gerald Poirier told me a story about being in the river when an eel-ball rolled past him. I paused. The soft fall wind raised the surrounding leaves. In Gerald’s family after all, was the famous story teller Archie Neil Chisholm.

Eels can be fished by spear in Tidal Waters

Fishing eels is a big business in areas where there is a commercial fishery. This year eels are fetching $2600 a pound, although licences are scarce, and none are being issued. Keep in mind it takes about 2600 baby eels to make up a pound. Most are sold to Chinese, Japanese and Taiwanese markets, where they are grown on eel farms until they reach adulthood.

In Nova Scotia you can fish eels wherever there is an open fishery for salmon, trout or smallmouth bass in inland waters. You can fish them anytime of the year in tidal water, and you can fish them with spears here.

They are our river’s fish with the largest range, starting out in the Sargasso Sea, a swath of ocean between Bermuda and the West Indies. Because eels are found everywhere, it took decades of perseverance of one Dr. Schmidt, a Danish oceanographer to close the loop on their life cycle. His process was to sample eels first in rivers and then in the ocean, always looking for the smallest specimens. Eventually this led him to the Sargasso where he discovered they spawned in February and March at depths of up to 350m (goodness knows how he got there) when the water temperatures rise to 20-25 degree centigrade. Females release up to four million eggs which rise to the surface in leaf shaped larvae known as leptocephalus. With no mature eels found in the area, Dr. Schmidt concluded he’d found the spawning grounds.

Two eels intwine on the Margaree

After drifting for about two years, the young eels arrive on the shores of North America about 5cm long, and clear. They are known as ‘glass eels’. They then enter our brooks and rivers between April and June, mainly at night and on the tide, smelling freshwater. In the river they darken to a deep brown-black and become known as elvers. They spend up to forty years in freshwater before returning to the Sargasso to spawn at depth.

And they do roll along in eel balls. J CarlMedcof published findings in 1966 of eels rolling along the SW Margaree out of Lake Ainslie. One ball was estimated at over six feet across lolling about on the surface. Miight want to keep an eye out behind you...

Adding Watch to Temperatures in 2018

Perhaps you’ve had this experience standing in the Margaree: a sudden swoosh of colder than normal water washes by you, or perhaps while wading you go through a sudden ‘cold spot’.

The Margaree has a high incidence of springs feeding into it from below the riverbed, tapping into the cold waters of the massive aquifer below what is most of western Cape Breton. There’s a very significant spring on the inside corner of Mad Brook Pool, just below Etheridge. If you find it, pull out your thermometer. You'll see for yourself the difference.

This has become more of a topic as climate change alters our fishery. In recent years we have experienced more dramatic events (flushing floods), earlier snow melt, and perhaps even a change in the timing of our fall run. And some of our recent dry summers have raised water temperatures to life threatening levels for salmon, forcing other rivers to close for fishing. So far the Margaree has escaped this, but to be safe DFO and the MSA are increasing their monitoring of this potentially harmful situation.

Two Vemco® reporting temperture monitors will be added to the Margaree this season

For 2018, the Margaree will have ten Vemco® reporting temperature stations spread across the length of the river (Forest Glen Brook all the way down to tidal waters). This will double our monitoring data from just a few years ago. The natural springs provide a haven for early returnees to the river; active temperature monitoring provides solid data for DFO to make good decisions on river closures.

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