Margaree Salmon Association Spring 2017

President's Message - MSA President Lester Wood

Welcome to season thirty-six of the Margaree Salmon Association!

We have many projects underway, some that began even before the snows left the Margarees. For the first time, MSA participated in two sportsman shows, in Halifax and Sydney Mines. The exposure was positive and we landed twenty-five new members!

We were saddened by Ron Haldeman’s passing last December. Ron will be remembered as a founding member of the Association and a force on and about the river.

Our webcam is again broadcasting the river conditions daily, so follow along as waters recede and we await the spring run of Atlantic Salmon.

In June we will begin the first phase of an ambitious fluvial geomorphic survey to benchmark future river projects. Led by Director Greg Lovely, a team from Matrix Solutions Inc. will soon be on the river collecting data. Their findings and recommendations will be reported at the Annual General Meeting.

For the third season we assisted DFO with a Kelt Research Project, and the results of our 2016 CABIN Study will be available shortly.

This year the Board has been enhanced by three new Directors. Bevely MacMillan has joined the Executive in the role of Treasurer. New Directors-at-Large are Liam Fraser and Emma Garden. These three bring a wealth of knowledge and working expertise from their careers in business management, finance, forestry, and biology.

Edsel Hart once again leads the Adopt-A-Stream crew. Returning crew members are Peter Poirier and Derwyn Hart. Carl Curly will take over Doug Phillips’ spot as this nine year stalwart moves on to flex his muscles hauling crab.

Unfortunately we have lost our multi- talented Co-ordinator, Nick Baker. Nick will be applying his expertise as an interpreter at Shubinacadie Wildlife Park. Our loss yes, but a solid advancement for him. We wish Nick well. Of course we are now on the lookout for a replacement. If you have a referral, we would love to hear from you.

Strong in our resources we have lots to do, including identifying a suitable recognition for our principal benefactor, Dr. James W. Wallace.

Read on! Enjoy this spring edition of the newsletter, follow us on Facebook, follow us and the web — and keep in touch!

Keep well. Fish whenever you can fish...and stay in touch.
About our cover: Verdant Valley ©1997 Alice Reed. Used with permission of the artist.

River Study of the Margaree

MSA Director Greg Lovely leads our River Study Committee

A layman's guide to Fluvial Geomorphology

The Directors of MSA can be neatly divided into two distinct groups: those who can say - out loud - fluvial geomorphologist, and those who can’t.

Personally, I am in the second group, but I have followed with great interest this winter the Association’s plans for an in-depth river study to be completed by one of the region’s leading fluvial geomorphologists.

That mouthful of a term essentially means ‘the study of form and function of streams and the interaction between streams and the surrounding landscape’.

Over 35kms of the Margaree River will be surveyed - from MacKenzie Pool right down to Tidal Pool

If there is one thing the past 35 years have taught us on the Margaree River, it would have to be that nature is an imposing force. Fixed that seem obvious at first glance can turn out to have significant repercussions downstream. For those familiar with the river, it’s not hard to find evidence of past restoration efforts strewn about, sometimes quite some distance from where they were installed. It’s as if the river herself laughed and brushed our efforts aside.

Last fall we called for the tender of fluvial geomorphic services and thoroughly interviewed two strong candidates. We have commissioned Parish Aquatic Services (Division of Matrix Solutions Inc.) to a four-phase study, expected to be completed by the end of July.

The project will be led by Parish’s Ron Jenkins. Parish was acquired by Matrix Solutions in 2014, and Ron has been with them for over a decade, having started out as a river restoration specialist in 2006. He holds an Environmental Tech diploma from NBCC Miramichi and is very familiar with many Atlantic Canadian rivers. In total, he brings more than twenty years experience to the job at hand.

The issue is the young of a given year…they have problems with gravel bed changes. So you have to ask yourself, What do we want to see changed in the next five years…the next ten. ~ Ron Jenkens, Parish Aquatic Services

Phase 1 & 2 are watershed characterization and analysis. This is largely desk work, but identifies gaps and data needed from the river itself. Before money is spent going out into the field, all available data already collected will be combed and reviewed. Parish will also divide the river between MacKenzie Pool and Tidal Pool into ‘reaches’, those lengths of river that share relatively similar characteristics. Things like river width, gradient, and valley form.

