ASF RiverNotes 11 July 2019

Jul 10, 2019

New Brunswick's Crown Reserve Waters, a Special System

New Brunswick's Crown Reserve angling system gives residents access to remote and intriguing waters for salmon and trout. Stephen Crabbe/ASF
"Home Sweet Home" – the Sullivan Stretch Crown Reserve Camp. A place to rest and find respite from the mosquitos. Neville Crabbe/ASF
Describe New Brunswick’s Crown Reserve angling system to someone unfamiliar and you’ll get replies like ‘wow, that’s amazing,” or “unbelievable.” And it is. Forty stretches of gorgeous water spread throughout the Northwest Miramichi, Restigouche, and Nepisiguit river systems available to residents through a lottery. Many have well set-up camps and trail networks to point anglers to the best fishing pools.

Neville Crabbe
, ASF’s Executive Director of Communications, sent this report after a trip to Sullivan Stretch, Northwest Miramichi, earlier this month:

For my father and I, awaiting the springtime results of the Crown Reserve angling draw is a little like a kid waiting for Christmas. It’s our chance to get away in the old Jeep, shut off our phones, and enjoy time together on the river. This year we had Sullivan Stretch from July 2-4, our first time there.

Despite the excellent Crown Reserve signage laid out by the provincial rangers, we were giddy enough and day dreaming enough to make a wrong turn on the way in. The silver lining was an unexpected side trip to Sheephouse Falls, a big drop on a little brook that eventually enters the Sevogle River system.
The water going over Sheephouse Falls eventually enters the Sevogle River system. Neville Crabbe/ASF
Neville Crabbe adds:

Once back on track, we made it to the Sullivan Stretch camp and quickly hiked down to check out the water. We fished hard over the 48-hours we were there and were rewarded with a beautiful grilse at Sullivan Pool on the second day. It was the only fish we saw, but the conditions were perfect and I think that stretch will produce some good days as the season progresses.

Already looking forward to Squirrel Falls, another Crown Reserve trip we’re making this September.
Neville Crabbe releases a fine grilse at the Sullivan Stretch Crown Reserve.

New Brunswick

This year's angling has been much better to this point than 2018, although we may now be headed to "temperature time-outs" as the water heats up.


Brock Curtis of Curtis Miramichi Outfitters notes:

Our fishing is quickly recovering from a short heat wave that started last Thursday and thankfully finished Sunday. For those here over the weekend things were a bit disappointing, at least for some. There certainly were anglers who connected with salmon, that being said.

I checked the river temperatures here in Blackville last night and it is showing 68F - 69 F. One of the guides reported hooking five salmon last night and landing three, so the angling seems to be picking up once again.

We are still getting the odd report from anglers seeing shad in the river, but the focus now is definitely on Atlantic salmon. Other reports from lodges and camp owners indicate quite a few salmon seemed to be moving upriver this past weekend.

Evening temperatures are in the low teens and the forecast is showing mid 20's for the remainder of the week. River levels are dropping, but are still good for fishing, and with these conditions we should continue to have good angling.

We continue to feel the optimism from anglers coming through the tackle shop. They feel it is one of the best angling seasons in years.

Nathan Wilbur, ASF Director of New Brunswick Programs says:

I’ve been on the Miramichi this week helping out with the MSA Salmon Classic, an event designed for visitors to experience fishing on the variety of great rivers the Miramichi region has to offer.

Over the weekend, intense rains in the headwaters gave the Southwest and Cains a very nice raise in water, but not so on the Little Southwest Miramichi and Northwest Miramichi. Water remains low on those systems but despite this, some anglers in the event have hooked into salmon. Water temperature are now creeping up and we are in need of rain.
Damian Byrne of Halifax fishing the Orr Pool, near Blackville on the Southwest Miramichi at the MSA Salmon Classic. Nathan Wilbur/ASF
The Dungarvon counting fence, used for computing Southwest Miramichi salmon numbers, has seen 20 grilse and 40 large salmon to July 7. This is slightly ahead of the 21 grilse and 34 large salmon to the same date in 2018.

The Northwest Miramichi Barrier numbers are raising some concern. There have been 42 grilse and 21 large salmon to July 7. While the grilse numbers are similar to last year's 40, the large salmon numbers are far lower than last year's 84 to the same date.
The Nashwaak River, a tributary of the St. John, still has good flows of water as we head towards the middle of July. Nathan Wilbur/ASF
St. John River

June 30 numbers are finally posted for Mactaquac - 79 grilse and 66 large salmon. In 2018 this was 60 grilse and 32 large salmon to the same date. These numbers remain critically low compared to any historical returns.

