ASF RiverNotes 26 July 2019

Jul 26, 2019

Nova Scotia

Tommy Atwood cradles a strong salmon in the Margaree River, Cape Breton. The Margaree has fished very well so far this year. Photo from Alex Breckenridge
Conditions in Northern Nova Scotia have been favourable for Atlantic salmon angling with regular rain taking the edge off some hot, sunny days.


Alex Breckenridge,
who owns "The Tying Scotsman" says:

Anglers are telling me this has been the best spring/summer run since 2011. After the initial June flood, fish were right through the system. A couple of the younger anglers out for 12-14 hours a day returned 14 and 17 fish each for the week.

Visitors who were salmon angling for the first time had fish, and there have been lots of happy anglers through the shop. Water levels and temperatures haven’t been an issue so far. After some rain overnight earlier this week, the level was at .440m and we are supposed to get more rain this week.

The highest water temperature I have been informed of was 16.5 C., and the unseasonably cool July nights have helped. All in all a great season so far, long may it continue.
Edward Botting releases an Atlantic salmon back into the Margaree. Photo from Alex Breckenridge.
Upstream, in the Northeast Branch of the Margaree, the pools can be wonderfully intimate. This is Ward's Rock, a beautiful holding pool. Photo from Joel Robinson.
Greg Lovely has this to say about conditions on the Margaree this week: 

Water levels and temperature are still good. New fish are trickling in and a few are being hooked.

I expect fishing will improve with the rain we are receiving this week.
Jim Little releases a nice salmon to the Margaree. Photo from Alex Breckenridge
More than a dozen salmon are holding in the Breakwater Pool, prime habitat off limits to angling 35-kilometres upstream in the sanctuary section of the Margaree River. Fish will often hold here through the summer months before heading even further upstream to spawn. Photo Greg Lovely
This picture of Hatchery Pool was taken a day after heavy rain cooled and raised the Margaree River. Photo Greg Lovely
St. Mary's River

As mentioned in River Notes last week, there's a grassroots movement gaining momentum on the St. Mary's River in Nova Scotia in opposition to a short-life gold mine proposed for the nearby Cochrane Hill area. The project and its tailings would have a direct impact on McKean's Brook, home to a long-term DFO assessment site for salmon and some of the most productive spawning habitat in the watershed. Below, ASF Director of Regional Programs Geoff Giffin and Nova Scotia and PEI Program Director Kris Hunter inspect part of the brook known to host a high concentration of redds each fall.
McKean's Brook is home to some of the most productive spawning habitat in the St. Mary's River watershed. Neville Crabbe/ASF
Silver's Pool on the St. Mary's is formed at the junction of the West Branch and East Branch of the river. Although closed to angling today, it historically was among the best angling pools on the river. Neville Crabbe/ASF
West River Sheet Harbour

Home to the Nova Scotia Salmon Association's (NSSA) showcase habitat restoration project, the West River near the community of Sheet Harbour is slowly but surely coming back to life. NSSA biologist Eddie Halfyard reports that the 2019 smolt run was the largest since the restoration project began in 2005.
ASF's Geoff Giffin and Kris Hunter inspect the counting fence on the West River Sheet Harbour last week. Neville Crabbe/ASF
The counting fence on the West River Sheet Harbour, seen here from upstream, is a floating barrier that allows debris to pass during high water events. This technology is used extensively in Norway. Neville Crabbe/ASF


Charles Cusson, ASF's Director of Quebec Programs, notes:

In Quebec's salmon rivers, the water levels look much like 2018, very low, as of July 24. One good thing is that water temperatures are decent this year, compared to high water temperatures last year. Anglers have noticed that grilse numbers to date are lower than in 2018 when all rivers are considered.

And PLEASE remember to report your releases. This gives the scientists the most accurate angling statistics and helps river managers to accurately calculate angling success.

