ASF RIVERNOTES July 20, 2017



What makes a good image on a salmon river? First, there is nothing like an excellent live release photo, with the fish in the water and the lighting excellent. Next might be an image of a river, with or without anglers, that gives the viewer some sense of the character of that river, whether it be its wildness, or its immensity or perhaps in some cases its intimate nature or gentleness. Traditionally, taking pictures in searing full sunlight was a no-no, with the limited tonal range of Kodachrome, print film, or b&w films. But now it can largely be tamed with adjustments in one of the many post-processing softwares, whether the now traditional Adobe Photoshop or one of the others. So take those images. We are always looking for individuals willing to share their efforts with other viewers of RIVERNOTES.

Main River in Newfoundland on July 10, 2017. Photo Geoff Giffin/ASF

A photo like this calls for split-second reflexes, plus holding the shutter button half way down in advance, to reduce the in-camera reaction time. Plus a camera in which the electronics ARE faster. A Dan Greenberg salmon in the Baker Pool, on the Bonaventure, taken July 15. Photo: Peter Bennet.

Two very different approaches in the above photos - one slow, framed exquisitely and capturing the calm amidst the minor roar of the river. The second is special for capturing an instant that is so hard to get. Each requires its own mindset of the moment - and maybe that is what is captivating.


Exploits River in central Newfoundland. on July 11, 2017. Rivers in this part of the island have been warming up and dropping in flows. Returns of Atlantic salmon to the Exploits are half those of 2016.

This week great attention has been focused on the Island of Newfoundland. On Tuesday, DFO released its July 16 counts, and they remained very low.

Don Ivany, ASF Director of Programs in Newfoundland and Labrador had this to say:

While there has been a slight bump in returns to a few rivers, after crunching the numbers, overall the returns are down 48% over the previous five year average and down 53% from last years returns.  As you may recall last year only 4 of the 15 rivers monitored by DFO met minimum conservation requirements.

Rivers like the Exploits are at half their returns to the same date in 2016, and far below that when compared with the recent 5-year average.

Rocky River cannot be counted because of the major issue of the construction and rebuilding of the fishway in 2015-2016. Even Harry's River is at only a bit above half its return for last year. At the least, the numbers are very troubling.

In addition, DFO has closed many rivers - especially those in Zones 3 and 4 for reasons of low water:

Salmon Rivers CLOSING in Zone 3, Zone 4, with more Zone 4 and Zone 11 closures on July 20.

DFO advises anglers that due to extremely low water levels and extremely high water temperatures, the following rivers will close effective one hour after sunset on Wednesday July 19, 2017. Rivers will reopen as conditions improve.

Coney Arm River
Sop's Arm river, including Main, Doucer's, Natlin's, Corner Brook & tributary streams
Hampden River
Wild Cove Brook, White Bay
Western Arm Brook, White Bay
Middle Arm Brook, White Bay
Southern Arm Brook, White Bay
Baie Verte River & tributaries
Woodstock River

Burlington River
Indian River, Hall's Bay, including Burnt Berry Brook below falls, Davis Brook and Black Brook
West River, Hall's Bay, including Rowsell's Brook & Barney's Brook
South Brook, Hall's Bay & tributary streams
Tommy's Arm River & tributary streams
Northwest Arm Brook
Western Arm River
Leamington River
Charles Brook, Bay of Exploits
Northern Arm River, Bay of Exploits
Peter's River, Bay of Exploits
Tributaries of the Exploits River, including tributaries below Grand Falls fishway AND tributaries of mid-Exploits from Grand Falls fishway to Red Indian Lake dam, as well as all Exploits watershed above Red Indian Lake dam.
Campbellton River and tributaries, including Neyles Brook and Indian Arm River and tributary streams
Dog Bay Rivers, including Southwest Brook and all tributary streams
Northwest Gander tributary
All other tributaries of the main stem and Southwest Gander River
Waters above Great Gull Falls on the Great Gull River (tributary Northwest Gander)
Waters above Big Dead Wolf Falls including Waters and Caribou Brook (tributary Southwest Gander)
Ragged Harbour River and tributary streams
Anchor Brook
Deadman's Bay River and tributary streams
Windmill Brook

Bay du Nord River
Simmons Brook and tributary streams, Cinq Island Bay, Fortune Bay
Southwest Brook and tributary steams, Cinq Island Bay, Fortune Bay
Old Bay Brook, Bay de l'Eau
Taylor's Bay Brook, Bay de l'Eau
Tributary streams of Conne River including Bernard's Brook and Twillick Brook, Bay d'Espoir

For more information please visit the In Season River Status report at
or call the Angling Line at 709-772-4423.

Personal River Reports:

Castor River - Far up the Northern Peninsula. Leo White was fishing a bit more than a week ago.

I had a 15-pounder to release at Dry Fly Pool on the Castor, and others in the party had several other salmon to release. Water Levels were good.

Don Ivany of ASF was on the Castor River a few days later and found very different conditions however.

I was there Saturday and water temperatures were getting warm, and fish were not "flying" well. Things are really starting to slow down.