Preliminary asignatons for 'reaches' of the NE Margaree

With a specific plan in place, Phase 3 will be sending a team out for a field assessment. When the river returns to normal levels, this will be a careful trip down it by canoe with an engineering team. They will validate or correct items from the desk work, but also note overall river health, and make a reach-by-reach assessment of channel stability. While on the river, the team will be able to ascertain causative factors such as erosion, scour, and sediment accumulation. They will also use Rapid Geomorphic Assessments and Rapid Stream Assessments (RGA/RSAT) of the channel reaches. They will also note sensitive areas like eroding banks and cold water sources - and mapping these will allow us to prioritize restoration options.

RGAs and RSATs also help to identify areas that are not currently under stress, but likely to present problems in the future. This, we hope, will allow us some ‘heads up’ in our planning for future year’s river work.

The final phase is to analyse the data for controlling geomorphic processes and areas of instability. It is these patterns that, as they emerge, allow us to build a comprehensive restoration design.


We are so excited at the prospect of reviewing Parish’s final report, by the end of June as long as river conditions cooperate. What makes Parish’s study so important is that restoration designs are then presented with the knowledge of upriver and downriver evolving conditions.

By pinpointing the problem areas most detrimental to the river system, we hope to build a strong and sustainable plan for enhancing our Atlantic Salmon and our trout stocks - which is after all, the object of our Association.

Keep well. Fish whenever you can fish...and stay in touch.
Photo: © P.J. Wall

Report from The Margaree Fish Hatchery

Sometime in late May or early June, young salmon in Margaree will fundamentally alter their lifelong habit - and turn to face downstream. When the staff at the Margaree Hatchery see their smolt ‘swimming backwards’ in their pens, they know the smoltification process is complete - and these fish are ready to head to open sea.

Table for Two: Bobby Ingraham and Greg Lovely clip fins. Photo Bill Haley

Bobby Ingraham and his staff will load upwards of 111,000 fish and begin releasing them at sites as high up as Forest Glenn Brook, and at various points lower on the river. This is the highlight of Hatchery work. Fish that were collected from the river in August and September were stripped of their eggs and milt and fertilized in November; eggs hatch in March; and smolt that reach about 9 cm - and swim backwards - are released in June. As a backup to this plan, about 10-15% of the parr are released in the fall, fish that will smolt naturally in the river, and head out in the spring. This past November about 12,000 parr were released in the Mabou River, 28,341 in the Baddeck River, and over 24,000 in the Middle River.

Working with the Inverness South Anglers Association

Large: Joel Robinson & Kelly Shaw prepare the nets. Inset: Bobby Ingraham, and Jason Leblanc diving. Photos: Bill Haley

MSA Director Paul MacNeil listens attentively to Jason Leblanc who appears to be speaking through his snorkel. Photo: Bill Haley

Where they are released on a river seems to be of little importance. The last time Margaree had a smolt wheel counter, then hatchery manager Leonard Forsyth reported virtually all the released smolts had exited in the river within a day or a day and a half. If you are a teenager in Margaree it would seem, it’s a flat out rush to try living somewhere else - if even only for a while.

Photo: Andrew Knowles

And that’s just the Atlantic Salmon. Brook and brown trout are released, some 200,000 fingerlings, in the Margaree, in Lake O’Law, and in more than nine lakes and streams across Cape Breton, as far away as New Waterford. The province had been running tests for just over five years, and the conclusion seems to dictate greater stocking across the island.

Is istocking a solution to lower than desired fish numbers? “It’s more like insurance,” says Margaree Hatchery Manager Bobby Ingraham. “We don’t keep data on wild vs hatchery numbers, but from our sweeps for broodstock in the late summer and fall, it seems that about 24% of large fish in the river are hatchery raised.”

Before any fish are released they must have their adipose fin clipped off - marking them cleanly as hatchery raised and not wild. In rare instances an imperfectly clipped fish may regenerate its adipose fin. However, the number of occurrences of this is statistically very low, and the regeneration is rarely complete. Check your next large fish: it’s pretty obvious which are wild and which are ‘wild bred’.