A special note on live release:
with warmer water conditions upon us, please keep the amount of time your fish is on the line to a minimum. Secondly, keep the salmon in the water during the entire release process. There is no pre-set amount of time required before releasing a fish from your hands. It will tell you when it is ready to go.
Antoine Denis releases his very first Atlantic salmon with his father Eric Denis. Photo Laval Rioux
York, Dartmouth and St-Jean Rivers

The most up to date results are available at:

York River:

The harvest of large salmon was permitted on the York from July 1 to July 10. According to the Zec Gaspé, for the period of July 1 to 6, 25 large salmon were harvested. An in-river count was performed during this time and results indicated that a harvest could not continue as of July 11. The next count will be in late July to ascertain abundance of large salmon, as per the Quebec Salmon Management Plan.

Dartmouth River:

Saint-Jean River:

Bonaventure River

Water levels on the Bonaventure are trending downward but cooler temperatures are providing good fishing conditions. The Bonaventure Zec has published statistics to July 15 which state 493 fish have been landed (405 salmon released and 88 grilse harvested).

Numbers for the prior year indicated 812 fish had been landed to this point, including 609 salmon released and 203 grilse harvested.
A beautiful Atlantic salmon released in the waters of the Pourvoirie Nabisipi. Photo Pourvoirie Nabisipi
Nabisipi River – Pourvoirie Nabisipi UenapeuHipu

Eric Walsh, manager of the camp is reporting a late start to their 2019 season. A particular aspect of the Nabisipi, which meets salt water along the North Shore of the St. Lawrence River, is when most camps are shutting down for the season this one is just starting with decent fishing that lasts into September.

Moisie River – Moisie Nipissis Outfitters

ASF (Canada) Vice-Chair Charles Langlois reports the camp has had a productive season despite the late start. The first salmon were observed at least two weeks late – close  to June 19-20. More big fish have been landed and observed up until close of operations on July 18. The water levels more or less held their own without having a “Moisie bump in the water” which can result in flow going off the chart in a very short period of time.

Cascapedia River

For the week of July 22, Darlene Sexton is stating “things have quieted down somewhat, but fish are still being landed daily. Jason and Chubby (Cascapedia Society Guides) limited out both days during the weekend of July 20-21. Also, rain would be a blessing. It looks a lot like last season, with rain being forecasted but never becoming reality”. Let’s keep our fingers crossed."

Heonku Lee releases an Atlantic salmon at the Julian pool of Sector A on the Petite Cascapédia River, July 19, 2019. Photo Dan Greenberg
Matane River

The 2019 migration to July 22 has included 1,182 fish (832 salmon and 359 grilse) counted through the fishway.

Compared to the same date for the season in 2018, 1,654 (898 salmon and 756 grilse) were counted.

In 2019 to date, 220 fish have been landed including 136 large salmon released.
Atlantic salmon released by Charles O. Dionne Binette on the Matane River. Photo Philip Pelletier
Matapedia River

For the season to date there have been 3,664 rod days compared with 3,398 last year to the same point in the season.

Even with water levels continuing to drop dramatically, the Matapedia continues to produce good angling results.

To July 22, 422 large salmon have been reported released and 197 grilse harvested.

At the same date in 2018, 362 large salmon had been reported released and 210 grilse harvested.
Taking an Atlantic salmon photo while preparing the fish for release isn't always easy. This salmon was released at the Débarcadaire Pool on the Mitis River. Photo Benoît Martin
Mitis River

This year, major fish passage problems have persisted at the Hydro Quebec dam near the community of Price. As a result, there are fewer fish in the river than would be normal by this time in the season.

To July 23, 299 salmon and 257 grilse have been counted for a total of 556.

The last five year (2014-2018) average results in 705 fish having been counted to July 23.

Aux Rochers River

This partly urban river that passes through Port-Cartier is showing better results in 2019 compared with last year, even with the delayed start in the angling season due to very high water in early June.

To July 22, 208 fish (168 salmon and 40 grilse) have passed through the trap. In 2018 to the same date there were 195 fish (153 salmon and 42 grilse).

Du Gouffre River
– Season opened on June 1

The du Gouffre river is situated approximately 100 kilometers north of Québec City, in the Charlevoix region. It is 72 kms long and flows into the St-Lawrence river at Baie St-Paul. The Gouffre is the second most westerly river with a wild Atlantic salmon run open to angling in North America.

