ASF RiverNotes 22 Aug 2019

Aug 22, 2019

Some Notes from the Alta River in Norway

A 38+ lb. Atlantic salmon brought in by Chris Buckley in July 2019, and being held prior to release. Photo Chris Buckley
Chris Buckley, who fishes the Alta most years, had a few comments on the fishing this year.

I just read your European Roundup. Your description of the Alta fishing is correct. The first three "international weeks" were excellent. I fished the second and third (first two weeks of July). During that period the anglers caught and released at least a dozen salmon over 42 pounds. Then the rain stopped and the river dropped to its lowest level since 1960. Although the ambient air temperatures were seasonable (not unduly warm), the low water turned off the fishing. However, there are clearly a lot of fish in the river.

I'm going back next week to fish the last week of August. The weather forecast is calling for rain or showers almost every day between now and then, so the fishing could really turn back on. We also get a late run of fish that starts that week and continues right up to spawning time.
Hardwick Caldwell prepares to release a 48.5 lb. Atlantic salmon back into the Alta, in July, 2019. Photo Chris Buckley

Swimming for the Count

This past week a snorkel survey was carried out on Robinson's River and on the Middle Barachois in western Newfoundland. This photo was taken on Robinson's River below the falls. Snorkel surveys are an important tool for determining Atlantic salmon numbers across the North American range of the species. Photo Sherry Pittman
Anyone telling you that counting Atlantic salmon is easy just doesn't know the reality of this species. Counting fences are great, but they cost a lot of money, cannot be put in place when waters are roaring and tree trunks are coming down to sweep them away. And the reporting system in Quebec provides some of the best data overall, but that too has weaknesses. Give good science credit for using a whole toolbox of tricks to better come up with a closer estimate.

Snorkel surveys were undertaken on the Middle Barachois and Robinson's rivers in western Newfoundland last week. There is nothing like getting a half dozen set of eyes in face masks, breathing through a tube, to get an estimate at one point in time for a river. Depending on the river bottom, Atlantic salmon can be very hard to spot from above the water surface. Dark colour above helps the fish blend in with a wide variety of substrates, from rocks to weeds. But a set of individuals with eyes below the water surface can see them far more clearly, and even make estimates on size and any quirks of behaviour.
On Middle Barachois a line of snorkelers counts the salmon in a pool. Photo Sherry Pittman
Snorkel surveys may appear simple, but coordinating enough experienced counters, interleaved with neophytes learning the skills, takes careful planning, and the surveys themselves are undertaken over several days - and that means long days with hours of immersion in these rivers.

Doing the surveys over several years provides very good data on salmon in these rivers. It takes patience, and willingness to be wet, chlled, and sometimes dealing with more than a few biting insects.

There is also satisfaction in contributing important information on the health of these rivers. Worth the time and effort, definitely.

Don Ivany gives a few preliminary insights on the snorkel surveys results:

I spent all last week with a large crew of volunteers conducting adult salmon snorkel surveys on a number of rivers in Bay St. George that do not have counting facilities on them, and we also noticed that there were more big fish in those rivers this year than in previous years.

It also appears from our surveys that, overall, the total number of fish in those rivers (both large and grilse) appears to be up slightly from last year's counts. However, the final analysis of the data has not been completed yet and there may be some minor adjustments to the numbers after the final analysis is done.

Unfortunately, there is evidence of widespread netting occurring on these rivers this season. We have passed this information along to enforcement officers in the area and hopefully it will lead to some successful charges against these poachers, who so callously destroy this great resource.
Middle Barachois River, showing the low water levels experienced recently in this and other western Newfoundland rivers.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Don Ivany, ASF Director of Programs for Newfoundland and Labrador, is at the top end of the Northern Peninsula, retrieving tracking receivers in the Strait of Belle Isle that monitor the movement of smolt and kelts tagged in the Cascapedia, Restigouche and Miramichi by ASF biologists and partner organizations.

He had time for a short report just before starting the long drive:

Most rivers on the Island of Newfoundland currently have low water levels and warm water temperatures, hovering around 22 degrees celsius.

This makes for very poor angling conditions and explains why there are so few anglers fishing the island rivers at the moment. These conditions have persisted for weeks now and many anglers are surprised that DFO have not implemented environmental protocols to restrict angling to morning fishing until conditions improve on the Island.

In southern Labrador conditions are not quite as bad. However, warm water temperatures there are making fish difficult to entice to the fly.

Mike Crosby, well-known Labrador outfitter added yesterday.:

Water levels were good and fishing activity was steady. In the last day or so, water levels have risen. Flew over the Hunt River today as well and the water is very high there. Our camp on the Hawke River closed July 31, so no report from there.

