Fishing Nova Scotia
I just got back from a delightful 2 week stay in my native Nova Scotia, and for one of those weeks, at least, I got to do a good deal of fishing! This was in and around Pictou County during the first week of my stay, with my father. During the second week, with my wife's family in the Annapolis Valley, I unfortunately did not get to do any real fishing, though I did visit a few good spots.
In the weeks leading up to my annual visit to my homeland, I'd been compiling this Google Map for Fishing in Nova Scotia, and while there I had the chance to try a number of the places. Many of the pinpoints on the map were given to me by friends who are avid fisherman, also from the area, and it was a real treat to try out some of their recommendations. Let's have a look at the ones I did get to visit, and you'll hear a bit of what I have to say about them.
Before we talk about fishing, though, let's talk about getting a fishing license! Wow, what an ordeal that was, I have to say. The first place I went to was the place I bought my license last year - Ferguson's Corner Store and Sport Shop in Westville. Unfortunately, since it was so close to the end of season, they'd already sent all of their unsold licenses back to the ministry. I proceeded to try two other places including Canadian Tire, with no luck. Fortunately, I knew where the ministry offices were located in McLelland's Brook outside of town. I'd give you the exact google link but it looks like the streetview car never went anywhere near the place. Sure enough, they had the out-of-province license that I need, and 60 bucks later I was in business.
First a couple of quick words about one place I really wanted to visit but could not find, Maple Lake. An old friend of mine recommended this place, and one evening with my 6 and 8 year olds I drove around the area a fair bit looking for it, but to no avail. I'd gotten pretty far down an old dirt road which I think was leading us to it, but then got to a part of the road that was washed out by rain, and had to turn back. Later my father told me that "Back Settlement Rd" would take me there, which can be seen on google maps near Centerdale. I never did get a chance to go try it because I ended up being happy enough with Grant Lake, that we just went back there 3 or 4 times.
Grant Lake was really easy to get to. It had been on my original list, and we ended up stumbling upon it the first night while looking for Maple Lake. I saw the sign for Centerdale and recalled that Grant Lake was along that road, so in we went. My 6 year old ended up being asleep by the time we got parked in an accessible spot, and I was just unable to wake him up to fish. So I did about 30 minutes of fishing as my 8 year old played in the water, and the two of us watched the sun set across the other side of the lake on this late August evening. What a beautiful spot, I have to say! And the 3 or 4 times we were there, probably only 5 or 6 cars drove by in all. Very private, but very accessible. You can see from the photos that you can park right alongside the lake, and the fishing spot is only a few steps away, and easily accessible by just about anyone. We never did catch anything, which was probably due to how late in the season we were there. The waters are probably most active at sunrise during that time of year, and I never did make it out for that time. I got in a couple of sunsets, and once just after lunch. Got a few nibbles at both sunsets, but nothing landed.
The easiest way to get there is to take highway 374 from Stellarton and head south. Go through Hopewell, and just a kilometer or two out the other side you'll see a sign for "Millstream Rd". The road turns in just before the church by Iona Park. Though it is grown in a fair bit more than in this streetview photo, so you do not really see the church until you are right on it.
Just turn in that road and follow it to the end and you are on the lake. At first you are on pavement, then you almost immediately cross the Western branch of the East River, at which point you then come to a crossroads with pavement to the left and right, and a dirt road straight ahead. Keep going ahead on the dirt road and you'll get there. At one point there is what looks like a Y and no real indication of which way to go. I took the right branch which turned out correct. I think the left branch just gives the power corporation access to the hydro tower that you can see from the apex of the Y. Then at another point you'll have a road merge in from the right - but it seems obvious at this point that the road you are on continues to the left, so do that. You'll very quickly see the lake, and will get to the end of the road. Turn right and you'll be driving along the length of Grant Lake, and when you get near the end you'll be able to identify the fishing spot.
Incidentally, a friend told me that he is pretty sure this lake gets stocked by the department of Fisheries.
Highway 374 near Ellen Brown Rd
My favorite spot the whole trip was hands-down this little brook smack-dab in the middle of the province on highway 374 between Stellarton and Sheet Harbour. The nearest landmark Ellen Brown Rd, about a kilometer towards Stellarton, so I call this "Ellen Brown's Rd". A friend recommended this place, and even though I only pulled out 2 moderately-sized brook trout, it did not disappoint! It was so serene here, both the twice I came out by myself at sunrise, as well as the once I took the family out here before noon. The brook is exactly 30.1 kilometers from the bottom of Foster Ave in Stellarton. Just reset your meter to zero, and head south on Foorde St and you'll find it at the 30.1 mark - could not be any easier. Late in August the pool is only active for about a half hour at sunrise it seems. I was there from 6am til about 7:30 am, and it was only active from about 6:30 til about 7:00. My friend who gave me the tip said that this concurs with his experience of the place this late in the season, though he said that earlier in the summer it can be active all day long. So late in the season you want to try baits that get you down to the bottom of the brook - maybe even some of the ones meant to rest right on the bottom. I had good luck with the Lucky Strike "June Bug", which was a new lure I picked up at Canadian Tire in New Glasgow. I'd never seen it before, even though Canadian Tire in Ottawa does carry a lot of Lucky Strike stuff. I landed 2 brook trout about 8 or 10 inches each, and had a number of other bites that I did not manage to land.
It was so wonderful being here at sunrise two days in a row. The first day I had my line in the water at about 6:50, and found it to be active for only about the first 10 minutes of the half hour I stayed. The second day I had my line in by 6:00, with no activity as noted above until 6:30. It then stayed active til about 7:00 once again. When we were here with the family around 10am a few days before then, you could hear some lumbering activity far off to the northeast, but at sunrise it was just me and Mother Nature, and nothing else whatsoever. I am certain that my vivid memories of this spectacular spot will nourish my soul until I get to return again next year. On both early mornings there was but a single car that drove by on the road the whole time I was there - and it was the same guy both times, at about the same time. Incidentally, because of all the logging trucks that go past during work hours, I would not recommend parking on the side of the road, nor fishing from there, as it could prove to be pretty dangerous given how fast they tend to drive.
