Magic in the Water

Is there such a thing as a bad trip on the river? When the weather is truly bad, it makes for tales told again and again. When the levels of water, the light, and the reading of the river is perfect, especially with a salmon connection, that too is an experience not to be forgotten.

And yet, there are even more special moments, that are fleeting, that somehow rise above those other memories. Perhaps the moment the photograph below was made on the Miramichi is just such a special instant in time.

Magic Moment on the Miramichi, near Boiestown, on 19 July, 2016. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

New Brunswick


There are many smiling river folks this week. With the thermomenter dropping and a nice dose of rain, DFO has lifted the constraints on the 25 pools closed due to earlier high temperatures.

It may be a first hint of autumn, but in this case it is a good thing.

Debbie Norton of Upper Oxbow Adventures was somewhere between poetic and philosophical about both the closure and the Aug. 16 reopening, with the additional rain the next day. This editor agrees fully with her sentiments:

River raises a foot
Salmon on the line and in the hand
Great to have warm water protocol to protect salmon
Even greater when Mother Nature provides us with weather where we do not need to use these protocols

There is also the Aug. 15 report for NB and NS on the counting facilities to provide a better picture of what is actually happening in the rivers.

Northwest Miramichi

The Northwest Cassilis Trapnet, as of Aug. 15, had 350 grilse and 341 large salmon, compared with 1,257 grilse and 284 large salmon to the same date in 2015.

The Northwest Protection Barrier, much further upstream, has 193 grilse and 76 large salmon, vs 180 grilse and 64 salmon in 2015.

Especially at the trapnet, the steeply lower grilse return is both disappointing, and reflects a common theme in the western Atlantic as well as in both Iceland and Norway this year.

Southwest Miramichi

Brock Curtis of Blackville reports:

It is all good news here on the Miramichi. Cooler temperatures and much needed rainfall have really turned things around on the river. Angling has picked up with quite a few reports at the Tackle Shop of salmon being caught on Wednesday. DFO has posted that all closed pools due to warm water protocol are now open for angling. Now we have to get word out that the 25 closed pools are now open. Also, lots of reports of people canoeing, fishing, or just watching the river that they are seeing quite a few salmon. Expect to hear more good news as we get anglers back on the river again.

The Southwest Millerton Trapnet has had 638 grilse and 437 large salmon to Aug. 15, compared with 1,139 grilse and 421 large salmon to the same date in 2015.

Meanwhile the Dungarvon Barrier has had 119 grilse and 96 large salmon, vs 146 grilse and 144 large salmon in 2015 to Aug. 15.

Releasing a salmon on the Southwest Miramichi. Photo from Sept. 2015.  Nathan Wilbur/ASF

St. John River
- At Mactaquac there have been 482 grilse and 173 large salmon to Aug. 15, vs 596 grilse and 86 large salmon in 2015. Taking the longer view, remember that the 1993 to 1997 average was 3,403 grilse to Aug. 15 and 1,869 large salmon. Major decline, and it will be interesting to see what comes of the Species At Risk process that is still awaiting a decision from government. The St. John certainly needs all the help it can get.

Nashwaak River - So far there have been 277 grilse and 37 large salmon, and that is a good result compared to 2015 when there were 190 grilse and 29 large salmon to Aug. 15. The 1998 to 2002 average was 217 grilse and 43 large salmon, incidentally.

Restigouche System

David LeBlanc of the Restigouche River Watershed Management Committee (RRWMC)

Fishing is slowing down, with some stretches being hard to reach because of low water, some fishing camps are shutting down their activities. Based on the excellent smolt run of 2015, the expected good return of grilse have not materialized. The water temperatures are fair even though the water levels remain low.
Concerning our activities, the RRWMC is actually planning restoration works at the Upsalquitch Forks Pool to facilitate the flow in newly created channels and to reduce important erosion on the bank. The RRWMC is also working on a sub-watershed management plan to address the low returns on the Kedgwick River. All these projects are made possible by the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation funding. Another project aims to assess the thermal refuges identified during the past year aerial surveys to protect them and enhance their impact on the salmon habitat.

Upsalquitch Forks area, as of 28 July, 2016. Photo Credit David LeBlanc

The Upsalquitch Barrier Fence is reporting 209 grilse and 107 large salmon to Aug. 14, vs. 538 grilse and 150 large salmon to the same date in 2015.

On the Kedgwick, Danny Bird of Kedgwick Lodge notes:

A bit of rain here this week. Fishing, as always is good but catching is tough. Temperatures have returned to near normal.


The connection with a river and an Atlantic salmon lasts a lifetime. Anyone have flashbacks to a special salmon moment? In this case Sylvie Malo-Clark releases one of two 18 pounders she had on July 1, 2016 on the Cascapedia River. All vivid memories.

