Does the phase of the moon really affect the homeward migration of wild Atlantic salmon?

It's really a two-part question: First does the moon's light or position itself affect salmon? Or is the the height and strength of tides, driven by the moon?

We do have an answer to the first part of this. A few years ago researchers in Sweden analyzed catch data for three rivers entering the Baltic Sea where there was no measurable tide. The result was interesting. There was a very small, but real increase in catches during a full moon.

Meanwhile, there is much evidence that Atlantic salmon prefer entering rivers on days with the greatest tides, which occur during and just past a full moon. With the next full moon a few days away on July 9, many are watching with interest to see if there is a surge of Atlantic salmon into rivers throughout its range. Here's hoping.

Photo of full moon over Southwest Miramichi by Blair Robertson

New Brunswick

Paul Elson Jr. releases a 12lb Atlantic salmon on the Northwest Miramichi on June 22.  Photo Stephanie Elson.


Overall, water conditions have been ideal, both levels and temperatures, but almost all are finding low Atlantic salmon numbers at this point. Water temperatures are now on the rise. Recently they were about 60F/15C, but Paul Elson reported last evening on the NW Miramichi it reached 75F/24C by 8 pm., before cooling off, in a crisp, fairly clear evening.

Brock Curtis of Blackville says:

We seem to have various reports from anglers all over the Miramichi River system. Some reports are really good fishing with quite a few salmon/grilse being landed while others are not seeing anything. Yet others are getting hits, bumps and losing salmon. A few of the guides and property owners are saying there has been a trickle of salmon moving up the river every day for the last seven days or more. One common prediction we hear a lot at the tackle shop is that we need a good rain to bring the river up and hopefully bring in the larger July salmon runs. In some areas anglers are still catching Shad and Striped Bass further up in the freshwater areas of the river. Overall, I think from the reports a good rain would really switch things up and create better river conditions all around.

Julia Carpenter releases a salmon in the rain on the Sevogle on Canada Day, July 1.   Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Debbie Norton of Upper Oxbow Adventures notes:

Conditions have been perfect, with great water, and temperatures low enough. Salmon and grilse are both being found, but not in numbers yet.

Keith Wilson of Wilson's Sporting Camps says:

Water levels and temperatures are great for Atlantic salmon, with some salmon and grilse, but not that many fish.

Nathan Wilbur, ASF Director of Programs for New Brunswick says:

Despite near perfect water conditions, angling has been reported to be very slow throughout the province. The next 10 days will be telling, as the typical good portion of the summer run should be coming in.

If we turn to the latest counting fence data, a special point needs to be made. When looking at the counting fence data below, always be aware that the numbers are a small fraction of the salmon in the watershed at any time. On the Miramichi system the tributary Dungarvon is used for sampling, for example.

Dungarvon is reporting 35 large salmon but only 8 grilse to July 2, compared with 37 large salmon and 28 grilse in 2016. Both numbers are far below what should be coming in, but the grilse numbers are especially low.

The Northwest Miramichi Counting Fence is reporting 43 large salmon and 12 grilse to July 2, compared with 31 large salmon and 35 grilse in 2016.

The Trap Net Data, part of the screenshot below, shows a similar trend.

St. John River and Nashwaak - The numbers above also indicate lower early returns in 2017. However, on the Nashwaak, ASF's Nathan Wilbur says numbers now being entered are higher than the June 30 figures above.


Danny Bird of Kedgwick Lodge notes:

Two days of 25+C temperatures have caused the water to drop considerably. Large salmon are still the main draw however grilse are now becoming more plentiful.

Jason Hallett poles for the right casting location on the Kedgwick River at the end of June, 2017. He is the volunteer chair of ASF's Fredericton Dinner.  Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Ben Wallace releases his "best looking salmon ever", a 12lb/5.4kg fish on the Kedgwick. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

David LeBlanc of the Restigouche River Watershed Management Committee also notes:

Grilse are being caught and there has been a good run of two-sea-winter Atlantic salmon, but below that of last year. Temperatures remain cool.

