The Great Adventure
Dave Cole Spey casting on the 89 run on the Cascapedia. Photo Ben Carmichael
The experience of Atlantic salmon is big, all-encompasing and as individual as the person creating this adventure. It could be just a single early morning, or an expedition that could take months.
Ben Carmichael has fully understood that from a young age. This past month he mapped out an adventure that included several rivers, each with its own character, and each with salmon fishing having unique situations. He sent along a few paragraphs on the trip.
We headed into a two-week trip to the Matapedia, Grand Cascapedia, and Bonaventure during early/mid-July with high expectations, only to arrive and find the reports of high temperatures and low water conditions to be true. Water temps reached 70 F. or above, on both the Salmon Branch of the Grand Cascapedia and the Bonaventure when we were there, causing us to stop fishing. Meanwhile, air temperatures were in the 80s to mid-90s and flows on the Grand Cascapedia were as low as 10-12 -- a level I've never seen.
The flip side is that there were lots of fish in the Cascapedia and Bonaventure rivers. With low water, we did a lot of sight fishing with bombers and found the salmon to be responsive, if not taking.
A bright salmon shows its ready to be released on the Lake Branch of the Cascapedia by showering the camera with water. Photo Dave Cole, from Ben Carmichael
We had lots of action on the surface, which always makes for a fun day, regardless of whether you land a fish or not. My fishing partner Dave Cole ended the trip with a 20 lbs fish that took him out the tail of Morancy and into Boar's Back. It was a fish he landed in near complete darkness, and was second of the day. It was a great end to the trip.
On the issue of striped bass, I did catch a striper at the bridge at Routhierville. After hearing so much about them, and catching them in the bay, this was very discouraging.
All smiles as Ben Carmichael and Tommy MacWhirter, who fished together for years out of Middle Camp, reunited for the first time in years. Photo Dave Cole
This brings up the matter of STRIPED BASS.
ASF has revised and posted a survey for 2018. ASF Researchers need your reports to continue our research into what is taking place in our Atlantic salmon rivers. You can fill out the reports here:
There are few areas that have received a small amount of precipitation for a very short-lived “bump” in water flows, but extremely low water conditions are still the norm in just about all salmon regions.
Warm water conditions are a real factor to salmon survival after being angled. If you are lucky enough to entice a fish to take a fly in these conditions, limiting the time on the line is crucial as well as keeping the fish in the water at all times during the release.
Some outfitters and/or camp owners have wisely decided on their own to either close or suspend operations until Mother Nature provides some greatly needed water and increased flow to our rivers - and a drop in water temperatures.
Please be aware of conditions on your favourite river.
Data used in the Quebec river notes are sourced from various river websites, social media and Quebec government sources.
Ben releases a nice salmon in Old Tracadie pool on the Cascapedia, shortly before losing the fish of a lifetime. Photo Dave Cole, from Ben Carmichael
The Cheticamp River Association recently held a camp - it encourages involvement with the river and its salmon. Lewis Hinks, ASF's Director of Nova Scotia Programs, helped out.
ASF's Lewis Hinks ties a fly at the Cheticamp Camp, while René Aucoin looks on from behind. Photo Cheticamp River Association
Lewis Hinks provides Advice on flycasting. He instructs in many versions of casting using different rods - and this includes Spey fly casting. Photo Cheticamp River Association.
Greg Lovely writes this on Thursday:
There are salmon in the pools, but water temperatures are still elevated. A reminder, that the lower part of the Margaree River, from the Forks Pool to the East Margaree Bridge, is closed to angling.
DFO is here again this week to read the VEMCO temperature gauges throughout the system and will give us a new report as soon as it's ready. I do not remember the Margaree River Valley having such an extended period of extreme heat. We are all hoping a good few days of rain and cooler temperatures will come along, and improve the situation.
The July 31 counts are up, and to that date there have been 20 grilse and 53 large salmon. This compares to last year's 176 grilse and 20 large salmon to the same date. The 53 large salmon is definitely an improved return that could help for in--river production this year.
NOTE: Remember that the angling day is mornings only due to the high water temperatures. Plus there is the closure of coldwater pools.
Brock Curtis of Curtis Miramichi Outfitters notes:
Of Salmon Parr and Striped Bass
Good news to report on the river.
We are finally getting that change in weather we have been waiting so long for. Although air temperatures are high we are getting quite a bit of rain. Last week we had a nice raise in water levels from the previous weekend, then again this past Saturday we had a nice downpour which also helped to keep the water levels up. Yesterday we had some heavy thunderstorms and more is forecast through tomorrow.
The water temperatures seem to be slowly dropping. We really needed this rain and it should help to protect our salmon. Mind you, we aren't getting the flood levels like some areas but it is enough to keep the river up and lower water temperatures. Anglers coming into the shop feel it won't be long and we will start getting cooler evenings and late summer weather.
