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RiverNotes

ASF RiverNotes 29 May 2020

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First Kennebec salmon at Lockwood Dam being released upstream, on the Sandy River. Cassidy Bigos

COVID-19 AND THE ATLANTIC SALMON WORLD

The Covid-19 Pandemic continues its disruption of the plans of passionate anglers, residents, salmon researchers and others who travel the world of Atlantic salmon rivers.

In the last week there has been little change in the international and interprovincial status of border restrictions, and for those interesting in travelling from other parts of Canada, or from the U.S. to any Canadian province with Atlantic salmon rivers should likely count on restrictions remaining through part or all of the summer. Beyond that, we can only wait and see.

Note in the Quebec section that there is a now a .pdf document you can download that codifies the regulations for outfitters in that province. Such a guide has not come to our attention in other provinces, at least not at this time.

ASF has been able to complete an important aspect of the tracking research by relying on its father-son team of Jonathan and Evan Carr to implant sonic transmitters and deploy receivers in the branches of the Miramichi and Miramichi Bay.

Is there a lesson in ASF’s ability to keep the at-sea tracking research going? If anything, it is that a very small “bubble” team can still get the work completed, at least if it does not require crossing interprovincial boundaries.

In a pandemic, small teams can be effective. Trying to apply rules to a huge bureaucracy is far, far more difficult.

Hopefully the research on the smolts, now going on for more than a dozen years, will have interesting results again in 2020.

There is no question there will be many regrets and disappointments this year during and following the pandemic. But we at ASF will certainly try to keep you up to date through the coming weeks and months as to what is going on at the rivers.

Error Correction in Nova Scotia

Margaree Season: From the East Margaree to the Big Intervale bridges on the Northeast and to the Scotsville highway bridge on the Southwest (not including the tributaries) is open June 1st- Oct.31st. Outside that area the season is June 1 to Oct. 15th, except that the area above Big Intervale bridges is closed all year.

Late-breaking News in Maine

Soon after 5 pm came news that the Milford Fishlift on the Penobscot had passed 176 Atlantic salmon. This makes it the best year to date since 2012, and the fifth best since the late 1970s. A new graph in the Maine section.

MAINE

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Cassidy Bigos of Maine DMR prepares to release a shad into the Kennebec River.

Maranda Nemeth, Manager of ASF’s Headwaters Projectupdates the situation on the Kennebec:

The first salmon was captured on the Kennebec River at Lockwood Dam on Monday, May 25 at 8:30 am. Cassidy Bigos from Maine DMR reports the fish was a 53 cm wild grilse. The fish looked healthy and didn’t have parasites or injuries. Cassidy released the fish on the Sandy River.

Video above from Cassidy Bigos.

Cassidy reported that a second salmon was captured May 27 at Lockwood Dam and trucked to the Sandy. It measured 73 cm and was a multi sea winter female.

Alewives are also moving up the Kennebec in high numbers. A reported 1.4 million already at Benton Falls Dam. American shad is another species migrating in. Cassidy Bigos reports great shad fishing, the fish are coming in heavy along the Kennebec.

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John Field, a fluvial geomorphologist based in Maine, assessing the downstream reach below Walton’s Mill Dam in Temple Stream.
In the Sandy River watershed, ASF has started field assessment for permitting studies to support the removal of Walton’s Mill Dam on the Kennebec. We will be working with experts to determine the estimate volume and character of material impounded and expected downstream effects in Temple Stream. Overall, we anticipate the release of material to benefit the downstream habitat as the section has been starved of material for 200 years due to the dam.
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Walton’s Mill Dam as seen last week along Temple Stream. The dam was built in 1820 and will be removed in 2021 to restore passage to over 46 miles of prime stream habitat. Maranda Nemeth/ASF

Penobscot

Jason Valliere, Biologist with the Maine Department of Marine Resources, gives an update on Atlantic salmon and other migrating species:

This season started off a little slow but things have picked up considerably here at the Milford fishway. A week ago when I sent you the last report the water temperature was 49F and we had only passed 13k river herring. The temperature has rapidly increased to 64F and by the end of the today we should break 500,000.

All the other species started showing up too! The fishway is full of sea lamprey, white sucker, smallmouth bass, alewives, blueback herring , and American shad.

In one day we captured 20 Atlantic Salmon! That’s a solid day for what we have seen in recent years for May. One of those fish was extra special. It was a 94cm, 37in, fork length approximately 40 inch total length male salmon. This particular fish was making its way through the Milford fishlift for the second time! We previously captured this fish on 6/10/2018 when we tagged him and sent him to Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery as a brood fish to support the smolt stocking program. A program that he is a member of. He was stocked out as a smolt in 2016!