Don Ivany
also notes:

Northern Labrador is a different story and water levels are currently high and water temperatures are fairly good making for some pretty good fishing, although sometimes in tough conditions.
Flowers River in Labrador, as it was last week. ASF photo

The latest DFO fishway counts up to Aug 11, indicate that returns are up on 5 rivers and down on 13 rivers compared to last years returns, and this is quite concerning.

The DFO fishway counts up to Aug 11 can be accessed at the following link:

On a positive note, anglers throughout NL are reporting seeing more large fish this year.

Specific reports

Avid angler, Ken McClean, reports that angling success has slowed on the Gander River during the past week or so as water temperatures have continued to rise. Similarly, warm water temperatures have slowed fishing on Terra Nova River and Travis Brook, in central NL.

Reports from many anglers across the island portion of the province indicate that fishing continues to be very slow  due to low water levels and warm water temperatures.

In the Snorkel Surveys in the Bay St. George area last  week water levels were the lowest that I have ever see on these rivers and water temperatures were hovering at 22 degrees Celsius. Water levels are so low that salmon are unable to move from one pool to another in some areas.

Dwight Lethbridge says: Temps have been cold and it was water level high and rising that slowed our angling.

Jennifer Verbiski,
reports that fishing has been phenomenal on the Hunt River this year where their lodge is located. Water levels have been great for most of the season and are still on the high side. Water temperatures are still good for angling as well. Jennifer reports that there is still a good presence of fish in the river, and overall there has been a noticeable increase in the number of large fish in the river in 2019.  This is consistent with other reports around the province as well. At the moment their camp on the St. Lewis River is closed.

Problems on the Exploits River?

Several anglers have remarked on Atlantic salmon having injuries to their nose areas upstream of the dam. The speculation on the reason has included a problem with the fishway or an issue with possible louvres below high flow exit areas below the turbines. In that case the salmon would be attracted to the higher flows out of these areas, and be rubbing their snout areas against the louvres.

If any reader has new photos of the issue or more information, please contact.
Deer Arm Brook counting facility is operated by Gros Morne National Park. View on Aug. 20, 2019. Don Ivany/ASF
Big East, looking upstream. Recent rain has brought up water levels on several of the Northern Peninsula Rivers. Taken Aug. 20, 2019. Don Ivany/ASF

Nova Scotia


Greg Lovely
has this to report:

The Margree is low and we could use a good rain. 

The Northeast Branch and tributaries are remaining reasonably cool for the salmon and trout that have come up that branch of the Margaree river. The blue green algae bloom we had on the Southwest Branch coming down from Lake Ainsley seems to have gone. At least the "pea soup" appearance has disappeared. DFO is monitoring the river temperature at the weather station at the Big MacDaniel pool and if our warm water protocol is necessary, I am sure we will be notified.

We do have some rain in the forecast and have had a few cool mornings in the last week. Work continues on the replacement of Cranton bridge.

There are fish being hooked daily by the most patient fly fishermen.

St. Mary's River

A public meeting regarding the Cochrane Hill Open Pit Mine project drew a packed audience. With a salmon and river restoration project underway for several years, the idea of an open pit mine close to the river is upsetting to many residents, conservationists and salmon biologists.
A meeting Mon., Aug. 19 on the Cochrane Hill Open Pit Mine project drew a capacity crowd of 150. The project jeopardizes a salmon restoration project that is now underway. Photo SMRA

New Brunswick

Cold water refuge enhancement by MSA at mouth of burntland Brook in boiestown. Nice deep cold water pool. Nathan Wilbur/ASF
We are still in the Dog Days of summer, with relatively low activity on the water.

Brock Curtis has a few notes from a Wednesday conversation:

There are a few salmon being caught. Water levels are still low, but we are  all hoping they will come up.

No big run of salmon materialized this month on full moon, so let's turn our attention towards next month. As usual, things have been slow in August. It will pick up in another two weeks or so.

The Aug. 15 numbers for the trapnet counts are published. The Northwest Miramichi Cassilis Trapnet had 217 grilse and 46 large salmon, compared with 177 grilse and 48 large salmon last year. 

The Southwest Miramichi Millerton Trapnet had 391 grilse and 93 large salmon, compared with the 2018 count to same date of 210 grilse and 109 large salmon.

Is there really an uptick in the number of grilse?  The latest barrier data would tend  to support it

The Northwest Barrier had 121 grilse but only 49 large salmon to Aug. 18. Last year there were 62 grilse but 100 large salmon to the same date.

On the Southwest Miramichi, the Dungarvon Barrier is reporting as of Aug 18, 80 grilse and 68 large salmon, compared to 74 grilse and 57 large salmon in 2018.

