Margaree Salmon Association Autumn 2016 Newsletter

With the additional manpower, we have expanded our committee work, and thus lightening the burden of our all-volunteer Board.

~ From Lester Wood's President's Message. Read more below...

Wayne Mayo Finds Chrome on the early run...
Margaree Salmon Association

Edsel Hart led the Margaree Adopt-A-Stream crew again in 2016, and we are extremely grateful for his continuing help and expertise on the river. Under Edsel’s guidance, Peter Poirier, Doug Phillips, and Derwyn Hart installed 28 structures in our tributaries.

Lower on the river, we installed diggers, diverters and deflectors on Scotch/Mill Brook - enhancing habitat for about a kilometre. A little higher up, the crew did extensive channel clearing on Lake O’Law Brook, opening flow all the way up to the lake.

Doug Phillips braces for Peter Poirier

Over on the Southwest Margaree, most of our diggers/diverters were added to a stretch of about a half kilometre of Captain Allan’s Brook. They also built an extensive 90 foot hand-placed rock wall using only natural rock from the river itself. Lower down the brook, just before it empties into the Southwest Margaree, they experimented with some new techniques including hay bales that are designed to let go when faced with very high flood conditions. It is hoped that these remain in place long enough to re-direct the channel to 'dig itself out'. Because they are ‘all organic’ there is no concern with contaminating the river.

Hay bales offer new - and environmentally safe - options for river work

Up in Marsh Brook we worked almost three quarters of a kilometre through the Timmons Valley. Work was also undertaken on Big Brook.

Sometimes the simplest tools work best...

The NSLC Adopt-A-Stream programme is a significant source of benefit to the local economy. Over four hundred volunteer hours are added to more than 56 weeks of paid work that brings in north of $100,000 to the Margaree economy. We thank the NSLC, Adopt-A-Stream, and the super-helpful leadership of Adopt-A-Stream’s Amy Weston in completing this year’s activities.

Edsel Hart reviews a digger log installation
Margaree Salmon Association

There’s a new road in Margaree, one that salmon fishers will want to make good use of. Jackie and Marguerite Miller pushed a new road across their property allowing fishers convenient and safe access to Swimming Hole and its neighbouring pools. Do take a moment to familiarize yourself with, “Miller's Lane”.

It's new...and all for you!

A brief note on etiquette: Please drive to the end of the lane and turn at the bottom so your car is facing out. There is ample room to turn and to park several vehicles if everyone follows this simple pattern.

Edsel Hart has made an attractive signpost for the access road - just look for the salmon!

Swimming Hole

The Margaree Salmon Association offers their many thanks to the Miller family for this very kind donation of time, materials, and grant of access. The Millers make only one small request of the fishing community: please use the road, and spread the word of its availability to all. And really, how awesome is that?

Margaree Salmon Association

DFO released a Science Report on Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis) this year, following a three year study.

A primer on the Striper cycle runs like this: Stripers return from coastal feeding in the fall to overwinter in estuaries, where they remain until ice-out. They don’t feed in the winter, but resume feeding when the ice leaves. They spawn between late May and mid-June, triggered by water temperature, usually around the 11 degree range. After spawning, they head back out to the coastal regions for the summer and early fall - and this is where the majority of their feeding occurs.

Renelle Doucette and her angling crew

The numbers in the report tell quite a story. It was estimated that spawning stock had dropped to about 5,000 fish in second half of the nineties. The fishery was closed from 1996 to 2000. A limited ceremonial/aboriginal quota was allowed in 2012 as Stripers began to become more commonly seen. A limited fishery was opened in 2013, and was extended this year. The most recent estimate of spawning stock in the Gulf Region is 255,000 spawners with quite a wide range in the estimate (151,400 to 696,900 using a 95% Confidence Interval). Remember, this is spawning stock, not the young "schoolies" ... Just imagine the number of them!

Find the Smoking Gun...

1800 stomach samples were carried out over the past three years, mainly in the May-June period. This covers the prime exit period for Atlantic Salmon smolt, and of course is our main interest. 47% of the samples were acquired by angling, 53% by trapnet. The Margaree Salmon Association participated in several angling catches for the team led by Dr. Breau. As the water warms and the fish become active, they begin to feed opportunistically on what comes their way first. Primarily this means bad news if you’re a rainbow smelt, and later in the spring, a gaspereau. A small number of Atlantic Salmon smolt were found (just 48 out of 1800 stomachs) and these occurred during the prime May exit period for smolt. This highlights one of the smolt's strategies: head out under the 'fog' of departing Gaspereau.