There does exist computerized equipment to preform the fin clipping, but it is very expensive and really requires huge numbers to justify it. Out on the west coast the US hatcheries release upwards of 90 million fish a year. Their computer guide laser cutters trim about 100,000 fish a day with a 1 in 400 error rate.

(L to R) Greg Lovely, John Stinson, Leonard LeBlanc, Eugene LeBlanc, Fraser's Mills staff, and Kelly Shaw... clipping fins. Photo Bill Haley

At Margaree we necessarily clip by hand, and a skilled technician can clip between five and eight thousand fish a day. Skilled for us means Bobby Ingram, Andrew Morrison and the rest of the staff at the hatchery, along with Association volunteers Greg Lovely, Bill Haley, Eugene LeBlanc, and John Stinson.

Keep well. Fish whenever you can fish...and stay in touch.
Mark Your Calendars!

Kelt Research Study in conjunction with DFO

MSA Vice President Bill Haley coordinates our Kelt Research with DFO

Lots of fish. Mostly Wild.

In the spring of 2017 the Margaree Salmon Association (MSA) again worked with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) under Sophie LeBlanc and Renelle Doucette, to acquire research data concerning kelt salmon leaving the Margaree watershed.

In 2015 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 for 2016 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.

Kelt 'smoltifying'

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.

One of the large salmon tagged and released in the fall of 2016 was re-captured.

In 2017 our activity in the study went well, especially while water levels were low. Over eighty-five hours of fishing, sixty-six fish were captured, including one grilse. One fish was a hatchery fish. In 2016 three fish of twenty captures were hatcher-bred, although this is a statistically small sample. In years past, as many as 20% have been recorded as hatchery-bred.

Indicators show significant variances in the number of returning fish. Broodstock collections at times have been made up of 20% hatchery fish. ~ Bill Haley, MSA Vice President

Once again we used floating lines and barbless flies. Most were caught the first week of April, so we plan to start in mid - March next year with the hopes of increasing the sample size.

Kelt tracking's objective is to help this hen return laden with tens of thousands of eggs

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.

Keep well. Fish whenever you can fish...and stay in touch.

Steph Hesse shows how to throw 60' of line - effortlessly

The Same River

The Same River” from Into Daylight, by Jeffrey Harrison, Tupelo Press, © 2014. Used by permission of the author. Click to visit Jeffrey Harrison
Steve Baker, Nick Dodge, Brian Sweeny. Photos by Steph Hesse

Brian Sweeney moves down into Tent Pool. Photo: Steph Hesse/Steve Baker

Steve Baker and Nick Dodge set up. Steve Baker throws line into the Honey Hole. Photos: Steph Hesse and Steve Baker
Keep well. Fish whenever you can fish...and stay in touch.

Dr. James W. Wallace

Benefactor of the Margaree Salomon Association
If I’m not back at Boston General by 9 o’clock tomorrow morning, I’m out of a job — and don’t think you’re not going to be at school on time, either!

So said Dr. James Wallace, his car spitting up a lick of gravel as he tore up the driveway outta Kilmuir Place in Northeast Margaree.

Dr. Wallace was a fifth generation physician from Cambridge MA, a radiologist who studied at Harvard University and Dartmouth College. He travelled the world for adventures as diverse as fly fishing is from automobile racing.

Those racing skills turned out to be a darned good thing, because all too often his love of fly fishing overtook his ability to schedule his free time. That trip from Margaree to Boston may well have been ‘the race of his career.’ He made it, 777 miles in less than twelve hours.

Kilmuir Place after its renovation

Dr. Wallace had volunteered for a two month stay at the Grenfell Mission in St. Anthony, Newfoundland, in 1970, and planned a three day stop over in Margaree on his way home at summer’s end. To say he fell in love with the Margarees would be putting things mildly.

His three days turned into two weeks; his two weeks turned into over twenty summers of fishing, exploring, and loving the Margaree River and its people. He was friends with the painter George Thomas and Lynn Zimmerman of Margaree Harbour (and Massachusetts), and of course. Isobel Ross at Kilmuir Place. He fished with John Hart, and dragged his two boys, Jamey and Joshua, and ever-patient wife Linda up and down the river.

