Below we share the latest edition of The Water Strider, News from Clean Annapolis River project (CARP)
The Fish Edition
Fish Habitat Restoration
While threats to fish populations are numerous and diverse, the degradation of freshwater habitats remains one of the most significant contributors to the observed decline of species. Much of this habitat loss has been attributed to modifications of the physical environment by human land-uses. In order to strategically guide our fish habitat restoration efforts, we have identified priority subwatersheds within the larger Annapolis River watershed. Two of our high-priority subwatersheds are the Fales River and the Round Hill River. Both of these systems have sections of suitable spawning habitat for trout and salmon, and in recent years, young salmon have been reported in each system.
The Round Hill River, not unlike many rivers in the Annapolis River watershed, is greatly affected by human alteration and land-use changes within the sub-watershed and as a result, ideal in-stream fish habitat has been lost through channel modification, sedimentation and alterations to water quality. In the late 1990’s, CARP installed various structures along the Round Hill River to enhance the physical characteristics of the watercourse, stabilize the banks to allow for re-establishment of riparian buffer zones and encourage salmonid spawning and rearing within the river. In recent years it was determined that many of these structures were too small and spaced too close together to be most effective. CARP’s recent work in the Round Hill River has been focused on removing, updating, and/or re-installing structures that are better suited for the layout of the river.
Initial in-stream habitat restoration work was conducted on the Fales River from 1999-2002, and included the installation of digger logs, deflectors, log cribs and low flow barriers, with the goal of adding complexity and improving habitat quality in the long, flat stretch of river that contained little in-stream cover and severely eroding banks. In 2017, CARP staff began planning an additional series of activities, including the restoration of pre-existing digger logs, deflectors and log cribs, as well as the addition of new digger logs and deflectors, and SandWanding along various stretches of the river. This work was carried out in 2018 and 2019, and in 2020 work focused on follow-up Habitat Suitability Index assessments and initial monitoring to identify human-caused sediment sources. Sediment monitoring will be continued in 2021, with the longer-term goal of developing mitigation measures to reduce sediment pollution.
Fish habitat objectives for the 2021 season:
- To install four in-stream structures on the Round Hill River to enhance and restore fish habitat
- To assess the fish habitat quality, quantity and usage in the Fales River and Round Hill River through data collection and analysis. This will be done by conducting Habitat Suitability Index assessments, collecting water chemistry data, and monitoring seasonal changes in water temperature using temperature data loggers.
- To identify key sources of land-based sediment pollution in the Fales River, using a series of sediment traps at 7 sites throughout the target reach.
- To provide targeted education to recreational anglers about the threat of aquatic invasive species and engage anglers in citizen science data collection.
- To educate local residents, business owners and youth about the ways they can positively or negatively impact Atlantic salmon habitat in their community.
- To deliver targeted education and outreach programs in order to reduce known threats to Atlantic salmon and their habitat, such as sediment pollution, and illegal ATV use.
How to identify an Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)
What to Look For
- Adults are dark on the back and silvery on the lower sides and belly
- When spawning in freshwater both males and females become a bronze-purple colour, with reddish spots on the head and body. Spawning males develop a hook-like tip of the lower jaw known as a kype
- Young Atlantic salmon (parr) have 8-11 pigmented bars along each side alternating with a row of red spots
- Very few spots below the lateral line
Brook trout vs Atlantic salmon parr
Is it a salmon or a trout?
Brown trout are also often confused with Atlantic Salmon. Brown trout have the ability to change color to suit their environment for concealment. After a trout makes a sea run they change to a silver color, but will return to their brown coloration once they make their way back to fresh water systems. There are often many spots on the gill plate, as well as spots under the lateral line.
With both salmon and trout having colorful spots, and both changing colors when entering salt and fresh water systems, the fish can easily be confused. The most obvious difference between salmon and brown trout may be found in the head and tail areas. On salmon, there are a limited number of spots on the gill plate, and the caudal fin may be slightly forked and on the brown trout, the caudal fin is square and unforked.
Both brown trout and Atlantic salmon are of the Salmonid family of fish, so not only do they look similar, but both are also gravel spawners, depositing their eggs in the gravel bed of our rivers leaving them one of Nova Scotia’s commonly misidentified species of fish.
