Rivers of our Future

There is a focus on rivers in the fall, and for some it is a focus on those Atlantic salmon rivers. There is a renewed stirring in the Atlantic salmon to begin moving into the rivers, when rain permits, and to swim upstream towards spawning areas. The light may be more sombre, and the clouds more evident, but that only brings out the rich colours developing along the shores, and reminding us of the dropping temperatures in the water that benefit the Atlantic salmon.

Familiar evening light on Restigouche hills along the Upsalquitch. September at its best. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

There are usually fewer folks on the river, and the opportunity expands for settling in and communing with all that these rivers are to us, and to the Atlantic salmon. Atlantic salmon are great travellers, but these rivers are their home. Each deserves to be treasured and it is a privilege to know each one better. These are the rivers where the bond between humans and Atlantic salmon is strongest - and from which the next generation, the future, will eventually travel out to far ocean feeding grounds in a cycle as complete as the seasons.


The season closed on Sept. 15, so time to start dreaming about 2017 on the gorgeous rivers of this rugged land.

Eagle River - In the past couple of weeks the water levels dropped again to to good levels for anglers. Pratts Falls Lodge reported that in early September the levels and water temperatures were perfect and good fishing was to be had. Also, far fewer people right at the end of the season.

Eagle River flows majestically through a Labrador landscape. Photo Don Ivany/ASF

DFO has compiled and posted their officlal counts as of Sept. 11. These folks doing the Newfoundland & Labrador reporting have done a great job being transparent with the numbers and sharing them in a timely manner. Hats go off to them!

English River - There were 623 grilse and 94 large salmon, compared with 717 grilse and 255 large salmon  to that date in 2015.

Sand Hill River - To Sept. 11 a total of 1,085 grilse and 969 large salmon compares unfavourably, especially in grilse to the 2015 count of 2,580 grilse and 1,093 large salmon.

Muddy Bay Brook
- 239 grilse and 18 large salmon gives a total of 257, less than half of the 2015 count of 556 grilse and 45 large salmon totalling 601.

Paradise River
- There were 74 grilse and31 large salmon totalling 105, less than a third of the 2015 number of 305 grilse and 58 large salmon that totalled 363.

Watson's Pool, Pinware River, southern Labrador. Photo Don Ivany/ASF


The pattern is certainly emerging of a drop in numbers in 2016 in most rivers - Of the 11 rivers assessed in both 2016 and 2015, nine had lower returns and two had higher returns in 2016.

Besides these there was the major issue of Rocky River last year when the fishway reconstruction totally blocked upstream passage, and this year's count to Sept. 11 is only 213, well below the 476 that was the 2011-2015 average.

The Exploits remains a remarkable river, but with its potential so much greater, one is naturally disappointed with the 23,459 in 2016, compared with 30,735 in 2015 and even higher numbers in some recent years.

The Conne on the south coast remains of special concern with the near-historic low number of 1,224, compared with 2,400 in 2015 and traditional runs much greater than that.

The Humber, Exploits and Gander rivers remain open to angling until Oct. 7. Click here for details.

A leaper at Big Falls on the Humber River - one of the great sights not to be missed by any resident or visitor to Newfoundland. Photo Tom Moffatt/ASF

On the Humber, ASF's Don Ivany notes that some anglers have had some success recently.

Nova Scotia

All the talk is of the need for rain. Not just a light or medium rain, but a true soaking, going on for a few days. The Margaree, the rivers along Northumberland Strait and all the other rivers further south share the same need.

Margaree - Greg Lovely notes:

Hopefully we get some rain soon. The Northeast Branch of the Margaree is extremely low. The Margaree River hatchery is well on its way to getting brood stock. Tuesday, Sept. 13, most of the hatchery’s needs were met by sweeping just one of the pools. A lot of volunteers made the work easier, and we all had a very enjoyable day.

When the water level is good for angling, there is no better place to spend a day than on the NW Margaree River.

New Brunswick

Nathan Wilbur, ASF's Director of New Brunswick Program notes:

The Southwest Miramichi is low and anglers/outfitters are reporting that the fish are there but awfully finicky in taking a fly – folks are now waiting for the fall run and with the cooler water temperatures and shorter days that should be anytime. Southern New Brunswick is experiencing desperately low water levels and in need of some rain to help salmon make their way up rivers towards the spawning grounds.

Southwest Miramichi - The Dungarvon Barrier is reporting 139 grilse and 112 large salmon to Sept. 11 this year, vs. 155 grilse and 149 large salmon to that date in 2015.

Northwest Miramichi - The Northwest Barrier has had 228 grilse and 81 large salmon to Sept. 11, 2016, vs 206 grilse and 68 large salmon in 2015.

Poachers - While the Northwest numbers are up, we have also had a number of reports of poachers, both those using nets and those with flyfishing equipment. If you see such activity report it as soon as possible - and make note of any details or take photos. For details on reporting click here.

Upsalquitch (Restigouche System) - The count to Sept. 11 has been 232 grilse and 109 large salmon to Sept. 11, compared with 581 grilse and 155 large salmon. In total, this means that this year's total of 341 is less than half the 2015 count to same date of 736.

John Whitelaw fishing in high water on the Upsalquitch on Sept. 11, 2016. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Nathan Wilbur, who was on the Upsalquitch on Sept. 11 notes:

The Restigouche has received lots of rain and water levels are high but dropping (and with the raise in water came great fishing, at least in some places!).

John Whitelaw releasing an Atlantic salmon on Sept. 11, 2016 on the Upsalquitch. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Note that Jacquet River is having a "pulse" of incoming Atlantic salmon, likely responding to the recent rain plus the cooling temperatures.


Mother Nature has delivered much needed rain for most Quebec rivers, and flows are back up to good angling levels that hopefully will hold until month's end, and the close of the salmon season.

We can still look forward to salmon rivers looking like this - the Matapedia - but we are not quite there yet. Photo Charles Cusson/ASF

Data used in the Quebec RIVERNOTES is synthesized from various river websites, social media and Quebec government sources.

Pourvoirie Nabisipi UnapeuHipu Outfitter - Nabisipi River

Under new management as of 2016, this little known river and camp have set a goal to keep better track of sport fishing captures and hopefully the state of the migrations via refurbished counting infrastructure.  Interesting fact about Nabisipi salmon, they arrive in early to mid-July and provide good angling to mid-September.  The 2016 season ended on September 11.


Autumn is always a special time in Maine. The visitors are fewer, and the rivers and mountains take on a special quality with cooler temperatures, less haze and growing tinges of colour. This year there is the excitement of having the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument the provides protection for a beautiful landscape to the east of the great mountain, as well as for Atlantic salmon spawning and juvenile habitat in the East Branch of the Penobscot River and Wassataquoik Stream.

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument protects Atlantic salmon stream and watershed habitat. Photo NPS.

Penobscot - The last tally at the Milford Fishlift was 287 large salmon and 215 grilse as of Sept. 5, with a total of 502 salmon.

Kennebec had 36 large salmon and 1 grilse as of the same date. The Androscoggin had 7, the Narraguagus 3, and the Saco 2.

The Maine numbers were pulled from the Maine Trap Counts Statistics page that does not provide comparisons with previous years.