New Brunswick

Low river levels concern anglers

Warm weather and an early spring freshet have made for a good start to trout season for some New Brunswick anglers, but some are worried about what it will mean for fish populations later in the season.

Increased river temperatures could affect fish populations

An angler fishes on the Nashwaak River in the spring of 2010. Some anglers are worried about how the low water levels will affect fish populations. (Courtesy of Mat Trevors)

Warm weather and an early spring freshet have made for a good start to trout season for some New Brunswick anglers.

But if the low water levels continue into the summer, the rivers could get too hot for the fish, which could be detrimental, said Tom Benjamin, of the Hammond River Angling Association.

"That can cause significant issues," he said.

"Last summer was quite wet and cool throughout most of the province. The summer before though was extremely dry and warm, and we actually saw salmon mortalities on some rivers in the province."

Water levels are about what they would expect to see in mid- to late May, said Benjamin.

They’re considerably lower than previous years, due to the ice breaking up earlier, no ice or snow left in the woods in the upper part of the watershed and a lack of rain.

The low levels are good early in the season for the fish eggs, which are in the gravel of the riverbed, said Benjamin. Bad ice conditions can kill off eggs trying to attach to the riverbed, he explained.

But Benjamin is hoping for some significant rainfall soon. Otherwise, river temperatures could increase.

"Then you have a decrease in available habitat so the fish are congregating usually in cool water locations where there's a spring or something like that, and it makes them more susceptible to predation."

It will likely be at least late June before the impact on fish populations is known, said Benjamin.

But Raymond Fournier said he’s already noticed a difference in the fish numbers.

He’s been fishing a hidden spot on the Hammond River every day since the season opened on Sunday.

"We caught a couple real nice ones yesterday, but it's been, you know, a little slow. The brooks are slow, not too much is biting," he said.

Fournier said he believes the abnormally low water level is keeping the fish away.