Jim Lawley and his son James show best techniques for successful release of an Atlantic salmon, on the Kedgwick River in New Brunswick.

Counting Atlantic Salmon

A key activity for the future of wild Atlantic salmon is naturally knowing how many there are. And that is not an easy matter.

Last week Keith Piercey  of Corner Brook visited the electronic counting facilty on the Harry's River, where a DIDSON UNIT is used. DIDSON is naturally an acronym - for Dual frequency IDentification SONar. We appreciate him sharing his images with us.

DFO technician Scott Caines is shown with what $100,000 looks like. It’s one of the DIDSON units used to record images of salmon passing the counting fence. They are cleaned every week to ensure the best possible image is recorded. Newer more accurate units are always in development by the manufacturer Sound Metrics.

DFO Technician Scott Caines reviews images recorded on the DIDSON unit. By placing a marker at the head and tail of an image the approximate length is recorded by the software for each salmon passing through.

This is the DIDSON counting facility on Lower Harry’s River in Western NL.  Just to the left of the fence is two units.  One has a narrower beam than the other (10 M)

Another shot of the equipment. One advantage of this system is the fish are not handled at all.  Salmon passing through the opening in the fence are picked up by the beams from the two DIDSON units.

In Pacific Coast rivers in Alaska and BC the DIDSON units are appreciated for their ability to count salmon in rough and difficult rivers. But in Newfoundland the use is more difficult, especially with salmon that are about 63cm long (nose to tail fork) where the units are less able to differentiate large grilse from smaller large salmon. Still, one could see situations where perhaps units on either side of a large river, like the Humber, could finally provide counts. The Humber may be one of the five greatest Atlantic salmon rivers in Canada, but does not have good counts at this time. And in parts of Labrador the units, or other electronic counters, could prove their worth.


ASF's Don Ivany is in the north of the island, preparing to deploy sonic tracking receivers in the Strait of Belle Isle. In a phone call on Monday he reports that anglers have been getting a few large fish on Harry's River (see above feature), and that on Southwest Brook there was a small run of grilse coming in last week. He adds:

"Travelling up the Northern Peninsula, many of the rivers are just too high to fish. The St. Genevieve was an example. Didn't see anglers out yet."

DFO has updated by a week its counts for NL - to June 11. Below numbers show the slow beginning to 2017's runs. So far, Harry's River is doing best.


Far to the southwest, the Penobscot River in Maine deserves special mention this week. This river is having a better year than the past several. As the graph below shows, by June 16 there were 398 Atlantic salmon, the highest number since 2012, five years ago.

However, even later numbers are available on the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources Trap Count website, showing that by Mon. June 19 there were 426 Atlantic salmon (365 large salmon, 61 grilse) arriving at the Milford Fish Lift. Perhaps the higher water this year will help encourage better returns.

The Kennebec has had 14 large salmon and 1 grilse, while the Saco has had 3 large salmon and 1 grilse.

Nova Scotia


DOWNLOAD a nice map of the Margaree River with many of the pools listed on it, offered free by the Margaree Salmon Association. Click here

Note that several of the pools have disappeared since the map was created, due to flood events. Check locally for full information.

Small part of the Margaree Salmon Map that can be downloaded with the link above.

Greg Lovely says this about conditions in the past few days:

Salmon are being caught daily on the lower part of the river. Two things, however: we need more rain and cool nights. It is amazing how quickly it went from scraping heavy frost off our car windows to Humidex values of 35C.

The fishermen are having touse the "chuck-and-duck" method of casting to deal with the relentless wind we are experiencing most days.

On Monday, Alex Breckenridge of The Tying Scotsman, said:

"A number of happy anglers around this weekend. Two nice fish on Friday evening and 5 yesterday from the lower river. There probably were more.."

Brook Pool on the Northeast Branch of the Margaree, from a webcam, taken 8 pm. June 20.

The Medway is one of the major rivers along the "South Shore" of Nova Scotia that was known for its significant salmon runs, but has been impacted by acid rain and high mortality at sea in recent years. Taken June 20, 2017. Photo Lewis Hinks/ASF.

New Brunswick

Southwest Miramichi

SW Miramichi looking upstream from the Priceville footbridge on June 19, 2017. River then needed more water. Photo Geoff Giffin/ASF

More anecdotal information is coming in on salmon finding their way into the Miramichi system. Certainly the most recent count at the Dungarvon Counting fence is noting 16 large salmon to June 18. This compares favourably with the 2016 count to the same date of 3 grilse and 8 large salmon. Still, early days.

The water levels are close to good, thanks to a burst of rain late Sunday and into Monday.

Floating the Cains River, tributary of the Southwest Miramichi, on Sun., June 18, 2017   Photo: Geoff Giffin/ASF

Northwest Miramichi

The Northwest Barrier is picking up salmon - 16 large salmon and 3 grilse by June 18, vs. only 1 large salmon and no grilse to the same date in 2016. Very interesting, but the comparatively low numbers of recent years have a long way to go before there is a healthy run.


On 15 June 2017 the great bend on the Restigouche shows the low water conditions - before the 19 June storms. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Kedgwick River on June 15, when the water was low. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

David LeBlanc of the Restigouche River Watershed Management Council says:

The Restigouche had a good early run of salmon, but water levels had dropped last week to near mid-summer levels, and fish were not moving. On Monday the Humidex reached 35 C. Then we had 4.7cm of rain Monday night. Tuesday is back to being hot and sunny, but the river levels are way up. Too early to tell if more Atlantic salmon will be coming in. Water temp. is about 18 C. at the moment.

The Restigouche has had a "guardedly" good early run of salmon so far this year. Taken June 15. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF


What a difference a mountain range makes. On the south side of the Gaspé peninsula the rivers had the same major rainstorms that affected the Restigouche and NB tributaries. Check out the graph of a station far upriver on the Cascapedia that is below. But on the north side the mountains, on the St. Lawrence River side, there were no rainstorms to bump up the water levels.

Cascapedia River

Cascapedia Society manager Darlene Sexton is reporting decent angling to June 16 with 180 salmon being landed and released.  To the same date in 2016, 178 salmon had been landed and released. To June 18, 2015, 118 salmon had been reported landed and released.

Tim Gray caught a 22 lbs Salmon at Pool 80 (his first on a dry fly) on the Cascapedia on June 15.

There was a strong run of large salmon early with many fish in the 25 lb.+ category that provided good fishing in the upriver sections of the Cascapedia and it's branches.

Comment on North Shore Rivers:

Some of the North Shore Quebec rivers such as the Moisie and Godbout reported good fishing with a number of larger salmon being released.

Reminder to anglers fishing Quebec Rivers, take the time to report your releases to have the most accurate angling statistics and for the river managers to accurately calculate angling success.