New Brunswick

Calling all ice fishers: New Brunswick Museum wants in on your catch

The museum hopes to fill 'gaps' in its robust collection of species with donations of fish caught in the winter months.

Museum hopes to round out its collection with fish caught during winter months

The New Brunswick Museum fish collection contains hundreds of preserved fish from across the province, but researchers are hoping to obtain more specimens caught during winter months. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

You might think the New Brunswick Museum has plenty of fish. It boasts an entire room stuffed wall-to-wall with them, hundreds of jars of preserved fish, including every freshwater species found in the province and many found in the Bay of Fundy.   

But it wants more.

The museum, located in uptown Saint John, has "gaps" in its collection, zoology technician Gayathri Sreedharan said, and it's hoping the province's ice fishers can help.

It plans to put out an open call, asking them to donate some of their catch. 

"We have very few winter collections of New Brunswick fish and we are hoping to try to fill those gaps," Sreedharan said.

Gayathri Sreedharan, a zoology technician at the New Brunswick Museum, is asking ice fishermen to donate some of their catch to fill gaps in the museum's fish collection. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

The current collection is rich with fish collected during summer months, but ice is an obvious impediment during the winter months, Sreedharan said.

As well, many species go through a variety of changes during winter months that aren't well represented in the museum's acquisitions. 

Burbot, a New Brunswick freshwater fish with a "unique" reproductive biology, is a good example of that, Sreedharan said.

"They actually spawn in the winter under the ice," she said. "They're common in the St. John River, but we have under 10 specimens in the collection." 

New Brunswick Museum asks ice fishermen to donate their catch

1 year ago
Duration 3:49
The museum in Saint John is asking ice fishermen across the province to donate some fish to preserve for future research.

Collecting different species, from different locations around the province during different times of the year, gives researchers a wealth of information that can be used to study a variety of topics. 

"We can look at the impacts of things like climate change or pollution on things like biodiversity loss or population shifts," said Sreedharan. 

Zoology technician Gayathri Sreedharan says the museum's collection has specimens from every freshwater species found in New Brunswick. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

"When you think about historical collections, they would have been collected at a time when we didn't know what DNA was, let alone how to extract it," she said. 

"Today, genetics work on historical collections is providing baseline data that we can actually compare to current data." 

Gayathri Sreedharan showcases a preserved fish specimen, one of hundreds included in the New Brunswick Museum's collection. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

Some of the oldest preserved fish in the province can be found at the museum.

The oldest one in their records dates back to 1900, kept in its original jar, which is being preserved inside another, newer jar for good measure.

The oldest fish in the New Brunswick Museum's collection is still kept in its original jar. This specimen dates back to 1900. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

Ice fishers who'd like to donate fish are asked to contact the museum to arrange a pickup or delivery.

Details, including the date and location of the catch, estimated water depth, as well as the names of those donating the fish, will be recorded. Small tissue samples will be taken and stored in a –80 C degree freezer, with the bulk of the fish stored in ethanol and added to the collection's long-term storage. 

Fish collected today will be used for research for decades, and possibly hundreds of years, to come, Sreedharan said.


Shane Fowler


Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.