ASF RiverNotes 13 June 2019

Jun 12, 2019
Aaron Rideout releases a gorgeous Atlantic salmon. He says "This was in the Codroy River, high and with cold water. It was just after the water levels skyrocketed then dropped back down to fishable levels. I believe due to that high water flash, we had a slow week fishing with none being seen or hooked until a morning later in the week where we each hooked one. It was my first time fishing Codroy."

To Know an Atlantic salmon

There is no end to the learning about Atlantic salmon, their habits, the characteristics of their rivers, and how to predict what they will do next.

Aaron Rideout's description of bringing in and successfully releasing this Atlantic salmon in the Codroy River of southwest Newfoundland is a great example.

Getting to know the characteristics of a river takes time. And just as important is to understand how an Atlantic salmon reacts to that river, and the water and atmospheric conditions it is experiencing at any point in time. 

Anglers of the first half of the twentieth century and before found enough to ponder in seeking a better understanding of the habits and biology of Atlantic salmon. But from the mid-20th century onwards, the imperative to safeguard the future of Atlantic salmon runs has thrown in the need to learn the techniques of live release.

Lee Wulff, the near mythical American salmon angler first promoted the learning of techniques of live release with experiences gained in Newfoundland, mostly up the Northern Peninsula on streams like Portland Creek.

But since then the science has caught up, with assurances that if water temperatures are cool, and with anglers being gentle with the fish, there was at most a two or three per cent mortality. We also learned to be fair to the Atlantic salmon's survival by not fishing above 20 C or so.

ASF has codified a lot of the hints or suggestions on live release, but sometimes it is worthwhile reading how someone else has written down their own rules for successful release. Sean Vardy, a well known Newfoundland salmon angler who has much experience also with the need for learning conservation techniques, recently put his own list up on TSANG, a Newfoundland Facebook Group's page:

Some Do's and Do Not's of Catch and Release - by Sean Vardy

  1. Do not beach – ever. Walk out into deeper water to catch and release the fish
  2. Heavy leaders – heavy leaders give you the ability to get the fish in quick, and release them. Do not play the salmon or trout to exhaustion.
  3. Cut your leader near the fly if necessary. Snap it off if necessary
  4. Barbless hooks – Not only better for the parr, but also makes the task of removing the hook easier
  5. Releasing “tools” – depending on situation: bare hand or a Wet white cotton glove, or knotless dipnets
  6. I find that turning the fish slightly on side to calm it enough to quickly remove the hook 
  7. Leave the head in the water as much as possible. Imagine working out at the gym, and someone tapes your mouth!
  8. Avoid the “death grip”- support the fish properly. Be mindful of vital organs and never squeeze the fish.
  9. Keep hands far enough back to avoid the area between the fins. 
  10. Vital to keep hands away from gills and eyes.
  11. Handle the fish as little as possible to avoid moving slime.
  12. If water temperatures are high, say above 20° C., be especially careful in the playing and handling of the fish, as there is extra stress on it. Consider not fishing, and waiting until temperatures drop. The fish need YOUR help on this one
  13. Never lift the fish vertically by its tail. Among other things, this puts increased pressure on the spine, and can easily break the tail.
  14. Revive the fish adequately – While supporting the fish as noted above, keep the fish underwater, and move to a location that has some current. Face the fish into the current while continuing to support it. At this point relax the grip on the tail and when it is ready, the fish will swim away
There may be other points to make, but this is a good overview that comes down to one thing: Take care of the Atlantic salmon you have just angled, and it will live to go on to spawn and create the next generation.

Also, a reminder that there are  some good videos on live release out there, including the one that FQSA, ASF and the Quebec government collaborated on. Click here - English | Francais

Expanding Your Knowledge Base on Atlantic Salmon Behaviour - and Lightning Storms

Still angling - storm approaching on the Northwest Miramichi on 3 June, 2019. Nathan Wilbur/ASF
Lightning storms are something to be respected, but the evidence of direct strikes or near strikes of Atlantic salmon anglers is very thin.

Most anglers on rivers trying to connect with an Atlantic salmon know the facts. Lightning can strike well ahead of a storm massing miles away. Lightning striking some distance away, especially on the water surface or in wet ground, can still zap you. If available, a vehicle will likely be the best sanctuary during a lightning storm, but do not lean on the doors. Definitely do not shelter under a tall tree, or next a cliff. Plus remember that graphite in salmon rods is an excellent conductor of electricity, while fibreglass and bamboo are not.

