Sport fishing in Nova Scotia is undergoing a huge change, in part due to environmental change, but in large part due to human stupidity.
The first smallmouth bass I ever caught was in 1970 when we moved back to Canada and I was 15 years old. Bass had been in parts of Digby County since the mid-1940’s, put there by sporting groups, and they had been lightly stocked in a few other places. Don’t get me wrong, except for the disappointment that it wasn’t a trout, that bass fought hard and I was interested when I got it to hand – on my 5 weight fly rod!
However, since that time, many folks, feeling I suppose that “there are so many fewer trout around, so let’s throw a few of these in there” have been spreading bass illegally. What happens, of course, is that the remaining trout are then put under pressure, because the bass like the warmer water these days, and they compete with the trout for the same food. Some folks like to say they can “co-exist”, and while technically true, what that means is that the trout are substantially fewer than they were before.
We’ll be going up to Cape Breton soon, for my rendezvous with the sea run brook trout, but I hear that even there, someone put smallmouth bass around, and so the trout are diminished. It’s sad – and made worse because for some reason (watching American TV, taste, whatever) people catch and release bass, but still tend to keep trout!
This whole thought came to mind because this week I went in to a hole that my Dad and I found in the 1990’s. A small brook that empties into a stream that used to hold trout and salmon. The lake above this spot is renowned for bass, but when we found this little side brook, it was a trout haven. Over the last few years I’ve gone in every year, but there have been fewer and fewer trout, despite the fact I release every one I catch in there. This last week I went in and with the high water thought the trout might be willing to play. Instead, I found that even in the strong current, the only thing I could catch was smallmouth bass, including the lunker in the image.
The changes make me sad, because I love trout. Between the bass and that other invasive, chain pickerel (which is even worse on trout populations than bass), I begin to wonder whether my grandson Theo will ever get to catch any truly wild, large brook trout. The invasives and climate change may take their toll, but some of us are interested enough to do something about it. I’m a life member of Trout Unlimited, and I vote for candidates in Provincial and national elections who will stand up for the environment.
I hope some other people will think about that, too.