Jim Laws has been following the bass situation in Miramichi for 15 years. He says the bass derby announced by the city at Thursday night's council meeting will be popular, but he believes there is enough bass in the river to allow fishing without limits, and that would benefit the city for much than a one weekend event.
Laws runs a store in Newcastle that sells electronics and hunting and fishing gear.
"What the DFO wanted when they started out was a count of 22,000 bass for 5 years (2000-2005) and then they would open the season," Laws said. But Laws explained that the counts went down over the 5 year test period, because the DFO started their counts late, something they admitted, he said.
"Then they started another 5 year plan (2005-2010) and said they wanted 33,000 spawners in the river before they would open a season." Laws says the count was 50,000 spawners and more during that time, and on the 6th year they released a figure of over 200,000 spawners in the river. Laws believes that figure would be over a million today.
Laws does not believe the DFO assertion that only spawning ground for bass in the St. Lawrence is between Strawberry Marsh and the Red Bank bridge. "Come on," he said. " They say any other spawning ground is false spawning, and yet three summers ago there was independant research going on in Richibucto, and they wanted to seine the river for small bass." Laws said the DFO would not allow the research and said the group wanted to use inappropriate equipmet (4 inch mesh nets). Laws believes thebDFO is trying to prevent any research that would identify another spawning ground for bass.
"That's what you are dealing with the people at DFO. They have an agenda. They are trying to protect the bass season in Quebec. They had their first season there in 25 years, and you could keep a fish 65 centimeters and under. I asked why Miramichi could not keep fish that big. DFO explained that all Quebec gets is big fish. They are trying to say there are no big fish in Miramichi and that's another reason to keep the season closed."
Laws says he knows people who have caught bass in Miramichi over 40 pounds. "I saw a picture of one fella holding his fish, the tail was touching the ground," Laws said.
"They do not want an open season. The DFO met with us (a group of interested fishermen) in December, and didn't say whether or not there was going to be a bass season this year. Last year Quebec announced their bass season at the mouth of the St. Lawrence six weeks before ours. We were only advised a few days before the season opened what the season was going to be. Quebec has not announced theirs yet for this year."
MO))) contacted DFO to ask about the bass season for 2015. Communications officer for DFO, Steven Hacey, said no decision has been made on the bass season in Miramichi yet, and no date has been set to announce it one way or the other. Hachey also said that the department has has preliminasry discussions with a proponant from Miramichi who is interested in having a bass toirnament in late May.
MO))) learned yesterday from another source, an announcement is due very soon, maybe as early as next week.
Laws predicts a tournament would be a big success, but an open season would have a much bigger impact.
"For the week or two that the season was open last year, it filled the place. You couldn't get a hotel room. My sales were way up on the bass equipment, but sales on salmon gear are in decline."
"They say salmon numbers are in decine all over the world, but why are they helping it?" Laws says the shad fishery is in decline, the gaspereau, and smelts. He blames the voracious bass.
"The gaspereau fishery is almost non-existant because there are too many bass in the nets to make it worth it. The smelts, the sea run trout. Just wait until the lobster fishery goes. They found one bass with 9 baby lobsters in its belly. It's a shame what's going on. These bass eat everything."
Laws blames the bass for spoling the salmon fishing on all the rivers in New Brunswiock, but says DFO is not convinced the bass are to blame.
"They checked the bellies of 300 bass last summer. They found a few bass with smolts in them. A few bass with smelts in them. Other than that they don't eat," Laws said. He questions when the tests were done and how accurate they were. Jim reports that there were bass caught last year with grilse in their mouth, and they still took a lure. "So you know, they are a vicious fish, and they will eat everything and anything."
Laws doesn't have an offical title, but says people call him rom all over, and he has taken it upon himself to find out what is going on.
"This is getting serious," he said. "People should take it upon themselves to get groups together and go down there and catch bass and throw them ashore. That's how serious it is getting."