There are a few good fishing spots along Sutherland's River, starting at Park Falls and working your way down toward the ocean. If you go to the bottom pool at Park Falls and just walk downstream a bit, there are some nice little pools when the water is higher, though on this trip it was a bit too low to do any useful fishing there.
Where the river cross Thorburn Rd downstream a fair bit from there is another decent spot with good sized pools both under the bridge at Thorburn Rd itself, as well as just immediately downstream from there where the old bridge was. Even when the water was as low as it was when we were there, the pools are a pretty good size and should have some brookies in there, even though we did not get any nibbles in the 30 or 40 minutes we stayed. I was in a bit of a hurry and had a few places on the river I had to visit in a 2 or 3 hour timeframe. Was mainly just sussing out spots based on preliminary research on google maps - and they all turned out to be pretty decent by the looks of it in any case.
Further down Thorburn Rd near the 104 (Trans Canada) I found a little dirt road that came off down toward the river. I think it is the one that shows up on Google Maps as a dead end - unfortunately, the streetview car did not go on Thorburn Rd so I could not confirm this. We were able to get the car down there a piece and ended up having to back it out when we were done, but that was easy enough to do. There was spectacular access to the tidal part of the river, just inland from where it enters into the Northumberland Straight. When the Sea Trout are running, this must be a pretty incredible spot to fish! Click through to my photos to see more pictures of it.
West River of Pictou
There are a number of "West Rivers" in Nova Scotia, the full name of each being the addition of the name of the bay or harbour it empties into. There are three rivers of Pictou Harbour - East, Middle, and West. I'd heard a fair bit about how good the fishing was on West River, but had never tried it out myself, so figured it was a safe bet during my stay. Heck, we were even at Frenchy's one day (a local used clothing store) when I overheard a couple of fellows in their early 20s talking about fishing. When I asked them about the best place to go for trout and bass, they immediately said "West River". It worked out especially well since my brother had his family at my father's place in Stellarton that day, and getting on into the evening as they were getting ready to pack up and head home to Truro, I really wanted to go fishing. So I suggested this place because it was on the way to Truro.
The only spot I got to try was right under the bridge of the old branch of the 104 Trans Canada, which is both very easy to get to, and very accessible to just about anyone who can walk, and even many people who cannot. The water level ended up being fairly low, but there were a few larger pools that we fished anyway, to no avail. When the water levels are higher I can see where this must be a fantastic fishing spot. We never got to try the other spot, further down river under the Durham Bridge. But we had plenty fun here just the same, with both of our families fishing up a storm. My brother had never taken his family fishing before so they especially had a lot of fun.
We also discovered a massive blackberry thicket right by the parking spot just down off the highway, and the kids enjoyed gorging themselves there for a while.
I only really got out twice during my week with my wife's family outside of Canning, and both times ended up being to no avail - did not even get to fish as you will soon see. But I did still have a lot of fun, and found out about a few other places that I will be trying on my next visit.
Hell's Gate used to be my favorite fishing spot about 15 years ago before I moved to Ottawa, but the morning I headed out here with the boys I was only to be disappointed. The power company has since fenced off the entire area and declared that it is forbidden to fish "within 142 meters of the bridge". Sigh. No doubt a ban put in place as a result of the reckless actions of a few individuals who spoiled it for everyone. Back when I used to come here, there were groomed trails with railings when the trail neared the river, and it was touted as a great spot to take the family hiking. It really made me sad deep inside to know that this is what it had turned into, and to not be able to take my boys there. Sure, there was a hole in the fence that we could have easily climbed through, but I had not desire to get arrested as a result. I guess it will have to live on in my memories, only.
The first place we went to on the creek required a 10 minute hike into the woods til we got to the old washed out bridge. We probably could have driven the whole way except for the huge mud puddle right at the start of the old logging road, which I did not feel like braving, site-unseen as to what was under there. But the hike was fun just the same, with me and my 2 older boys. Unfortunately, as was to be the story for a lot of our fishing trips, the water level was too low to do any fishing, even in some of the bigger pools we found while walking downstream from the old bridge. But when the water is higher there has to be some fantastic fishing here, and my 2 boys still had fun chasing after some of the minnows in the bigger pools, with the nets that their grandparents gave them.
Right at the bottom of the creek just before it enters into the Bay of Fundy there are some really huge pools that have decent sized brookies even when water levels in the rest of the creek are as low as they were. But we decided to just leave them be at that point.
Incidentally, this is a fantastic place to go to view the high tides
Cornwallis River, at Port Williams
I found out about this place while in the area, but never did get to try it. Apparently it is a popular spot to fish Sea Bass during high tide. Just be sure to check this link for tide times, and then head on over! They used to fish off the Port Williams Wharf on the other side of the river, but nowadays the wharf is fenced off because it is structurally unsafe, and they do not have the money to fix it. So today they fish just on the other side of the river, right off the dike.
Be sure to visit the Port Pub and Sea Level Brewery while in the area! Some really fantastic beers and food.
On our last evening in the area my wife had the boys down here again, and saw some people fishing and asked them about it. Apparently you can fish for flounder right of the beach with no need for a boat! I know that my wife's grandfather used to fish flounder in the area all the time from his boat, but had no idea you could do it from shore as well. Will definitely be trying this next time I am in the area! Word has it you do not even need a fishing license since it is not a sport fish, per se. But I'd check that one with a credible source, and not take my word for it!