Castor River on July 15, 2017.  Photo Geoff Giffin/ASF

Don Ivany was also at the Torrent River on Fri., July 14:

Water levels were perfect, or perhaps a touch on the high side. There were a few Atlantic salmon around, and a fair big of angling activity on the Torrent River.

Torrent River as it was on Fri., July 14, 2017.   Photo Geoff Giffin/ASF

Gander River - Don Ivany visited the river on July 11 and 12.

Near Grassy Holes there were a few salmon. But water temperatures were close to 20 C. and didn't connect with the salmon until late in the evening.

Gander River boat on the evening of July 11, 2017. With warmer water, it was in the evening the salmon were rising to flies. Photo Geoff Giffin/ASF

Poaching activity seems to seldom wane, and a considerable "bust" took place near Big Chute with a help of the wardens on the Gander. Undoubtedly there will be more details coming up on that one.

Ken McLean is reporting on the Terra Nova, Middle Brook and Traverse Brook in central Newfoundland:

I have stopped fishing the Terra Nova River due to warm water. A few fish are being hooked above the TCH at the falls but below the TCH at Glovertown fishing has been difficult. Following the rain last weekend and the full moon I counted 30 anglers on the river and saw only one fish hooked in 4 hours. Given the water temperature this river should be closed.


A small run of fish came in on Middle Brook and Traverse Brook on the full moon tides but this seems to have stopped. I fished from the old road bridge to the saltwater to coincide with the incoming tide on Monday. Only saw one other angler and no fish in the pools. There were no anglers at the road bridge when I went passed Middle Brook.

Main River - This magnificent near-wilderness river with some of the last old-growth forests in NL, was another river where the salmon appear to be fewer and further between this year.

Don Ivany says of it:

Didn't see a fish. Water levels were good, but water temperature was getting warm. Was at Misery Point on Monday, July 10, and overall there was a poor sign of fish.

Main River on July 10, 2017. Can you spot the angler? Photo Geoff Giffin/ASF

Cornerbrook Stream, that amazingly successful restoration of an extirpated population, is apparently a bit ahead of last year. This is a really great news story of water a consistent conservation effort can achieve. Last year they had more than 125 returning adult salmon, in a stream that a few decades ago had none.

Humber River had a decent run of fish in the past two weeks, but fewer are now being seen as the water warms up. One comment on the river is that more large salmon have been seen than expected.

Geoff Giffin, who took the above photos and is ASF's Director for Regional Programs, has this to say about a recent visit to several rivers in Newfoundland:

We visited five rivers over the course of the week, including the Main River, the Exploits and Gander in central Newfoundland, and the Torrent and Castors on the Northern Peninsula.  Despite the lower than usual numbers of Atlantic salmon, anglers were out enjoying all the rivers we visited.  For the most part, river levels were starting to drop to low levels and water temperatures warming up with the sunny, hot days.  We didn’t experience a drop of rain over the course of the week.  Even during long dry periods, the Gander can maintain relatively good water temperatures owing to the very cold and deep influence of Gander Lake.
Everywhere we went, the story was similar.  Anglers were having some success, but were working harder for their hookups than usual.  I suspect that each time out to the river, anglers were hoping they would encounter “the big run”.  Late in the week, after a story appeared on CBC about DFO considering implementing a retention ban, discussion turned to the merits of taking such action in the face of the lower returns.


The Sand Hill River counts to July 16 show 612 grilse and 237 large salmon in 2017 vs. 258 grilse and 452 large salmon in 2016. This also is well behind the 2011 to 2016 5-year average of 1,558 grilse and 574 large salmon to the same date.

Muddy Bay Brook has had 31 grilse and 2 large salmon to July 16, vs. 51 grilse and 4 large salmon in 2016.

Paradise River had 26 grilse and 6 large salmon to July 16, vs. 2015's 15 grilse and 8 large salmon

Overall the concern is naturally with the Sand Hill's numbers this year.

On the Eagle River, Dwight Lethbridge of Pratt Falls Lodge reported on July 14 that water was high, but there had been 146 salmon hooked over the previous week, with about 80% being large salmon. He notes that the grilse really are noticeable by their low numbers, while the overall return is good, thanks to the large salmon.

The water temperatures remain cool, in the neighbourhood of 12 C/55 F, which is great as far as the Atlantic salmon are concerned.

Why are the grilse numbers low? He suspects that one reason may be reduced number of capelin due to overfishing of this important food for Atlantic salmon at sea.

Flowers River - Mike Crosby notes they have had some really nice salmon.

We have landed a number of fish in the 20lb range, and salmon are present in good numbers. The water is low and we could use rain.

Nice grilse being released on Flowers River. ASF photo.


The July 15 numbers are in for counting facilities operated by DFO and here is how they look, put down in a spreadsheet.

St. John River - As with so many other rivers, the grilse are just not showing up the way they might. Bear in mind that recent years are all among the lowest returns on records. The St. John River returns were numbered in the thousands in the 1980s and before.

Nashwaak - The number of grilse is low, as it is in so many other rivers.

