What makes fishing in New Brunswick so special? In my mind, that answer is easy. For a variety of reasons however, New Brunswick has remained a hidden gem in the sportfishing world.
Tucked away on the Atlantic coast with a laid back way of life, New Brunswickers have never been the type to brag about things. Due to this humility, many world class fishing opportunities may have been unfortunately overlooked. The region has been well known over the years for the famous Miramichi River and the Atlantic Salmon fishery and sadly, that resource has struggled, but that doesn’t mean you should cross New Brunswick off your fishing bucket list.
Obviously, planning a fishing vacation for most involves a trip with either family or friends with a plan to target one or two species at most. If that’s what works for you, I’ll never be the one to discourage it. But to truly try to experience as much of the incredible opportunities this beautiful province has to offer, I would recommend a slightly different approach.
Although some seasonal conditions may have an impact on what species you choose to target, establishing a “base” for your trip in a central location like the Capital City of Fredericton is a great place to start. Not only does Fredericton offer an abundance of outstanding fishing adventures, but it provides you with a central hub from which you can chase the fish of your dreams with no more than a 2 hour drive.
The Lower Saint John River:
Launching out of Fredericton puts you on the historic Saint John River, on a segment commonly known as the “Lower River”. The Lower River is a unique ecosystem that can be a challenge for even the most experienced angler. Flow is impacted by the Mactaquac Dam, located just a short distance upstream from Fredericton, but also by the tides in the Bay of Fundy which meets the mouth of the river in Saint John. Although challenging, spending time on the Lower River can be incredibly rewarding. Smallmouth Bass, Sturgeon, Striped Bass, Chain Pickerel and Muskie are just some of the species that can be targeted not to mention countless others. Some of which may not be on your immediate bucket list but will still all put a bend in your rod and a smile on your face.
The stretch of the Saint John River above the Mactaquac Dam is known by most as the Mactaquac Headpond or Mactaquac Lake. Another distinct section of the river, it offers a number of launch locations that will help you tailor your day based on where you plan on fishing. The first launch is located at the Mactaquac Marina. This is an ideal place to launch if your plan is to spend the day in what’s known as the Mactaquac Arm. The Arm is the smaller body of water near the Mactaquac Dam, separated from the headpond itself by a causeway, but it is accessible by boat through two large pipes that run under the road. The Arm is a little more protected from high winds, making it the perfect place to spend the day with a smaller boat or even a canoe or kayak. Smallmouth Bass, Chain Pickerel and even the occasional Largemouth Bass will be your most likely catches if spending time casting in The Arm.
A few miles further upstream you will discover the Town of Nackawic. A quiet New Brunswick town with friendly people and a real focus on what the river has to offer. In fact, the town slogan is “Nackawic, We Put You on the Water”. Over the last few years, the town has done some major upgrading to the boat launch and being located centrally on Mactaquac Lake, it is a popular location for tournament organizers and recreational anglers alike. The Nackawic area is another hot spot for trophy Muskie and also offers great Smallmouth Bass and Chain Pickerel fishing, all within a few minutes of the launch.
Carry on up the Trans Canada Highway just a little further and you will discover the Town of Woodstock. A historic rural town on the edge of “Potato Country”, Woodstock has everything you need to scratch your fishing itch. Launching in the Meduxnekeag River provides a number of options. Staying in the Meduxnekeag(commonly referred to as “The Keg”) gives you quiet, sheltered waters with healthy populations of Chain Pickerel and Smallmouth and growing populations of Largemouth Bass and Muskie. Leaving The Keg along with heading upstream towards Hartland will give Trout anglers a little something to get excited about. On top of great Smallmouth Bass fishing and a healthy Muskie population, Hartland is home to a great Rainbow Trout fishery. The waters around the World’s Longest Covered Bridge in Hartland can be a little tricky to navigate but with a little time and care, you can definitely be rewarded with some phenomenal fishing.
The second dam you will encounter on the Saint John River is the Beechwood Dam. Above Beechwood, you can find the Village of Perth-Andover. This section of the Saint John River is rapidly becoming known for being the Smallmouth trophy factory of the Maritimes. As always, there are countless species swimming in these waters, but the Perth-Andover area has become a bass anglers dream. Just this past season, this area produced the first 20 pound, 5 fish limit of Smallmouth Bass ever brought to the scales in a tournament in the province, along with a record number of 4lb Smallies being seen at virtually every event held on these waters. Whether by powerboat or motorless, if you’re a bass angler, you don’t want to pass on an opportunity to wet a line in Perth-Andover.
Kennebecasis River/Saint John River:
After you’ve spent a couple of days exploring upriver from Fredericton, don’t forget to spend a little time looking downstream as well. Here we venture away from the world of Smallmouth and Muskie and enter the territory of dinosaurs and massive Striped Bass. The Kennebecasis River and Saint John River come together just a short distance from where River turns to sea, but each provides unique opportunities.
The Kennebecasis River, although you may find Smallmouth, Chain Pickerel and others, is best known for its Sturgeon population. These prehistoric creatures cruise the waters of the Kennebecasis and are so prolific in the area that one popular section of the river has even been nicknamed “Sturgeon Alley”. Since it is a tidal section of water, no license is required and it is a popular place for many to start their season as soon as the ice is gone in the spring.
The Saint John River and Reversing Falls probably produce more 30-40lb Striped Bass than any other waters in the province. Although special care needs to be taken when fishing the Reversing Falls area, with a good boat and the right local knowledge, you can set yourself up to catch the fish of a lifetime. Even when the fishing is slow, being in the Saint John area to witness the force of the Highest Tides in the World colliding with the Saint John River, it will be an experience you won’t soon forget.
The Miramichi River and its tributaries are world-renowned for the Atlantic Salmon fishery. Although there has been a decline in Salmon stocks, it is still one of the most beautiful places in the world to step into your waders, pick up a fly rod and test yourself against the King of the River. The numbers may be smaller but the thrill of the fight remains the same.
If Salmon angling isn’t your thing, that doesn’t mean that the Miramichi isn’t the place for you. The spring run of Striped Bass up the Miramichi is second to none. These Stripers may not have the trophy size you can find in the Saint John area, but it’s not unheard of for anglers to catch over 100 fish per day during the spring run. With the popularity of events like the Miramichi Striper Cup, it’s safe to say that Striper fishing has become the fastest growing segment of the Sportfishing market in New Brunswick. Young or old, by boat or from shore, this fishery will have you rubbing your sore arms and smiling from ear to ear at the same time.
As long winded as this piece may have seemed, I’ve only barely scratched the surface of the sportfishing opportunities that New Brunswick has to offer. Sea Run Trout, Panfish, Brook Trout, Lake Trout, and some many more all cruise the countless rivers, streams, brooks and lakes in NB. Each of the locations I’ve highlighted can be reached with no more than a 2 hour drive from Fredericton and if you don’t mind traveling a little further, then you open up endless options. Whether you prefer big rivers or secluded lakes and backwoods streams, New Brunswick has something to offer you.
Next spring, hitch up your boat, load up your rods and head to New Brunswick for the fishing trip of a lifetime.
Fish On and Fish East!