The study is thorough. 14 species of fish were found in the samples, along with 5 groups of crustaceans. Of note, the majority of the stomach samples were empty, presumably as these fish did not encounter a food source on their way out to the ocean.

Len Forsyth dedicating time to science...

In short, it doesn't appear that any Striped Bass are holding any smoking guns. However, at a recent MSA board meeting several interesting questions were raised. First, is it possible that the Gulf Region population of Striped Bass spawn in locations other than the Miramichi Estuary? With numbers such as they are, it would seem to make sense that some would spawn in places like the long Mabou Estuary. It was mooted whether or not we should appeal to DFO for Fyke Nets to see if we could trap very small Striped Bass which would indicate that they were spawned closer to our river. Other members wondered why such a high percentage of samples had empty stomachs. MSA Director Bert Hart asked if anyone remembered them being here in years past, which is a startlingly common sense sort of question. Many of our members and several of our directors have fished the river for as many as fifty years. Leonard Forsyth remembered an anecdote of PatMike Tompkins seeing fish he thought were Stripers back in 1962, but nothing at all in the numbers that we are seeing today. Another good suggestion was to monitor the gaspereau catches in the spring, particularly if anyone dip nets the Seal Pool again.

Still the conundrum remains: where did so many of these fish come from, and how come they came so quickly?

The full text of Dr. Breau’s report can be found at via the link below

Margaree Salmon Association

Hooké (“Hooked”, en français) is a TV Show, video producer, and apparel maker out of Quebec. By fishermen, for fishermen is their motto. Their upbeat cinematography and hip music are attracting young men and women into our sport.

This summer they travelled to Sweden, Nunavut, British Columbia, throughout the Gaspe … and for three days this past September, through Margaree.

Charles & Alexi scope the Forks

Hugh, Stuart, and Emile work the gear

Alexi takes Robert Chiasson's lead

Ably guided by Robert Chiasson, Hooké’s Charles and Alexi fished Forks, Dollar, Seal and Tidal Pools under sadly trying low water conditions. Film crew included Stuart, Émile, and Hugh - in the heat these guys worked steadily and professionally.

Robert Chiasson Sports the Badge - Margaree Salmon Association!

In need of a break on the afternoon of Tuesday September 13th, the stars and crew took time out to help drag our nets through Doyle’s Pool for the Hatchery Broodstock. After dragging in the morning we had lost a handful of volunteers for the afternoon, and we probably couldn't have completed the work withou them. Merci, à nos amis!

Spotting for water at the Forks

Also on their tour they stopped in at the Hatchery, and even took time one evening to shake a shoe up at the Doryman Tavern in Cheticamp.

Look for video of their trip to Margaree coming soon!

Margaree Salmon Association

Cupped in the hands of the Margaree lies Fox Hole Farm, noted for both its beauty and mercurial former owner, Joe Schwerin.

Fox Hole Farm

Forty years ago, this American barged in elbows high, stole the local girl, fished his waders off - and left in his wake a lasting contribution to the river.

The Hunter

Sitting at his kitchen table one cool June evening a few years ago, he re-told the story of Mr. Schwerin Goes to Margaree. Between slaps of the table it is possible, likely even, that there was some truth in it. “Drove up from the States to Baddeck. Chasing some girl. Stopped to fish on the Margaree, across from the most beautiful farmhouse I had ever seen. I got into fish. Big fish. Never got the girl, though. Crawling home I saw a notice of that farm for sale. Turned right around and bought it.”

Hemingway would be proud...

Just the right amount of effort...

“Lead, Follow, or Get-outta-my-way” would be a workable motto for the man who won the Association’s Cormack Award in 1992. This prize is for “the spirit and intent” of the Association’s objectives, which Joe internalized as, Come see our salmon; poach them and we’ll hunt you down. Getting the Cormack must have been a little like winning the Conn Smythe to his Stanley Cup, which that year was marrying Anita Coady. To endearing amusement, the farm girl who knew the honest value of chores moved in with the man who had no real idea what one was.

In the early 1980s the Margaree Salmon Association successfully lobbied DFO to close the upper river to fishing and hold it as a sanctuary. Getting to the upper pools is challenging at the best of times, and the wardens had their hands full covering a wide territory.

The Sanctuary looking down from Cape Clear

There was also concern that some of the old timers, as was tradition, would ‘go get a barrel of salted salmon to see them through the winter’. Even if salted salmon would get you through the winter, it’s not likely to get you through to dessert. Perhaps, it was thought, it was time for this practice to end. But who, Joe asked damn straight, was going to police this new plan?

