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ASF Rivernotes 11 June 2021



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Atlantic salmon in a pool of a Gaspé river. Photo Nick Hawkins
ASF released the 2021 State of the Population report this week. While we greatly need increased assessment of Atlantic salmon populations, both adult and juveniles, exactly the opposite occurred in most jurisdictions in 2020, thanks to Covid-19 impacts on field work. Thus the overall reliability of conclusions for North American Atlantic salmon overall is less than stellar. Especially for the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, conclusions were in part made on past numbers.

The bottom line was clear, however. The scientific advice is two-fold: no “Mixed Stock Fishery” and full implementation of river-by-river management.

“Mixed Stock Fishery” means harvesting of Atlantic salmon where they would be from different populations. For example, a fishery where some might include endangered populations such as those in rivers of Maine, or from Bay of Fundy rivers or those on the outer coast of Nova Scotia, or south coast of Newfoundland. That includes fisheries taking place at sea near Greenland, or estuary fisheries of Labrador.

To download the four-page pdf report:


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Chantal Morin casts into Double Camp Pool on the Bonaventure River with her guide Jean-Marc Poirier. Photo Dan Greenberg.

Échos des rivières

La saison de pêche sportive 2021 connait un début avec des résultats variés. Les niveaux d’eau et les débits au 9 juin sont à la baisse de façon rapides, mais encore pêchables. Pour la semaine prochaine, les prévisions de la météo aux endroits stratégiques nous annoncent des précipitations la semaine prochaine qui va certainement améliorer les conditions de pêche.

Rivière Causapscal

Cumulativement au 8 juin, la capture de 38 saumons a été déclarée dont 20 relâchés.

Rivière Matapédia

8 saumons ont été déclarés capturés et remis à l’eau à ce jour cette saison. Le nombre de jours pêche affiche une augmentation marquée par rapport à l’an dernier, soit 856 en 2021 comparativement aux 415 jours-pêche vendus au 8 juin 2020.

Rivières de Gaspé

Les résultats affichés sur le site de la Zec Gaspé présentent un bon succès de pêche cumulativement au 7 juin. Mais une source d’information locale lamente le fait que les déclarations des prises ne reflètent pas la réalité. Alors, nous demandons aux pêcheurs de bien vouloir déclarer leur remise à l’eau. Un fait important pour le calcul d’un succès de pêche précis.…

Rivière Cascapédia

Darlene Sexton, directrice générale de la Société Cascapédia indique le niveau d’eau est bas, mais acceptable pour l’instant. « C’est encore tôt, les marées de la pleine lune en juin nous amènent la première vraie montaison de la saison et avec le temps chaud qui vient de passer, le succès de pêche devrait s’améliorer ».

Rivière Moisie

En date du 8 juin, l’Association de protection de la rivière Moisie (APRM) à partager le fait que 522 jours-pêche ont été vendue jusqu’à ce jour et 11 saumons ont été relâchés.

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Gibbs Levert releases a 30 lb. Atlantc salmon at Louis Pool on the Cascapedia River. Joe Thériault/Micmac Camp

Charles Cusson, ASF Director of Quebec Programs writes:

The start of the 2021 angling season is a mixed bag of realities. To date signs point toward an early run of large fish.

Water levels have continued to drop at a rapid pace, basically mid-summer levels.

There is some hope on the horizon, good amounts of rain are forecasted in the strategic areas (see June 4th River notes) that will certainly improve angling conditions.

Causapscal River

38 salmon have been reported landed by the CGRMP, which includes 20 releases to date this season.

Matapedia River

Anglers are reporting a slow start. To June 8th, 8 salmon have been reported and released. The number of rod-days has dramatically increased (856 to date in 2021) compared to the 415 sold cumulatively at the same date in 2020.

Gaspé Rivers

Currently posted angling results on the Saumon Gaspé website are very encouraging to June 7th. Local sources are stating the fact that actual results would be much higher if more people took a few minutes to report the salmon they have been releasing. Please help the rivers where you fish by reporting the salmon you release.

Moisie River

The APRM (Moisie River Protection Association) is reporting as of June 8th that 11 salmon have been landed within the Zec and Winthrop-Campbell sectors. Also, 522 rod-days have sold to this point in the season, which is within the average from year to year.

Cascapedia River

Darlene Sexton, director general of the Cascapedia Society, reports “the water is beautiful and in great shape but yes for early June it is a little low. The catches are a little slow to date and with these hot days there have not been many taking fish. The full moon will be on the 24th, and that usually brings in the big run so hopefully they will be coming in that week”. Anglers and guides are seeing some but not big numbers of fish, which is usual at this time of year.

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Gibbs Levert casts on the Cascapedia River. Joe Thériault/Micmac Camp


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The Tobique River on 6 June 2021. Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Nathan Wilbur, ASF Director of Regional Programs:

There is good news in New Brunswick that salmon are starting to show up in the rivers.