Nashwaak River

There were 4 grilse and 5 large salmon to June 30, compared with 3 grilse and 4 large salmon in 2018, to the same date.
The live trap portion of the Nepisiguit Counting Fence being moved out into position in the river early in July. Photo Nepisiguit Salmon Association.


In general, angling has been good on Quebec's salmon rivers, but with dropping water levels the dog-days of summer may be coming quick.

A special note to help the long term conservation of Quebec Atlantic Salmon:
 Always remember to report your releases so river managers can accurately calculate angling success.

York River
– Season opened on May 25

Harvest of large salmon was in effect as of July 1 and the in-river count was completed on the York on July 7 and 8. Salmon and grilse were counted with the total indicating insufficient abundance. As of July 10, mandatory live release is back in force. The next count, conditions permitting, is scheduled for late July.

The York, like the two other rivers of Gaspé is now in desperate need of rain. As of July 9, the water flow recording station located 1.4 km downstream from Dinner Island Creek indicates a flow of 7.2 cubic meters per second.

To June 30, 2019, 174 fish have been reported landed (170 salmon released, 2 grilse released and 2 grilse killed.

Compare above to previous years:
To June 30, 2018, 62 fish had been reported landed (60 salmon released, 1 grilse released and 1 grilse killed.
To June 30, 2017, 89 fish had been reported landed (87 salmon released, and 2 grilse killed.
To June 30, 2016, 143 fish had been reported landed (142 salmon released and 1 grilse killed

Dartmouth River
– Season opened on May 25

To June 30, 2019, 100 fish have been reported landed (91 salmon released, and 2 grilse killed).

Previous years:
To June 30, 2018, 43 fish had been reported landed (36 salmon released and 7 grilse killed).
To June 30, 2017, 75 fish had been reported landed (72 salmon released and 3 grilse killed).
To June 30, 2016, 93 fish had been reported landed (89 salmon released and 4 grilse killed).

Saint-Jean River (Gaspé) – 
Season opened on May 25 (does include St-Jean Lodge captures)

To June 30, 2019, 46 fish have been reported landed (37 salmon released and 9 grilse killed).

Previous years:
To June 30, 2018, 18 fish had been reported landed (14 salmon released and 4 grilse killed).
To June 30, 2017, 12 salmon had been reported landed and released.
To June 30, 2016, 48 fish had been reported landed (47 salmon released and 1 grilse killed).

Causapscal River

The “Causap” as it’s called by anglers is having a very good season. Fish started to arrive 2 weeks late this year and even with tougher fishing conditions as the season has progressed, angling continues to be productive.

As of July 7, 2019, 156 salmon have been landed including 67 releases.

Previous years:
To July 7, 2018, 155 salmon had been landed including 61 releases.
134 salmon were landed which included 20 releases at July 10, 2017.

Video below of salmon leaping the Causapscal falls is by Melanie Poirier. This river tends to have the maximum runs somewhere around the end of the first week in June, but naturally the time frame is variable.
Bonaventure River

From the season's beginning to July 6, 2019, anglers have reported landing 135 fish (107 salmon released and 28 grilse killed).

Years past:

July 7, 2018 - anglers had reported releasing 137 salmon and harvesting 67 grilse for a total of 204.

July 8, 2017, 141 fish were reported landed (99 salmon released and 42 grilse harvested).

Matapedia River

Angling started early this season (May 25) and took some time for action to pickup, but at this point in the season comparative figures are above last season's.

An encouraging sign is the number of salmon in the 25 to 30 lb class being angled and observed.

At July 7, 2019, the CGRMP data base indicated 252 fish had been reported landed including 202 released and 50 grilse killed.

Previous years:
To July 7, 2018, 198 fish had been reported landed including 166 salmon released and 32 grilse killed.
253 fish were reported landed including 213 salmon released and 40 grilse killed to July 10, 2017.

Moisie Rive
r – ZEC and Winthrop Campbell sectors

High water slowed the start of the season, but while flow June 10 2019 was 1,650 cubic meters per second, the Moisie's flow was down to a miserable 350 cubic meters per second.

To July 6, 2019, 73 fish have been reported landed including 21 salmon that were released.

Previous years:
July 3, 2018, 63 fish had been reported landed, including 37 salmon released.
July 2, 2017, 158 fish had been reported landed including 27 salmon released.

