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ASF RiverNotes – May 8, 2020

Compiled by Tom Moffatt

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Shellbird Island on the Lower Humber River in western Newfoundland on Wednesday. Snow is still thick in the woods and on the island where legend tells of a buried pirate treasure. Photo Don Ivany/ASF


The pursuit of wild Atlantic salmon brings thousands of anglers from around the world into Eastern Canada every year, contributing tens of millions of dollars to local economies.

Yet as of May 8th, Canada has banned non-essential travel to and from the United States, and anyone entering the country for any reason must self-isolate for 14-days. Camps, clubs, and outfitters are scrambling.

In the salmon world, 2020 may be remembered as the year of the resident angler. But it’s early yet and conditions are improving in some places. Let’s hope in the months to come friends from away can join locals on the river, relax, and share the experience of living though an extraordinary time.

In this week’s RiverNotes we bring you the latest on season announcements and angling conditions from around the Atlantic salmon world.

And don’t forget to check out this week’s In the Field blog by ASF’s Executive Director of U.S. Programs John Burrows, on the surprising Sandy River in Western Maine


With the disease situation improving in New Brunswick, ASF and our partners at the Miramichi Salmon Association have begun the work of installing smolt wheels and to capture and tag out-migrating juvenile salmon on the Northwest and Southwest branches of the watershed.

Receivers are also being deployed throughout the river system and in Miramichi Bay.

Working in pairs from the same household and respecting social distancing with others, ASF and MSA staff will tend the equipment at alternating times.

Just days ago, it was uncertain whether tagging work would proceed in 2020, threatening to break the longest data series on wild Atlantic salmon migration in the world.

Look for a full research update with pictures in next week’s RiverNotes 


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The Corner Brook Stream with snow in the air on May 6th. Once nearly barren, the Corner Brook stream is home to a small but mighty run of wild Atlantic salmon thanks to the efforts of local conservationists. Photo Don Ivany/ASF
Don Ivany, ASF’s regional program director in Newfoundland and Labrador reports:

“With the recent snow we had, plus rain and the existing snowpack, most rivers are flowing high and fast. The ice is finally letting ago in large lakes and that is adding to the levels.

“On the science side, DFO staff in the province have been directed not to conduct field work until at least June 15th, putting many research projects around the province on ice for now.

“Our provincial government has created a road map for easing restrictions and are scheduled to make another announcement on May 11. If restrictions are reduced from Level 5 to Level 4, resident angling can proceed, but with some additional measures like no overnight trips.

“This would be well in advance of the Atlantic salmon season which opens June 1st. DFO still hasn’t announced what the recreational harvest will be for the season.”

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Boom Siding on the Lower Humber River, May 6th. Photo Don Ivany/ASF


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Charles Cusson, ASF’s Regional Program Director in Quebec writes:

“An update on the angling situation was expected from the provincial government on May 4, but the date came and went with no new information.

“As the season is scheduled to start on May 15, how to live with social distancing directives for Zec/River management groups will be a challenge when considering the issuance of fishing permits and remittance of daily access passes.

“The ability to register daily releases and catches electronically is being worked on by the Manisoft software company and should be available in time for the start of the season.

“The government has stated resource protection efforts will be in place as usual, carried out by provincial conservation officers. Auxiliary officers who were accredited last year will be allowed to work in 2020.

“During the next few days, river managers will be reaching out to customers with early season fishing reservations to find out what they want to do prior to final payment being processed. Anglers will have the choice of receiving a full refund, choose later dates in 2020 or request the same reservation dates for the 2021 season if possible. As the season goes forward, this process will continue with customers being contacted within seven days of the reservation dates. Any rod day cancellations will be made available in the 48-hour draws.

“Inter-regional travel restrictions within Quebec have been loosened since May 4th and will continue until (for the time being) May 18 when people from the Island of Montreal area will be permitted to travel to other regions of Quebec.”
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«Une mise à jour sur la situation entourant la saison de pêche au saumon était attendue du MFFP le 4 mai n’a pas été concrétisé.

Comme la saison commence le 15 mai, le respect des directives de distanciation sociale pour les groupes de gestion de rivières et de Zec sera un défi dans le cadre de l’émission des permis de pêche et de la remise des droits d’accès quotidiens. La compagnie Manisoft travaille actuellement à mettre en place un système d’enregistrement électronique des remises à l’eau, des captures quotidiennes et devrait être disponible à temps pour le début de la saison.