To July 23, 2019, 83 fish (61 salmon and 22 grilse) have been released. For the prior year at the same date, 61 fish (46 salmon and 15 grilse) were reported landed and released.

Starting with the 2019 season, this river will have a better idea of how many fish migrate to it with the introduction of an electronic sonar counting unit. The data stemming from this addition will make management decisions based on fact.

New Brunswick


The Cold Water Pools opened again
, but please check regularly for future closures,

The Dungarvon Counting Fence to July 21 has had 64 grilse and 59 large salmon, compared with 62 grilse and 49 large salmon to that date in 2018. 

The Northwest Miramichi Barrier to July 21 has had 82 grilse and 37 large salmon, compared with 48 grilse and 88 large salmon in 2018.

On the Southwest Miramichi, a report from Rocky Brook notes that while the water levels have dropped, there was still good fishing this week.

Brock Curtis of Curtis Miramichi Outfitters says:

I just got off the river.

We canoed the lower section of the Main S.W Miramichi from Upper Blackville to Blackville. Dad is 83, he and I have been renting canoes for 40 years this year. He and an old friend along with a few others wanted to do a day run. All the guys are locals who live and grew up along the river.

The cold water pools opened again today. The last couple of evenings have been quite cool. I measured the water temperature all along the river on our way down and it was averaging 70 F-72 F.

This section of the river is still good for canoeing.

We could use rain but all in all we felt it was in good shape for this time of year.

Lots of hatches on top of the water. Water striders, dragon flies, bank swallows, eagles were plentiful.

Salmon were jumping all along the river even in areas with no brooks. We watched one angler hook a nice grilse on a bomber. It was quite nice listening to the old fellows talk about all the old farms from the Connors, Colford, Vickers, Hallihan, Hennessey, Curtis, Campbells and many more old family names that still remain along the river.

Salmon catches have been down for the past week.

Things slowed down quite a bit once the cold water pools were closed. With fewer anglers around this tends to happen. Now that things are opened up again we should see more anglers back on the river. Temperatures are good and the salmon are there, so we should here of more hook ups in the next few days.


Jacques Héroux, manager of Larry's Gulch, notes there are still lots of Atlantic salmon. The water is lower every day, but they are still fishing:

At least one pool is too low to access by motorboat, but still possible by canoe.

He adds that the Little Main Restigouche is too low to canoe at this time. "We need rain in the next few days - definitely."

Keith Vanacore at Restigouche River Lodge notes the number anglers this past week was down, but they have been connecting with salmon.

We had 20 to 30 fish per week for the first half of July, and the fishing was good until after that time. We have had a lot of grilse and salmon up to the 17-19 lb. range, and water temperatures good, in the low to mid 60s F. We were finding Atlantic salmon in all the pools we were visiting.

Last week there were about 10 fish in the book perhaps 35 per cent grilse and Salmon 65 per cent. Water temperatures were on the rise.
Water really fell off after the 17th as well as slower fishing. We’re still hooking fish daily. With 1-2 rods only."

Jack Lyons of Cold Brook Camp notes:

We are ahead of last year, but that is because there are more grilse this year. Don't think the number of large salmon is as high as in 2018. This morning (Wed., July 24) two big salmon were angled - one over 20 lb. and the other over 30 lb. There was also one at least seen up in Fraser Pool.

Don't like it as well that we have seen a couple of striped bass. One was bigger than a grilse.

Jerry Thomas of Two Brooks Camp on the Upsalquitch, notes that the water levels remain slightly higher than at the same time in 2018. So far this year they have had about 60 grilse and 40 large salmon.

Last year we would have groups of eight or ten passing through. This year the salmon are in smaller groups of two, three or four.

He notes that water temperatures have remained cool.

Air temperature is about 50 F. at night, so the next day the water temperatures do not get up past 70 F. at mid-day.


Bob Baker says, "There is good water, but not much happening with the Atlantic salmon yet."


