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Cold Water Cowboys on Discovery Canada

On April 21, 2016 I had the chance to chat with Conway Caines from Cold Water Cowboys on Discovery Canada. We discussed the effects of climate change, our experiences with the gov’t and MNR, and fish farming.

Conway stated that they are seeing many changes 
due to global warming. Before, the herring were near the surface but now they are 20 fathoms down and harder to catch. Lobsters were 15 fathoms and are now 30 fathoms, also the lobsters are moving from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland. Capelin are not coming in to shore to spawn but going deeper (this may effect their hatching and juvenile survival rates). The mackerel are also not coming close to shore. He noted that the weather is also changing. While there are better forecasts, every day there is a storm and it’s the worst in 20 years, he has seen. He has also seen the ocean currents changing. More cold fresh water is coming down from the melting polar caps, along Labrador and mixing with the warmer salt water.

We then discussed the safety on the boats. I noted that it doesn’t look that safe (from a safety professional view). He pointed out that the boats are required to have certain safety gear, like flares, CO2 bottles, emergency generators, etc. but the gov’t weren’t keeping up their standards. The crab field was full out but there were no harbor buoys at the harbors. We then discussed our (Canadian experiences with the gov”t and the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). When we started our club, we had great help and leadership from Andy McKee from the MNR. We had originally written a brown trout stocking proposal to the MNR (1998) and had it approved. They wanted brown trout and brook trout in our section of the river. Over the 5-6 years, we had hatched 30,000 wild brown trout into the upper Saugeen River. We had successfully completed numerous river habitation improvements. You can see these in the sections titled Hatchery and Restoration. We had started to see the results, and then things suddenly changed. First, the MNR did a temperature study of the upper Saugeen River and they said the brown trout would not survive. I saw where one of the temperature probes was located, 3 ft of water, in sunlight. No trout would ever be found there. They are in deep holes, undercut banks, up cooler streams, near springs and behind aquafires, during the hot summer months. Brook trout, which have a lower tolerance for heat stress survive in the river and I have caught them in the main river in early August. Their methodology was flawed. Other MNR reps have came and told us that the study was wrong but nothing was ever done to correct it. Then they asked us to write a stocking proposal with another club. None one our clubs ideas were used and the new MNR rep for the area garnered support to shoot it down and nothing has happened since.

Conway and myself then discussed fish farming and hatcheries. We are definitely both against fish farming. He noted that the salmon do escape their pens, and will detrimentally effect the wild stock. Also they use chemicals to kill sea lice. These chemicals kill the lobsters and crab in this area. We both agreed that if you want to do fish farming, do it up on the land and leave our oceans alone. Hatcheries have not been very successful in improving fisheries. I noted that they have been stocking the lower Saugeen River with lake run brown trout yearlings and one members of that club told me that not one adult has come back up the river to spawn. Brown trout will only come back to where they were hatched. One study took 100 brown trout from their river system and transported them to another river system. 99 of the 100 swam all they way down the river, across the lake and all the way back up (he must have found a real cute female, you know men…). 
We would like to thank Conway for a great interview. 

Wayne Sheridan works full time at Dare Foods in Kitchener as an oven captain/baker (BCMA Bakery Master) and JHSC co-chair union(WSPS certified level 2, Professional level 2). We make, at our plant, such great products as Vinta, Breton, Breton Bites, Ultimate cookies, mini Bear Paws, and Breaktime cookies.
Wayne has done extensive research on brown trout at the University of Guelph library, written articles for Water and magazine. Andy McKee, MNR once stated the “Wayne is one of the top 3 brown trout experts in Ontario.”

Wayne Sheridan