But with all these issues, not a single fatality of a North American Atlantic salmon angler has come to our attention. Any reader who knows of a hit or near hit of an Atlantic salmon angler is invited to contact us with whatever details are known. Email the editor

Atlantic salmon become agitated when a thunderstorm is coming

Quite a number of individuals, including both ASF President Bill Taylor, and NB Regional Director Nathan Wilbur have noticed how Atlantic salmon that previously were lazing somewhere in a pool will react. On the storm approaching they become agitated, often circling the pool, perhaps changing speed at times.

What is the Atlantic salmon reacting to? At this time we only have speculation to fall back on. It could be changes in pressure, perhaps the low frequency "booms" of thunder received in the fish's lateral line structure, or perhaps there is some change in the electrical environment of the fish. It would be an interesting topic for animal behaviour research.

New Brunswick

Gray Rapids, near Blackville on the Southwest Miramichi, on 8 June 2019. Nathan Wilbur/ASF
Nathan Wilbur, ASF Director of New Brunswick Programs says:

Several bright fish have been caught on both the Northwest and Southwest Miramichi rivers and this has people optimistic. Water conditions are great and with a little more rain this week, it should keep water levels at excellent levels.

Striped bass spawning has been in full swing on the Northwest Miramichi and most of the bass should be making their way out of the system and back into coastal feeding areas over the coming days. The First Nations pilot commercial striped bass fishery has been off to a good start.

Brock Curtis
, of Curtis Miramichi Outfitters adds:

I spent most of last week on the headwaters of the Miramichi from Halfmoon to Boiestown and the Renous rivers. Had a great week.

Though the fishing for Atlantic salmon wasn't the greatest, we concluded it was just a bit too early. Bright salmon are still being caught here on the lower section of the river in the Blackville area and anglers are spotting salmon jumping as they make their way upriver.

Within five minutes of putting in at Halfmoon we saw trout rising to hatches. Eagles, hawks and kingfishers kept us company all the way down the river. An absolutely beautiful remote part of our river. Most of the camps and lodges are just opening for the summer so we didn't see many people along the river. One of the caretakers told us his clients will be coming afterJune 15. By that time the bright salmon are usually up there.

We just caught enough water to come down through the tough spots. Our 20' Tripper was loaded and another 6" of water would have been great. This is not a section of the river for anyone who doesn't understand how to handle a canoe in rough water. There wasn't a lot of time to fish. Unless we get a good rain this section of the river will be too low to canoe. That goes for our tributaries too. We haven't been getting much rain and the river levels are dropping below the comfort zone for canoeing.Rain is in the forecast and we need it.

The odd angler is hooking bright salmon. I talked to two guys bass fishing and they quit fishing after hitting 100 bass landed in their boat between the two of them. A good days catch.


One guide on the lower portion of the river said there were over 40 bright salmon caught (and released) before the end of May, claiming this has been the best start in years. Water conditions are excellent and fish are entering the river.
Anglers fishing the mouth of the Matapedia River where it meets the Restigouche, on 6 June, 2019. Nathan Wilbur/ASF


Charles Cusson, ASF Director of Quebec Programs notes:

Water levels and flows have been dropping steadily since last week's ASF RiverNotes, but the fact remains that runs are indicating a two-week delay.

Angling conditions will improve with salmon beginning to show up. Next week we should have some early results from the rivers that open their seasons on June 15 such as the Matane. Most river flows in the Gaspé region have been dropping quickly over the last week and we all hope Mother Nature will cooperate with some needed water in the next few weeks.

Reminder to anglers fishing Quebec rivers to take the time to report your releases to have the most accurate angling statistics and for the river managers to accurately calculate angling success.

Causapscal River

River conditions have been improved during the last week which translated into improved action for anglers. Asf of June 10, 2019, 34 salmon have been landed including 19 released.

By comparison, as of June 12, 2018, 60 salmon had been landed including 36 released.

To June 12, 2017, 66 salmon were reported landed which included 11 releases.

Matapedia River

Water levels have been dropping slowly but surely since last week’s river notes. Angling success has been spotty with the usual first run of fish being late. To June 10, 2019, 25 salmon have been reported released.

