Forests, Fish and Wildlife
Prince Edward Island, the smallest province in Canada, is located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Canada's east coast. Just 220 kilometres (140 miles) long and six to 60 kilometres (four to 40 miles) wide, Prince Edward Island is connected to the mainland by a 14-kilometre (10 mile) bridge and summer ferry service. This island is the most densely settled province in Canada, with 138,000 residents, most of whom are dependent upon renewable resources for their livelihoods.
Where to Fish
Prince Edward Island offers 1,100 miles of coastline, deeply indented with many estuaries and bays. Other than barrier beach ponds, which can be found at the mouth of many streams, there are few natural lakes. However, there are more than 800 artificial ponds, many originally constructed as mill ponds.
Streams tend to be short and spring fed; most originating from springs that discharge 7C water in summer and winter. As a result, streams on Prince Edward Island are less dependent upon surface runoff and maintain good flows, even in summer. Fishing season for freshwater species begins on April 15th each year and while there may be a limited number of sport fish species on Prince Edward Island, but don't let that fool you! Recreational fishing on Prince Edward Island, both in freshwater and saltwater, is one of the best kept secrets in the angling world.
Angling Species: Brook (Speckled) Trout
Prince Edward Island is one of the few places in North America where the brook trout, also called speckled trout, is still king. The large input of mineral-rich groundwater, combined with short streams and large estuaries, has created ideal conditions for brook trout. Brook trout can be found in virtually every stream on the Island, with sea run trout, the fish most sought after by anglers, ranging from a half pound to six pounds.
Bait, fly or lures are used to take sea trout. Timing of runs varies from river to river, but many rivers have a run of sea trout beginning in mid-June and running until mid July. From the middle of June until early August, small dry flies are preferred.
The streams in Prince Edward Island are small, and rods from six to eight feet are preferred by fly fishers. Most trout fishing is by wading or from the river bank. Some anglers enjoy fishing in ponds where a small trailerable boat may be required. Most of the brook trout flies are tied on hook sizes from 10-16. Some of the more common freshwater trout flies include: royal coachman, dark montreal, white wulff, woolly worm, muddler minnow light and dark Cahill, and variations of the mosquito. Variations of the above mentioned and patterns unique to the Island can be discovered through local anglers. Salt water flies common to the Island include the shrimp, lobster and blockhouse. Popular saltwater baits, other than worms, include mummichog (locally know as gudgeon), shrimp, silversides and smelts. Suggested lures include daredevils, goldfish, lucky strike and gold and silver spin doctors.
Rainbow trout are an introduced species on Prince Edward Island, and there are only a half dozen streams where they can regularly be taken. The season for rainbows is the same as for brook trout with the exception of both Glenfinnan and O'Keefe's Lakes where the season is extended to November 15th. In the winter there is a put-and-take rainbow trout fishery in these two small lakes.
With habitat enhancement and stocking of Atlantic salmon smolts raised in semi-natural rearing ponds, there are now five principal streams where Atlantic salmon can be angled. These are the Morell, Valleyfield, West, Dunk, and Trout Rivers. Most of the salmon angled on Prince Edward Island are taken in the Morell River, on the north-eastern side of the Island. This is the only river on Prince Edward Island that is a scheduled river, and its main branch can be fished only by fly after June 1.
Although the salmon run is primarily composed of grilse, some salmon in excess of 20 lbs have been encountered. The season extends from June 1 to late November, but the best fishing for salmon occurs from mid-June to late July. Fishing for Atlantic salmon is by fly only. On the Morell River, many anglers enjoy trolling flies for salmon in Leard's Pond where a small boat is required. However, most angling for salmon is done by wading the main river. The river is comparatively small and most anglers choose fly rods not longer than 8.5 feet. Popular salmon fly patterns on the Island include: green machine, mickey finn and black bear with red or green butts. Advice on local fly patterns from resident anglers is advisable.
The Atlantic Salmon Federation works with the province, watershed and angling groups, industry and others who are interested in supporting healthy populations of Atlantic salmon in Island rivers and streams.
Other Freshwater Species
Other species found in freshwater include white perch, rainbow smelt, gaspereau (alewife) and the American eel. Perch can be taken from May until September. This fish was formerly restricted to barrier beach ponds, but in recent years has expanded its range to include a few artificial impoundments and estuaries. Rainbow smelt are caught through the ice with spears in winter; they are also fished from many wharves in late summer and autumn. Hundreds of "smelt shacks" cover the ice in estuaries and bays across Prince Edward Island. Although eels have traditionally been speared through the ice in estuaries, recreational opportunities with this species is limited.
Saltwater angling on Prince Edward Island continues to be the most underutilised component of the recreational fishery. The many estuaries and bays, along with offshore areas, offer excellent opportunities for recreational angling of a variety of saltwater species. No saltwater recreational licence is required. Deep sea fishing is a fantastic family outing, and is a great way to enjoy beautiful coastline vistas. Some of the species commonly caught during deep sea fishing excursions are mackerel and dogfish. Various deep sea charters are available throughout Prince Edward Island from mid-summer to early autumn. All required fishing equipment is available through the boat charter.
Mackerel can be exceedingly abundant and are superb fighters if taken on fly or even a spinning rod. There is no limit on the number you can catch, and when runs are on, anglers can fish from wharves or near causeways. Dogfish, a small shark, is another species of interest to the recreational angler. In autumn, dogfish can be so abundant that some commercial fishermen consider them a nuisance.
For those interested in larger fish, there are three species of non-maneater sharks caught off the coast of Prince Edward Island - blue shark, short-fin mako shark, and porbeagle. Although some shark species are abundant, catch and release is recommended because of their low reproductive rate. Fishing for these sharks is generally done in autumn. Chum is used to attract sharks to the vicinity of the boat. Most of the blue and mako sharks top out at about 100 pounds, but the porbeagle can run two to three times this weight. Sharks of this size are tremendous fighters. Most heavy duty saltwater rods and reels will handle these sharks and provide you with a thrill to remember.
North Lake, in eastern Prince Edward Island, boasts of being the "Tuna Capital of the World," with many bluefin tuna caught weighing in excess of 1,000 pounds. The tuna boom at North Lake took place in the mid-1970s, but was followed by many years with few tuna reported. The past couple of years have seen a return of the tuna and a subsequent resurgence in tuna charters off North Lake.