ASF Rivernotes June 2 2017

A Concern for Large Salmon in 2017

ASF released its State of the Atlantic Salmon Populations  Report 2017 on June 1, and front and centre was a concern about the likely numbers of returning large salmon in 2017.

The reasons were two-fold. First, the number of grilse in 2016 returning to North American rivers was down 31 percent. It dropped in every region except the critically endangered U.S. rivers. Secondly, fishermen in Greenland caught 27 tonnes, which was far below their self-imposed quota. The fishermen talked about not finding the salmon, and together with the decreased salmon that had spent one winter at sea, does not bode well for returns in 2017.

To read the report, that also has details on how well many rivers did in egg deposition last fall, check out the press release and report at:



A vast number of rivers opened their season on June 1, but angling started as of May 18 on the Causapscal River and as of May 25 on the Moisie, York, Dartmouth and St-Jean rivers.  Some fish have been spotted and landed to date but river levels have been dropping fast!  Next 2017 season opening dates are June 15 and July 1.

The year 2017 is the second one of the Atlantic salmon management in Quebec.  Except for six rivers, Moisie, Natashquan, St-Jean (North Shore) as of June 1, York and Patapedia as of July 1, all large salmon must be released until a mid-season abundance assessment can be made.  

The English version of the Quebec management plan is available at:


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 correctly calculate angling success.  Tight Lines!

York, Dartmouth and St-Jean (Gaspé)

Angling started on May 25 and there have been sporadic reported captures and releases to date.  

Water flows have dropped significantly on the Dartmouth and the York (32 and 25 cubic meters per second respectively) which should improve things during the next week.

At its peak during the period of very heavy rain combined with the snow melt, Dartmouth was 350 cubic meters per second on May 7 and the York recorded 300 cubic meters per second on May 8.

Sainte-Anne River

This beautiful Gaspé river was not spared from the havoc stemming from the very heavy rain in May.

During a period of 24 hours on May 6 to 7, the flow rose from 100 to over 450 cubic meters per second.  Unfortunately, this resulted in two fatalities due to road conditions being severely weakened.

Bridge damaged along Route 299 which permits access to the very popular Petit-Sault Pool and Camps.  No word yet on when a replacement will be built.  Charles Cusson/ASF

From ASF's State of the Populations Report, Quebec attained 84% of CL for 2SW spawners. A total of 35 Quebec rivers were assessed. The Bonaventure River attained only 96% of its egg CL while the Cascapedia reached 256%. The Matapedia reached 99% of egg CL. Of rivers north of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the de la Trinité attained 109% of its egg CL, and the Vieux Fort had the highest at 1139%. On Anticosti, the Jupiter attained 226% of egg CL.

Nova Scotia


Greg Lovely wrote mid-week:

I just spent 3-4 hours fishing five different pools up and down river. I never saw a fresh salmon. Lots of trout around. Apparently one of the guides saw fresh fish jumping on the weekend. A beautiful sunny day today,but the strong North wind still has quite a "bite" The black flies are having feasting on me.I'm one of those guys that black flies love and when out on the river.

The Margaree had an estimated return in 2016 of 2,500 large salmon, and 241% of the conservation requirement of 1,036. The 2016 estimate of 350 grilse is far below the long term average of 900. In eastern Cape Breton, the Middle, Baddeck and North Rivers reached 34%, 30% and 79% of their egg CL respectively


This river was a great generator of Atlantic salmon, but last year the LaHave reached only 4 percent of its egg conservation minimum, and grilse were almost absent from the returns. Large salmon returns did increase from 19 to 39, and that definitely helped.

Lewis Hinks on Wednesday was up the La Have, and took a few photos that give a sense of water levels on this wonderful river.

LaHave River below Wentzell Lake on May 31, 2017 - all LaHave photos Lewis Hinks/ASF

Lewis Hinks also photographed the Morgan Falls Fishway, where returning Atlantic salmon are counted.

