The Miramichi Salmon Association (MSA) is gravely concerned about the huge number of striped bass spawning in the Miramichi River estuary with estimates as high as 400,000 of these fish, almost 20 times more than the number of adult striped bass spawners required to meet their minimum conservation level.
At virtually the same time each spring there are approximately 1.8 million small Atlantic salmon smolts migrating from the Miramichi watershed towards the ocean. As these salmon smolts pass through the concentrated schools of striped bass, there is a dramatic risk that almost an entire smolt run could be consumed. Simple math indicates that if each bass ate only five salmon smolts, an entire year class of Miramichi salmon would be extinguished.
The MSA believes that this dramatic risk should not be taken! It has strongly recommended to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that an unrestricted fishing season should be introduced immediately to diminish the striped bass populations. Not only would this relieve conservation pressures on Atlantic salmon smolts, but would also provide for both a commercial striped bass fishery by First Nations and a very productive fishing season for New Brunswick anglers young and old.
While the evidence is anecdotal, anglers from the very restricted striped bass fishery in 2013 have reported that, by using large lures the same size as salmon smolts, and by fishing in optimal locations through which salmon smolts pass, it was easy to hook hundreds of bass by rod and reel in a single day. These stories strongly substantiate that Atlantic salmon smolts likely form a major portion of the diet for striped bass in these locations.
At its annual fall Directors Meeting, the MSA unanimously passed a resolution calling on DFO to implement a two-month unrestricted fishing season for striped bass in the Miramichi estuary, running from April 15 to June 15, 2014, and that it be continued in future seasons until the striped bass populations are brought down to a balanced conservation level.