Photo at right: Bill Haley both angler and photographer for this salmon rising on a fly in the Margaree River Oct. 21.
As the end of October draws near, so does spawning season for the Atlantic salmon in our rivers. Their mysterious navigation ability is bringing them to their destination - usually the same 100-metre or so stretch of headwater stream where they were born and as parr guarded a segment of stream.
This year something is special. After the disaster of ultra-low numbers last year, the reports from across the salmon's realm this year are that the fish are chunky and generally healthy. They will have the energy to complete that life cycle; to dig those nests that can be 50cm/18in or more down in the gravel. And as we now know, there will not only be the jostling for fertilizing the eggs, but waiting to dart in will be a "platoon" of precocious male parr that never went to sea and may weigh 1/100th that of the large males returning from Greenland waters.
As a guess, the overall good health of the fish in 2015 may also lead to a higher kelt survival through the winter months, but that will also depend on the particular river and ocean conditions encountered.
Certainly there are better things happening in 2015 for the Atlantic salmon. The species needs all the help it can get.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Congratulations to a friend of Atlantic salmon conservation in NL & LB and of the Eagle River in particular. Gudie Hutchings was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament for the Long Range Riding that encompasses the entire western side of Newfoundland, from Port aux Basques to the top of the Northern Peninsula. It also includes the south coast considerably east of Grey River. Formerly she was manager of the Rifflin Hitch Lodge on the Eagle River. In a wider context, she has been involved with salmon as an outfitter for 20 years, and calls Corner Brook home. Gudie is definitely someone who knows the Atlantic salmon well.
Northumberland Strait Rivers
Gerry Doucet writes:
Fishing on the River Phillip and the Wallace River remains tough! Water conditions are low and rain is needed to bring the Atlantic salmon in as they move towards the fall spawn.
The East River in Pictou County has had consistent fishing with intermediate water levels. Temperatures have come down considerably and are now in the mid 40's F. Fish are being seen and hooked throughout the system. Water is diminishing and a freshener is needed to carry good fishing for the remainder of the season which ends on October 31st.
West River Antigonish saw fishing pick up considerably this past week. As temperatures came down, Atlantic's moved forward and good angling was reported daily. Conditions are now low but fish are throughout the River. A river rising rain would be welcomed!
Nova Scotia Inland Fisheries collected broodstock on Wednesday from the West River and on Thursday a team of volunteers from the Antigonish Rivers Association released 12,500 clipped-fin parr. This was the second release of last year's brood stock collection.
Conditions on the South River Antigonish picked up considerably over recent days and water is holding at consistent intermediate levels.
Bill Haley has had more than an occasional day on the river:
While conditions in the lower river area are good, the tidal pools typically don't fish as well in fall as in summer. Otherwise, water is cold and dark and fish are being caught daily. Up-river, the water level is fairly low for this time of year but some pools are still fishing well.
Greg Lovely reports:
Low water conditions are plaguing the Margaree right now. Cold and windy, but a few fish still being hooked. Not seeing too many new fish - most are dark and have been in the river for some time and are "educated" as to what a fly is. Season is just about over and all-in-all a very good year.
Jacquet River While most Atlantic salmon have been healthy this year, a number of salmon have been seen with the white, fuzzy saprolegnia protozoan infection. A question was asked on whether the fish would be able to spawn. The answer is probably yes but it would depend on the water temperature dropping to help the salmon battle the infection.
The Dungarvon Barrier has had a good week, up to Oct. 18. During the one week, 114 grilse and 52 large salmon were assessed, bringing the count to Oct . 18 a total of 321 grilse and 227 large salmon, with a full total of 548. By comparision, in 2014 to the same date there were 114 grilse and 83 large salmon, with a full total of 197.
For an earlier perspective, the 1992 to 1996 average was 522 grilse and 168 large salmon, totaling 690.
The Cassilis Barrier had great numbers this year to Oct. 15 1,372 grilse and 334 large salmon, totaling 1,706. Last year to the same date there were 105 grilse and 83 large salmon, totaling 188.
Especially with the high numbers at Cassilis, the Northwest Barrier count has been extremely disappointing, with 300 grilse and 98 large salmon to Oct. 18. This is certainly ahead of the 204 grilse and 66 large salmon in 2014 to the same date, but not the large increase one might hope for.
DFO has noted that most of the fish at the NW Barrier are quite a dark colour.
Mitch Simpson writes of the Penobscot:
As of today, October 20, we have caught 729 Atlantic salmon on the Penobscot River. Since my last report on October 5, no new Atlantic salmon have been observed in the Milford fishlift. However, we have recaptured 5 grilse during that period. River temperatures are continuing to decrease (~ 8.7°C), due to the cooler evening temperatures. Fall is definitely here and it is a full time daily task to clean the leaves from the gates and punch plates within the flume to maintain attraction flows to the fishlift.