Atlantic Salmon Report on Both Sides of the Atlantic Ocean
This week we have a mid-summer round-up of salmon return information for Europe. As far as we know, it is the only such review undertaken by anyone in mid-season. But first, a succinct review of Atlantic salmon returns in North America.
The major news is that as of the beginning of this week, DFO has ended the retention fishery for Atlantic salmon due to the low returns this year. In addition, many of rivers remain closed due to low water. To check the status of those rivers, click here .
From Charles Cusson, ASF Director of Quebec Programs:
There are a few areas that have received a small amount of precipitation for a very short lived “bump” in water, but extremely low water conditions are still the norm in just about all salmon regions.
Warm water conditions are becoming a real factor in regard 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 decided on their own to either close or suspend operations until Mother Nature provides some greatly needed water and increased flow to our rivers. Please be aware of conditions on your favourite river. Note that data used in the Quebec river notes are sourced from various river websites, social media and Quebec government sources.
Greg Lovely on the Margaree in Cape Breton
Just returned to home in the Margaree valley a couple of days ago. It rained – and the water came up, and the Atlantic salmon came into the river.
Apparently last weekend was great for the salmon fishermen and I know of several that were successful. I have only been out once and had a great few hours. There was a little rain yesterday and the river is slowly creeping up, but we still need more rain Overall, it is good to see that the fresh fish are still coming in.
As of Aug 10 the cold water salmon pools that closed on Aug. 3 have reopened. To check on closures, go to:
For the Northwest Miramichi, the barrier count as of Aug. 6 was 99 grilse and 111 large salmon compared with 183 grilse and 72 large salmon to the same date in 2016.
For the Southwest Miramichi, the Dungarvon barrier count is 87 grilse and 120 large salmon to Aug. 6, compared with 115 grilse and 93 large salmon to the same date in 2016.
Nathan Wilbur, ASF Director of New Brunswick Programs:
Showers on the weekend in New Brunswick helped raise water levels slightly on a portion of the salmon rivers, some by about eight inches, but levels have already gone back down over the past few days. Water temperatures are decreasing slightly with the cool nights, so that should help the salmon get through these dog days of summer.
The Penobscot has had a total of 812 Atlantic salmon return as of Aug. 7 - made up of 294 grilse and 518 large salmon. This is unchanged from a week ago.
The 2017 Atlantic Salmon Scene in Europe
As most will be aware, Atlantic salmon return to rivers throughout Western Europe, from Northwest Russia and as far east as the Ural Mountains, to Norway and Iceland, in Ireland and the United Kingdom, and France. They are found in rives of northern Spain as far south as the Minho that forms the northern border of Portugal. They are also found in Denmark and the Baltic Sea, with one of the biggest runs in the world the river forming the boundary between Sweden and Finland. In the southern Baltic, overfishing along with river pollution by chemicals have reduced Atlantic salmon to low numbers. In Germany, there is a concerted and well-funded effort to restore salmon runs to the Rhine as far upstream as Basle and beyond.
But 2017 has not been a great year anywhere in Europe for wild salmon. Besides the lower returns overall, there are new concerns about invasive Pink Salmon in rivers in Scotland and elswhere.
Iceland has an incredibly large number of healthy Atlantic salmon rivers, most without dams. Photo: Stephen Chase
It appears that 2017 will not be nearly as good a year as 2016, as you can see from the table below. The Federation of Icelandic River owners maintains an online page with the latest catch statistics, and comparisons to the TOTAL catch for 2016.
Many Norwegian rivers appear to have had good returns this year.
Stordalselva River in mid-summer.
The Stordalselva is a medium-sized Norwegian river, located about 50 km north of Trondheim in the middle section of the country, and coming down to a fjord at the town of Arnes.
This year the return has been the largest in recent times, as shown by the chart below:
On many rivers, including the Gaula, water levels have been higher than normal this year. In general the salmon coming in appear to be well fed and very healthy, a good sign that these fish at least found good feeding areas at sea. There appear to be more grilse this year, which the Norwegians are happy to see.
Canadian Terry Antoniuk (left) prepares to release a 9kg/20lb salmon on the Gaula River in Norway. At right is guide Daniel Perrson. Photo from Norwegian Flyfishers Club
Daniel Stephan with a nice live released Atlantic salmon on the Gaula from mid-July.