We took a ride on our motorcycles Monday down to the Miramichi Bay and Point Sapin. I couldn't believe the difference in air temperatures out there. The temperatures on the Harley were showing 25C but quickly rose to 32C as we drove back up the valley. I couldn't help to wonder if there are salmon lying off the coast waiting to come in.
Brock Curtis recently brought up a concerning observation relating to juvenile salmon in the Miramichi:
I recently had a conversation with an older angler who has been fishing the Miramichi for years.
Like a lot of other anglers he mentioned the lack of salmon PARR he is catching this year.
It is quite common for anglers who have been to Quebec or NFLD to come back and mention how many Parr they catch while away and how few they see here. I am experiencing it myself even on the Renous and Dungarvon.
Back a few years ago I went barbless just to protect the many parr I was catching.
Now we hardly catch them. There is know doubt in my mind the impact STRIPED BASS are having on the Miramichi system's Atlantic salmon population.
If you really want to see the numbers in the fresh water parts of our rivers the best way is to canoe the river. Many of the slow deeper holes are now Bass holes.
Striped Bass with semi-digested salmon parr. Photo Greg Dixon
Meanwhile, the latest counting fence data show returning numbers of adult Atlantic salmon that still are concerning. Hopefully cooler temperatures and more storms to come will turn this around.
The above numbers indicate the Dungarvon returns remain lower this year - and significantly so for large salmon.
On the Northwest Miramichi Barrier, the MSW salmon are holding their own compared to last year, although still far below even recent historic numbers. Grilse are low.
St. John River
The low numbers continue at the Mactaquac Dam - 380 grilse and 59 large salmon to Aug. 1, 2018, compared with 307 grilse and 155 large salmon in 2017 - These are exceedingly low numbers for a river that once upon a time was one of the most productive in North America.
40 grilse and 12 large salmon to Aug. 1, compared with 42 grilse and 31 large salmon in 2017 at same date.
A reminder that the large salmon are the vastly more important for the laying of eggs and future production of the river.
Tuesday, Aug. 7 - Traditional canoes near the junction of the Matapedia and Restigouche Rivers. Photo David LeBlanc
David LeBlanc of the Restigouche River Watershed Management Council has these notes:
With the high temperatures and lack of precipitation in July, the Restigouche River Watershed Management Council (RRWMC) was monitoring water temperatures in partnership with several fishing camps. Temperatures have approached the limits requiring management measures to reduce the risk of mortality.
Some camps have closed for a few days. Precipitation over the past few days has saved the situation, but levels remain near minimums for this time of year. This situation confirms the need to provide Restigouche with a management protocol for periods of high temperatures, such as the one for the Miramichi. Definitely, global warming is not a hoax!
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
NOTE: A reminder that both Labrador and the Island of Newfoundland are live release only for the remainder of the 2018 season, after DFO mid-season reviews of the runs.
Nothing is easy in the world of Atlantic salmon assessment. It is vitally important in understanding the population dynamics. But in the case of the CONNE RIVER, the large counting fence washed out on July 15.
Other rivers have had other issues. But overall, when long term numbers are taken into account, the situation can usually be evaluated with reasonable accuracy.
The Exploits is up slightly over 2017 to the same date - but that is far below other recent years where the 2018 figures are perhaps 66% of those returns.
It is encouraging to see numbers going up. Hopefully that will continue.
The Sand Hill numbers are reflecting reports from anglers and as can be seen, all four working counting facilities are showing higher returns than both 2017 - AND the five-year average.
The Traverspine River, near Goose Bay-Happy Valley, was supposed to be added as a counting facility for a river near the top end of Lake Melville, but high water conditions in the first part of the season did not allow its construction. Hopefully next year.
Dwight Lethbridge of Pratt's Falls Lodge has been reported some great fishing - and high numbers of fish swimming by as well.
But his most significant comments were about the assessment, and situation overall, he had this to say, via his blog:
Anecdotally we know that the fence went in very late on the Sandhill this year and was placed during a peak grilse run and would have missed about 70-80% of the large fish. (599 fish were counted in the first 3-4 days of the fence being set up!) So, Anecdotally, we know that 100's, if not over 1,000 fish were missed by the fence, and the totals for 2018 are badly understated. Put it all together, and the Sandhill River is having one fantastic year and is well above the 1998-2017 average!!
The reports from outfitters throughout Labrador have all been very good. I have spoken with many of them and they all reported excellent fishing, the best in years. We are happy with where this is going however will remain cognitive that the atlantic salmon faces many challenges, and we will always do our part to conserve and protect this resource. For us, it is all about a balance of conservation while utilizing the resource to create a sustainable economic benefit and seeing a lot of smiles on the faces of our guests.
Final Statement - Dog Tired at end of an Atlantic salmon day. Spot the dog
A day fishing the Lake Branch of the Cascapedia tires out the best of them, even Forest, guide David Bishop's dog. Photo Ben Carmichael