Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Trout and Timing

On my way home from the beach last Saturday I noticed a patch of yellow flowers blooming at the side of the road. Robert knows that I have a camera in my purse at all times and happily, he doesn't mind pulling over in response to abrupt, unexpected cries of "Look at that!"  I got out and took some photos of the bright-and-early N.B. wildflower that without a close-range view, I might have mistaken for a dandelion.  This is Coltsfoot, also called "son-before-the-father" because the headstrong, perky flower comes up well before the leaves of the plant emerge.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

On Sunday morning it happened again.  A row of vehicles parked along the side of Highway 15 piqued my curiosity and Robert was directed off-course.  Below the causeway groups of fishermen decked out in vests and hipwaders were angling for trout in the waters of the Aboujagane River.  The opening of trout season is an important annual event involving New Brunswickers of all ages and I am told that when it happens to fall on a school day, children traditionally play hooky.

The men were catching Brook Trout (salvelinus fontinalis), a native East Coast species that is divided into two groups: stay-at-home resident brookies and their adventurous sea-run brothers.  The migrant or anadromous trout travel from their freshwater headquarters to the open ocean, stay out at sea for two or three months and return to the river to spawn in late summer/early fall.   The Brook Trout from N.B. have been known to swim as far as Newfoundland and the north shore of Quebec. They return from their journey with an iridescent silver colour and with more substantial body weight than their freshwater counterparts.  The sea-run trout are prized by anglers as the best-tasting.

Catch of the day
Conditions have to be perfect for the Brook Trout to survive a cycle of migration.  They need a non-restrictive passage to the sea,  Ph level of 5 or better,  and cool water that remains below 20 degrees Celsius even in the heat of mid-summer.  They are not tolerant to changing aquatic habitat;  oxygen-depleted water that has been polluted by industry, agriculture or effluent from cottages.  Their migratory patterns are altered each year and biologists often find it hard to accurately monitor the trout population.  The numbers must be improving, as this is the first year since 2007 that there are no restrictions placed on trout fishing in this region of New Brunswick.

It turns out that the mid-April appearance of those yellow flowers and the rise of trout from estuary streams are not unrelated events.  Fishermen know the signs: when the Coltsfoot is in bloom, the sea-run Brook Trout are on the move.  I am delighted to see both.