Tor Erland Nilsen, CEO of Alta Laksefiskeri Interessentskap, the organization of landowners that manages the Alta, had a few brief notes. The Alta is managed such that for the first three weeks after the summer solstice, foreign anglers are allowed to fish this great river. Then from mid-July to Aug. 18 it is open only to residents, on a lottery basis. After Aug. 18 foreigners are again allowed to fish the Alta.
The returns this year has been very good on the Alta. We have had more big fish than we have had the last years, with many between 18 and 23 kg and the biggest so far is 25kg.
Gorge on the Alta River. Photo Rick Warren
Fishing on the Alta in Norway. Photo Alta Laksefiskeri Interessentskap
Live release of an Atlantic salmon in summer 2017 on the Ponoi River in Russia.
Ponoi River, Kola Peninsula
The Ponoi is one of the greatest Atlantic salmon rivers in the world, with large numbers of "upsized" salmon returning every year. There are differences from year to yea.
Steve Estela of the Ponoi River Company describes the salmon in 2017:
The Ponoi has enjoyed a very healthy spring, but the weather throughout the Kola Peninsula has been strange with some cold temperatures, including snow, and the latest run we’ve seen in many years. Ponoi catches still occurred in record numbers with an average of 30+ fish per rod per week! Our summer run of Atlantic salmon was very strong both in numbers and size.
The river was high across all spring weeks, with fish spread thinly but evenly along our stretch of 80km of the Ponoi, allowing all beats to fish well. As the weeks went by, some defining points and breaks appeared, and the salmon fishing became a bit more predictable. The salmon themselves were in incredibly good condition after their time at sea.
The Ponoi may have cold water, but the crisp air and healthy large salmon make the cold just part of the adventure. Photo Ponoi River Company.
Kharlovka - This river, part of the Kola's Atlantic Salmon Reserve, had cold conditions and an extremely deep snowpack early on that kept river conditions high, but by late July large Atlantic salmon were virtually "pouring" into the river.
The last half of July had one week with a record 331 salmon angled by anglers with the Kharlovka Co., and that was followed by a week with 345 salmon. This latter week included 26 salmon over 20 lb, and one over 30 lb.
33 lb Atlantic salmon being released on the Kharlovka around Aug. 1, 2017. Photo Atlantic Salmon Reserve
Kharlovka River is well known for its very large Atlantic salmon returning. This year they have been very healthy, and in good numbers. Photo Atlantic Salmon Reserve
The Drowes River in very northwest County Leitrim drains Lough Melvin, and often has the earliest Atlantic salmon returns each year. Many of the salmon swim the length of Lough Melvin and enter the streams at the eastern end in order to spawn.
Shane Gallagher – Drowes
The 2017 salmon season got off to an inauspicious start on the Drowes when we had our first ever fishless January. In a worrying precedent the first salmon of the season wasn't landed until February 12th.
The season as a whole has been marked by prolonged low water levels with just one small flood in February. After the slow start, spring fishing picked up and was broadly in line with previous seasons. Grilse made an unusually early appearance at the fishery. While it would be fair to say that low water levels made for difficult fishing conditions this season, the number of fish present gives cause for optimism. Some well seasoned anglers remarked that they hadn't seen such large numbers of fish running since the mid 80's.
While there were no 20lbs+ fish landed this season, the condition of both spring fish and grilse suggests improved feeding conditions at sea.
Drowes River in northwest Leitrim is a legendary salmon rivers. Photo Tom Moffatt
Noel Carr, National Secretary of the Federation of Irish Salmon and Seatrout Anglers, who lives in Donegal, sent an overview on Thursday:
There was still a reasonable run of spring salmon caught considering the cold temperatures and dry conditions which has seen many rivers running low during what normally would have been a rainy Spring. As we approached May Day the salmon fishing improved in the western rivers while the Laune and the Lakes of Killarney averaged out well with some excellent salmon returns despite poor water levels.
