Waves rolled into greet me as I stood waist deep in the water and cast into a strong wind. The wind was cool and the bright May sunshine made it a pleasant day to be out on the water. I was fishing a small shrimp fly and retrieving in short strips in an attempt to imitate the real thing. The first trout took with a strong pull and put up a spirited fight. I admired the silvery speckled trout for a moment before releasing it. I knew there were bigger fish to catch so I resumed casting with renewed enthusiasm.
My fishing trip took place a few weeks ago on the Bras d’Or Lakes in Cape Breton. As most people know the Bras d’Or Lakes, translated as the Arm of Gold are a large inland sea located in the center of Cape Breton Island. The lakes are basically a large enclosed body of brackish water with outlets to the ocean at Great Bras d’Or Channel, Bras d’Or Channel and via the canal at St. Peters. Only the Great Bras d’ Or channel at Seal Island provides a major water flow and as a result there is not much tidal movement in the lakes. However the lakes are salt enough though to support some 22 species of marine fish ranging from lobsters and herring to flounder, dogfish, hake, pollock and codfish. Most anglers however are after brook, brown or rainbow trout and Atlantic salmon.
The lakes cover 1100 square kilometers in area and have six major rivers draining into them, the Middle, Baddeck, Skye, Black, Washabuck and River Denys. While there is some fall salmon fishing most anglers come to the lakes to fish for trout. The beginning of fish farming in the 1970's saw the introduction of rainbow trout to the lakes. Today, regular stocking by the Provincial fisheries department combined with some limited natural reproduction ensures a population of trout to fish for. Brook trout also run into most streams and some large brown trout are collected every year mostly on the St. Peters side of the lakes. In recent years striped bass have started to show up more and more frequently. The current Nova Scotia record striper, a 57.9 pound fish, was caught in East Bay by Christian LeVatte in 2008.
Spring fishing for speckled trout is a popular activity and many anglers use bait, either sand shrimp collected from the rockweed with a fine mesh nets or power bait. Some anglers use flies and shrimp imitations or orange streamers work well. It is often windy on the lakes so I use a floating, weight forward line to help get my fly out to where the fish are.
With the season for rainbow and brown trout in the lakes now open for 12 months of the year anglers have lots of opportunity to fish for these species. The seasons for speckled trout, and other species are the same as in the rest of the Province. So if you get a chance this season head to the Bras d’Or lakes for some fun on our inland sea.
Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.