To June 12, 2018, 30 salmon had been reported landed and released.

To June 12, 2017, 43 salmon had been reported landed and released.

With the implementation of the management plan in 2016, mandatory live release of large salmon is in effect until an assessment is made in late July to ascertain abundance.

For those of you heading out to the Matapedia valley, this YouTube video from last summer highlighting some spectacular salmon jumps will get you in right frame of mind for the 2019 season.
Moisie River

On the North Shore, dropping water levels are relative. A week ago, the Moisie was flowing at over 2,300 cubic meters per second. As of June 11, the flow gauge is reporting 1,600 cubic meters per second. Angling success has improved somewhat and to June 10, 18 salmon have been landed, including 6 salmon killed, 10 released and 2 kelts.

As of June 12, 2018, 45 salmon had been reported landed, which included 34 released. To June 13, 2017, 101 salmon had been reported landed including 24 released.
High water from snowmelt in the Chic Choc Mountains on 8 June, 2019. Nathan Wilbur/ASF
Gaspé Region - York, Dartmouth and Saint-Jean Rivers

There is not much being noted at this time. Local sources are reporting anglers seeing more signs of salmon. One constant query is the whereabouts of the “big fish”. Ten to twelve-pound salmon are being landed and released, but there is no sign to date of the usual “Big” York fish.

To June 8th 2018, the Zec Gaspé had posted the following on their web site: 2 salmon landed and released on the St-Jean, 2 salmon landed and released on the Dartmouth and 14 salmon landed and release for a total of 18 on the three rivers.

To June 9th, 2017, the Zec Gaspé had reported 15 salmon landed and released on the Dartmouth, 4 salmon landed and released on the St-Jean and 18 landed and released on the York.

Bonaventure River

Ronald Cormier, manager of the Bonaventure Zec is reporting the river is still on the high side, with normal salmon angling results for the first half of June. These normally pick up in the latter part of 1st month of the season. He is also reporting that all needed repairs in the Green Pool to high area have been completed and is expecting a productive season.
Ice, snow and a lot of it. This ice jam on the Bonaventure required special handling, and even in the lower image in late April, the ice was persisting. Illustrates the great snow and ice pack feeding these rivers even now. Photo Zec Bonaventure


Atlantic salmon are moving upstream through the Milford Fish Lift. At this time all are being collected for breeding at Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery in East Orland, ME.

As of 10 June, 2019 there were 180 Atlantic salmon counted at Milford and another three at Orono. This makes the year so far the third best out of the last seven.


There are some interesting things happening on the Kennebec River. Exactly 20 years ago as of July 1, the Edwards Dam was removed, and in the two decades since, the migration of native species has increased. Shad, alewives, blueback herring and other species are coming back, rebuilding an ecosystem that was lost for almost two centuries.

So far there are 11 large Atlantic salmon at Lockwood Dam, now the lowermost dam on the river. These, and the others making their way upstream will be trucked to the Sandy River where they will go on to spawn. Intervening dams are not ideal, but the Kennebec is making progress.
ASF's Andy Goode angled for a shad in the free-flowing Kennebec River above the now gone Edwards Dam. ASF Photo

Nova Scotia

Cape Breton has many more Atlantic salmon rivers than just the Margaree, Cheticamp, Middle, North and Baddeck. This is the Inhabitants River, located not far from Port Hawksbury and the Canso Strait. Taken June 11, 2019. Geoff Giffin/ASF
Greg Lovely says of the Margaree:

Water levels for the Margaree river are perfect and Tuesday night's rain will maintain those nice levels. I have only been out a few times and although I have not hooked up with an Atlantic salmon, I did see on two separate occasions salmon just in from the ocean.

From the reports I have been hearing, no one has hooked a salmon on the North or Cheticamp rivers either, and those rivers usually have salmon angled ahead of the Margaree.

Alex Breckenridge
, who runs "The Tying Scotsman" notes:

"The Margaree had a water level bump again. We had some significant rain earlier in the week and there is still snow and ice in the highlands and forests. For salmon, we are just at the beginning of the run."
Looking upstream on the Cheticamp on June 12, 2019, from the remediated area opposite last year's landslide. The forests are leafing out, and the river appears to be in good condition. Geoff Giffin/ASF
Middle River looking downstream June 11, 2019. Kris Hunter/ASF
Middle River in Cape Breton has a significant salmon run, exiting to the Bras D'Or Lakes. Taken Wed. June 11, 2019. Geoff Giffin/ASF


Extremely high water at Big Falls in Sir Richard Squires Park on the Upper Humber River. With more rain in the forecast over the next week, it could be a while before anglers see good angling conditions here. Photo June 12, 2019. Don Ivany/ASF
Generally conditions are similar to those reported last week in RiverNotes for June 6, notes Don Ivany.