Back in 2018 he was transported from the fishway to the hatchery where he was held for the summer, spawned in the fall, and released back into the river. He then returned to the ocean, spent 18 months, grew another 7 inches, and now has returned to the Penobscot River again! He’s definitely a survivor. We do not see many repeat spawn fish. This time he was released directly back to the river to find a mate and complete this trip the way nature intended!

On writing, our salmon count at Milford was 41 fish. Two salmon have also been captured at the Orono fishway which brings the Penobscot total to 43 for the year thus far. We are off to a good start!

Great update as of 5 pm on Friday, May 29:

Things are busy at the Milford Fishway this week! We are up to 176 Atlantic salmon at the lift. This is the 5th highest year, to date, going back as far as our database goes for the Penobscot (1978).

We have also passed 784 shad and 1.2 million river herring!

We could use some rain and cool nights.

Next week’s forecast is predicting a little bit of a cool down which is good for our fish! Last year on May 29th the Penobscot River, here a Milford, was 55 degrees. As I type this  the thermometer reads 74!

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Atlantic salmon at the Milford Dam's fishlift.
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Update of Atlantic salmon returns as of May 29, 2020

NEW BRUNSWICK

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Kennebecasis River on 24 May. Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Miramichi

Brock Curtis of Curtis Miramichi Outfitters passed along his notes on Thurs., May 28:

The weather in the last week has been quite warm with the odd shower but nothing serious. River levels are dropping and some of the tributaries are now too low for canoeing. Without rain, the Southwest Miramichi will be the only river where our canoes be rented.

There is still the odd salmon kelt being caught below Blackville in the Quarryville area and quite a few anglers have been hooking large trout, and one of those was in the 7 lb range.

Lots of striped bass fisherman around and they have had very good fishing at times, to the point that some anglers comment they get tired releasing them.

A forest fire south of Blackville in the Cains River area has been the main concern of local residents.

We heard a couple of cabins have burned in the Cains River area.

The fire started Monday and by Tuesday it was estimated to be 350 hectares in size, and by Thursday was 800 acres. The winds have not cooperated and made this fire much harder to contain. This is a great time of year to be enjoying the outdoors but we need to be aware the forest fire index in this area is high and no fires are allowed.

CBC is reporting this is the largest fire in the province since the mid-1990s.

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The Sabbies River fire, near the Cains River watershed, was on Thursday the largest fire in New Brunswick in the last 25 years. Photo Sophie Caissie/Facebook
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Sonic tagged smolt being released at Rocky Brook, Southwest Miramichi. Jonathan Carr/ASF

As of Thurs., May 28, ASF’s Jonathan Carr and son Evan Carr have successfully completed Atlantic smolt tagging. A total of 80 smolts from the Wayerton Bridge smolt wheel on the Northwest Miramichi, and 80 smolts at Rocky Brook, on the Southwest Miramichi have had transmitters surgically implanted and the smolt successfully released to continue their migration downstream, through the Miramichi estuary, and out to sea.

Planning is underway for the deployment of receivers in the Strait of Belle Isle, between Labrador and northernmost Newfoundland, in mid-June.

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Jonathan Carr measuring smolt at Rocky Brook, with assistance of Evan Carr. The Rocky Brook Camp of International Paper has provided assistance to the tracking program for more than a decade. Photo was taken with a GoPro in the rafters of the open shed. Jonathan Carr/ASF
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View of Rocky Brook from where it meets the Southwest Miramichi River. It is a stream with excellent spawning areas. Google Earth
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This Atlantic salmon showed up in the Petitcodiac River trapnet on May 28. Perhaps a surprise, but a nice one. Photo Edmund Redfield

Edmund Redfield writes:

Fewer gaspereau than I’d have expected, and warmer water, 19 C. This time last year (May 30th 2019) we had a water temperature of 9 C. So things seem a bit weird right now.

Despite all that we had an interesting catch this morning to start the season:

Atlantic Salmon (Adult #982126057176894)

Also 2 decent sized trout (28.2 and 29.0 cm; 47 suckers, 3 gaspereau, and 5 shiners. Presumably the salmon overwintered in the river. It must have been below the counting fence on the Pollett for at least the last several weeks though as the first adults (7 of them) only passed through that yesterday, and according to the tag numbers it wasn’t any of those. Neither trout was a record in terms of size. Not much tide (about 1.2 m amplitude at the railroad bridge) – so the tide wouldn’t have reached the trap site.

