This trip happened in May, sorry it took me so long to get around to writing it. I promise the Cross-Canada report will be coming eventually as well!
Day 1 (May 20th) – Lifers Already!
5:00 AM wake-up and we were on the road to begin the first leg of our journey across the continent. We had just about a week to explore the three closer Maritime Provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. The drive over to NB was about 8 hours long so we appreciated being able to switch drivers.
First stop of the journey was to a set of rapids on the Oromocto River to see if we could get into some Alewife and maybe Blueback Herring. Upon arriving, we spied a few families fishing in the fast water using dipnets, a very good sign! We hurried to the river and it didn’t take us long to realize that it was teeming with fish! It proved difficult to get them to take a hook but eventually we both succeeded in landing some, our first lifers of the trip.
Next, we drove down some back-roads to get to a small creek that I had heard was supposed to have a good population of Slimy Sculpin. Most micros don’t interest Alex very much so she stayed in the car while I made the quick trek through some thick woods. The water was incredibly clear and I quickly found some sculpin laying right on the current seam. A short bit of fishing with a small worm and another lifer was mine! Driving out of this area was not as easy as catching the fish though. The route Google Maps suggested took us down what was little more than a trail, with large rocks, small stream crossings, and ruts. I wasn’t too happy to give the Matrix a beating this early in the trip.
After successfully navigating the “road”, we made our way to Hopewell Rocks to see the famous flowerpot formations. The natural sculptures were cool, but the Stickleback and Topminnows in the surrounding marshes were even cooler! One of my big goals was to catch the remaining 4 species of Stickleback in eastern Canada that I had yet to encounter. I’m happy to say that the Hopewell Rocks tidal marshes provided me with some beautiful male Threespine Stickleback, as well as a Mummichog (little did I know Mummichog would be found absolutely everywhere).
After a long day, we drove to our home for the night: a nice campground called The Shire. It’s a free area to spend a few nights and is run by an older gentleman by the name of Don. He only asks that you walk across the road to greet him and sign-in before spending the night. Apparently, he’s been doing this for a good 20 years; I was amazed by his generosity. The area had a sort of hippie-era feel with lawn sculptures, VW buses, and a communal eating area. To my delight, it was also home to some Ninespine Stickleback which I found in the marshy area behind the campsite :)
Day 2 (May 21st) – Change of Plans
The original plan for Day 2 was to travel south into NS and down to Kejimkujik National Seashore. However, upon checking the weather and realizing that it was one of our last days with clear weather, we decided that it would be a good time to go check out Cape Breton and its incredible views. The drive around the cape was longer than expected and took a majority of the day to complete. I did a little bit of micro-fishing but we mainly focused on being tourists and taking advantage of the views and good weather. Cape Breton is incredible! The road hugs the outer edge of the island and winds its way up and down steep hills that plunge down into the Atlantic. The different viewpoints were almost all worth stopping for and offered vantage points over a deep turquoise ocean. The contrast of the turquoise with the rich green of the rolling hills creates a beautiful setting that definitely makes this one of the most picturesque areas in Canada. We enjoyed having lunch at Lakies Head and watching the waves crash onto smooth granite as the lobster boats drove by in the distance.
This day also marked the first time Alex and I had the opportunity to hear Acadian French; we were confused when we heard what sounded like an Anglophone trying to host a French radio station. Alex described the accent as “a weird mix of Quebec and France French spoken through the voice of a Canadian English person.”
We ended the day by gunning it all the way to Carter’s Beach at the other end of the province, where we made our camp for the night.
Day 3 (May 22nd) – Saltwater Species
We woke up to an amazing sunrise over the white sand beach; it was beautiful. Alex went to explore the beach and see some seals while I packed up the car for the day.
The next activity of the day was a hike down to the Kejimkujik National Seashore. We saw deer, rabbits, and seals, but overall we were unimpressed with this Oceanside area. Carter’s Beach is only 10 minutes away and is much nicer.
We then made the 2-hour drive to Peggy’s Cove, one of the more popular tourist attractions in NS. We understood why: it was exactly what you’d expect a small Maritime fishing village to look like. Large boulders worn smooth by the pounding of waves, and a protected harbour with lobster boats waiting to be taken out to check traps. To top it all off, a majestic lighthouse sat on the highest point of the outcrop, allowing for some awesome photo opps. Alex took the opportunity to send a postcard back home; apparently the lighthouse doubles as a post office.
I also tried a little bit of fishing in the harbour, but only found juvenile Atlantic Cod, a species I had previously caught in Massachusetts and Saguenay.
Today was going to be the only day I would target fully saltwater species. A friend had given me a spot at a pier nearby where I should have a good shot at Cunner, Shorthorn Sculpin, and Longhorn Sculpin. Alex dropped me off at the spot and we parted ways because she wanted to go explore Halifax. I didn’t have any regular saltwater bait so I just fished with nightcrawlers on a pickerel rig. It didn’t take long to catch a Cunner; they usually found the bait within 10 seconds as long as you kept it close to the bottom and near the pillars of the pier.
After checking Cunner off the list, I tried casting further out to see if I could catch either Sculpin species or whatever else happened to be swimming by. It took a couple hours of dragging my rig slowly along the bottom before I had my first solid hit! A short fight later and I was looking at my lifer Longhorn Sculpin, what a crazy looking fish! Many of my friends described it as a dragon-fish; I have to agree given its crazy shape and large spines. I’m still not sure if these guys are venomous or not…
I kept casting in hopes of getting lucky and hooking a Shorthorn, but just couldn’t get away from the Longhorns. Finally, I felt a smaller tap and dragged in what I expected to be yet another Cunner. What came up over the side of the pier initially looked like a smaller Longhorn but upon closer investigation was my lifer Shorthorn Sculpin!
