Season so far
(Last Updated: Thursday 09 June)
Let me call your attention again towards FishPal Miramichi. I will be writing regular, hopefully weekly fishing reports and updates for FishPal Miramichi until we can find someone more local to the Miramichi to write them. Check out the website for fishing availability at participating lodges, fishing reports, conservation news from the Miramichi Salmon Association, and any other info you can use on the river. While you are on the site why not sign up for the rod alerts page and the monthly newsletter. A little info on salmon fishing is the kind of thing one never minds just showing up in the inbox.
There’s almost a month of good spring salmon fishing still to look forward to. All the lodges on FishPal Miramichi participate, so give them a call and get in on the action. After that there will a week or two’s lull in the action, then the first bright salmon will begin working their way into the system. We can hardly wait for it all to unfold.
Thanks for reading. For more photos check out my blog at Opening Day 2022 Miramichi Salmon Fishing Report | Brad Burns Fishing Brad Burns
April 28, 2022
Spring fishing for kelts on the Miramichi continues to provide solid action. The daily release limit on the Miramichi is 5 salmon or grilse, and many anglers are achieving that every day. Weather has been something of an obstacle with a fair amount of rain that periodically dirtied up the water, and some very cold, windy weather. That appears to be changing later in the weekend, and the week of May 1 is forecast to see a return to normal high temps of 14C or nearly 60F. The Miramichi received a half inch of rain in the last 24 hours, and water levels are increasing a bit, but it should not be a serious raise of water. Everything looks quite good for later in the weekend and next week.
Fishermen have been using the standard sink tip lines and large flies. Fish are being caught on just about all patterns, though most seem to favor bright colors with a lot of flash. Marabou patterns with a lot of action also seem to be especially productive.
Spring salmon fishing will go on until the middle of May. Traditionally this next couple of weeks is one of the better combinations of improving weather and lots of fish still being in the system. According to Country Haven Lodge which operates a big spring fishing fleet the catch seems to be running about 50/50 between grilse and salmon. A fair number of large salmon in the 40-inch range have been released recently. The fairly high percentage of salmon speaks to good winter survival, and we can hope to see quite a lot of those fish returning to the Miramichi this summer as repeat spawners.
Mixed in with the salmon is an occasional jumbo sea run brook trout. These large brook trout are exceptional and relatively rare creatures. They should be handled very carefully and released.
Striped bass will start becoming more common in the catch as the river warms and the center of the kelt fishing moves downriver to Blackville and the Rapids. The Miramichi striped bass population is overly protected and disproportionately large in its historic relationship to salmon. The large number of striped bass predators have harmed the populations of brook trout and smelts as well as Atlantic salmon. Three stripers per day may be harvested that are between 50-65cm in length. Striped bass that are harvested will not be able to intercept smolts heading to sea, or to spend their summers up in the Miramichi eating parr. The striped bass are excellent table fare. Brad Burns
April 19, 2022 It has been a few years since I was on the Miramichi for opening day, but with the ice going out in time, and decent water conditions available, I couldn’t stay away. I had half forgotten what a great adventure a trip to Miramichi country is at this time of the year. The ride up from Falmouth, Maine was like rewinding the past couple of weeks. It certainly isn’t summer here in coastal Maine, but the grass is green and growing, and the leaves are already out on the honeysuckle understory in the woods surrounding my yard. Snow seems like a distant memory, though it has only been gone a couple of weeks. By the time I got to Millinocket I could see snow everywhere in the woods. On the ride across from Fredericton to Blackville all the streams were rushing along bank full. It was exciting. If only we could save a little more of that for mid-July!
I arrived on Thursday afternoon and had to unload in a cold rain. A half-dozen, skinny deer where looking for anything nourishing amidst the dead grass in the fields along the driveway. Darrell and Nick already had the swallow and bluebird boxes up around the yard, and one of the long canoes was upside down on saw horses, waiting for some better weather to re-coat the bottom.
Opening day dawned gray, cool, and raining lightly – a perfect fishing day… Like so many spring fishing days, Friday, April 15, 2022 was a day to protect yourself from the elements. I had on standard issue green, wool pants, heavy flannel shirt, thick wool sweater, Thinsulate vest, and an Orvis rain jacket. The most important equipment of all, though was on my feet. I had never spent an opening day with warm feet until this day. The new Lacrosse boots that WS Emerson had donated to our MSA winter event, combined with a single pair of Darn Tough boot socks worked like a miracle.
Over the years I’ve done most of my kelt fishing in the “Golden Horseshoe” so-named by Wades Fishing Lodge for its good numbers of kelts, and in the general vicinity of the mouth of Cains River. I had always heard about the good fishing around the Doctor’s Island stretch of the river, but since it was twice as far away as the Cains, and my early guides on the river weren’t used to fishing it, I never went there. That area, though, is one of Darrell Warren’s favorites in his many years of spring fishing experience, so we ran down there for our start.
When we got down to Doctor’s Island there were already at least a dozen boats working here and there. Some were trolling, some long-lining along the shore, and others anchored and casting to the sides. Spring salmon fishing is not a sport of delicate presentations and fine leaders at the end of floating lines. I was using a 450 grain sinking-head line, and six feet of 20 pound test for a leader. I will say, though, that sometimes the fish are not just laying along the bottom as often thought. We anchored up, and I tied on a #2 red and orange marabou streamer, threw it over the side with about 4 feet of fly line beyond the rod tip, set the rod down, and reached up to adjust the hood on my rain jacket. The fly, still floating, drifted back with the current until the line became tight and the flow sucked it under the surface. It was instantly taken by a feisty grilse, which began jumping around almost at the end of my rod tip before becoming quickly unhooked. It was quite a start.