Sunlight on a Salmon Pool ©1999 George Thomas with kind permission from the artist.

Dr. Wallace passed away August 20, 2015. He was seventy-three years old. His generosity and love for Margaree lives on through his generous gift to the Association.

Keep well. Fish whenever you can fish...and stay in touch.


MSA Vice President Leonard Forsyth will oversee Adopt-A-Stream

In stream fish habitat reconstruction & restoration in the tributaries

MSA Vice President Leonard Forsyth will oversee the Association’s Adopt-A-Stream program in 2017.

Edsel Hart will again lead the crew. Hart is stepping up to help the Association when we found ourselves quite suddenly short one Coordinator. A change for 2017 however is the departure of Doug Phillips after more than eight years solid work in our tributaries. We will miss him, and thank him hugely for his long service.

Edsel Hart Inspects a digger log

The budget for 2017 is approximately $100,000, although we are still awaiting several key funding announcements. We are in year two of three for our annual RFAC $26,000 funding. These funds are already received and are allowing us to move ahead with an early start to the season.

We have filed our global work permit for the six major tributaries of the SW and NE Margaree branches: Gallants, Scotch Hill, Marsh, Captain Allan’s, Ingraham’s, and Lake O’Law Brooks.

Doug Phillips digs in...

The top of the duty list is cleaning out debris from the brooks, channeling, and inspecting all of the twenty-nine structures we set last year.

Each year’s new structures become next year’s assets for the river. Annual maintenance can extend the life of such structures for many productive years.

After our maintenance cycle wraps up we will begin work on the approximately thirty new installations for 2017.

Keep well. Fish whenever you can fish...and stay in touch.

CABiN Studies on the Margaree

New MSA Director Emma Garden leads our CABiN Studies on the Margaree

CABIN stands for Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network, and is used to measure freshwater ecosystem health with standardized methods, database, activities map, and training.

Water Quality and Ample Bugs characterize the Margaree

The CABIN methods and tools are developed on rigorous science and evolve with current research. They are maintained and tested by a team of people within Environment and Climate Change Canada and external experts.

Pteronarcys (stonefly)

With the standardized CABIN methods and online tools, we can share data and reduce the work required to build a biomonitoring program from scratch. We all benefit from the collective efforts of partners across Canada.

Ephemeralla (mayfly)

Contributing to the shared database ensures up-to-date and accurate RCA models with good geographic coverage.

CABIN is used extensively by scientists within federal, provincial and territorial governments as an important part of their water monitoring programs. CABIN is also used by First Nations, academia, industry, and non-government organizations.

MSA Director Emma Garden has been working with UNIR testing various rivers in Cape Breton, and in particular five in the Margaree watershed.

Lepidostoma (caddisfly) emerging
We are still waiting on a few results, but I can tell you that the water quality (chemistry) is really good. pH is slightly basic in the 7-7.5 range, good for Atlantic Salmon and trout! ~. Emma Garden, MSA Director

These studies also show that we have a very rich benthic zone. This is the area at the lowest level of the river. Virtually all of the food for our fish emerges from the benthic zone, including the Margaree’s top three taxa, Pteronarcys (stonefly), Ephemerella (mayfly), and Lepidostoma (caddisfly).

Keep well. Fish whenever you can fish...and stay in touch.

Released: Ron Haldeman

If you see a salmon, you know there’s clean, cold water. You know there’s a healthy riverbed, deep pools, and solid stable banks. If you see a salmon, there are good people living on the river protecting it. That it’s a good place to raise a family, sustainably grow. That there’s community. And That’s why you need to see a goddam salmon. ~ Ron Haldeman

It’s early December 2016 and I am sitting with Ron Haldeman in his home just up from Twin Elm Pool. He will die from lung cancer in less than a week, although I did not know this then. No one did. So energized, so determined to get things organized, he was spinning ideas...

Ron came to Margaree in 1976, and later opened the area’s first fly shop. He wrote and delivered the influential study to Federal Fisheries Minister Roméo LeBlanc that ended salmon fishing by net in the Gulf off our shores. In 1979 he was the driving force to establish the Margaree River as the first documented catch-and-release salmon river in the world. Initially called hook-and-release, this was limited to the summer run in 1979. Even though retention of large fish was allowed in the fall run, he paid a high personal price for his efforts. Forward looking science ain’t ever easy.

