On this episode, the boys are located on the Saint John River in New Brunswick, one of the most famous Salmon rivers in the world. But they’re not in pursuit of Atlantic Salmon. Last season, Ang and Pete were on the legendary Miramichi River, a couple hundred kilometres from Saint John, chasing down Striped Bass. It’s an extraordinary sport fishery that they were introduced to by good friend Jeff Wilson, an east coast tournament promoter and avid angler. On that trip, Jeff also advised them of the exceptional Smallmouth Bass fishing here on the Saint John River—our boys usually don’t need much convincing!
BASS IN A SALMON RIVER
So now you know why we’re in this neck of the woods again. The question is why are all these Bass here in a Salmon river and why didn’t we know about it sooner? As it turns out, smallies have been in these waters for a hundred years or so but, in typical east coast fashion, whatever fisheries research money and time was available went to Trout and Salmon. So the Smallmouth fishery flew under the radar.
In the 1950s, after the government dammed up the Saint John River for hydropower, the lakes that subsequently formed were perfect ecosystems for our little bronze friend to flourish. From there, the Smallmouth population literally exploded up, out and down this entire watershed.
Of course, wherever you have Bass, you eventually have Bass tournaments complete with hardcore bass-a-holics—and New Brunswick is no exception.
Although Bass tournaments seem to have been a local secret here for about 30 years or so, with relatively small fields and purses, today the cat’s definitely out of the bag. There are big events boasting 50-60 boats with up to 16,000 dollars in cash and prizes up for grabs.
The plan for Ang and Pete was to explore this river and its little tributaries to see what all the smallie hubbub’s about. Home base for the shoot was the Best Western in Woodstock; a good central location to work from. Plus, it’s emerged as a very well known Smallmouth area.
LOADED WITH BASS
The first stop was upriver to the Hartland Bridge, which is the longest covered bridge on the planet and is as impressive as its title. Beyond the bridge is a fish sanctuary, so that was as far upriver as they could go.
The area was loaded with Bass, but most of them were on the small side—not exactly what the boys drove all the way to the east coast for. With so many fish in one area, though, strange things always seem to happen. For example, Ang had his jerkbait smashed by two small but very aggressive Smallmouth at the exact same time—and landed them both by the way!
Their next spot was a beautiful little offshoot of the main river. The problem with a spot like this is they were totally distracted by the gorgeous scenery. It’s hard to believe that such a sweet little honey hole could harbour a whole whack of smallies. But it did!
ANOTHER PIECE OF THE PUZZLE
As is quite typical in the Maritimes, the temperature changes come fast and furious. So you find yourself constantly changing not only your clothing but your presentation as well. It’s an ongoing struggle trying to figure out what the fish are feeding on, but every once in a while the fish gives up another piece of the puzzle.
Believe it or not, Ang caught a Smallmouth with a brown/orange Senko and, lo and behold, the fish also had a Crawfish in its mouth exactly the same colour as the bait. So if the smallies are eating orange and brown critters, cast something orange and brown and you can’t go wrong!
BRAVO NEW BRUNSWICK
The Saint John River and its tributaries was a huge surprise for us. The quantity and quality of the fish in that water is staggering. That there’s so little fishing for these smallies is even more remarkable. But if Jeff Wilson does what he does best, and our viewers see this, the New Brunswick Sport Fishing Association better be ready for an onslaught of phone calls and emails!
New Brunswick has once again proven itself worthy as a prime destination for anglers of all preferences: blue water for Tuna, moving water for Stripers, and now fresh water for Smallmouth Bass.
Bravo New Brunswick!