Along with the Creswell Foundation, Joe contributed funds for three or four years to have Greg and David Ross patrol and monitor the upper river. I think he secretly hoped to catch some poachers red handed just to enjoy the showdown. But the truth was that most people saw the wisdom of the Sanctuary, and abided by its new rules. “Anyways,” thought Joe, “it's always handy to carry a big stick in the woods.”

Acadian Forest in colour

Not all his river efforts were successful. With the Association he offered time, resources and access to his land to enhance the Garden Pool. Sadly, this may have unwittingly led to its demise. He readily acknowledged this, but equally pointed out that most the land lost to the river was his own. And keep in mind too, that this was over twenty years ago, with different views on the environment and our place it it. Well maybe, maybe not. There are still people today in favour of an excavator in the water, leaking oil and carving out pools by brute force. Maybe part of his legacy might be to allow us to walk such folk to the end of his long field and say, “Here, take a look at this.”

Flush floods move huge amounts of gravel

The Sanctuary is important because it allows some early run fish to race all the way upriver, in case the summer rains don’t come. Summers like this one. Many people think that fish need lots of water when a drought hits. But as Joe’s former guide, and river scientist, Ron Haldeman recently pointed out, “It’s not the flow of water the fish need, it’s the real estate! Low water dramatically reduces the size of a pool, takes away what’s normally the tail, and the fish get jammed up, stressed out, and we risk losing them just when we need them the most.”

On the way to Second Forks Brook

The river in the Sanctuary in many ways could be compared to the Margaree of years ago: narrow and deep and fast flowing. It’s the river as it was before clear cutting in the highlands set on us the flush cycle we now suffer. To sit and catch one’s breath by the river’s edge up here is like pausing in a garden lovingly tended by giants. The woods are cool and open, with huge hardwoods and five foot high ferns - the true and untouched Acadian forest. There is no path but the walking is easy, and one roves about like a dog set loose in the woods.

In the garden of giants...

In the low water of this past September I went deep into the Sanctuary, and yes, the fish were there. They must have come up on the June run, because that was the only decent water we’ve had all summer.

This is not at all to say they wouldn’t have been there without Joe Schwerin. Nature is a big girl who can take care of herself. But it’s us who need people like Joe in the world. People who unabashedly barge. They get this or that little thing done, then walk blissfully way from the seething crowd of their betters. You never left Joe with a straight face; creased in frustration or crinkled in laughter, he changed you.

In the soft laugh of the Margaree River by Fox Hole Farm, you can still hear him laughing loudest of all.

Margaree Salmon Association

Our fiscal year ends ‪March 31st; ‬it is always a challenge to report at an October AGM on a year that ended six months earlier!

It is in the summer months that MSA carries out most activities that are of interest to members and the public. The fiscal year of course is when we provide our financial results.

What a difference between those two reporting periods! For a time last year we dropped to just three active directors, but we diligently canvassed our members and local community to rebuild our Board to full strength. With the additional manpower, we have expanded our committee work, and thus lightening the burden of our all-volunteer Board. Certainly this approach has enabled the President to captain the ship, providing direction and guidance, rather than scramble about as chief, cook and bottle-washer!

In accordance with current trends, the Association has entered fully into the digital world of communication. This newsletter is the third issue to present interactive and colourful news to our members. As well as our informative and intuitive Website, we have now a Facebook presence and are reaching out to the public as a whole. We have recently placed a webcam on the river to give real time water conditions to members and the public.

Membership however, remains too low. With your help in the coming months we will begin a drive to encourage greater support for the Association and for the Margaree River.

Financially, MSA is sound and continues to attract sponsorship support. At the AGM we will share with you the exciting news of an endowment that has been provided to the Association and will be a great resource for several years to come. On the other hand, we still need new ideas and projects for successful fundraising.

For 2016 the Board approved the hiring of a Co-ordinator for a six month period. This step is an experiment but has worked well. We have an office presence, and such solid administrative and organizational assistance that we have raised our level of professionalism.

The Co-ordinator provided considerable assistance to all watershed activities as well as fundraising and the commencement of the development of a sponsorship data base.