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The trapnet is now in operation on the Petitcodiac River. Photo Edmund Redfield

NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

With the Atlantic salmon angling season set to start on Monday, June 1, there is great anticipation. Adding to the interest, there have been no new cases of Covid-19 as of Tuesday. There have been a total of 260 cases, and all but five are recovered, with a single individual in hospital. As mentioned, at present there is no provision for selling non-resident salmon licenses.

While there tend to be some inquiries online on where to get resident salmon angling licenses, there is always an answer, so that is sorting itself out. As a reminder, only day fishing is allowed with the present regulations regarding the pandemic.

Chris Wessel has put a live release video online, taken on the Humber. Always great to see another view of this. Anglers do need to check out videos, and polish their techniques. Just part of being a 21st century salmon angler.

Don Ivany, ASF Director of Programs in Newfoundland and Labrador has these notes, just before opening of the Atlantic salmon season:

As expected rivers on the Island of Newfoundland will open on June 01 this year which is the traditional opening date, and will open on June 15 in Labrador which is the traditional opening date for that region of the province.

Anglers in NL are reminded to follow the Provincial Covid-19 protocols pertaining to angling in NL which can be accessed at the following link:

https://www.gov.nl.ca/releases/2020/flr/0512n01/

Resident Licences are now available from various vendors throughout the province, and can also be picked up at some sporting good stores if you call them ahead of time to make arrangements to pick them up at curb side. Non-resident licences will not be available because of Covid -19 protocols until further notice from the provincial government of NL. While resident licences are available, hard copies of the anglers guide for this year are not available yet but have been sent by DFO to vendors and should be available within a couple days.

In the meantime, the anglers guide is available on-line and can be accessed at the following link:

http://www.nfl.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/NL/AG/anglersguide

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Southwest Brook above tide, and below the Trans-Canada Highway bridge, about 10 days ago. This particular Southwest Brook is in the Bay St. George area. Don Ivany/ASF

Generally speaking water levels are still high on most rivers in NL but there are some variations from region to region.

For example water levels in Labrador are very high and approaching high alert levels on may rivers.

Water levels on the Northern Peninsula and Western Newfoundland are still high but are approaching fishable levels. Provided there is no heavy rain over the next few days levels should be decent for fishing come June 01.

Water levels in Central NL are still high but are approaching average daily flows with a couple exceptions where levels are still high (i.e. Terra Nova River).

Water levels on our south coast Rivers, such as Conne River, Gray River, and LaPoile River are actually on the low side at the moment and could use a dash of rain. Water levels on the Avalon Peninsula are about average for this time of year. With the late spring we have had this year water temperatures on all rivers are cold at the moment.

At this time we would like to wish all anglers an enjoyable start to the fishing season this year. Stay safe and abide by the fishing rules and the Covid-19 social distancing protocols.

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The Terra Nova River has been roaring. Although this was taken May 15, levels remain high, making the river almost unfishable. Photo Ken McClean
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Another view of the Terra Nova River on May 15. Anglers will need to take extreme care in the first week of the season. Photo Ken McClean

NOVA SCOTIA

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A fisherman trying is luck in Frenchman’s Run on the West River, Antigonish. A few moments earlier he hooked and released a nice 12 in. trout. Fishing in the area so far has been on par with previous years, down from the high’s seen 5-10 years ago. Kris Hunter/ASF
Kris Hunter, ASF Director of Programs in Nova Scotia says:

NS Salmon fishing season was announced late last week.
From the East Margaree to the Big Intervale bridges on the Northeast and to the Scotsville highway bridge on the Southwest (not including the tributaries) is open June 1st- Oct.31st. Outside that area the season is June 1 to Oct. 15th. The area above Big Intervale bridges is closed all year.

The remainder of Salmon Fishing Area 18 (Gulf Shore of Nova Scotia) will be open to live release September and October.

In Salmon Fishing Area 19 (Cape Breton East) the Baddeck and Middle Rivers will be open to live salmon fishers for the month of October and North River, while downstream of “The Benches” will be open from June 1 to July 14, and September and October.

The only substantial change in the regulations from last year has been the switch from the requirement to use only single barbless hooks to using only artificial flies.

DFO released a statement after the fact indicating this switch was made because their ability to specify single-barbless hooks was called into question legally. I have asked DFO for more information explaining the reasoning behind this switch, as it was something that we fought to get for years.

