I recently watched an interesting show on CBC’s the Nature of Things about beavers and the important role they play in maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems.
Most people are familiar with beavers, and beaver dams. They are often a nuisance when they dam bridges and culverts and many anglers feel their dams also serve as a barrier to fish migration in small streams. This may be the case during low flows but usually in the fall, when fish are moving upstream to spawn, water flows are higher and most fish manage to get over or through them.
Beaver dams actually benefit the environment by stabilizing stream flows, reducing silt and providing habitat for fish and other wildlife.
Beaver populations are currently high throughout Eastern Canada. This means we have a lot of beavers, and beaver dams. The small ponds created by beaver dams have always been one of my favourite areas to fish and I know many anglers who share my enjoyment of fishing them. While most do not produce large trout many of the ones I fish have good populations of pan-sized trout. Ponds created by the dams are often deep. This depth provides protection for fish as well as a refuge from warm stream temperatures. In my experience many of these ponds also tend to have good populations of aquatic insects and leeches, all great sources of food for fish.
Fishing beaver ponds can sometimes be a challenge for the angler. In many cases the land around them is very marshy and to reach them you have to perform a footrace across the bog as the land sinks beneath you. In some cases alders will fight you all the way to the bank and can make fly casting a challenge. If you are lucky the pond you fish will be large enough for a boat or canoe. This can make for very enjoyable fishing as you quietly fish the area without worrying about sinking out of sight in the mud.
While beaver pond trout will rise for surface insects I have had my best success using worms or fishing leech imitations or big dragonfly nymphs. A sink tip fly line or weighted flies will help get your offering down to where the fish are. One thing you have to be cautious of when fishing in beaver ponds is beaver fever. Beaver fever is the common name for giardiasis, an infection of the small intestine caused by giardia. Giardia is parasite which has several hosts, beaver being one of them. Several friends of mine once contacted beaver fever after drinking water from a beaver pond so I am careful to wash my hands after a fishing trip to any beaver pond.
If you are not familiar with beaver ponds in your area a chat with local trappers should point you in the right direction. If you haven’t fished beaver ponds give them a try next season, you won’t be disappointed.
Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.