It took until June for salmon fishing across the south and south west of Ireland to fire on all cylinders, yet there were a few early fish reported from the Munster Blackwater, Bandon, and Lough Currane. It was in the west where the majority of the better reports came from as good numbers of fish were met on the Galway Fishery, Carrowmore and the River Moy. Further north, the Drowes did well enough considering the low water conditions generally with the Glen River showing great returns once again despite it being relegated to Catch and release status until recovery opens with a quota for next year.
Conditions improved for July with the Moy in County Mayo proving to be the jewel in the Irish crown of rivers once again, reporting with a reported catch of 1,178 salmon for the last two weeks of July, bringing the total for the season by July end to 5,513. Anglers on the Moy Fishery enjoyed good sport with the majority of the fish being caught on fly. Amongst the successful anglers were Trevor Shreeve, UK, with two grilse on fly from the Ridge Pool and Gerhard Reidy, Limerick, who caught and released a grilse also on the Ridge Pool. Gerhard was also successful on the Cathedral Beat and the Fresh Water Beat where he had two more fish on worm and spinner.
On Pink Salmon: By early August, the Boyne in the East near Dublin reported plenty of salmon running but the unusual reports of anglers catching Pacific pink salmon increased as the season progressed with the Drowes landing eight for the month of June causing state fishery authorities to issue notices informing holders of fish on how to report and deliver the specimens for scientific research. There are many ideas and opinions on how they are ending up in Irish and Scottish rivers but many suspect an unauthorized aquaculture experiment to be the cause, but without evidence, who knows.
Atlantic salmon in the weeds - angling at Carnroe on the River Bann in Northern Ireland. Photo Tom Moffatt
The Foyle estuary and related rivers in the western side of Northern Ireland is a vitally important watershed for Atlantic salmon in Ireland. Below are numbers of Atlantic salmon counted in 2017 at various sites:
Alastair Gowans has decades of experiencing guiding and fishing the rivers in all parts of Scotland, and teaching flycasting, especially with Spey rods.
Rod catches this spring are generally lower than last season which you may remember was not very good either. To put the catches into historical perspective I doubt if they might exceed 50 percent of what they were 30 years ago overall.
Zach Rhodes of Seattle, WA connects with a healthy Atlantic salmon on the River Tummel in Scotland. Photo from Ally Gowans.
Sometimes catches do not accurately reflect the runs of salmon. This season there were lots of fish showing below Pitlochry Dam on the River Tummel but they were curiously difficult to hook. This may have been due to an extremely dry spring. There was little rainfall during April and May and with no snow runoff to speak of in the hills, rivers dropped to summer levels and remained there until the first week of June when at last some rains came. The rains brought salmon and sea trout with them. Sea trout numbers too have fallen significantly over recent years which is a pity because these fish provide some wonderful sport.
June and July fared better on many rivers and as I write this at the beginning of August rain has arrived and many of the rivers are at great fishing levels. Hopefully this will encourage some grilse to appear. So far these fish have failed to show up in the numbers that we are accustomed to which is a bit disappointing because many rivers depend on grilse for their autumn sport, so it’s a case of fingers crossed!
Zach Rhodes of Seattle releases a nice salmon on the River Tummel in Scotland. Photo from Ally Gowans.
There has been an increasing concern about Pacific Pink Salmon showing up in the rivers of Scotland, England, and Ireland, and considerable numbers at sea. For a long period, Russia introduced Pink Salmon to rivers east and south of the Kola Peninsula. Beginning in 1985 they used fish from the Magadan area, and these proved very adaptable to the rivers, and soon had colonized more than 40 Norwegian rivers. In the Atlantic Ocean the species wanders greatly, often not returning anywhere near its natal rivers. Whether there is real cause for concern is uncertain yet. The Pink Salmon spawn much earlier than Atlantic salmon, so it would be the Atlantics that disrupt the redds of the Pinks.
England and Wales
River Wye, fifth longest river in the United Kingdom, winds north in the England-Wales borderlands before turning west further into Wales. It has traditionally been a healthy salmon rivers of the west.
Season on the Wye to July overall very poor with catch down 50 percent on 2016 and only 75 percent of five year average. 50 percent of beats are still to record their first fish with the middle portion of the river particularly hard hit.
