ASF RiverNotes 12 Sept 2019

Sep 12, 2019
It took Robert Chiasson less than two hours after Hurricane Dorian passed towards the north on Sat., Sept. 7, for him to be salmon fishing the Northeast Margaree. Undoubtedly he wondered if new salmon were moving upstream with the higher water at Ross Pool Bridge. Photo Greg Lovely

Hurricane Dorian and Atlantic Canada's Salmon Rivers

Hurricanes bring untold grief to humans, and certainly Atlantic Canada had its share of Hurricane Dorian's energy, with trees dropping on power lines, buildings ripped apart, and boats cast up on rocky shores. In Atlantic Canada there is no word of any loss of life, which is more than can be said for the Bahamas. But still, lives disrupted, more than 300,000 without power, and some not getting it back even now. Mature trees down, and schools closed. The list goes on.

But for Atlantic salmon rivers, hurricanes can be either a blessing or a nightmare. This time, it appears that Dorian was mostly a blessing. Reports coming in say that overall, the water rose, but to good levels rather than seathing torrents that destroy parr, salmon pools and such. Below is a great pair of images, Sept. 5 and  8, showing the effect on Gold River, with its high risk salmon population.

The effect on headwater spawning and juvenile  nurturing areas is really not known yet.  Trees down in rivers, or drifting down to make barriers. The evidence is not in yet on that.
Lewis Hinks, ASF's retired Director of Nova Scotia programs, took comparison photos before and after Hurricane Dorian.
On the Margaree, Greg Lovely reports:

Robert Chiasson, a famous local guide, was first out on the river after Hurricane Dorian went by. I also went fishing later, and although I did not hook up, I saw two other fishermen catch salmon.

The water came up quite nicely, but did NOT silt up river on the Northeast branch. It seems that the heavy rains that were predicted, missed us, and tomorrow will likely be a good day for fishing. We indeed got off easy, as most of the rest of Nova Scotia sustained serious destruction.
At Ross Bridge Pool on the Northeast Margaree, with Robert Chiasson angling as the water was rising following the passage of Hurricane Dorian. Photo Greg Lovely
Not every tree survived the hurricane in the Northeast Margaree watershed, but likely almost every Atlantic salmon, whether adult or parr, likely did. Photo Greg Lovely
As seen on Monday, the Margaree rose quickly, as it usually does, and began its fall in water levels almost immediately.
Northumberland Strait Rivers

Kris Hunter, ASF  Director of Programs for Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, reports that there was much less rain than expected.

"The river level could have used more rain, actually" he added, "although understandably most people were glad the rain was less than expected."

James River, Antigonish County, NS on Sept. 10, 2019. There was very little increase in water flows in these Northumberland Strait rivers. Kris Hunter/ASF


Don Ivany, ASF Director of Programs for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, says:

While Hurricane Dorian brought some fairly strong winds to Western NL and parts of Southern Labrador it did not bring nearly as much rain as forecasted.

While water levels increased on many rivers in this area of the province, there was no flooding as expected. Rather, water levels in most rivers in this area are now running at about medium levels and temperatures have cooled.

In fact if the season had not closed on Sept 7, we would now have ideal angling conditions on many of the rivers in this area. The rest of the province including central NL and the east coast were spared the wind and rain, so nothing much has changed on rivers in those areas. I hear there was a fair bit of wind on the South coast along with increased sea surges.

Counting Fence Numbers

At mid-week the Sept. 1 counting fence numbers were released, and as for the previous weeks, most of the rivers had lower returns than in 2018.
Sept. 1 counting fence numbers for the Island of Newfoundland
The Main River, on the eastern side of the Long Range Mountains, is flowing at about 50 cubic feet per second (cfs). That is more than double the recommended fishing level of 20 cfs according to one angler who knows the river well.

The Sept. 1 counting fence numbers have all four rivers with lower numbers in 2019.

English River
had 372 vs. 866 in 2018

Sand Hill had 1,931 vs. 4,133 in 2018

Muddy Bay Brook had 283 vs 319 in 2018

Paradise River had 78 vs 258 in 2018

These numbers reflect anecdotal reports that the number of returning salmon in southern Labrador was lower this year. Fishing reports have indicated that in the northern part of Labrador there were good returns.

There has been discussion that on the Sand Hill, actual return numbers may be greater, due to a late installation of the fence.

New Brunswick

Sylvie Malo-Clark was on the lower Cains River on Tues., Sept. 10. The water was a bit on the high side, but clearing after the passage of Hurricane Dorian, and as she says "suddenly fall fishing was on". A Marabou fly was used. Note the Cains River copper colour. Photo Peter D. Clark
Brock Curtis of Curtis Miramichi Outfitters notes:

We received quite a bump in river levels after the weekends rain. This really should bring in some fresh salmon and put more in the tributaries.

