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Tracking Striped Bass in the Saint John River

27545 Views 92 Replies 30 Participants Last post by  CRI Bass Tracker
Hey Everyone,

I just wanted to start a thread about the Mactaquac Aquatic Ecosystem Study (MAES) that is now underway here in Fredericton and throughout the Saint John River.

I am a new PhD student at the Canadian Rivers Institute at UNB Fredericton and my research will involve tracking Striped Bass in the Saint John River in order to located potential spawning areas critical to the remnant native Striped Bass population. through tracking, I will also be studying how Striped Bass use the habitat that is available to them within our watershed throughout the year. With the proposed and pending alterations to the Mactaquac Dam it is critical to understand how Striped Bass (both native and migratory) use our river system so that we can best inform the mitigation of any adverse effects caused by the dam's re-construction or removal.

For this project I will be implanting Striped Bass with V16 acoustic tags that are able to transmit a fish's position to underwater receivers for up to 10 years before running out of battery power. I will be able to monitor a tagged fish's movements throughout the river and along the Atlantic coast thanks to receiver lines in the Minas passage and along the eastern seaboard of the United States. Tagged fish will be identifiable by a small blue plastic tag attached to the back dorsal fin of the fish and each tag will have a unique 4 digit code (i.e. 0,826). If anyone happens to catch one of these bass it would be great if you could write down the tag number, record the length, weight and location of capture, let it go and let me know! I'm super interested to see where these fish go, and if that fish keeps swimming we may get another 8-9years of information from that individual.

Though as you can imagine, doing a study on Striped Bass across the entire Saint John River is a daunting task for anyone. As an avid fisherman I have helped biologists locate fish from the perspective of an angler and I have in turn been helped by anglers while working as a biologist. From this I have learned that if you want to find or learn about fish you could read a book or a report...but the best thing to do is to ask an angler! Anglers know the water, they know the fish and in my opinion there is nothing better than getting a good fishing story along the way. As I mentioned before, my key interest is to find Striped Bass spawning locations (though I realise that I'm a little late) so any information on spring aggregations of striped bass or reports of spawning behaviour would be greatly appreciated.

For those who have never seen this spectacle it typically involves a group of Bass splashing together on the surface of the water. These spawning events will generally take place in late May to early June in fresh water rivers (at or beyond the head of salt water intrusion) and often at dusk though they can really occur at any time of day. Usually Bass will select areas with good water flow to use as spawning locations.

Striped Bass will also stop feeding while spawning so if you've ever seen a group of these splashing fish and just couldn't get them interested in any lures you were throwing it may be an indication of what they were doing.

As always, I'm keen to learn what you know as anglers on the Saint John River and I'd love to share some stories, go cast a line and of course I'll try to answer any questions you may have about the project.

Hope to see you guys on the water!
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Is there similar work being done for other species?
So far there is a salmon project involving tracking salmon smolts in the headpond as well as work being done to look at adult salmon passage at the Mactaquac dam. There will also be a project on muskie beginning in the fall and work is being done on sturgeon. Our research group is also looking at flow dynamics, river bathymetry and pretty much anything else that could be effected in the river by the dam's alteration.

Visit the link to the Canadian Rivers Institute site for more details on the project and other fish related research
Cought a little 14 inch striper in gagetown creek the other day my buddy caught one smaller than that isn't this a sign of spawning in the river. With all theses smaller fish must be a good sign
I would say that is an excellent sign of spawning....probably 2 year old fish.....Way back in 1991 there was no limit or size limit

on Striped Bass and we never caught anything under 5 lbs in the Kenny near Hampton NB.

unfortunately any fish over 4" and up to 8" may not be from our area. they move from their spawn river as very small stripers
ipop.....I thought Big Stripers could be migratory fish too.

The Biologist at Hampton NB asked us back in the 90's if we caught any Stripers could we bring them

to him so he could check them out.

I caught one Striper that was around 22 lbs and it's right pectoral fin was clipped.

He said NB and NS weren't stocking fish and he figured it could have come from as far away

as Maryland USA.

He wasn't sure which fin each State was clipping........He was really surprised to see a fin clipped

Striper in the Kenny.

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just remember - they want to tear down the dam
any info gained will be used to justifie this end

join the fight to save the dam and the green power it supplies nb
we need the dam
just remember - they want to tear down the dam
any info gained will be used to justifie this end

join the fight to save the dam and the green power it supplies nb
we need the dam
I'm not sure where you are getting this misinformation, but you shouldn't spread it around as if it was the truth. They are exploring 3 options, and yes one of them is removing the dam, the second is refurbishing the generating station, and the third is removing the generating station and maintain the earthen dam and spillway (which keeps allowing the car traffic / bridge).

