Aquarium du Québec – SEPAQ - Data information

Stations and fishing gear

From 1944 until the beginning of the experimental activities in 1961, daily catches were recorded at Arthur Matte’s weir fishing site in Neuville (about 30 km upstream of the Aquarium) and were carefully archived at the Aquarium du Québec. Since 1961, the experimental fishery has been located at four different sites (Robitaille et al., 1987):

  1. on the south shore of St. Lawrence River, less than 500 m downstream from the mouth of Chaudière River (1961–1962);
  2. on the north shore, close to the Aquarium du Québec (1963–1969);
  3. on the north shore, about 100 m upstream of Pierre Laporte bridge (1970);
  4. on the south shore at Saint-Nicolas, 100 m upstream of Pierre Laporte bridge (1971–today).

Different types of weir fisheries were used during two distinct periods of activities between 1944 and 2014:

  1. 1944 to 1970;
  2. 1971 up to now.

A detailed description of the fishing gear used between 1944 and 1970 is not available. However, the traditional weir fishing gear used by fishermen of that period was described by Dr. Vadim D. Vladykov and detailed in publications by Bergeron et al. (1972) and Robitaille et al. (1987). It is therefore very likely that the gear used by the Aquarium du Québec and those of the commercial fishermen were similar. The traditional weir fishing gear consisted of a slightly smaller box trap than the one used starting in 1971, with one-inch hexagonal steel mesh and only one upstream wing net.

In 1971, as part of a program to improve traditional fishing gear, an experimental trap was built and achieved catches three to six times higher than those obtained by the traditional gear (Bergeron et al., 1972; Bergeron et al., 1973; Bergeron and Johnson, 1974; Johnson and Bergeron, 1975). Apart from the addition of wing nets in 1973–1974 and the removal of a wing net in 2016, the gear was unchanged up to now. It has been repaired many times or completely rebuilt when damaged, but always following the same design and without causing any noticeable differences in potential catchability (Bernier et al., 1996; de Lafontaine et al., 2010).

Basic principles of the fishing gear

The general principal of weir fishing involves intercepting fish and redirecting them to a closed box where they remain trapped and are easy to collect. The Aquarium du Québec’s trap is a modified “de l’île d’Orléans”-type weir (Robitaille et al., 1987) traditionally used by American eel fishers from the Lower St. Lawrence. The gear is set in the intertidal zone and is covered and uncovered by the tide, which allows the capture of a large variety of fish species found in the coastal zone. With the exception of 2016 where only one wing net was used, the trap consists of three main components: a leader line, two wing nets set in a “V” shape, and a port (Figure 2).

Fish that follow the shore are intercepted by the leader line, which is perpendicular to the shore. It consists of a 1¼-inch mesh net that is stretched from the beach to the port and is supported by fixing cables regularly spaced at 2 m intervals. Its role is to guide fish toward the narrow entrance of the port. On either side of this entrance, two wing nets are spread upstream and downstream that converge on the leader line; these act to drive fish toward the trap’s entrance. The ports is made of posts with a solid wooden floor surrounded by rocks and with a one-inch steel mesh net covering the upper walls and ceiling. The lower part of the port consists of a ½-inch steel mesh net overlaid by wooden planks to a height of 60 cm. The port is set at the lower limit of the intertidal zone (about 95 m from the shore) and is separated into several funnel-shaped chambers that lead to the final catch container. When the tide is at its lowest, fish can be collected with a dip-net (Moussette, 1979, de Lafontaine et al., 2002).

Figure 2: Plan of the Aquarium du Québec’s experimental fishing gear.
Source: Denis Labonté and Yves de Lafontaine.

General operations of the fishery

Each year, the fishing gear is set in the intertidal zone in spring and removed in late fall before the ice season begins. All fishing operations were entrusted to three commercial fishermen: Mr. Fernand Gingras (1971–1988, 1992–1995), Mr. Bernard Côté (1989–1991, 1996–2014) and Mr. Chris Loebsack (2016-today). Recording of the catches is normally done at each low tide—twice a day—between 15 May and 31 October of each year if weather conditions permit access to the gear.