Striped bass this year have been caught high in the Restigouche River system he also notes. This is causing some concern for the impact on juveniles.

Nova Scotia

As noted above, the LaHave has had 20 large salmon and 135 grilse to June 30. That compares with 30 large salmon and only 3 grilse last year. Certainly for grilse that is a positive sign.


Greg Lovely reports:

I wish I had good news. Everyone around us is getting heavy rain. However, we are getting sporadic showers at best. As a result, the Northeast branch is extremely low,and since that is where the bulk of the Margaree salmon go, it is not fishing well. If you look back at the hydrometric data graph, we have not had a good rain since the middle of May. There are salmon jumping around down in the harbour and hopefully we
get some heavy rain soon.


Exploits - Fred Parsons of ERMA says that as of July 4, they have had only 613 Atlantic salmon through the counting facility. A year before, they had 8,972.

He notes that not only is this slow influx of Atlantic salmon  a concern for the species, but it is also affecting the number of anglers taking time to go Atlantic salmon fishing this year, and thus is a concern for the economies of small communities as well.

Tolson Parsons has just returned from fishing the Humber River:

River conditions are good but salmon numbers are way down. I just got back from fishing the Humber on the west coast and there are fish but not great numbers. I will be fishing the rivers around Gander for the next week so should have a better idea about things by next week; so far not good.

Barb Genge of Tuckamore Lodge, near the top of the Northern Peninsula, says there was a run of salmon up the Salmon River, but they kept on going into the upper river, and there are presently few in the lower river. There are apparently considerable numbers of salmon in Beaver Brook - the stream where salmon swim through an underground cavern on their way to headwaters areas.

The NL Counts to July 2 were posted on July 6.


High water and late salmon seem to be the Labrador story so far this year.

Mike Crosby of Flowers River Lodge says:

On the Hawke River, salmon are at least 10 days late and have just started to arrive in decent numbers.  Water is high and cool.  It was -5 C air temperature at the Camp this morning (July 6). The Flowers River opens to anglers on July 15.

A nice release on the Hawke River in Labrador   Photo Mike Crosby

Pratt Falls Lodge on the Eagle River notes  the water has dropped and there are fish around. They note that one guest brought in a 12kg/26lb salmon, unusually large for this river.


From Charles Cusson, ASF Director of Quebec Programs

The data presented in the Quebec segment is sourced from a collection individual river web sites, and social media accounts.

To June 30, 2017, rivers in the lower St-Lawrence and Gaspé areas are dealing with very low levels and flow.  The York in-river count will be done by July 10 to ascertain abundance.

Despite the very low water conditions, guides and anglers are reporting salmon entering all three rivers near the community of Gaspé (St-Jean, York, and Dartmouth). There are some decent amounts or rain forecast for Friday and Saturday (up to 45mm) in the Murdochville area, if it becomes reality this will certainly help conditions for both anglers and our salmon.

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.  Tight Lines!

Jupiter River – Anticosti Island – Season opened on June 15:

ASF member Charles “Chip” Brennan reports very low water conditions on the island.  He and his party were the third group of the year from June 25 to 29.  To that date, a total of 26 salmon and 4 grilse had been landed and released.

Chip Brennan releases a nice grilse in the Jupiter River on Anticosti Island in late June, 2017.


The Penobscot as of July 3 has 461 large salmon and 176 grilse, totalling 637 - and this is significantly above the final number for the 2016 year! 

It is also a relief that the State Government Budget Impasse in Maine did not last more than a few days. While some facilities like Milford's Fish Lift are largely run by the power company, other smaller facilities on other rivers relied on Maine state employees.

The Kennebec has had 26 large salmon and 2 grilse.

The Narraguagus has had 8 large salmon and 14 grilse.

All things considered, these critically low numbers are at least going in a positive direction compared with 2016.