On Thursday, July 25, another ASF led dam removal commenced, this time the Head Tide Dam on the Sheepscot River. Watching are Mike Burke of Interfluve, and John Burrows, ASF Director of New England Programs. Photo Maranda Nemeth
Sheepscot River

ASF's restoration work on the Sheepscot River took another big step forward on Thursday when demolition of the Head Tide Dam near the community of Alna began. Removing this dam is critical to the Sheepscot's recovery, as it is the barrier that migratory species encounter on their journey upstream. It's removal will free up 60 miles of habitat for migratory fish - including Atlantic salmon.
Chipping away at the Head Tide Dam. Photo Maranda Nemeth.
Penobscot River

Atlantic salmon continue to be passed over the Milford Dam. Combined with Atlantic salmon counted at the nearby dam in Orono, 862 large salmon and 278 grilse have returned to the Penobscot, bringing the total to July 22 to 1,140. This is by far the highest return since 2011.

However, not all these Atlantic salmon make it past Milford. In 2019 so far, a total of 597 Atlantic salmon were trucked off to Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery to be spawned for the continued stocking of the river.

Reports also indicate that several dozen returning Penobscot salmon were tagged at Milford and transported far upstream for release near the East Branch. One wonders if these tagged fish would be better off release closer to the capture site.
The returns of Atlantic salmon through the Milford Fish Lift since 2014. Everyone is hoping this trend line continues.
Narraguagus River

The official count to July 24 is 10 large salmon and 55 grilse, though more fish have likely entered the system.

This year the water levels have been higher, and it appears that considerable numbers of large salmon are passing right up over the barrier itself, according to DMR staff. Whether this is really happening will be determined later in the year by the redd counts conducted on the river to estimate the number of salmon eggs.


The Eagle River had been running high, but settled down this past week. As usual Atlantic salmon angling has been excellent. Photo from Dwight Lethbridge, Pratt Falls Lodge
Eagle River

Dwight Lethbridge of Pratt Falls Lodge says:

We had a fantastic week on the Eagle. Water continued to fall until Tuesday when it bumped up a couple inches – which in turn slowed the action. Temperatures remained cool at a chilly average of 15-16c.

The fishing was overall phenomenal for the past 5-6 days. Guests and guides complained a little that they were seeing a "ton of fish" that were stubborn to take. I guess it was more an observation than a complaint because nobody was really complaining when they maxed out on their Catch and Release numbers nearly every day.

Had a discussion with fellow lodge owner Bob Brown a few days ago and we both agree that the runs seem very healthy. Best numbers we have seen in our camp since 2015.

Don Ivany, ASF Director of Programs for Newfoundland and Labrador notes:

A recent report from the Sandhill River in Labrador indicates that there has been a good sign of fish in the river this year and the fishing has been good, and this includes large fish this year AND with grilse numbers appearing to be solid.

This is in contrast with the DFO fishway counts for this river to date, which indicates that returns are down significantly this year at 277 fish compared to 1,687 in 2018.

It has been pointed out that the DFO counting fence was late going in this year due to high water levels and this could account for the discrepancy. It could be that DFO has not yet calculated the number of fish that may have been missed before the fence went in.


The Big East River, just north of Hawke Bay, looking seaward from the highway bridge on July 19. Don Ivany/ASF
Don Ivany reports on the rivers of Newfoundland:

General Comments

The latest DFO fishway counts up to July 21 have been posted on their website and unfortunately runs continue to be low on many rivers. See the latest at:

In fact, eleven of the monitored rivers have seen declines compared to the same time period in 2018, and only four rivers have seen an increase over the same time period in 2018. In comparison to the long-term average (1992-2018), returns so far this year are down on thirteen monitored rivers, and up on only two. With respect to the In-Season review that DFO committed to for this season, we just recently received the following response from DFO:

"Two science reviews of the status of Atlantic salmon in Newfoundland and Labrador took place in early 2019 and determined that populations were at a relatively low level. The 2019 Management Plan was announced in late spring that included retention limits that were higher than in 2018.

The science assessments in early 2019 have determined that the population numbers are at a low level. The returns to date in 2019, which only exceed the previous generation level on 2 of 13 rivers assessed, do not indicate change in populations that would warrant a change in retention limits.