Morgan Falls Fishway on LaHave River is the only counting facility on any river along the eastern side of Nova Scotia, except for the acid rain rehabilitation program on the West River Sheet Harbour.  Lewis Hinks/ASF

New Brunswick

Nathan Wilbur writes on June 1:

While folks throughout the Miramichi system, Saint John system, and on other rivers throughout the province are enjoying good sea trout fishing (with some trout in the 20 inch range), a few anglers up on the Restigouche are getting into some early salmon.

River conditions are shaping up nicely for early June fishing and anglers on the Restigouche are connecting. Careful live release practices will ensure these large, mostly female salmon survive and make it to the headwaters where they will spawn this fall. These fish are unique, they are the 3 sea-winter salmon, the crème de la crème, the big egg bearers, and it is vitally important that we all help them survive to spawn. They have done their part by surviving 3 years in the river and then 3 years at sea, and now let’s do our part by helping them complete the last leg.


Salmon assessment work is underway, the ARIS sonar cameras are in place in Blackville on the Southwest Miramichi and there are plans to monitor other rivers this year with these state of the art cameras. This should provide a more accurate count of adult returning salmon and could be a tool for monitoring more rivers as DFO moves toward river by river management. The smolt run in most rivers is now petering out and smolt wheels are being replaced by counting fences, for example on the Nashwaak River.

Southwest Miramichi at confluence of Sisters Brook on May 31, 2017.  Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

From the State of the Population Report, the outer coast of Nova Scotia and Bay of Fundy rivers attained 6% of 2SW spawners.

For the St. John River at Mactaquac, the return estimated in 2016 included 197 large salmon and 509 grilse, and the river attained 4% of its egg CL based on natural production, but 21% when captive-reared salmon are included. The Nashwaak in 2016 estimated returns were 75 large salmon and 398 grilse, attaining 7% of the egg CL.

As to the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence Region, it attained only 84% of 2SW spawners. However, this was a modest improvement over the 78% for 2015. Grilse returns were down significantly to 25,750 from 43,600 in 2015, a decline of 41%, a considerable drop. Large salmon returns were up slightly in 2016, to 35,600 from 33.595.

The Miramichi had estimated returns of 18,200 large salmon and 15,200 grilse, and in 2016, live release was mandatory.

DFO notes that 107% of the CL was reached for the Southwest Miramichi, and 72% of the CL for the Northwest Miramichi.

In the Restigouche watershed, large spawner counts were all below the conservation requirements for the Kedgwick (77%), Little Main Restigouche (63%) the Upsalquitch (89%) and the Patapedia (34%). However the mainstem Restigouche River exceeded at 129%.

Restigouche -

David LeBlanc reports this week:

After an extreme spring high waters, things are back to normal and a good run of fish is reported. Even though not many camps are open for the spring season, local guides and guest are experiencing good fishing. Some fisherman even got their daily release limit on the Restigouche river and a few 30-40 lbs salmon have been caught. We are at the tail of the smolt run with the peak happening last weekend.

The other big news is that the Province of New Brunswick has made a management decision on Larry's Gulch Lodge.

Larry's Gulch Changes Management

Here is a note from Todd Kennedy of Ristigouche Salmon Club on Larry's Gulch Salmon Camp:

"As you may be aware, over the past year the provincial government has been seeking a third party to manage the operations of Larry’s Gulch Lodge.  I am excited to inform you that the Ristigouche Salmon Club has been selected as the new operator, and that Larry’s Gulch Lodge will be opening to the public on June 5, 2017.
The Province still owns Larry’s Gulch Lodge and all the assets.  The Club will simply be operating the Lodge on the Province’s behalf for the 2017 season.  With our 137 years of experience on the Restigouche, we are committed to maintain the Lodge’s high caliber service delivery, and will be an effective steward of the Lodge and the angling resource.
If you already have a reservation for 2017, it will be honored and we look forward to having you.  If you do not have a trip booked, I would like to let you know that there are still two and four day sessions available at different times in June, July and August.  We also have individual rods available in June and August.  If you would like more details, please get in touch with the Club through our email at  rsc3@globetrotter.net  or at the office at 418-865-2942."


Penobscot - Things have picked up somewhat at the Milford Fish Lift, and the water is certainly still cold, at about 15 C.