On the watershed, the Adopt-A-Stream Program was again approved and funded, providing summer employment to four Margaree area residents. The Watershed Study is on-going and we conducted a workshop that brought together input from government and third party representatives, along with our members. A CABIN project is currently underway along with other watershed projects. Be sure to see all our presentations at the Annual General Meeting, Friday October 7th at 7pm, in St. Patrick’s Parish Hall, NE Margaree. As I approach the end of the term to which I was appointed, I am grateful for all the support that I have received.

Lester Wood


MSA Officers:

President - Lester Wood (in year three of three)

Vice President - Bill Haley (in year two of three)

Vice President - Leonard Forsyth (in year one of three)

Secretary - John Stinson (in year two of three)

Treasurer (open) - and eargerly wanted!

MSA Directors & Officers: Leonard Forsyth, Eugene Leblanc, Wayne Cleveland, Paul MacNeil, Bill Haley, John Stinson, Lester Wood, Greg Lovely, Jack Aikens. Mike Allen (Newsletter) Missing: Bert Hart

MSA Directors at Large:

Eugene Leblanc

Paul MacNeil

Jack Aikens

Wayne Cleveland

Greg Lovely

Bert Hart

“In accordance with Article 25 of the bylaws, proxy voting is allowed at any Annual , Special Meeting or Board Meeting”.

Should you wish to cast a proxy vote including for the election of members to the board of Directors please e-mail your vote to: President Lester Wood (, who will vote in accordance to your direction or failing direction being given then in accordance to their judgment during the AGM for resolutions brought to the floor and for the election of board members.

Margaree Salmon Association

As at the end of August, 2016, the membership in our association sits at 173, with 99 being Life Members. Lifers are found: 41 in Nova Scotia, 22 in other parts of Canada, 33 in the USA, and 3 in other parts of the world. Our annual members number 84, with 41 in Nova Scotia, 15 in other parts of Canada, and 25 in the US.

If you are an annual member, please don’t forget to renew. Do this (Now!) by clicking the link below, or you can renew at the AGM, or when you stop by the Margaree Salmon Museum. Thank you!

Electronic mail is working very well and there are now only 31 members without e-mail contact, which cuts costs of printing and mailing info and newsletters substantially. If you have recently acquired and email address and we have been mailing to you, please let us know!

Our MSA Facebook page now has 570 odd ‘likes’ and gets a lot of views. It is important to note, we have added a non profit page to the former MSA FB page….check on the one with the sunset icon, as this is the one we normally post on.

Margaree Salmon Association
Updaeted daily...or in special water

The Margaree Salmon Association is pleased to announce the placement and publication of a river webcam. We hope to provide a new way to assess water levels - and to alleviate fishing ennui when you can’t be in Margaree ("thousands suffer, everyday").

Duane and Karen Tingley have generously donated access from their property, as well as assistance with data delivery. Without their kind help, this project would not have been possible. We are deeply appreciative.

Please visit to find our daily post on the front page. We will also blast out updates on Facebook when we find ourselves in unusual water situations.

The Brook Pool

Our webcam is aimed upstream at the Brook Pool, and positioned to give a view of several rocks in the river from which river levels can be judged . Combining this real time view with the graph from the should give a fairly good idea of water levels before you head out from home. Sadly, this year it’s been more rocks and less water. But keep watching … things are about to change!

Margaree Salmon Association

We as an association have been working on the Margaree in one way or another for over thirty-four years. Landowners for about a hundred years before that. Trends in conservation, development, and scientific study have changed over this time - much in the same way a river meanders in its course.

Our continuing Watershed Study is our attempt to corral these disparate ideas into a baseline from which future studies and projects can reasonably begin. We did some investigation into LIDAR technology which can provide both elevations and water depth data. As this gear is quite expensive, we are looking for opportunities to partner with existing users.

Among other things, we’d like to know or show: GPS overlay maps for the river; water depths; plotting the migration of the main river channel; methods for determining causation to activities such as forestry or agriculture; flow and discharge rates; health and productivity of the river - all of which to tell us whether we are helping or harming the river.

In late September or early October, Emma Garden, a Research Assistant with Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR) will complete up to five CABIN studies at sites on the Margaree River and its tributaries. CABIN studies require significant funding, and for the 2016 season the Association wishes to thank Graham and Susan Smith for their generous contribution to this project.

CABIN stands for Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network, and is a system for comparing the health of fresh water ecosystems across the country. The focus is on Benthic Macroinvertebrates, which basically means, "bottom-dwelling-large-no backbone" (although not a "big wuss from Halifax") a broad class of organisms that include midges, mayflies, dragon/damsel flies, beetles and caddis. Other invertebrates include worms, leeches, mites, snails and mussels.