Aux Rochers River

Just as for other North Shore rivers, the fish have been late to arrive due to very high water.

To July 8, 2019, 63 salmon have been reported landed and released in addition to 8 grilse killed for a total of 71 fish.

Also, to date, 50 salmon and 8 grilse have entered the trap for transportation upriver. Forty-nine salmon and 11 grilse had been transported by July 8, 2018.

Previous years:
July 8, 2018, 84 fish have been reported landed including 75 salmon and 2 grilse released.
July 9, 2017, 192 fish had been reported landed including 174 salmon and 3 grilse released.

Matane River

In 2019 the Matane has had its share of low water days combined with the late arrival of salmon. The next two weeks usually represent the the most important early part of the migration.

To July 8, 2019, 352 fish (310 salmon and 42 grilse) have been counted. 53 fish have been reported landed including 49 salmon released and 4 grilse killed.

Previous years:
To date at July 10, 2018, 617 fish had been counted (489 salmon and 128 grilse). 82 fish had been reported landed including 66 salmon and 4 grilse released.
In 2017, at July 10, 814 fish had been counted (615 salmon and 199 grilse). 79 fish had been reported landed including 64 salmon and 2 grilse released.

Mitis River

The Mitis River is located on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, not far from Mont-Joli, at the base of the Gaspé Peninsula. A sad story is unfolding on this interesting lower St. Lawrence river. The fish trap which is incorporated into the Hydro Quebec dam near the river's mouth is currently out of service. A temporary trap was installed downstream in the natural part of the river but does not seem to be bringing in the expected numbers of salmon. This has resulted in fewer fish than normal migrating up-river at this point in the season.

The MFFP (Quebec Ministry of Forest, Wildlife and Parks) has created an advisory committee made up of local and provincial groups to resolve this problem. The MFFP will coordinate with representatives of Hydro Quebec, the Mitis Zec and the FQSA (Fédération québécoise pour le saumon atlantique). The first meeting is scheduled to take place this week.

The MFFP will also contribute $25,000 in aid to help offset the lack of revenue due to the fishway problems.

As of July 9 2019, 190 fish have entered the trap including 108 salmon and 82 grilse

Compared to:
To July 9, 2018, 63 fish had entered the trap including 21 salmon and 42 grilse. No captures reported to that date.
To July11, 2017, 552 fish (306 salmon and 246 grilse) had entered the trap for transport. Reported captures at that date totalled 92, with 72 salmon released.
The Mitis River. This is a river in trouble due to dam and fish passage issues. Photo Saumon Québec
Sainte-Marguerite River (Saguenay)

The river association is reporting 26 salmon released to date, with the season having started June 1st. Note that it is important for anglers to report their releases, for the sake of the future of this river's salmon run.

Veteran angler and renowned fly Tier Faruk Ekich had the privilege to angle early in July:

Even though I live twenty minutes away from its upper pools, I was away in Ottawa in June from the 19th to 29th - the crucial time of water level changes.

Prior to my departure the river was too high and no fishing was attempted as far as I know. As far as I can surmise from the river chat with a few fishers during both days, the Sainte-Marguerite came to life around the first of July when water dropped to good level and a few were caught.
The photograph of the salmon (18-20 lbs) was taken on July 3, not under the best conditions to release the fish which swam away very strong after giving it time to recover.” Expect to see an article about this day in the life of both the fish and the angler in a future issue of the "Atlantic Salmon journal". Photo Faruk Ekich

Nova Scotia

Middle River, Cape Breton, as it was on June 11. Kris Hunter/ASF
There are some interesting improvements in Nova Scotia's salmon runs, especially the Middle River in Cape Breton and the LaHave in southern Nova Scotia.

Middle River, Cape Breton

Kris Hunter writes:

Good news out of Middle River, Cape Breton. I am receiving reports of anglers seeing and raising Atlantic Salmon on the river this past week.

Conor Demone saw this firsthand while fishing with his Dad and reports that it is “to the locals' delight there has been bycatch of healthy summer run salmon” on Middle River this year. These are the first reports of a summer run of Atlantic salmon on the Middle River in many years.
The Cranton Bridge on the Northeast Margaree is finally being torn down. Recent high water events have forced massive debris piles against the structure in recent years, and it has been deemed unsafe. Photo Greg Lovely

Greg Lovely writes

With the warm conditions lately, the fishing has slowed down. I was out this morning, raised a salmon myself and saw some hooked. The salmon are still being hooked daily up and down the Northeast Margaree, one might add. Water levels are okay, but we could use a smash of rain to spread the fish and fishermen out along the river.