I don’t know what it is with Sydney people. I’ve never met anyone so willing to take you in, fill you up with good food, put you up in their homes — and then be just as willing to punch you in the nose. ~ Ron haldeman

Ron’s childhood and education were in the US, and he graduated with a degree in Biology from Penn State. But it was Margaree that inspired his applied science with Atlantic Salmon.

He built his house in Emerald largely by hand (pretty much a ten year long project), using wood and river stones from his own land. In the early 1980s he operated Margaree’s first fly shop.

The Atlantic Salmon Fly Shop, Emerald, Cape Breton.

The 1970’s saw him join up with Elizabeth May and Vicki Palmer in a group of fifteen landowners to take on the oldest company in the world at that time (Nova Scotia Forest Industries, aka, Stora) in a David & Goliath battle that Neil Livingston documented in Neal Livingston's critically acclaimed 1984 NFB film, “The Herbicide Trials.

Vicki Palmer and Ron Haldeman address the press. Photo: Neal Livingston

This was a battle that the “Davids” flat out lost. Ron, and all the challengers, had put their land on the line and were about to lose it. Only by appealing directly to then Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme (on television) did they succeed in what could be described as a very early social media ‘win’.

Ron Haldeman looks out from the group of fifteen landowners who took on Nova Scotia Forest Industries. Photo: Neal Livingston

It was also during this time that Ron, Claire Mitchell, Stan Burton, George Crowdis, Joe Schwerin, Ann Haldeman, Frank Theirkauf, and John White convened the first meeting of Margaree Salmon Association on July 2, 1981.

Original documents form Ron Haldeman's papers donated to the Margaree Salmon Museum., including The Minutes from the first meeting of the Margaree Salmon Association.

A man of ideas sometimes larger than his capabilities, Ron left us with one that may just become our greatest challenge: to protect in perpetuity the Margaree watershed with a Land Trust. In that last meeting in December he outlined the land he had acquired over his lifetime, and how he wished it to be protected. With tears in his eyes he said, “I put it all of this, all of it, all on the line - twice.”

We all die too soon. But in Ron we have a solid outline of how we might band together to help many, many people enjoy the Margaree. Please contact us if you can help as we do our best to continue his legacy.

And f you are lucky enough to fish down from Little MacDaniels, through Twin Elm and on to Sheperd’s Rock pools, think of Ron. He always fished pools as a series, never saw them as individual places. In doing so he freed his thoughts - and linked his dreams.

Ron's guide hat still hangs on its post in the Atlantic Salmon Fly Shop. Rest in peace, old friend....
Keep well. Fish whenever you can fish...and stay in touch.

Margaree River Gifting

Keep well. Fish whenever you can fish...and stay in touch.


“Shady Lady,” says Kenny as he strings up. “‘Cause I’d rather be lucky than good.”

Personally, I think it’s a bit early yet. I’ve never ever caught on the opening day of the salmon season. But boy, does it feel good to be out on the river.

“They putting that counting fence in this year?”

“Nah, I heard it’s backed up in the request line at DFO. Why?”

“Be nice to know, to really know, how many fish come in the river. ‘Stead of those models and estimates they whip up in Moncton.”

“You need numbers? Tell me you wouldn’t be out here on the opener even if there was only one fish…”

“True that,” he says.

“You know, a better number is the number of juveniles per 100 square meters. DFO measures that. We have something like 2.33 per…and that’s how I know we have fish in the river.”

Kenny looks unimpressed.

“More like gardening…focussing on what we’re planting, weeding, and tending. All that tributaries work they do, I mean. We got good water, great bugs for food, and a whack of parr, smolt and juveniles wild born every year. Really, what’s the point of knowing whether there’s large fish comin’ when we know there’s tons of little fish goin’ out?”

“Well,” says Kenny, “If I knew how many were comin’, at least I’d know when to stop fishin'.”

Keep well. Fish whenever you can fish...and stay in touch.
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Keep well. Fish whenever you can fish...and stay in touch.


Neal Livingston Bill Haley Nick Baker Greg Lovely PJ Wall George Thomas Alice Reed Mike Allen

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