The State of the Atlantic Salmon 2017 had this to say:

Atlantic salmon return to rivers between Connecticut and Maine, but are at critically low population levels. There is no harvest of Atlantic salmon in the U.S. The Species at Risk Act protects both the species and critical habitat.

The segment attained only 3% of CL for 2SW spawners in 2016.

There were a total of 626 salmon returning to the U.S.A. in 2016, a 32% decrease from 921 in 2015.

Returns for Gulf of Maine rivers were down 30%; in Central New England rivers down 61%; and Long Island Sound rivers down 77%.

The Penobscot River had a return of 507 salmon -  286 large salmon and 218 grilse. Returns to the Penobscot were 81% of Atlantic salmon returning to all U.S. rivers.

The Kennebec River had 39 Atlantic salmon return, the Androscoggin 6, Connecticut 5, Merrimack 5, Narraguagus 3 and Saco 2.


Don Ivany, ASF Director of Programs for Newfoundland and Labrador, on June 1, OPENING DAY, in Newfoundland:

I drove out to Bay St. George this morning  which is where most of our early run rivers are located.  

Southwest Brook Estuary Anglers on Opening Day - out in the rain, but loving the river.   Don Ivany/ASF

I visited Southwest Brook and Bottom Brook, which are usually two of the better indicator rivers in Bay St. George).  There were quite a few anglers out on these two rivers this morning, despite the rain and cool air temperatures.  However, water levels were near perfect for angling and water temperatures were nice and cold.   

Unfortunately, the early reports from anglers were not great.  They estimated that perhaps a half dozen fish were hooked on the lower section of these two rivers this morning and all were grilse.  In comparison, in a really good year there would be upwards of 30 fish hooked in this same area on opening day with a mix of grilse and a few large fish.   

Anglers in general were in good spirits and glad to have the opportunity to be back on the river again to cast a fly, and to renew old acquaintances.  Among the discussions taking place among anglers was  the fact that five seals were sighted at the mouth of Southwest Brook this morning, leading anglers to speculate that seals might be part of the reason for recent salmon population declines.  Aquaculture impacts, and First Nations net fisheries were also mentioned as possibily contributing to declines…. with a general feeling that more needs to be done by our governments to address these problems. 

A break from cold water and still watching for Atlantic salmon on June 1.   Don Ivany/ASF

On a more positive note, anglers being the eternal optimists that they are, all agreed that it’s hard to judge what returns are going to be like this season based on evidence from opening day only, and most felt with the late spring experienced in NL this year that the fish will be a couple weeks late.
Water levels on Harry’s River was at mean water flow rate this morning which would be perfect for angling but since returns to this river are a few weeks later than other rivers in Bay St. George I did not see any anglers fishing this river this morning, which is the norm for opening day.
I did take a look at the hydrometric graphs for other rivers throughout the province on the provincial governments web-site, and currently there is a fair bit of variation from one region of the province to another.  

For example, water levels on Grey River and Conne River, both on the South Coast, are both low for this time of year and water temperatures are about 15 degrees C.   As noted above, most rivers in Bay St. George are currently at about medium level.   Water levels on the Humber River and Main River are currently very high, as are water levels on the Northern Peninsula Rivers, as well as most rivers in Labrador.  Rivers in central Newfoundland like the Exploits and Gander are still too high for fishing but are dropping steadily.  Water levels on most Avalon rivers are currently medium to high.

From the State of the Population 2017 Report, based on ICES data: Total estimate return of grilse was 164,200, a 42% decline from the 2015 return of 283,500 grilse.  The Conne, representing the threatened south coast rivers, met 56% of its egg CL. The Harry's River in western Newfoundland met 125% of the egg CL, while the Exploits reached 36%. Rivers on the Northern Peninsula did better with Western Arm Brook at 502% of egg CL, and the Torrent 658%.

Rick Madigan had a look at the Salmonier River in eastern Newfoundland recently.

Just back from the river so I can only comment on the Salmonier. Water is very low, especially for this time of year. No sign of fish - it's still quite early. The only saving grace is the water temperature, not quite even 10C.