Addressing the threat of invasive fish to at aquatic species at risk in Nova Scotia
This project brings together a collective of partners who are working to address the threat of aquatic invasive species to our native aquatic ecosystems, including species of conservation concern, such as the endangered inner Bay of Fundy (iBoF) Salmon and Atlantic whitefish and the NS Southern Upland population of Atlantic salmon, listed by COSEWIC as endangered.
Early detection and monitoring are key elements in any invasive species management program. One of the major components of this project involves the development and piloting a citizen science angling program, Fishing for Info NS (FINS), that can be used for early detection and to monitor the spread of AIS, while also collecting data about our native fish species.
Volunteer angler data is compiled into a geodatabase and shared with a wide variety of partners, including the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, to support their ongoing work related to invasive species, including rapid response in the case of new introductions. Adding to the current knowledge of AIS distribution also allows partners working on aquatic connectivity projects to use that data in their planning processes. Another component of this project, led by the Nova Scotia Salmon Association’s Adopt-a-Stream program, was the development of an aquatic habitat connectivity planning tool that considers how restoration actions might facilitate the spread of AIS. Resource materials and training are being provided to conservation organizations across the province, so that they can factor the threat of AIS into planning for future restoration projects.
Fishing for Info Nova Scotia
The primary objective of Fishing for Info NS (FINS) is to develop and trial a standardized citizen science protocol that can be applied by volunteer anglers throughout Nova Scotia. Data will be made available to support informed and timely fisheries management actions by filling spatial data gaps and contributing to the early detection of AIS. In addition, the pilot program will promote awareness and knowledge of AIS, contributing factors to their spread, and their impacts on native species including species at risk populations (i.e. Atlantic salmon, Atlantic whitefish) in Nova Scotia. The increased knowledge and awareness among the angling population gained through the program is hoped to lead to a reduction in the spread of AIS through deliberate introductions by anglers, and unintentional introductions through transportation and release of baitfish between systems.
Upon registration to the program, volunteers will receive an Angler Kit including an angler diary effort card, stepwise program instructions, tips for taking fish measurements, reporting guidelines for both aquatic invasive species and species at risk, and instructions for post-angling season data submission. Volunteers are then asked to select the site(s) they plan to monitor for aquatic invasive species. Those sites can be visited as much as time allows during the fishing season, however for the purpose of the program, we ask volunteers to try to make a minimum of 2 visits to their selected site(s) throughout the season.Register as a Volunteer
Eat your invasives!
Looking for some inspiration on how to prepare your invasives? Check out this chain pickerel and crab cake instructional video by Matt Szeto of Fish on Guide Service
Watch the Video
Aquatic Invasive Species in Nova Scotia
The two aquatic AIS in freshwater ecosystems of greatest concern in Nova Scotia are the Chain Pickerel (Esox niger) and Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu).
Smallmouth Bass were legally introduced to a handful of Nova Scotian lakes in the 1940s; since then, they have spread into at least 188 lakes and rivers. Chain Pickerel were illegally introduced into three lakes in 1945 and are now in at least 95 lakes. Both have spread either through further intentional introduction between watersheds or via natural dispersal within watersheds. Smallmouth bass and chain pickerel transform freshwater ecosystems by occupying the niche of top fish predator. Although smallmouth bass is a favourite of anglers, it directly consumes small-bodied fish or out-competes them for food. Chain pickerel and smallmouth bass rapidly displace native speckled trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), along with other species favoured by sport fishers. Chain pickerel is a voracious predator, and few soft-bodied fish can coexist with this species. Besides its effect on fish populations, the ecological changes caused by chain pickerel can negatively impact other wildlife, such as mergansers, turtles, kingfishers, eagles, mink, and otter.
Despite stewardship and education, smallmouth bass and chain pickerel continue to spread through illegal transfers between watersheds.
What you can do
- Inspect your boat, motor, trailer, and boating equipment such as anchors and fishing gear, centerboards, rollers, and axles. Remove any animals and plants that are visible before leaving any waterbody.
- Drain water from the motor, live well, bilge and transom wells while on land immediately before leaving the waterbody. Wash or dry your boots, waders, boat, tackle, trailer, and other boating equipment to kill harmful species that were not visible.
- Do not release or transport live bait, and become familiar with AIS in Nova Scotia.
- Some aquatic species can survive more than two weeks out of water. Therefore, it is important to do the following to any gear, waders, and boats: Rinse with hot water, Spray with high pressure water (250 psi), Dry your boat and gear in the sun for at least 5 days before transporting them to another body of water.
Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu)
- This is a robust fish with a laterally compressed body, a large, long, head with dark bars which radiate back from the eyes.
- It has a long, blunt snout with a slightly longer lower jaw, the protruding, lower jaw extends beyond the middle of the eye.
- The sides are lighter than the back, more golden with golden flecks on most scales and marked by 8 to 15 pronounced to vague, thin vertical bars and no lateral stripes.
- The back and top of the head is brown, golden brown through olive to green
- The underside is cream to white
- They have red eyes, brownish body, two joined or notched dorsal fins that appear as one, one spiny and one soft.
- It’s body color is variable with size, condition and habitat, in clear water they are darker with pronounced, contrasting markings, in turbid water, they are lighter with vague or blurred markings.
Chain pickerel (Esox niger)
- The Chain Pickerel is named for the dark chain-like patterns on its greenish sides.
- The long slender body with a chainlike pattern varies in color with bright green to olive green to brown background.
- Chain Pickerel’s long, slim body somewhat resembles that of a northern pike.
- Large, long head with dark bars radiating back from the eyes. Dark vertical bar beneath each eye.
- Dorsal fin located back towards long and deeply forked caudal fin.
- No marlins appear on the tail or fins.
- Cheeks and gills are completely covered with scales.
- The jaws are elongated containing large, sharp teeth.
Is it Smallmouth Bass or Perch?
Smallmouth bass can easily be confused with white and yellow perch. White perch have dorsal fins that are slightly joined at the base of the membrane compared to yellow perch which have completely separated dorsal fins. The dorsal fins on smallmouth bass are connected. Another reason perch and smallmouth bass are commonly confused is the spiny sharp dorsal fins that both fish have. Yellow perch have yellow/greenish sides with black vertical stripes. White perch varies in color, from olive to grey to silver with black on the back, and silver/white on the stomach. White perch have no vertical stripes that are found on smallmouth bass and yellow perch.
Both yellow perch and white perch are native to Nova Scotia. The name “white perch” is misleading, as these fish are not a true perch. White perch are part of a group known as the temperate bass family (Moronidae), which also includes striped bass. To make things even more confusing, in some areas, the name “white perch” is also used to refer to white crappie ) a member of the sunfish family!).
We want to hear about striped bass, American shad and Atlantic sturgeon on the Annapolis River!
The shad run is on in the Annapolis River, and we want to hear about your catches. We are asking anglers to record the number of fish they catch, amount of effort (hours fishing), and length of the fish they catch. Data can be recorded using the MyCatch app, using one of our FINS logbooks, or sent by e-mail.
We are continuing our work with the Striped Bass Research Team, and hoping to get more anglers recording catch data in the Annapolis watershed. This includes areas above and below the causeway, Allain’s Creek, and Bear River. We have log books and scale sample envelopes available for anglers.
Tagging Striped Bass (and other at-risk fishes) and collecting fish sizes and tissue samples (scales) are the main methods used by the Striped Bass Research Team for collecting information on habitat use, movement patterns, growth, and to calculate parameters useful for population dynamics modeling.
We are particularly interested in monitoring our anadramous fish (fish that migrate from salt to freshwater to spawn) now that the tidal turbine has not been generating for two seasons, to see how populations are responding.
Have you ever seen something huge jump in the Annapolis, but weren’t quite sure what it could be? Many people are surprised to learn that Atlantic sturgeon can be quite the aerial acrobats. While the verdict is out on why these fish leap, some researchers hypothesize it is a form of communication. A study from Florida found sturgeon were more likely to leap during the months of June. That seems to line up with the stories we hear from the Annapolis, but we would like to learn more. If you observe any Atlantic sturgeon this season, please get in touch to share your story!Email Our Aquatics Team
For anyone who uses a smartphone, consider downloading the MyCatch app by Angler’s Atlas as a way to log catch data and share it is conservation organizations, such as ourselves.
“Why get the MyCatch App?”
- Keep track of your catches
- Your secret spots stay secret
- New “Live Tracking” feature
- Works in remote locations, do not need service to use (will upload when back in service/wifi)
- Contribute to fisheries research
Learn More About MyCatch
Thank you to the funders who make our aquatics projects possible!
Do you want to see continued work on fish conservation projects? Consider joining CARP as a member. Membership prices start at $15/year for students, or $25/year for individual adults, and help us secure funds to keep these projects going.Become a CARP Member
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