Northumberland Strait Rivers

At least in the northern part of the mainland, we have rapidly switched from cold and wet to hot and dry.

I heard that water levels were dropping fast, and I got out locally this week to take a look for myself and chat to a few people on the rivers (from a safe distance of course).

While the river levels are dropping, they still have a good amount of water. I didn’t encounter too many people on the rivers, and those that I did speak to suggested that most salmon, at least in the Antigonish area, are still down in the estuary. This is not unusual for this time of year.

I did watch one fisherman on the West River bring in and release a nice 12 inch trout and when I visited the South Right’s River I saw about a dozen nice trout in a pool near the bottom of the river. As several forest fires are now being reported out of control in Nova Scotia, please stays safe out there while trekking to the favourite fishing hole.

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Rainbow Trout with a missing tail caught in the North River, Cape Breton. This is believed to have escaped from the open net pens in Bras D’Or lakes. Photo Donald Halfpenny.

Bras D’Or Lakes

In the Bras D’Or lakes and adjacent rivers people are reporting catching many large rainbow trout.

Unfortunately, many of these fish seem to be suffering from infections and have severe damage to their fins. It is suspected by the many anglers that I spoke with that these fish are escapees from the open net pens in the lakes.

There was supposedly a big escape last fall during Hurricane Dorian but as of yet we have not heard official word that this is true.

Worryingly, these fish are appearing in greater numbers and and are more widespread than with past suspected escape events, with some approaching the Sanctuary and others appearing outside the Bras D’Or Lakes in North River.

Given their numbers and diseased state many fishers are concerned about the impact that these fish will have on other wild salmonids.

I have been reaching out to the province to learn what I can about what is happening here.

Margaree

Greg Lovely notes:

We have not had rain for at least 2 weeks, but each warm day brings lots of snow melt to the Margaree river. With these levels of water, there is no crossing the river. However the conditions will provide plenty of water for newly arriving salmon to work their way up into the system.

Although non-resident salmon licenses will be sold in Nova Scotia this year, as long as our borders remain closed, there will be no opportunities for non-residents to actually fish.

Lots of nice trout are being hooked and both the mayflies(good) and the black flies(bad) are hatching. There are very few people fishing the Margaree river this week.

Instead, most locals are concentrating on the rainbow trout, that folks suspect are escapees from the aquaculture pens in Whycocomagh Bay(Bras d’or Lakes).

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Greg Lovely with a rainbow trout caught in the Bras d'or Lakes

QUEBEC

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First Matapedia Atlantic salmon of 2020, brought in and released on May 27 by Jonathan Tremblay. Une première remise à l’eau officielle fut enregistrée le 27 mai par Jonathan Tremblay. Photo Nathan Létourneau
Charles Cusson, ASF Director of Programs in Quebec notes:

Covid-19 Update
Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx announced yesterday afternoon that as of Monday June 1st, outfitting operations can begin subject to health and safety protocols prepared by the Quebec Outfitters Federation.

Inter-regional travel within Quebec by residents is not recommended but permitted. The restriction on US residents is still in place until June 21st and non-resident Canadians at this point cannot enter Quebec from NB. This situation will be monitored closely.

Covid-19 – Mise à jour

La ministre du Tourisme, madame Caroline Proulx a annoncé cet après-midi qu’à compter du 1er juin, les opérations de pourvoiries pourront commencer sous réserve des protocoles de santé et sécurité préparés par Pourvoirie Québec.

Les déplacements interrégionaux au Québec par les résidents ne sont pas recommandés, mais autorisés. La restriction sur les résidents américains est toujours en vigueur jusqu’au 21 juin. Les non-résidents canadiens à ce stade ne peuvent pas entrer au Québec à partir du Nouveau-Brunswick. Cette situation sera suivie de près.

https://www.asf.ca/assets/files/Guide-for-Outfitting-Operation-in-Pandemic-Context.pdf-English.pdf
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Louis Laflamme. Photo Maélie Martin

A new generation of managers on certain Gaspé rivers.

Petite Cascapedia River Zec

Zec de la rivière Petite Cascapédia welcomes its new general manager, Samuel McInnis Major. Mr. McInnis Major has been the director of tourism for the Micmacs of Gesgapegiag for the past two years. He holds a master’s degree in economics from Simon Fraser University. He is currently hard at work preparing for the next season which will be greatly affected by the current pandemic.

Nouvelle River Zec

The board of directors of the ZEC de la Rivière Nouvelle is pleased to welcome Mr. Louis Laflamme as general manager. Passionate about fishing, particularly salmon and sea trout, Mr. Laflamme worked as a journalist at CHAU-TVA until recently.