The Department will continue to monitor returns on a weekly basis."
The salmon counts to July 21, with RED rivers showing decline from 2018, and GREEN rivers showing improvement.
A tapeworm issue on the Torrent River

Karen Gould of the Torrent River Interpretation Center noted this week that 30% or more of the Atlantic salmon passing up the fishway, which has an underwater viewing chamber, had evidence of tapeworm hanging from their anuses. Sometimes segments would break off and fall to the bottom of the viewing area.

Don Ivany has also noticed salmon with tapeworms and has made DFO aware of the situation in the river.

As a result, make sure that any harvested salmon is prepared as food away from the rivers, and be certain to cook the Atlantic salmon until it is well done.

Reading indicates that humans can be hosts to these tapeworms. There is no major impact on health, outside of feeling vaguely unwell, but as the tapeworms do leave with stool, it is unnerving to say the least. Do not prepare these salmon for sushi.

On checking with other researchers and anglers, including Ken Whelan in Europe, there have generally been generally few cases of tapeworm infestation noted. 

One assumes this is some aberration this year for Torrent River salmon.

Angler at Wing Pool on the Torrent River on July 19. Don Ivany/ASF
Don Ivany continues:

Now that we are into the dog days of summer, most rivers on the Island of Newfoundland (with a few exceptions) have low, warm water, and fishing has been slow. Angling conditions in Labrador are still pretty good. Reports from anglers indicate fishing as been rather slow in the far Southern part of Labrador but as one goes North reports indicate that anglers are enjoying better success.

Overall, anglers in NL are reporting seeing and hooking more large fish this year but report that grilse numbers seem to be down.

Specific Reports

Paul Smith
who is an avid angler, and who also writes a weekly column in the St. John's Telegram Newspaper, provides the following report:

I just got back from the Codroy River area. There are a few big fish on the move but very few grilse. I’m hearing bad news on returns from all over including the Pinware in Labrador. Not good.

Ken McClean
- a long time angler and past board member of the Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland (SAEN), provides the following report from central Newfoundland based on his fishing experiences from last week:

Fishing continues to be slow on the Terra Nova below the TCH. The water level, although dropping slowly continues to be too high and the water temperature rose above 18 C. in the later part of the week. Salmon returns continue to be up on last year.

Note: the DFO fishway counts for Terra Nova River up to July 21 indicate 2,598 fish have been counted compared to 1,736 for the same time period in 2018

Fish numbers have improved on the Gander around Glenwood but are still down on previous years. Anglers are reporting that salmon are reluctant to come to the fly despite cold water and almost optimal water levels for fishing. Water levels are high on Traverse Brook and good numbers of salmon appeared with the full moon tides. These fish are very reluctant to take a fly.

It should be noted as well that during the past few days anglers are reporting better success on the Gander River with some very large grilse being hooked.

In the meantime, the DFO fishway counts for the Exploits River indicate that as of July 21 only 7,100 fish passed through the Bishop Falls Fishway compared to 13,129 fish in 2018 during the same time period. This is particularly concerning.

Likewise, on the Northern Peninsula only 61 fish have passed through the counting fence at Western Arm Brook up to July 21, compared to 701 in 2018. However, not too far away on the Torrent River some 1,141 fish have passed through the fishway compared to only 846 in 2018. This just goes to show how different returns can on different rivers even when rivers are in fairly close proximity to each other.

SPAWN members Keith Piercey, Craig Major, and Stew Cochrane spent a few days late last week fishing River of Ponds, Big East, and the Torrent River. They report seeing very few fish and only managed a couple of tight lines between them. Water levels were great but water temperatures were on the warm side, hovering around 18 degrees Celsius. Don Ivany fished Torrent River on the evening of July 19 and hooked two fish at Bristol’s Pool but considering that this should be peak run time on this river there were not a lot of fish in the river. Reports indicate that fishing has been slow on Portland Creek as well.

The Final Word

Overall in North America, the Atlantic salmon river experience has been solid so far in 2019, minus some poor counts in Newfoundland and southern Labrador.

The main difference compared to 2018 appears to be better conditions - more water and cooler temperatures.  For those involved with restoration of runs in Maine rivers, there is new hope.

As we see week after week in this blog, huge numbers of people care deeply about wild Atlantic Salmon. Let's keep it this way.

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