There was more rain mid-week, and the best advice for anglers would be to consider rivers in the far western edge of the province. 

In the Exploits a few Atlantic salmon have been found in the lower part of the river, potentially a positive sign.

Rick Maddigan notes of the Salmonier River:

Some rain late last week and first Atlantic salmon was taken and released at Pincents Falls on Sat., June 8, right on schedule. There are now reports of scattered fish being hooked throughout the lower river, and water is medium.

And with 25 mils of rain predicted for tomorrow, watch out.....

There have also been fish hooked on Northeast Placentia.

Tolson Parsons adds:

All rivers around Central Newfoundland have good water levels but no fish yet. Lots of kelts have been seen in Gander rIver.

Ross Hinks noted that  on the Conne on the south coast there had been a single salmon so far.
On a wet day, June 12, the newly renovated Big Falls Tourist Lodge on the Upper Humber River was a wonderful place to be, especially as it has been newly renovated. From left to right owners Fred and Shirley Thorne, ASF’s Don Ivany, Kastine Coleman(recently certified as an International casting instructor), and Terry Byrne, well known local angler and camp manager at Flowers River Lodge in Labrador. Don Ivany/ASF
The famous Brook Pool at Big Falls on the upper Humber on June 12, 2019, showing the high flows this year. Don Ivany/ASF
Gros Morne National Park

The National Park on Newfoundland's west coast released its 2019 regulations this past week:

Restriction on Angling

Pursuant to section 35(1) of the National Parks of Canada Fishing Regulations, the following restrictions are in place for angling in Gros Morne National Park of Canada, by order of the superintendant:


1) The catch and possession limit for Atlantic salmon is reduced to 1 salmon. A retained salmon must have both a valid national park salmon tag and a green provincial tag affixed through the gill cavity and mouth of the salmon and be securely locked.

2) Salmon angling will only be permitted on the following waters: Lomond River from the park boundary to high tide marks at Bonne Bay, East Branch Lomond River, and Deer Arm Brook (Eastern Arm Brook) from Deer Arm Pond to the high tide marks at Bonne Bay.

3) Trout fishing is prohibited on park waters open to salmon fishing. All trout caught on those waters must be released unharmed.

4) Catch and release of salmon is prohibited with the following exceptions: where a salmon is greater than 63 cm; where a salmon is less than 30 cm; and where a salmon is caught in waters not open to salmon angling. In these instances, the salmon must be released immediately.

5) Angling is prohibited in Deer Arm Pond within 90 meters of the out flow of Ten Mile feeder (note “the feeder” is closed to all fishing by regulation).

These measures are being implemented due to concern about recent observed declines in salmon populations both within Gros Morne National Park and throughout the province.

Any contravention of this notice constitutes an offence under section 24(2) of the Canada National Parks Act. Failure to comply with that Act, the applicable park regulations or this notice may be grounds for prosecution under the Canada National Parks Act.

Here and There in the Atlantic Salmon World

Angling and scientific research can combine on occasion. ASF and DFO researchers working on the Cascapedia needed Atlantic salmon kelts and received an angler assist.
At left is guide Dean Sexton, and at right is David Landry, bring in a healthy kelt. A total of 28 kelts were tagged in one day on the Cascapedia River by ASF biologists with an extra DFO biologist. As in the past, we can expect to detect a percentage of these passing through the Strait of Belle Isle between Labrador and Newfoundland sometime around the middle of July. Photo ASF Research
David Meerburg was attending the NASCO (North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization) meetings in Tromso, Norway last week, and took this photo of the Alta River, one of the most famous salmon runs of Norway - and of Europe. Rain was the order of the day, however. photo David Meerburg.
A brand new Alta River boat, just waiting for the run of Atlantic salmon back from the North Atlantic. Photo David Meerburg
ASF RiverNotes will not be published next week, but will return the following week.

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