Nashwaak River headwaters in 2016. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF
Miramichi -

LATE BREAKING NEWS - Pool Closures on the Miramichi
Click here for list

With numbers so low, the comparison between two relatively low years like 2016 and 2017 do not give a true mid-summer picture. Geoff Giffin of ASF with long experience of the Miramichi, brings in the following points:

I can’t help but keep checking back on the numbers to compare with a recent good year (2011) and a recent poor year (2014).  In a nutshell, the 2017 numbers are much closer to 2014 at this point in the season than 2011.  The 2017 numbers (which are similar to 2016) are but a fraction of the 2011 numbers.
Some data snippets, observations and thoughts:
  • Totals for both rivers are presently about 20% of what they were in 2011 to same point in the season.
  • Grilse numbers on both rivers roughly 10%-12% of 2011 numbers.
  • 2017 not far off 2014 in total numbers, with the only positive I see in here being that the number of large salmon on both rivers in 2017 is roughly double what it was in 2014, so that may help with egg deposition results at the end of the season.
  • Even though grilse are largely male, a decrease of this magnitude should be noted and monitored.  Even their “limited” contribution of eggs will be missed, especially if the large salmon numbers aren’t enough to meet conservation limits.

Out on the river, Brock Curtis of Curtis Miramichi Outfitters has these notes:

 Another day or two and we will be moving out of our typical July heat wave. We go through this every summer, usually for two to three weeks .Friday's forecast looks like we will start getting more normal temperatures and hopefully some rain. That being said, rivers are low and air and water temperatures have been high.

Reports at the Tackle Shop are the odd salmon is being caught though most anglers are reporting seeing fish but in most cases they aren't taking. This might be a good time to remind salmon anglers to be aware of the hook and release protocol in warm waters while angling salmon. ASF has a great video on this, and it is very worthwhile to watch.

Link to ASF's Live Release Video - available in English, French, and Norwegian.

I watched a gentleman hook a grilse this past Sunday evening and it has bothered me ever since. Without a landing net and buddy to help, we generally have to play a salmon longer to tail it. In a case like this, we need to give this fish some help before releasing it.I mmediately throwing it back doesn't give it much of a chance and really upsets anglers who are watching.

In a few days we will probably see better river conditions and this shouldn't be a problem. In the mean time lets enjoy the fishing but be conscious of  protect this precious resource.

Northern New Brunswick

- C. D. Clarke provides a report on the salmon from this week:

On to the Restigouche. We had one of those trips you dream about. 57 salmon and grilse( 25 salmon/32 grilse) to the 4 canoes in 8 sessions. The Salmon God was even fair in his/her distribution. I think all canoes had about the same number of fish within one or two. Weather was very bright and one day the water got warm (21 C/70 F) and shut the evening fishing off but even with the bright sun and lowish water we caught fish. Who knows how many we would have caught with cloudy, cool weather. A big run of grilse came through on the 15th and 16th. Gorgeous 5 lb chunky bars of silver. Great to see them.

The Jacquet River numbers remain considerably below last year's, as noted in the chart at the beginning of the NB section.


The fishway and counting fence assessment in Nova Scotia is rather minimal. Below are counts from July 15:

LaHave - While the number of large salmon is down somewhat, it is heartening to see that grilse are returning in modest numbers this year.

Sackville River - It is encouraging to see some increase in the returns to the Sackville River this year, after a very dismal situation in 2016.

Margaree - Greg Lovely notes the following at mid-week.

The Margaree is now EXTREMELY LOW. The salmon are still coming and they are in many of the deeper holding pools.

Thank goodness several of the pools have corrected themselves in the last year, giving the salmon who did venture up the Northeast branch cool,deep,safe haven from this drought we are having.


Penobscot - One feels like cheerleading the Atlantic salmon returns in 2017. After several unremarkable years we now have had 284 grilse and 514 large salmon to July 17, totalling 798. This is by far the best return since the incredible 2011 year when 2,915 had come in by July 14.

While the run is perhaps nearly finished, it certainly would be great to get above 800 at least.

Kennebec - To July 17, there have been 2 grilse and 30 large salmon.

Narraguagus - This Downeast River has had 23 grilse and 8 large salmon. While very low, this also is an improvement over 2016, and hopefully the other Downeast Rivers are seeing some returns as well. These rivers include the Dennys, East Machias, Machias, Pleasant.


Water levels continue to be very low with temperatures on the rise.  But, salmon continue to participate in the summer action.

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

Note that data used in the Quebec river notes are sourced from various river websites, social media and Quebec government sources.

York, Dartmouth and St-Jean Rivers

Results as of July 16 are available at:

Patapedia River

On July 1, the CGRMP decided to continue live release of large salmon until season end of the season.  This decision was taken in accordance with the new Quebec 10-year salmon management plan.

Bill Taylor releasing an Atlantic salmon at the van Allen Pool on the Cascapedia River on June 29, 2017

Martin Silverstone, editor of the Atlantic Salmon Journal, with Don Bourgouin of Grey Ghost Destinations on the York River July 12, 2017. Photo Charles Cusson/ASF