Wild and rugged upper Southwest Miramichi River, this month. Nathan Wilbur/ASF


Charles Cusson, ASF Director of Quebec Programs, says:

Water levels continue to be abysmal and similar to 2018 record lows. Although anglers are having some success on certain rivers, serious rainstorms would be received with thanks.

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.

Cascapedia River

Darlene Sexton, Cascapedia Society manager, states “August is a little slow to date. We all have our fingers crossed for some much needed rain. We are also observing a drop in the number of grilse compared to last year.”

Statistics to July 31 indicate a total of 818 fish have been landed for the month (817 released).

To July 31, 2018, the Cascapedia Society had reported 820 for that month (818 released).

Bonaventure River

To August 10, a total of 762 fish had been reported landed including 602 released and 160 grilse harvested.

To August 11, 2018, 1,080 fish were reported land to that date including 704 released and 378 grilse harvested.
Salmon being released mid-August 2019 to continue its migration in the Bonaventure River. ASF photo
Matane River

The Matane continues to have decent migration numbers. To August 20, a total of 1,690 fish have been counted including 1,054 large salmon and 636 grilse. A year ago, by August 21, 2018, a total of 1,654 fish had migrated through the fishway including 898 large salmon and 756 grilse.

On the angling side as of August 20, 492 fish are reported to have been landed which includes 198 large salmon and 28 grilse released. Also, 58 large salmon and 208 grilse have been harvested.

As of August 21, 2018, 132 large salmon and 34 grilse had been released. Also, to the same date, 206 grilse had been harvested.

Madeleine River

The Madeleine river is situated on the north side of the Gaspé peninsula and has a very special fishway that was designed back in the 1960’s which is excavated in the mountain next to the natural waterfall that fish can’t navigate. The late Wilfred Carter, chairman emeritus of ASF was involved at the time as an employee of the Quebec provincial government.

To date at August 21, a total of 725 fish have been counted including 516 large salmon and 209 grilse. At the same date in 2018, 647 fish had migrated through the fishway including 335 large salmon and 312 grilse.
The Madeleine Fishway tunnels through the mountain to bypass the waterfall barrier. Originally the salmon hesitated to enter the unlit passageway. When lights were added, the salmon were willing to rise to the challenge. Charles Cusson/ASF
Matapedia River

Total Rod Days to August 20, 5,074 compared to 4,976 at same date in 2018.

The CGRMP who manage the Matapedia, Patapedia and the Causapscal Rivers is reporting 951 have been landed on the Matapedia including 585 large salmon released and 366 grilse harvested.

To the same date in 2018, CGRMP reported a total of 886 fish landed which included 446 large salmon released and 450 fish harvested. In 2018, the harvest of large salmon had been authorized. Data presented does not differentiate on size in the total of fish harvested. The total number of large salmon harvested for the last two months of the 2018 season was reported at 118.
Patrice St-Germain releases a salmon on Sector 3 of the Matapedia River on Aug. 14, 2019. Photo CGRMP
At the CGRMP Kids Salmon School, youngsters enjoy using ASF-donated rods. Photo CGRMP
Mitis River

As of August 21, 846 fish including 422 large salmon and 424 grilse have been counted using the trap infrastructure. Also, to date, 174 fish have been landed by anglers including 81 large salmon released and 93 grilse harvested.

In 2018 at the same date, 431 fish including 94 large salmon and 337 grilse were counted. Also, to date, 73 fish had been reported landed including 15 large salmon released and 58 grilse harvested.

Rimouski River

To August 21, 605 fish had migrated through the fishway (293 large salmon and 312 grilse). Also to date, anglers have landed 136 fish including 76 large salmon released and 60 grilse harvested.

At the same date in 2018, 403 fish were counted through the fishway (221 large salmon and 182 grilse). Anglers had landed for the season to date, 48 large salmon had been released and 44 grilse harvested for a total of 92.


Atlantic salmon in small numbers have continued to make their way up the Penobscot River to the Milford Fishlift

The Milford Fishlift is currently shutdown as part of the summer maintenance program, but will reopen soon, according to Jason Valliere of Maine DMR.

There have been 839 large salmon and 282 grilse at the Milford facility, and 38 large salmon at the Orono Dam. Note that they are at the same level of the river, so the total number of salmon, 1,159, is the sum of the three numbers.


To Aug. 19 there have been 47 large salmon and 5 grilse at the Lockwood Dam.


The Dam at Cherryfield reports 12 large salmon and 56 grilse. Note that it is likely many large salmon just jumped the low ice-control dam when flows were higher this year.
The dam on the Narraguagus was installed in the 1960s to reduce the impact of ice-damming downstream.

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