We have had anglers in the tackle shop today who were catching salmon, mainly here on the Southwest Miramichi. Even though the rivers are high they are catching fish while wading.

The rivers crested Sunday and were dropping last night. The general feeling is we will experience quite good fishing in a couple of days, maybe sooner. This is what we needed to start our Fall fishery. It should pick up on all branches of the river now.

Miramichi Counts to Sept. 8

The Dungarvon Counting facility has 81 grilse and 68 large salmon to this date, compared with 79 grilse and 58 large salmon to the same date in 2018. Note this count is on a tributary only, of the Southwest Miramichi.

The Northwest Miramichi Barrier has 133 grilse and 50 large salmon to Sept. 8, vs. 84 grilse and 103 large salmon to the same date in 2018.
As befits a large watershed, the level of the Southwest Miramichi at Blackville went up considerably with Hurricane Dorian, and is dropping reasonably slowly back from that water level.


Andrew Germain Releasing a fine Atlantic salmon at the 3 Inconnu Pool. Photo Zec Rivière Mitis
Overall, the impact of Hurricane Dorian was far less on Quebec residents - but did give a big boost to flows.

Charles Cusson
, ASF Director of Quebec Programs, says:

With 21 days left in the 2019 season and a good amount of rain for many rivers recently, it should be quite a finish with plenty of action.

Rivers like the Cascapedia saw their flow jump from 38 cubic m/s on September 8th to 210 cubic m/s within 12 hours.

The Matane river also had considerable increase in flow going from 10 cubic m/s on the 8th to 90 cubic m/s within half a day.

Angling has picked up considerably on the York, Dartmouth and Saint-Jean rivers in Gaspé due to the recent precipitation. These rivers had been suffering from very low flow and levels since late July. Unfortunately, up-to-date salmon angling results are not available.

Note: The data used for the Quebec river notes are sourced from various river websites, social media and Quebec government sources. Information can change without prior notification regarding prior year comparative figures.
Mitis River

The Mitis Zec has had a frustrating season due to fish trap issues earlier this summer, but construction work is due to start on September 25 that should resolve the problem.

To September 8th, 878 fish (448 large salmon and 430 grilse) have been transported up above the natural waterfall. Also, to date, 102 large salmon have been released and 106 grilse have been reported harvested.

Compared to the prior year at September 19, 245 large salmon and 529 grilse had been counted. To the same date, 43 salmon had been reported released and 122 grilse harvested.
A September morning on the Matapedia. Photo Donavan Doiron
Matapedia River

Total Rod Days sold to date in 2019: 5,646 compared to 5,536 at the same date in 2018.

As of Sept. 9th, 1,108 fish have been reported landed (669 large salmon released, and 439 grilse harvested).

In comparison for the same date in 2018, 1,006 (474 large salmon released and 532 fish (salmon and grilse) had been harvested. 118 large salmon were harvested (as of August 1st) for the season.

Matane River

To Sept. 9th, 1,890 fish (1,198 salmon and 693 grilse) have been counted through the fishway. To the same date, 221 salmon and 41 grilse have been released along with 92 salmon and 245 grilse reported harvested for a total of 589.

For comparison, to Sept. 18, 2018, 1,934 fish (1,051 salmon and 883 grilse) had been counted with a total of 451 reported catches (154 salmon and 49 grilse released along with 248 grilse killed).
Atlantic salmon ready to be released by Helsa Paige Harrisson. Photo credit Helsa Paige Harrisson.
Madeleine River

To Sept. 9th, a total of 529 large salmon and 212 grilse were counted migrating through the fishway. No angling statistics are available.

In comparison to Sept. 8th, 2018, 355 large salmon and 328 grilse for a total of 683 fish were counted.

At season end in 2018 (Sept. 30) 698 fish had been counted for the season (365 salmon and 333 grilse). 124 fish (67 salmon released, and 57 grilse harvested) had been reported landed.
The St. Paul River, in the Lower St. Lawrence North Shore, shows the bump of water from Hurricane Dorian.


Maranda Nemeth reports on progress at the Head Tide Dam on the Sheepscot.

The in-river work is completed at Head Tide Dam as of last week. Gatehouse abutment has been removed, new support walls for the overlook are completed, and the channel bottom has been modified. The crew is now working on the upland improvements including the mill foundation retaining wall, trails, and parking lot. The overlook steel platform will be set in two phases using a crane over the next few weeks. Then the railing and signage will go up as well and landscaping as the final step.

Everything going really well! Still on track to host a dedication ceremony this fall.
On the Head Tide Dam on the Sheepscot River, the abutment is now complete. Read description above for more details. Photo Maranda Nemeth.

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