At each visit to the gear, the fisherman identified fish species and counted the number of individuals per species before releasing them alive back to the river through a small door on the rear side of the trap. Data were then recorded on paper forms and transmitted to the Aquarium. Methodological considerations relevant to data interpretation and the potential use of the fishery data are described in Bernier et al. (1996) and de Lafontaine et al. (2002).

Data availability

The database includes catch information for 70 fish species recorded at the different fisheries operated between 1944 and 2019 at Saint-Nicolas and Neuville. The database’s structure makes it possible to quickly trace and associate the catches with fishing activities and with the various characteristics of the activity (for example, the fishing site, methodology, fishermen). From 1971 to 2019, the Aquarium du Québec’s experimental trap fishery was visited 14,966 times and a total of 653,344 fishes were reported (Table 1). From 1944 to 1957, the Neuville fishery was visited 3,537 times and a total of 24,439 fishes were reported (Table 2).

Table 1: Aquarium du Québec’s experimental fishery at Saint-Nicolas

YearFishing start dateFishing end dateNumber of visits to weirNumber of fishNumber of fish species
19711971-05-211971-11-1231049 72140
19721972-05-281972-10-3130451 34538
19731973-05-291973-10-3129718 80439
19741974-06-171974-10-3126418 03436
19751975-05-161975-10-3132015 72647
19761976-05-141976-10-3132719 51644
19771977-05-151977-10-3132616 01146
19781978-05-151978-10-3132713 04341
19791979-05-151979-10-3132913 95641
19801980-06-011980-10-3129611 00940
19811981-05-161981-10-3132613 32842
19821982-05-151982-10-3132810 54544
19831983-05-191983-10-313209 46742
19841984-05-151984-10-3132812 99344
19851985-05-151985-10-3132812 38545
19861986-05-151986-10-3132510 19141
19871987-05-151987-10-313297 91342
19881988-05-151988-10-313269 42345
19891989-05-151989-10-312976 13241
19901990-05-151990-11-013259 03441
19911991-05-161991-10-313248 74137
19921992-05-151992-10-3132812 23242
19931993-05-151993-10-31328;15 63041
19941994-05-151994-10-3132814 08745
19951995-05-151995-10-3132914 95749
19961996-05-151996-10-3132316 10143
19971997-05-241997-11-1631712 36843
19981998-05-141998-10-3132810 27139
19991999-05-141999-10-3133014 79445
20002000-05-142000-10-3132711 54952
20012001-05-152001-10-313209 95044
20022002-05-162002-10-3132115 90950
20032003-05-142003-10-313309 92646
20042004-05-152004-10-3132510 17944
20052005-05-152005-10-3131211 05537
20062006-05-152006-10-3131213 97642
20072007-05-152007-10-3132511 90937
20082008-05-202008-10-3130614 36541
20092009-05-172009-10-3131112 90536
20102010-06-302010-10-3123610 45033
20112011-06-032011-10-312759 63436
20122012-05-312012-10-3129610 12333
20132013-05-282013-10-313028 57332
20142014-05-242014-10-313105 88529
20162016-06-202016-10-242452 43940
20172017-06-152017-10-3126810 19141
20182018-06-032018-10-3129211 92841
20192019-06-062019-10-3128614 64143

Table 2: Arthur Matte’s commercial fishery at Neuville

YearFishing start dateFishing end dateNumber of visits to weirNumber of fishNumber of fish species
19441944-09-101944-11-301352 23511
19451945-06-071945-11-233194 14919
19471947-07-181947-11-242351 91411
19481948-06-031948-12-033172 29411
19491949-05-061949-11-233582 10711
19501950-05-101950-11-243491 90211
19511951-06-011951-11-193012 39513
19531953-05-261953-12-053181 48111
19551955-06-011955-11-192931 62610
19561956-05-141956-11-193181 5798
19571957-05-101957-11-253281 8239