Bright fish were caught in the Restigouche as early as May 2 this year, and now there are reports of Atlantic salmon being found in the Northwest and Southwest Miramichi Rivers. 

This is very encouraging. June salmon are elusive as they move quickly up the systems, but what an experience if you manage to connect.
I was on a recent trip to the Mount Carleton area – a region of New Brunswick that is essentially the heart of the headwaters for rivers that drain in all directions of the province. 

It is a very special area of the province that gives life to several of our major salmon rivers including the Upsalquitch (Restigouche system), NepisiguitTobique (St. John system), and Northwest Miramichi

Taking the old highway back to Fredericton along the St. John River, we crossed the many lost and forgotten tributaries that are beautiful salmon rivers of themselves. 

These include rivers like the Montquart, Becaguimec, and Shiktehawk

At the mouth of the Becaguimec, two old timers crossed the river to throw a line for trout at the old Hartland Pool, likely reliving memories of their days casting over salmon at the very location. 

These rivers aren’t lost and forgotten to them, nor to us. Where there is habitat there is potential.

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Anglers crossing the Becaguimec River heading to trout fish at the Hartland Pool, on 6 June 2021. Nathan Wilbur/ASF
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Nictau Lake, headwaters of the Tobique River, on 5 June 2021. Nathan Wilbur/ASF


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Lower Humber River in western Newfoundland. The Humber is one of the great salmon rivers of North America, but there is no counting facility on it. Don Ivany/ASF
Don Ivany, ASF’s Director of Programs in Newfoundland and Labrador notes this week:

The angling season on the Island of Newfoundland has been open now since June 1. During the first week of the season water levels were at medium levels which was good for angling, but the levels were much lower than normal for opening day. 

Water temperatures were also good during the first week of the season. 

However, reports from anglers fishing our early run rivers, particularly those in Bay St. George, indicate that returns have been fairly poor this year. Few fish have been seen and only a few fish were caught here and there. 

Similar reports have been trickling in from other rivers throughout the Island. Since the season began, water levels on most rivers on the Island have dropped significantly and most rivers are currently experiencing low water levels. Water temperatures on these rivers are now on the warm side, in the high teens. Already temperatures have passed 20 C on some rivers, which is highly unusual and very concerning for this time of year. 

Unless we get some heavy rains and cooler air temperatures during the next couple of weeks, we could see many rivers on the Island closing for environmental reasons. Anglers are reminded to check the DFO website for river closures and openings.

The angling season in Labrador does not open until June 15, so there are no indications what the early returns might be. However, water levels on most Labrador rivers are currently on the high side and water temperatures are nice and cold.

To date DFO has not posted their first fishway counts for NL, but are expected to do so within the next few days.

Overview of regions

Southwestern Newfoundland

Reports from most anglers fishing the Bay St. George Rivers indicate that returns have been very poor to date. 

Former SPAWN Director, Bob Mercer, who is a veteran angler and knows the Bay St. George Rivers as well as anyone, reports that he has made four trips this year, fishing Robinson’sFischelles, Middle Barachois and Flat Bay Rivers and he has not seen a single fish. 

Kevin Power reports no fish to be seen on Middle Barachois when he fished there on June 7. 

Garrett Tingley also reports that he did not have a bit of luck on Southwest River during the past few days. 

There is still an odd fish being hooked here and there on these rivers but angling success to date can only be described as being fairly poor compared to other years. Furthermore, water levels are now low on many of these rivers and warm water temperatures is already becoming an issue. It is still about a week early for Harry’s River, and there have not been any reports of fish to date. Fish should start to trickle into this river during the next week or so.

Western Newfoundland

Reports are that a few fish are been seen at Big Falls on the Humber River but success has not been good, mainly because of low water levels and warm water conditions. Water temperatures on this section of river has already reached 18 C, which is highly unusual for this time of year. However, night temperatures have been cool which is serving to moderate temperatures, at least during morning fishing. While an odd fish has been hooked on the Humber, it’s still a little early for this river, so with any luck returns should pick up during the next week or so.

Northern Peninsula

Water levels and water temperatures on the Northern Peninsula rivers are quite good for angling at the moment. However, it is still about two weeks early for rivers in this region of the province and so there have been no angling reports and no reports on returns.

Central Newfoundland

Willie Detienne reports that a few fish are starting to come in to the Exploits River now and a few fish are being hooked here and there. 

Water levels on the Exploits are controlled on this river for hydro power generation and have remained fairly constant since the season opened. 

Ken Mclean reports that water levels on the Gander are low for this time of year compared to previous years and are running at about 50 c/m/s which is actually fairly good for angling. Water temperatures remain cool on the Gander River at 13 C. Likewise, Ken reports low water conditions and warmer water temperatures on the Terra Nova River for this time of year with very few fish being seen or hooked.