The Margaree River now has a definitive warm water protocol and I am hoping we do not have to use it this year.
Morgan Falls Fishway on the LaHave River, in southern Nova Scotia. Photo Lewis Hinks/ASF

The June 30 count is now official, and certainly interesting. At Morgan Falls there were 109 grilse but only 11 large salmon. In 2018 to the same date there were only 20 grilse - but there were 53 large salmon. We will need to wait until later in the season to find out the true situation on large salmon returns.

Sackville River

There were 11 grilse but no large salmon to June 30 of 2019. By comparison, to June 30, 2018 there were 2 grilse and 1 large salmon. This population is definitely critically low.


Penobscot Breaks the 1,000 Salmon Milestone

The combined returns at  the Milford Fishlift and Orono Fish Passage to July 8 included 1,023 Atlantic salmon, breaking that 1,000-fish barrier!

At Milford there were 753 large salmon and 227 grilse, and at Orono there were 36 large salmon and 5 grilse.

This year's returns are the highest to the Penobscot since 2011.


At Lockwood Dam, the lowermost barrier on the river, there have been 44 large salmon and 3 grilse to July 8.


This Downeast, Maine river has had 6 large salmon and 43 grilse, as of July 6.

Newfoundland and Labrador

A Report from Portland Creek

Jim Semple
 has been angling Portland Creek on Newfoudland's Great Northern Peninsula for 24 years. Here is his report from July 8:

Portland Creek was the highest I have seen in 24 years when we arrived on June 29. I would say about two feet above normal levels this time of year but it dropped about a 16 inches above normal though the week.

First few days we saw decent weather, then more rain mid-week and Easterlies but better weather on Thursday to Saturday

The salmon have been moving right through the lower section called the “Running Out”, which is the most popular stretch and most accessible. This was where Lee Wulff had his camp. Only saw a handful of fisherman when we came out yesterday so guess it’s still very slow.

We were staying with outfitters that have a cabin upriver near the narrows between the ponds, and there were salmon up there and nearby tributaries.

We hooked into a total of 14 including 3 large salmon 12-15lbs. These are  good-sized fish for this river. This seems to have been a good week considering conditions…guess a strong run this year.

We could not get to some of the more productive spots every day because of bad weather so could have found even more fish, but we are not greedy! This was a very good trip!!

I did not hear any reports about the southwest feeder but expect they should have salmon.

Portland Creek needs to drop another foot to return to normal levels.

Andrew Semple releases a large Atlantic salmon on Portland Creek. Photo Jim Semple
ASF's Don Ivany has a full report on Newfoundland rivers:

The DFO fishway counts in NL, up to July 07, indicate that overall runs continue to do much better this year compared to the same time period in 2018 (see counts at: ).

This is very encouraging news to all anglers and conservation groups. In addition, periodic rainfall is keeping water levels up on most rivers throughout the province, making for some pretty good angling conditions, and catches.

There are, however, a couple of areas where returns to date are actually down from last year, mainly rivers in the Notre Dame Bay area , and rivers on the South Coast. It should be noted that DFO has committed to conduct an in-season review again this year which usually takes place about this time. Once the results of this in-season review are released there could be adjustments made to the angling regulations for the remainder of the season. So we encourage anglers to keep an eye open for the results of the in-season review and any changes that may occur as a result.

Specific Reports

Southwest Coast
– Long time angler Barry Humby and his fishing party spent 10 days on the Codroy River between June 22-July 02, and despite pretty high water levels at the time, still enjoyed fair angling success hooking a good mix of grilse and large fish between them. Anglers are also report consistent fishing success on rivers in Bay St. George such as Southwest Brook, and Harry’s River. Water levels have been good on these rivers for the past week or so but are now starting to get a little low and water temperatures are now on the warm side, hovering around 18 C.

Western Newfoundland
– Very high water levels for much of the season on the Humber River have now dropped to good fishing levels and anglers in the Big Falls and Little Falls areas have been reporting a good sign of fish and real good fishing during the past two weeks. However, the water temperature is starting to creep up and is currently hovering around 18 C. Like wise, anglers have been reporting a real good fishing on Lomond River for the past week or so.
Action on the Humber. Anglers have given glowing reports of the salmon angling on the river this year, not least at Big Falls. Photo Ralph Hiscock
Humber River

Ralph Hiscock writes:

Fishing was great up to Thursday, July 4, when water levels rose due to rain and melting snow. Water temperatures were and still are cold.

