Fredericton / Blog / 201704 / The Gaspereau Run – a New Brunswick Tradition

The Gaspereau Run – a New Brunswick Tradition

Fishing for Gaspreau - near Fredericton New Brunswick

As a child, I can recall my grandfather occasionally talking about the gaspereau fish, usually accompanied by my grandmother’s interjection of “I don’t know how on earth you eat those things with all of those bones!”  Until a few years ago, I only knew two things about them: they swam upstream through our small community of Fredericton Junction, and they had a lot of bones.

 Several years ago, my husband suggested that we take our children to the river that winds through our community to see the spring migratory spawning of the gaspereau, a herring-like fish that lives in the Atlantic Ocean but spawns in freshwater.  We found out what we needed to know - bag limit of twenty, fishing license required for the over-sixteen set (definitely us), and a dip net restriction between Friday at noon and Sunday at 8am - pulled on our rubber boots, and headed to what is known around here as Gaspereau Falls.  I expected it to be much like our other fishing excursions: fun, but ordinary.

Gaspereau Falls near Fredericton

Gaspereau Falls near Fredericton

 If you’ve never witnessed this spectacular display of Maritime tenacity, you are truly missing out.  For a week or two every May (depending on water temperatures and levels, it’s usually in the early part of the month), hundreds of thousands of gaspereau make their way inland, swimming against the current, leaping through rapids, teeming in shallow pools.  In one small spot, my husband counted one hundred fish pass by in sixty seconds.  It was breathtaking to watch.

Catching Gaspereau near Fredericton

My children were fascinated by these thousands of silver fish wriggling and leaping, and discovered very quickly that they can be hand-caught and released with ease.  From a parenting perspective, I loved that they were able to witness this event, but also participate in local folklore, in this time-honoured tradition that dates back to the Maliseet settlements along the South Oromocto River.  They can chat with the local fellows who set up their chair and catch and clean their fish right on the shores.  They are excited to pair our catch with fresh-picked fiddleheads for a true Maritime supper.  There have even been songs written about the lowly gaspereau.

catching Gaspereau near Fredericton

Where to go

The best area to view the gaspereau run happens to be extremely interesting in and of itself.  Visitors can park at the end of Currie Lane in Fredericton Junction, the site of the Currie House, the local historical society.  Behind the Victorian house and barn is a trail system filled with wonderful carvings by local artist Robin Hanson, as well as information stopping points to read more about local folklore and Maritime history.  The trail system is an easy, short walk for little feet.  Additionally, there is a natural playground at the mouth of the trails, and a self-serve log-rolling challenge set up along the path.

The easiest way to get to the falls area is to approach the river from the trailhead at the left of the barn, and access the river bank to the left of the trail before crossing a bridge and pond.  Then you can travel to the right along the river bank to the rapids.  Because of the dip-net restriction previously mentioned, the best time to view the gaspereau run is on a Sunday afternoon or Monday, since commercial nets downstream must be lifted during the weekend.

My children are already eagerly anticipating many trips to the river this spring to watch the gaspereau run - I highly recommend an afternoon spent enjoying this phenomenon on the banks of the river, learning and sharing in new experiences.

A great Gaspereau catch! Near Fredericton

Helpful links:

http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/perspectives/262286/restoration-of-the-alewife

http://www.inter.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Maritimes/Recreational-Fisheries/Gaspereau

http://www.unb.ca/research/institutes/cri/links/inlandfishesnb/Species/alewifegasp.html

http://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/nr-rn/pdf/en/Fish/Fish.pdf