South Coast

Water levels are very low on the south coast rivers at the moment and water temperatures are on the warm side, making for fairly poor angling conditions in this region of the province. Again, reports are that few fish are being seen or hooked to date.

Avalon Peninsula

Water levels are very low on all Avalon Peninsula rivers currently and warm water temperatures are becoming a concern. As a result, angling conditions have been poor. While a few fish have been seen and hooked here and there, reports indicate that returns to date have been vey low.


The angling season does not open on Labrador Rivers until June 15, so there have not been any reports of fish to date. However, water levels on most Labrador Rivers are currently high and water temperatures are cold.

The DFO Counts

DFO has not released their first fishway counts for the province to date but are expected to do so during the next few days. This will give us a clearer picture of early returns. When these figures are released, they will be posted on DFO’s website.


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Sandy River just upstream from where the smolt trap study is being completed. Water levels and flows are at record lows based on 84 years of data. This is a real concern for fish habitat and survival. Despite these dry past weeks, over 1,575 smolts have been documented, a direct result of the active recovery efforts over the past 10 years. Maranda Nemeth/ASF

Maranda Nemeth, Director of the Maine Headwaters Project, writes:

This past week, a heat wave persisted throughout Maine with temperatures in the 90’s and sustained high temperatures throughout the night. 

In turn, the water temperatures in the Penobscot and Narraguagus rivers also rose above 20-23 degrees Celsius, which at that point inhibits adult migration upstream. 

Flow at many rivers across Maine are the lowest value ever measured in the past several decades, and significantly below normal flow stages. 

The forecast shows lower temperatures and some showers in the next few days so we are hoping these river conditions improve. 

Based on reports from Maine’s Department of Marine Resources (DMR), the river herring run is coming to an end across Maine. More than 3.2 million were recorded on the Kennebec and 1.7 million on the Penobscot.

The smolt downstream migration is finished in the Downeast rivers and tailing off on the Sandy River as well.

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With low water and warm temperatures, there have been 159 Atlantic salmon counted at the Milford Fish lift. While this number is below last year’s return to this date, it is the second highest since 2011.


Sackville River

Walter Regan reports the first three Atlantic salmon of 2021. They included one large salmon an d 2 grilse.

Water temperature definitely warm, at 22 C.


Reports are that the Atlantic salmon run has not yet begun.


Alex Breckenridge shares the general sense of relief that temperatures have finally dropped. He notes that action is slow on the lower river.

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The Margaree River has been both low and subject to the very hot temperatures. Photo Pat Mahoney


We are getting increased numbers of questions on when both international and inter-provincial borders are going to open.

Here is what we hear:

  • The Canadian federal government is right now reviewing the rules for international travel, and also discussions with the U.S. government have increased
  • The key will be a high percentage, 75%, of Canadians having BOTH vaccinations followed by 14 days elapsed to bring the immunity to full efficacy, according to Federal Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Theresa Tam.
  • The federal government is saying progress on opening the international border will also depend on Covid-19 case numbers and other factors, but certainly they are under increased pressure from politicians of all parties, from businesses, and in the Atlantic salmon world, from outfitters, provincial governments, and not least, questions from those wanting to get to their rivers from the U.S.
  • There is increasing internal government discussion of some form of “vaccine passport”, to facilitate international travel, but nothing has been announced, and may not be for some time.
  • New Brunswick has outlined a plan for reopening, but all depends on the levels of full vaccination and the number of Covid-19 cases. The hope is to reopen an “Atlantic Bubble” somewhere around July 1, and to target greater reopening perhaps a month later. Prince Edward Island is  going to make changes to open up visitation, but while the timetable is similar to NB’s, it isn’t identical.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador is still planning to open up to other Canadian visitors July 1, with a number of restrictions that include a first vaccination, a negative test within three days of entry, and another test on arrival. Fully vaccinated Canadians will not need to apply for right to visit, and will not need to take a Covid-19 test on arrival. There will be a form, and need to upload a proof of full vaccination.
  • Nova Scotia, recently hit by higher Covid-19 levels, now has a complicated five phase plan that will unfold over the next several months. Details of the reopening plan:
  • There remains special concern on visitors to Cape Breton Island, and government will be watching the situation closely.
  • The essential key in loosening regulations in each of the provinces will be full vaccination and numbers of Covid-19 cases.
The bottom line is that all remains undetermined right now, and any statement on opening of the international border with the U.S is conjecture.

This writer would put money on the reopening date for fully vaccinated U.S. travellers as sometime from late summer to October. While everyone is hoping for the earliest possible date, there are too many factors to give a full answer at this time. Uppermost in the federal government’s consideration is going to be the importance of protection of Canadian citizens from any increase in pandemic numbers.