In the past, he also worked for the SEPAQ in the Parc de la Gaspésie as well as for a company specializing in hunting and fishing. Mr. Laflamme took office on Monday, February 24, and has been hard at work preparing for the next season which begins next Monday June 1st.

A new DG at the Société de gestion des rivières de Gaspé (SGRG)

The SGRG Board of Directors is pleased to welcome Mr. Rémi Lesmerises as Managing Director. Rémi Lesmerises acted as director of the Société de restauration et de gestion de la rivière Nouvelle for 3 years. He holds a doctorate in biology and a master’s degree in wildlife and habitat management. “It is with great pride that I join the team. This is an extremely motivating challenge. I hope that my energy and my passion for the world of salmon will allow the SGRG to continue its development and the three magnificent rivers of Gaspé to continue to shine, here and abroad.”

The SGRG is a non-profit organization that has managed sport fishing on the York River since 1980, the Dartmouth River since 1983 and finally the Saint John River since 1993. The economic benefits of the salmon fishery are estimated between 5 and 6 million of dollars a year in Gaspé.

Le flambeau passe d’une génération à l’autre sur certaines rivières de la Gaspésie.

Zec de la rivière Petite Cascapédia

La Zec de la rivière Petite Cascapédia souhaite la bienvenue à son nouveau directeur général, Samuel McInnis Major. M. McInnis Major agissait à titre de directeur du tourisme des Micmacs of Gesgapegiag depuis les deux dernières années. Il est détenteur d’une maîtrise en économie de l’université Simon Fraser. Il est présentement à pied d’œuvre pour préparer la prochaine saison qui sera grandement affectée par la crise actuelle.

ZEC de la rivière Nouvelle

Le conseil d’administration de la ZEC de la rivière Nouvelle, est heureux d’accueillir Monsieur Louis Laflamme comme directeur général. Passionné de pêche, particulièrement au saumon et à la truite de mer, Monsieur Laflamme occupait le poste de journaliste à CHAU-TVA jusqu’à tout récemment.

Dans le passé, il a également travaillé pour la SÉPAQ dans le parc de la Gaspésie ainsi que pour un commerce spécialisé dans le domaine de la chasse et la pêche.

Monsieur Laflamme est entré en fonction le lundi 24 février dernier et est à pieds d’œuvre pour préparer la prochaine saison qui débute lundi 1er juin.

Un nouveau DG à la Société de gestion des rivières de Gaspé (SGRG)

Le conseil d’administration de la SGRG est heureux d’accueillir Monsieur Rémi Lesmerises comme directeur général. Rémi Lesmerises agissait à titre de directeur de la Société de restauration et de gestion de la rivière Nouvelle depuis 3 ans. Il est détenteur d’un doctorat en biologie et d’une maîtrise en gestion de la faune et de ses habitats. « C’est avec beaucoup de fierté que je me joins à l’équipe. Il s’agit d’un défi extrêmement motivant. J’espère que mon énergie et ma passion pour le monde du saumon permettront à la SGRG de poursuivre son développement et aux trois magnifiques rivières de Gaspé de continuer à rayonner, ici comme à l’international! », indique le nouveau directeur général, en saluant et reconnaissant au passage l’apport de son prédécesseur dans les 30 dernières années.

La SGRG est un organisme à but non lucratif qui gère la pêche sportive sur la rivière York depuis 1980, la rivière Dartmouth depuis 1983 et finalement la rivière Saint-Jean depuis 1993. Les retombées économiques de la pêche au saumon sont estimées entre 5 et 6 millions de dollars par année à Gaspé.

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Rémi Lesmerises with Atlantic salmon. Photo Saumon Gaspé

ICELAND

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Hítará River landslide that disrupted both spawning and migration of wild Atlantic salmon in this river.

Two years ago the largest landslip in Iceland’s history blocked off the Hítará River, a very productive salmon river.

Now the Hítará Fishing Association is planning on digging through this blockage, moving 350,000 square metres of debris, at a cost of about $730,000 U.S. With a very lucrative salmon angling at stake, the association says the work is economically worthwhile, as well as being important to the Atlantic salmon run.

The landslide had resulted in the drying out of some excellent spawning areas, as well as actually covering others. It is felt to be important to return the river to its previous course for the future.

It is expected that slightly more than half the cost will be covered by the Fish Farming Fund, with the rest paid by the Hítará Fishing Association.