By studying these creatures, it is possible to monitor large areas of river over time. Because they respond quickly to a wide range of stressors, are so commonly found, and are form a significant part of the food web, we can use them to measure the combined impacts of things that occur upstream - and compare against meaningful baseline data.

In short, a CABIN study answers the question, “Is the state of the river what it should be?”

Photo: Rich MacNeil

All of Ms. Garden’s studies to date on Cape Breton rivers have reported extremely high levels of food production, and healthy insect life. We are confident that the Margaree will turn in similar results. It is however, the science that helps us make good decisions about the river, and we look forward to joining in with these studies.

Also this summer DFO sampled the river and tributaries with electrofishing gear.

Fishing with batteries

Big Brook was particularly fecund with over three hundred samples taken (and returned), of which almost 30% were brown trout. The remainder were mainly salmon fry and parr - and the numbers were reported as, ‘encouraging’. The crew also spent time just below Cranton’s Bridge on the Margaree, and in Gallant’s (15 brookies, 1 brown, 12 parr and 150+ fry), and Ingraham’s Brooks. Water temperatures mid-August were in the 14 to 14.5 degree Celsius range.

Doing the math

Finally, the low waters of the Summer of Sixteen delayed the Hatchery’s broodstock sweep until into September. Numbers were down from last year, with 38 fish taken - 25 female and 13 male. In 2015 Doyle’s Pool yielded 82 fish.

Under the keen eye of the warden
We're from the Hatchery - and we're here to help...
Margaree Salmon Association
Margaree Salmon Association

In the spring of 2016 the Margaree Salmon Association (MSA) once again worked with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to acquire research data concerning kelt salmon leaving the Margaree watershed.

Kelt Research = Cold Work

Our approach changed from that used in the spring of 2015. Last year we recruited thirty anglers to angle for salmon for two consecutive weekends. Due to high water conditions, few kelts were caught. In consultation with DFO, it was decided to involve fewer anglers over a longer period of time. Five anglers (Len Forsyth, Greg Lovely, Joel Robinson, Bill Haley and Mike Allen) were licensed and fished when conditions permitted from April 4 to April 22, 2016.

All angling was done using barbless flies only. During 122 hours of angling, the group hooked 27 salmon and landed 20. Only one male grilse was captured, along with three large male fish. The remaining 16 salmon were large females. Of the 20 caught and released, 3 were of hatchery origin.

Joel Robinson & Len Forsyth work quickly & carefully

None of the 82 large salmon tagged and released in the fall of 2015 were re-captured.

While only 3% of spawning salmon may return to spawn a second time, due to their size, they are responsible for up to 7% of the eggs deposited in the river. MSA is very interested in participating in any research that will allow for effective management of Margaree salmon stocks.

Margaree Salmon Association

Kenny was sitting on the bench when I got there. “Not fishing today?”

“Too hot. Water’s too low. ‘Fraid of hurting ‘em”

This was late August, when the overnight temperatures typically drop to low single digits, and deliver mornings that are cloaked in a river mist that leaves you shivering until the sun breaks through and ‘summer’ returns around nine a.m.

“Don’t think it even touched 10 degrees last night, although the water’s cool. Been in the mid teens all week.”

Dodi pushes through the brush behind us and plonks himself down at the end of the bench. “Heard some rumblings on the Facebook about how the Miramichi’s been closed, but DFO left us alone down here.”

“That’s because the river never did get hot.”

“Says who?”

“Thought you heard. They put in five new temperature readers this year. DFO did. Forest Glen Brook, three new ones on the Northeast, and one on the Southwest.”

“Feel for the people who’ve come from away. States and such. All the fish are stacked in just the four or five pools.”

“Well let them have at it. No point in us adding pressure. Heard some guy left his pack at Doyles’. Mahoney went tearing all over Hell's Acre looking for it. ID in it and everything.”

“Regular search-and-rescue, that. Called the Association, too. Got it all back though, everything was there. Alex sent it up to Halifax from the Tying Scotsman.”

I get up and head out to cross the river. A small wave of good-bye, my eyes on the blue sky hoping for rain.

“Take ‘er easy,” calls out Dodi helpfully. “You drown and that little trickle and we split your gear.”

Margaree Salmon Association
Created By
Mike Allen


Photos by: Cindy Creighton, Alfred Leblanc, Brock Fownes, Nicholas Baker, Anita Coady, Greg Lovely, Bill Haley, John Stinson, Mike Allen

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