Soon I became aware that boats all around us were hooked up, and playing and releasing fish. The action was very good, and I was very happy to see so many fishermen with the big, rubber landing nets taking the time to release their fish with the care that these salmon deserve. A fairly high percentage of the kelts that have survived to this point will go a short distance off the coast, rebuild on smelts and other inshore fish, and return during the same summer as repeat spawning bright fish. These fish are potentially very valuable spawners for the Miramichi. I can tell you the conservation ethic has come a long way in the brief 20 years that I have been participating in this fishery.
It appeared to me that there was a fairly even mix of grilse and salmon, and even though it was early in the season I thought the fish looked to be in very good condition. Another bonus to the spring fishing are the brook trout. We caught some everywhere we fished. Most were in the 10 to 12-inch size range – nice brookies – but one of Tyler Coughlan’s customers from Country Haven got one that Tyler said was around 2 ½ pounds, a really lovely fish, and probably a sea run.
The action was quite a bit slower in the afternoon session. It rained all night, and on Saturday morning the river was rising and comparatively dirty with a fair amount of grass. We opted for a change of scenery, and close to the shoreline a few hundred feet below Black Brook we came across a little hot spot that produced a few quick fish plus other strikes. David Donahue, who lives near Doctor’s Island where his father guided for many years, had persuaded me to try a dropper rig. I tied a dropper loop in my leader about 4 feet above my marabou point fly. To this loop I attached a #2 Black Ghost. It seemed that the grilse consistently took the dropper fly while the salmon took the point. It certainly wasn’t a huge sample, but that was the way it seemed to go. I even observed a grilse make several attempts at the Black Ghost while we were trying to net a salmon hooked to the other fly.
In the afternoon on Saturday Dawson Hovey and I fished a stretch down in the Rapid’s section. This was shore fishing along a long grassy bank, and I really enjoyed it. Darryl Curtis had fished it with great success on opening day. Like all fishing on Saturday it was much slower than Friday, but still we pecked away at them. I was casting a Spey rod with a fast sinking tip, and in addition to landing a grilse and a couple of trout we had 6 or 8 pulls between us that didn’t end up as secure hookups, but it did tell me that fish were there, just hesitant to strike. Darryl who has lived and guided in The Rapids his whole life blamed it on a cold east wind. His opinion is probably better than most. An added bonus was watching a couple of adult eagles surveying a Volkswagen-sized nest in the top of a giant white pine across the river from us.
On Sunday Kevin Harris showed up to pick up the Chestnut canoe he bought at the MSA auction, and Dawson and I drove to Fredericton for Easter dinner via the home of Bill and Joan MacKay in Hayseville. I wrote about Bill who guided at Rocky Brook for more than 30 years in my May of 2019 blog – you can just scroll back to read it. He turns 90 this August and is still fishing the Miramichi. Dawson and Greg Sprague are putting together oral histories of the Miramichi, and are going to get more interviews with Bill this coming year. Hayseville is a short drive upriver from Boiestown, but with that increase in altitude the winter clock rewound even further. The river there was a blue pathway between two banks still thickly covered with ice and snow. Out in the middle, though, it was bubbling and roaring along with a fair amount of white water. Bill who was a champion canoer in his youth, and has poled every inch of the Miramichi from Boiestown to above Burnt Hill many times, says that this is the first real whitewater rapid as you ascend the Miramichi towards the headwaters.
May 5th, 2022
Rip Cunningham with a well-mended Upper Blackville Kelt
Spring fishing has been a mixed bag this past week with steady action reported in the Boiestown, Doaktown, Upper Blackville, and well downstream in the Quarryville area. The fishing centered around Blackville has been a little slower, but still not bad for those who put in the time. One theory is that the unusually cold weather is being blamed for the fish not being inclined to move, so the areas that had the highest concentration of early fishing pressure have slowed a bit. David Donahue, who is located just above Doctor’s Island, said that he saw 8 salmon jump while having his coffee the morning of May 4. He theorized that perhaps the water is starting to warm a little more and fresh fish are now dropping down river. With the action still taking place up river that means there will be lots more fish yet to arrive in the lower reaches.
It is normal for Quarryville to have a concentration of kelts since that is where the tidal section starts. Smelt runs mass there before spawning, and many kelts feed on these nutritious bait fish before returning to the sea. A large, mid-May kelt, well-mended from feeding on smelts is pretty close in all regards to a bright fish.
I heard from Rip Cunningham of the Black Brook Salmon Club. Rip enjoyed several days of good fishing for kelts that he described as spread out over the SW Miramichi both up and down river from the mouth of the Cains. It was possible to anchor and cast against the shoreline, but much better results came by trolling large flies.
Tyler Coughlan of Country Haven Lodge which spring fishes mostly in the Blackville to Quarryville region reported catching good numbers of large sea run brook trout, some as large as 5 pounds, as well lots of salmon. They are particularly high on May fishing since they see lots of opportunity to catch salmon, trout, and striped bass, often all on the same day.
Unmistakable colors of a sea run brook trout. Photo from Country Haven
We are still about three weeks away from someone catching the first bright salmon of 2022, but that isn’t all that far. Salmon Magic author and Spey casting guru Topher Browne e-mailed me saying that he was a bit overwhelmed by the task of getting all of his gear ready to head to the Gaspe at the end of May, and then back to the Miramichi in mid-June for a crack at a SW Miramichi springer. It’s that time! Brad Burns