A couple hours of fishing later and Alex came back to pick me up. Our next destination was Fort Beausejour, which we planned to explore before heading to a nearby camping spot. BTW, I used “freecampsites.net” to find most of camping spots this trip, we only spent $70 in accommodations for all 6 weeks of travelling. We got gas and washed our hair at a gas station before driving into the fort. It was pretty cool to see overall; much of it was what you’d expect an old fort to look like, but it did have a good view over the Bay of Fundy.
Day 4 (May 23rd) – PEI
Day 4 was dedicated to visiting Prince Edward Island. Therefore, the day started with crossing the Confederation Bridge: a 13km long bridge connecting PEI to the rest of Canada. It was quite an impressive structure although we weren’t looking forward to paying the $50 toll on the way back out XD Upon arriving on the island, we soon noticed that there was red dirt everywhere: roads, fields, cliffs, etc. We also enjoyed seeing the houses which were painted with bright colours such as turquoise, pink, and orange.
Our first stop was at a small village called Victoria-by-the-Sea. Honestly, it was quite disappointing; it looked much better in pictures on the internet. One nice thing about PEI is that everything is very close together, so messing with our itinerary was not an issue. In fact, we never drove more than an hour at a time :p So we headed to North Rustico, an area where I should have a shot at a Blackspotted Stickleback. I fished for an hour but could only find Threespines and Mummichog, the Blackspotteds were nowhere to be found.
We drove along the Coastal Scenic Parkway in order to get a good view of the famous red cliffs as we headed to our next destination. Along with Thunder Cove Beach, we thought it offered the best views of the cliffs so it was well worth the drive.
Our final stop on the island was to eat dinner at the Chip Shack in downtown Charlottetown. It ended up being the highlight of our quick tour of the province. The lady who runs the place is super outgoing and enthusiastic; it seemed impossible to not have a good conversation with her! The food was delicious; I had a lobster roll while Alex enjoyed fish and chips.
Day 5 (May 24th) – Deception & Exhaustion
Day 5 began with a visit to Kouchibouguac National Park, where we would finally get to take a shower! Since it was the first shower of the trip, it was an incredible morale booster to finally feel clean. Despite being in a relatively uninteresting location compared to the national parks out west or even in Cape Breton, Kouchibouguac had a large beach and a cool saltwater marsh. This latter area particularly interested me as I had some intel that it contained the 2 remaining Sticklebacks that I needed to complete my slam. We ate lunch on the boardwalk that crosses over the marsh before I set up to catch some micros. I could see large schools of something small below us so I was excited to get started. The fish I was seeing ended up all being Mummichog, but I was noticing some smaller, more discrete fish darting in and out of the kelp. They were Stickleback! I caught many of them, but did not have a field guide so was unsure as to whether they were Threespines or the Blackspotteds I was looking for. After a good amount of tanago fishing, I switched to my dipnet and succeeded in catching a consolation Fourspine Stickleback! On the way out of the park, we stopped to use the internet and I confirmed that I had caught a Blackspotted Stickleback! Slam complete.
Next we arrived in Miramichi, we were simultaneously amazed and dismayed to see at least 200 boats on the river in front of us :o It was the day before the annual Striper Cup so there were many anglers prefishing. With stories of 600 fish days and non-stop action, we were getting antsy to cast a line in the water. Armed with 50lb braid and heavy swimbaits, we launched our lures as far as we could into the strong current of the river. Unfortunately, I was having an issue with my reel where the bail would snap shut if I made powerful casts. This led to me quickly losing all of the expensive baits I had bought specifically for Stripers. The day did not pan out as expected; the bite was off. We fished for hours without seeing a fish or getting a single hit; other fishermen we met on the bank told similar stories. After trying every spot I had researched, we were losing hope so gave up and made PB&J’s. Before leaving, we tried one last Hail Mary spot located on a rocky shoal where we could wade a good distance out into the river. It payed off! First cast and I had a fish on! Same for Alex! We were getting hits and/or catching fish every cast. We ended up catching about 50 Striped Bass total, even after the tails on our last swimbaits had been ripped off by the aggressive fish.
The sun had set while we were catching fish so we made our way back to the car before it got too dark to find our way. We then gunned it to make some headway back towards home. Alex did the bulk of the driving and kept us on the road until 2AM despite bad driving conditions. We made camp down a rough road into crown land.
Day 6 (May 25th) – Heading Home
We woke up to a loud, incessant clanging sound. Confused, we got out of the car and investigated to find the source of the noise. It was a woodpecker that had decided that a metal trail sign would perhaps contain some delicious grubs lol.
Turn out we had set up camp in the wrong area, likely due to our exhausted state the night before as well as confusing signs. We wanted to hike to the “Grotte des Fées” which translates to “Fairy Grotto”. It didn’t take us long to reorient ourselves and we soon made our way up the trail. The grotto was a pretty cool sight and we were glad we made the stop; it was nice to get off the beaten path.
That hike concluded our planned activities for the trip, so we prepared to make the rest of the drive home to Montreal. We drove along the 132 and enjoyed views of the Gulf of the St-Lawrence for a good part of the way home :)