Le gouvernement a déclaré que les efforts de protection de la ressource seront en place comme d’habitude par les agents de protection de la faune. Puisqu’il n’y aura pas de formation cette saison, les agents de protection auxiliaires accrédités l’année dernière seront autorisés à travailler en 2020.

Dans les prochains jours, les gestionnaires de rivière contacteront leurs clients qui ont des réservations en début de saison afin de déterminer s’ils veulent et/ou pourront se rendre en région avant de compléter le paiement final. Les pêcheurs auront le choix de recevoir un remboursement complet, de choisir des dates ultérieures en 2020 et si possible demander les mêmes dates de réservation pour la saison 2021. Subséquemment, au fur et à mesure que la saison avancera, le processus sera répété avec le reste des clients dans un délai de 7 jours avant la date des réservations.

Toutes les annulations de jours pêche seront mises en vente par le biais des tirages de 48 heures.

Les restrictions de déplacement interrégionales au Québec ont été assouplies depuis le 4 mai et se poursuivront jusqu’au 18 mai (pour le moment) où les gens de la région de l’île de Montréal seront autorisés à se rendre dans d’autres régions du Québec. Il n’y a aucune nouvelle information concernant les déplacements interprovinciaux, ces restrictions sont en place pour l’instant et les pêcheurs américains et internationaux ne pourront pas entrer au Canada jusqu’à nouvel ordre.

Tous les problèmes liés à cette nouvelle normalité évolueront rapidement et nous vous tiendrons informés de tout nouveau développement.»


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Danny Hunter fishing MacNeil’s Brook, a tributary to Right’s River in Antigonish, on opening day. Kris Hunter/ASF

Kris Hunter, ASF’s Regional Program Director for Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island reports:

“Fickle conditions are the order of the times in Nova Scotia. There were a couple of nice sunny days at the opening of the season on the Northumberland Strait rivers where anglers chase trout this time of year.

“Meanwhile, in the Margaree area of Cape Breton there were some serious rains that together with snowpack left the river flowing high and wide.”

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The view from Freddy's Lookoff on the Margaree. Photo John Stinson
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At the Cranton Crossroads Bridge, replaced last summer, the water was roaring and the clouds opening up to add even more water to the melting snowpack. Photo John Stinson

Kris continues:

DFO has closed the inland and tidal waters of Wycocomagh Bay until the end of summer. In a variation order, officials state:

‘Due to the Province of Nova Scotia’s recent declaration of a provincial state of emergency to help contain the spread of COVID-19, Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Regional Director-General, Maritimes Region, wishes to advise the public that angling for all species of fish in the inland and tidal waters of Whycocomagh Bay, Nova Scotia, bound by straight lines joining points 1 to 10, then following the high tide line from points 11 to 1 in the order which they are listed below, is closed until August 31, 2020.’

You can view the full variation order here:

Striped Bass and Other Angling Matters

Another covering striped bass and various angling matters for Grand Lake, the Shubenacadie and Stewiacke rivers was also just released:

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The Whycocomagh Bay area is now closed to angling, partly due to concern over lack of personal distancing. This is a view from last week of anglers parking on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway adjacent to the bay. Photo submitted


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Renous River on May 3. Still significant snow in the woods near the river. Photo Brock Curtis
Brock Curtis of Curtis Miramichi Outfitters has this to say:

“Two weeks ago some of the boaters I talked to at the park here in Blackville commented that without rain they would not be able to travel on the Main Southwest Miramichi and its tributaries much longer. That isn’t the case now. The rain last Thursday and Friday brought the rivers up to Spring levels. More rain and snow Monday and Tuesday brought them up even higher. A few anglers are out on the rivers but not a lot of action. They were still catching salmon on the weekend but haven’t heard much since then.

“With all the rain and snow we are seeing early signs of green starting to show on lawns and some of the hardwoods are starting to bud. The forecast is showing more rain and snow for this coming weekend so the rivers in the watershed will be holding at high levels for awhile.”

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Four Mile Brook is a healthy tributary of the Nashwaak River, providing ample spawning and cold water rearing habitat for Atlantic salmon. This photo features a variety of good signs: healthy riparian vegetation, course woody debris, relatively stable geomorphology with natural erosion/deposition features. All combine to produce cool, clean water. Nathan Wilbur/ASF


Jason Valliere, Maine Department of Marine resources biologist, says of the Penobscot River:

“Not much to report. Water is still high. Lots of spill across the dam. Water temperature is 48 degrees. There have been no Atlantic salmon yet, but 375 River Herring.

“I expect things will pick up soon with rising temperatures and decreasing river flows.