A proposal by the Department of Natural Resources would double the number of lakes open for ice fishing in New Brunswick.

Anne Bull, a spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources, said in an email that a list of waters in nine counties was finalized sometime last year.

Bull said the lakes were approved by the department's fisheries management committee based on three criteria:

  • "Ensuring the province's fish stocking program is used to its fullest."
  • "Ensuring self-sustaining trout populations are not jeopardized by increased angling pressure."
  • "Providing additional opportunities for winter fishing … without jeopardizing the conservation of sensitive species."  

The recommendation has been forwarded to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The federal department will make the final decision because opening new water would require changes to Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations.

Opportunities limited

Joe Tilley, who writes a blog about kayak fishing, posted a catch log from 2014, which serves as a Who's Who of local species, such as trout, bass and sturgeon.

But this winter Tilley decided to save $22.60 and not buy a winter fishing permit.

"Down here in the greater Saint John area, we get very little benefit out of purchasing an ice fishing licence," said Tilley.

Only five inland lakes are open to ice fishing in Saint John and Kings counties. Winter smelt fishing is popular on the Kennebecasis River, but does not require a licence because it is tidal.

Tilley has contacted the department about the proposed new ice fishing lakes. He said he believes the move would benefit anglers and possibly outfitters.

"There would be 21 additional [lakes] open in our area, which would open basically smallmouth bass, pickerel, possibly even trout for ice fishing," Tilley said.

"It's very hard to do that today for those species." 

Significant interest among anglers

The provincial spokesperson says the idea to open up new ice fishing waters was based on "significant interest among anglers." 

So far, New Brunswick angling groups have not been informed of the proposed changes. 

Charlie Leblanc, the president of the New Brunswick Wildlife Federation, said on Friday that his group has not had any meetings with the provincial government about the potential changes.

However, Leblanc said his members would likely support new fishing opportunities. 

Rob Sheils, the chair of the New Brunswick Sport Fishing Association, said in an email that his association also hasn't had any input on the decision.

Sheils said members like new places to fish, but only for catch and release. There may be concerns about keeping trout and bass in the new lakes, said Sheils.

Fisheries and Oceans reviewing

According to a statement from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the federal department is reviewing the New Brunswick government's request.

A spokesperson says changing federal regulation is a complex process that requires the department to consult with people affected and analyze the impact of any changes.

The ice fishing season started in New Brunswick on Jan. 1, so its unlikely any new lakes will be open to fishing this year.

Lakes being considered for ice fishing

York County:

  • Amelia
  • Big Duck
  • Big Kedron
  • Clear Lake
  • Davidson Lake
  • Deer, East Brook
  • First Lake
  • Indian
  • Kilburn
  • Lake George
  • Lily, Little
  • Little Magaguadavic
  • Magaguadavic
  • McAdam Pond
  • Mud
  • Napadogan
  • Second Eel
  • Second Harvey
  • Shogomoc
  • Skiff
  • Taffy
  • Third Eel

Sunbury County

  • Peltoma

Saint John County

  • Arnold
  • Bradley
  • Dolan
  • Nelson
  • Perch
  • Quinn
  • Round
  • Taylor
  • Theobald
  • Treadwell

Restigouche County

  • First Portage
  • Hailes Brook
  • Prichard
  • Smith
  • Stillwater Brook

Queens County

  • Lower, Trout

Northumberland County

  • Upsalquitch
  • McKendrick
  • Mullin Stream
  • Whitney Pond

Kings County

  • Bates Lake
  • Belvidere
  • Cassidy
  • Clark
  • Jenkins
  • Mechanic
  • Pickett
  • Ritchie
  • Unnamed (Crocketts Corner Pond)
  • Waltons
  • Williams

Gloucester County

  • Bass River Lake
  • Lac St-Coeur

Charlotte County

  • Boone
  • Cranberry
  • Cundy
  • Digdeguash
  • Gibson
  • Goldsmiths
  • Little Long
  • Little McDougall
  • McDougall
  • Ormond
  • Red Rock
  • Sparks
  • Stein
  • Trout
  • Victoria
  • Wheaton
  • Greens
  • Nashwaak.