In this Fish’n Canada episode, Angelo heads to the province of New Brunswick with his good buddy and muskie-fishing nut Steve Niedzwiecki (owner of Chaudiere Lodge on Upper French River). Here, they seek Canada’s number one predator, the almighty Muskellunge.
You read it correctly, there are muskie in New Brunswick and they are thriving in the waters of the St. John River. There’s one problem though: In this water, they’re considered an invasive species and many of the old school locals want them eradicated! (Muskie have long been blamed for the decline of the once-thriving Atlantic Salmon population, though studies have largely debunked this theory.)
MUSKIES ARE HERE TO STAY
Ang and Steve try to bring new light to this magnificent sport fish and open up the eyes of the entire country. “These muskies are here to stay,” says Ang. “So let’s embrace and take full advantage of this relatively new and exciting east-coast fishery!”
If anybody can find a muskie in a haystack, it’s this combo of anglers.
“I guess you could say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” says Ang. “Finding muskie in the St. John River is like finding gold in the Yukon.”
Ang is one old-timer who is ready and willing to embrace this exciting new fishing opportunity, and Steve (being a few years younger) is just plain eager to go!
While the Muskellunge has taken over the position as the apex predator in these waters, they aren’t completely without danger, and it comes in the form of man—and some narrow-minded thinking.
As an invasive species, muskies are not allowed to be transported upriver to new waters after being caught in the live fish traps at the Mactaquac Generating Station dam. Instead, they are either released back below the dam (rumour has it some people there have a kind heart) or, as is written, they are destroyed. As in killed. Apparently, this is the government initiative.
Be that as it may, there is still a growing fishery for this mighty species of fish.
THE THREE MUSKELLUNGES
Ang and Steve decided, with the help of some local muskie experts, to troll the break lines of the St. John, always keeping an eye on the Garmin fishfinder screen for huge concentrations of Gaspareau—a local Alewife baitfish that all gamefish in the area love to chow down on.
Crankbaits were the trolling baits of choice, and a smaller size (around 8”) seems to be the best bet according to the locals. They aren’t running the giant baits out east just yet, but that is subject to change as time moves on. Silvers, whites, and other similar shad colours work best—anything that imitates the Alewife.
By running a series of trolling passes along fast-breaking contour lines, all within the proximity of baitfish, the guys managed to pull up three muskies of varying sizes.
Since this is a relatively new fishery, that number isn’t too bad. The future looks good.
Incidentally, all three fish caught were fat, as expected. Studies have shown that St. John Muskellunge are at least 11% heavier than other Canadian muskies of comparable length. These east coast muskie are especially girthy. This is thought to be because of the particular diet of these fish: Gaspereau (Alewife), along with Bullhead, Yellow and Silver Perch.