The boats at Big Falls went out again on Sunday afternoon. Fishing has picked up, and based on conversations with avid anglers, the fishing is meeting with increased success. I talked to Neil Smith and he says this year is as good or better than 2018.

Local guides Dick Hiscock, Sterling and Irene Pittman say fishing is on par with 2018. Bob Pike says he has had good fishing with 4 hooked fish the past 2 days.

I personally connected with 12 fish the past 3 days. The small grilse run has ended,  and larger grilse are now being taken.
Veteran anglers John Bursey and Dave Vardy compare notes at Crosbies Pool on Castor River on July 5, 2019. Don Ivany/ASF
Don Ivany continues his report:

Northern Peninsula – High water levels on most rivers on the Northern Peninsula rose about another six inches after heavy rain early last week. However, anglers still reporting a good sign of fish and good fishing on most rivers in this area.

ASF’s Steve Sutton and his brother Jim, recently fished Main River (Sops Arm) for about ten days and reported fairly good fishing during that time despite very high water levels. Anglers were also hooking more large fish (ranging from 6lbs-10lbs) than usual on the river. Water levels have since receded and currently are ideal for angling.

Anglers are reporting a real good sign of fish on the Lower sections of the Torrent River and Big East River during the past week or so. Angling success is picking up now that the river is slowly dropping.
Dave Vardy carefully chooses a fly at Jerome's Pool on the Castor River. Don Ivany/ASF
Fishing friend Dave Vardy and I spent a few days on Castor River last week and despite several days of rain, cold weather and a rising river, we enjoyed good angling success and we each released a number of grilse (some small some average) and a few large fish in the 10-12lb range. Fish were not holding though and instead were moving straight through. The water temperature was 12 C at the time, and water levels on the river have since started to drop back but are still excellent for angling.

Water levels at River of Ponds was still high last week but an odd fish was being hooked here and there.
Long time angler Ron Sheppard (foreground) fishes Legion Pool on the Lower Exploits July 9, 2019 and reports that things are very slow at the moment. Don Ivany/ASF
Don Ivany describes conditions in the centre of the island:

Central Newfoundland
– DFO fishway counts indicate that returns on a number of rivers in the Notre Dame Bay area, including the Exploits River, Rattling Brook, and Campbellton River, are down compared to the 2018 counts for the same time period. For example, returns to Rattling Brook up to July 07, 2019, is 6 fish compared to 72 in 2018; Campbellton is 860 for 2019 compared to 1621 in 2018 and the Exploits River is 2268 compared to 4844 in 2018. Not surprisingly, long time anglers such as Ron Sheppard report that despite ideal angling conditions and what should be the peak run time on the Exploits River, few fish are being seen and angling is currently very slow.

Tolson Parson adds:

Water conditions are good in Central Newfoundland rivers, but fishing is not great. Should be much better with these conditions.If larger numbers of fish don't show up in the next ten days this will be a poor year. We should have catch and release only.
Conne River on July 9, 2019. Don Ivany/ASF
Don Ivany says of the South Coast Rivers:

South Coast
– According to the DFO fishway counts, returns are down on monitored rivers on the south coast up to July 7 compared to the same date in 2018.

For example, on the Conne River up to July 7,  some 329 fish have returned compared to 379 in in 2018. As a result it is predicted that the river will not meet spawning requirements this year and currently the river remains closed to angling. Returns to the Garnish River up to July 7 is 67 fish compared to 166 in 2018. Water levels on most south coast rivers at the moment are low and water temperatures are ranging from 18-22 C.

Avalon Peninsula
– Anglers are reporting a decent sign of fish on the Salmonier River and other rivers on the Avalon Peninsula but warm water temperatures and low water levels are making for slow fishing currently.

Rick Maddigan adds this note on the Avalon Peninsula rivers:

There is a good sign of fish on the Avalon rivers (Placentia, Salmonier and Trepassey) but angling is poor. The water is warming up and is extremely low and there is no rain in the forecast. Anglers suspect closures soon, and rightly so. Many are heading west, where there is still plenty of water in the rivers.
Atlantic salmon leaping in Hawke River, Labrador. Nathan Wilbur/ASF
Labrador Rivers

Mike Crosby 

In Labrador the Hawke continues to be on the high side, but fishing is good, with nice numbers of multi-sea winter fish.

The Eagle River has come down a lot but is still high. Good numbers of large fish around and grilse just starting to show up.

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