One middle river owner in an email wrote ‘yesterday my gillie caught a 13 lb fish, our second of the season. We are heading for our worst year for some time, but, when one considers that our current ten year average is a measly 6 salmon, compared to 146 in the 60s & 70s it puts everything in perspective. The beat has been owned by the family since 1962 and, within the next few years, I plan to give it to my son. At the moment I shall be passing on to him a coarse fishing beat, not a salmon fishery. I personally doubt that in my life time I shall see the Wye return to anything likes its former glory but an annual catch of 50 to 60 salmon would be delightful. I think that a hatchery is one of the principle ways forward’.
River Wye at Hay-on-Wye in Brecknockshire in Wales.
The season opened on the 3rd March with high and coloured water with the first fish of 26lb taken well upstream. A total of 22 fish was a very poor return for March although the quality was high with 8 fish over 20lb and 3 over 30lb with a best of 35lb. The arrival of small springers during April & May helped to keep the count just about ticking over whilst catches continued to fall well short of last year. The weather conspired to inflict some difficult conditions on the catchment. Low river, high temperatures and a severe algae bloom, especially on the middle and lower river, whilst countered occasionally by small spates and releases from the Elan Valleys dams, brought about an almost complete halt to fishing. These small spates during allowed some of those early summer fish to travel and subsequently get caught in numbers in the upper beats. However more dry hot weather late in June and July brought another halt to proceedings with water temperatures in the low 200C being recorded. We still await our summer fish and grilse.
Tyne River - The Tyne, with a large watershed stretching north from the northeast coast into Northumbria, has proven to be very healthy in Atlantic salmon numbers in recent years. The main fish counter is at Riding Mills, about 20 km. upstream from Newcastle upon Tyne. It does not differentiate between Atlantic salmon and Sea Trout.
The River Wear, passing by Durham, is another English river with good returns and in 2017 is certainly holding its own. Note that the counts are for combined Atlantic salmon and Sea Trout.
The Rhine is having a somewhat average year for salmon returns in 2017, in an extraordinary effort to re-establish the Atlantic salmon in this great river. As of July 15, 117 Atlantic salmon had passed through Iffezheim, with 95 counted at Gambsheim, and 21 at Strasbourg.
At Iffezheim, this likely means the total count will be below the 145 total in 2016, and roughly double that number in 2015, which had exceptionally high returns.
The Loire Watershed is both large, and could eventually become a major Atlantic salmon run, if more of the dams could be removed.
As the figures for the fishway at Vichy on the Allier show, 751 salmon have been counted as of 24 July, a significant improvement over 2016, and in line with most recent years.
Rivers of the Pyrenees and Bearn
These rivers have been known for their Atlantic salmon runs since Roman times - the Adour, the Nive, the Nivelle, the Gave d'Oloron in Bearn and others.
This year saw some large Atlantc salmon early on, in Mar. and Apr., but overall it is possibly the worst year in the past 10.
To July 27:
- Gave de Pau: 1
- Nive : 2
- Gave d’Oloron : 149
- Saison : 7
Northern Spain has many salmon rivers in Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia. Perhaps best known are the rivers in Asturias - but these are down 52% in 2017 over average of previous 10 years. The chart below lists seven, the most important being the Sella and the Narcea Nalón.
Catches on rivers in Asturias in 2017:
Rio Cares in Asturias, with 54 Atlantic salmon angled so far in 2017.
In Galicia, the most important salmon rivers would be the Ulla with 17, and the Miñho, that forms the border with Portugal, having 4, all to July 15. These numbers are exceedingly low, even by the measure of recent years. This spring an angler on the Portuguese side of the Miñho brought in a large salmon of 13kg. It was harvested instead of being live released, despite the low numbers returning to this river.
Sweden & Finland
Torn - Tornionjoki (Finnish) - Torneälven (Swedish)
This river forming the boundary between Sweden and Finland can be incredibly productive. In years like 2016 and 2014 more than 100,000 Atlantic salmon return to this river. It is estimated that one in three Atlantic salmon feeding in the Baltic come from this river. But in 2017 the numbers definitely disappoint, with only about 40,000 returning by Aug. 8.
The same organization (LUKE) monitors a much smaller yet very productive river, the Simojoki in Finland. Again, the returns are disappointing in 2017, with about 1,485 returning as of Aug. 8, vs. approximately 4,900 in 2016.
Like the Torn, this is the lowest return in the past five years.