Counts, by way of in-river assessments and data from fish counting infrastructures, has been tabulated to determine if numbers indicate that a limited harvest can take place as of August 1.  Most rivers are reporting low water conditions, and ANY rain in the near future would be a very good thing.

To date, harvests have been authorized as per the management plan on the following rivers: Dartmouth, St-Jean (Gaspé), Cap-Chat, Sainte-Anne, Madeleine, Matane and Mitis. Data used in the Quebec RiverNotes are sourced from various river websites, social media and Quebec government sources.

Grande Rivière showing low water levels as of Aug. 9, 2016.  Photo Claude Hamel

Henrik Mortensen releases a 12-pound Atlantic salmon on Aug. 13, 2016 on the B-1 Sector of the Bonaventure.


Reports are definitely of a "different year" in 2016.

Eagle River - Dwight Lethbridge of Pratts Falls Lodge puts it this way:

It was definitely not a typical year on the Eagle.  We had very slow grilse action compared to other years, and the last week of July and first few days of August were the slowest I have ever seen for the time of year, especially given that river conditions were very good.  We heard reports of fish being caught in coastal nets after a two week lull around the 1 and 2nd of August, and sure enough, the fishing started to pick up on the 4th and 5th of August.  That was short lived due to a truly torrential rainfall that led to the river rising over 5 ft.  It was the highest August water any of us could recall seeing, and the water was also very dirty with twigs, leaves, and sediment.  We literally did not see a fish from August 7th to 12th.  The river crested on the 12th, and over the following few days we were starting to see and hook fish again.  Reports from the last few days of the coastal net fishing is that it was unusually good for mid-August.

Long story short, weird year!  Lots of big fish, grilse run very poor, but where the water was so high and cold early, then so high and cold in August, plus a lot of coastal ice and bait fish.  So very hard to come to a conclusion but either the fish are very late and there is going to be a big grilse run over the next month, or they came on high water undetected and cruised through, or the numbers are way way down.

English River - The only river in Area SFA 1 - has had 329 grilse and 128 large salmon as of Aug. 14, compared with 485 grilse and 202 large salmon in 2015 to the same date.

Sand Hill River - Also lower on grilse, but with an "okay" large salmon run - 1,057 grilse and 959 large salmon to Aug. 14, compared with 2,395 grilse and 1,034 large salmon in 2015.

Muddy Bay Brook - There were 193 grilse and 17 large salmon to Aug.  14, vs 334 grilse and 27 large salmon in 2015.

Paradise River - Just 72 grilse and 28 large salmon to Aug. 14, vs. 240 grilse and 45 large salmon in 2015 to the same date.

Flowers River, like a painting of the essence of Labrador. Photo taken 28 July. Credit Mike Crosby

Flowers River - Mike Crosby notes:

Returns to the Flowers River have been strong with good numbers of salmon and grilse. First fish were taken on the 11th or 12th of July and strengthened since then. Our anglers have had great success as well, with many days of limiting out. Conditions are excellent now and have been good all summer. The last several days the fishing slowed a bit. However with a full moon coming, we are expecting more new fish.

Jim Lawley (right) releases a healthy Atlantic salmon in the Flowers River on July 25, 2016. Credit Mike Crosby


As the weeks go by, it seems more evident that many of the rivers that had such great numbers early in the season had early runs that have not, by mid-August, compared well with 2015 and other years.

The Exploits is down almost 7,000 salmon from last year. Campbellton River is at 62% of the run in 2015 to the same date of Aug. 14. Even the West Coast rivers assessed are running now on a par with 2015. See details below.

Big East River in the Hawke Bay area up the Northern Peninsula. This viewpoint on the road bridge is a great location for watching Atlantic salmon jumping the small waterfall. Photo Tom Moffatt/ASF

Nova Scotia

Margaree - Greg Lovely notes the low water continues as of Thursday:

Unfortunately, while everyone else got rain on Wednesday, we had VERY little. It made no difference to the Margaree River at all. We have been under a ban to even enter the woods, because it is so dry. Hopefully the NEXT round of rain will come our way...fingers crossed.

LaHave River - Morgan Falls Fishway is reporting only 3 grilse plus 30 large salmon as of Aug. 15. Last year the count was 150 grilse and 17 large salmon.

Sackville River is reporting 9 grilse and 2 large salmon to Aug. 15, compared with 29 grilse and 2 large salmon in 2015.

Gold River, near Chester, NS shows the low water conditions across much of Nova Scotia in recent days. Photo Lewis Hinks/ASF


No new salmon numbers have been posted in past 10 days.

Penobscot - The Aug. 1 return was 506 at the Milford Fish Lift, compared with 721 in 2015, 258 in in 2014, and 372 in 2013.