If anything, I would think NB power / the province would be partial to refurbishing, as Mactaquac has paid for itself many times over, even with it's 'issues' and shortened lifespan. SImple logic suggests: why would you spend a ton of money to 'restore' the river if for the same price, even a bit more money, you can get more cheap and clean power to use and sell for decades? All the while not upsetting any of the headpond residents?

I'm not for or against any of the options. But I can certainly predict what will come of all this based on a bit of logical thinking.
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Bob, almost all, if not all of the stripers in the ST. John river system are migratory. the bigger ones from schoolies on up are about 70% or higher from the states - Chesapeake bay mostly but also the Baltimore river and other sources, Maryland would actually be a possibility, there has been stockings there from the Baltimore river striper restoration project, while Virginia, north and south Carolina stock heavily. at a guess about 30% of none stocked stripers come from ns, which is having a striper boom.

some of the striper have decided to stay here, and this is nothing new, the only real question is if they are managing to spawn successfully in real numbers. there are some small stripers out there - less than 4", but they are very very rare, while if we had any numbers spawning here, you wouldn't be able to fish a trout size bait without catching stripers. makes me wonder if they have been getting any in the dozens of eel tube nets out there...???

smaller stripers like 8-15" could be coming from the other smaller rivers on the bay of fundy, mostly west of sj, where some spawning is still thought to take place.

as for the dam... they knew they were destroying the spawning area and fishery when they built there - it has come out that the politicians hid this from us. they were originally going to build a little further up because of this, but a bigger head pond and a little easier build pushed it down river. part of this move included trucking the fish around the dam forever...yah, right. the fish elevator is very hit or miss - better than nothing but not by much. doing studies about the effects of the dam more than 40 years after it was built is a little laughable - they simply have no base line for what it was like before the dam. it's good to see some research, but I question the motives and are they trying to prove a point they have already decided on or doing real research?? we clearly need the power from the dam, and building another dam above the one there now is much harder than building below this one, which means less cost for building below - guess which they will chose to do?! even if they did the right thing and built above, it would be major work to remove the old dam, especially to restore it to close to pristine quality.
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Like sdavis I believe the dam will be refurbished with the new powerhouse located on the opposite side of the river.My only hope is that they build a proper fishway, where all species are allowed to navigate around the dam unimpeded or assisted by man.

This should be demanded and nothing less accepted.
Sorry for the late response, I've been busy with field work for the last few weeks (aka fishing for and tagging bass)...I love my job

yes there are three option for the dam re-construction

1: Re-build the dam with a new power station

2: Leave the earthen dam but remove the power station

3: remove the dam completely

As a biologist I have no say in what option is chosen by NB power and frankly I do not have the information on how the three options would effect the economy, local residents and so on to make a truly informed decision. Currently my job is simply to study Striped Bass in the river and inform NB power on what the population is doing and how they are using the river in it's current state (for spawning, feeding and overwintering). Once a decision is reached for the fate of the dam and re-construction/removal is completed it will hopefully be my job to assess how Striped Bass have adjusted to the new state of the river. Right now I am just doing my best to fill in this piece of the puzzle and hopefully provide us with the best Striped Bass fishery we can have in the future.

As far as the small bass go, any smaller fish is exciting and is great news but unfortunately anything longer than about 10cm could be from just about anywhere. A 14 inch Bass would probably be about a 3 year old fish (depending on origin) and can move a long way. In fact young of the year striped bass (so less than 10cm long) have been found 200 km from their home estuaries. The only way to really know the origin of a fish for sure is to run genetics.

I'll try to be I bit quicker on the questions next time, so keep them coming

- and thanks for the clarifications Ipop
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Hey everyone,

I've gotten a few question about how I tag Striped Bass and what the tags look like so I just posted a small gallery on (how to tag a bass). Hopefully it will answer some questions and spark some interest about work being done on the SJR.

During tagging we also take scale samples and a small clip from the caudal fin for genetics, hopefully I can fill in those pics soon but I think I covered most of the bases. I'll also try to get some pictures of tracking the fish posted in the next week.

Check it out if you get a chance.

-Also note the bass is sedated for surgery in a few of the pictures...AND NOT DEAD, so please don't take the pictures down.

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Really informative gallery additions. Nice job.
Just added a bit of tracking pictures/info to the gallery
you have alot of peoples dream
Well, I'm always looking for people to help me catch fish to tag
I would be interested in helping you with this project. What areas of the Saint John are you fishing I work out west and have two weeks off every month so lots of time for fishing
I'm pretty much working all over the place from Fredericton to the falls. I'd love to meet up and go chase down some bass, and if you already know some spots all the better! Just shoot me a note and I'll do my best to get you on the water and hopefully do some tagging.
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