La Poile River, NL - John Parker

For a freshwater Watermark, one of mine is the Lapoile River on the south coast of Newfoundland. This place is so isolated and wild it takes three separate boats to arrive at the mouth of the river. If you ever broke your leg upriver, the only way to get you out is by chopper. And if it is foggy..?

We stay in an old log cabin three miles up from the salt water. The first year our party went, we had just started up river when we heard a commotion behind us and turned to see what was going on… It was a black bear chasing a young moose across the river, both going 'full tilt'. This time the moose escaped. We looked at each other and wondered what we had gotten ourselves into.

On the way up we could see bear, moose and caribou tracks in the mud of the trail. And we would see all three during our summer trips over the next twenty years. Being in the wilderness, we never saw another fisherman and we had the river to ourselves-- Wonderful Atlantic salmon fishing and a prime experience. The salmon we caught were just in from the ocean and in fact most had sea lice still on them. They were silver, bright fish and very strong and acrobatic; jumping high and clear of the water many times of each catch.

Thirty years ago, the resource was very strong with great numbers of returning fish. We were allowed to keep six salmon each (we also released many each day) and to get around the fresh fish restrictions, the guides used to can many more salmon for us to take home. But we do none of that today. As the resource began to be in peril, our governments had to buy off the Greenland fishermen who used huge traps and seine nets to slaughter the migrating salmon which returned through their waters. This fishery impacted not only North American rivers but also European Rivers. The Scots were particularly incensed as they don't have much in the way of public waters to fish, only the private waters for the 'gentlemen nobility'.

We had our problems here too. Commercial fishermen would set their nets across the mouths of salmon rivers and slaughter the salmon returning to the rivers to spawn. The Feds eventually had to pull back all those commercial licenses.

As you can appreciate, the La Poile Valley and River is pristine; nary a chip bag or gum wrapper or bottle or can to be seen. The water is crystal clear over granite boulders. In the early years if we were thirsty, we would simply dip our hats in the river and drink from it or plunk our faces in and drink. This was fine until one year we all came down with beaver fever...... The water was still crystal clear, but had this bacteria present. From then on it we drank bottled water.

La Poile River, NL
Ruby Pajares
John Parker

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