ASF RiverNotes 27 June 2019

By Tom Moffatt -

Jun 26, 2019
Christopher Minkoff releases a bright Atlantic salmon in Sector 1 of the Causapscal River on 13 June, 2019. The Causapscal is noted for its early run of large salmon. Photo Jean-Marc LeBlanc
Two weeks ago, ASF's new map of North American salmon rivers was mailed to all members and supporters inside the summer edition of the Atlantic Salmon Journal - our gift to you marking the 2019 International Year of the Salmon.

Featuring more than 1,100 rivers in six U.S. states and five Canadian provinces, all traced, named, and assigned a conservation status, the map is a graphic depiction of the state of wild Atlantic Salmon populations. There's nothing else like it.

For readers of ASF RiverNotes who are not ASF members, or who have let their membership lapse, join today and receive your copy in the mail. 
The island of Newfoundland has more than 300 wild Atlantic salmon rivers. Most have an 'unknown' conservation status represented by the colour purple.
ASF's Executive Director of Communications, Neville Crabbe, spoke to CBC New Brunswick about the map project. 
ASF's Director of Quebec Programs, Charles Cusson, did a French language interview about the map with Radio Canada. To listen, follow the link below.

Maps can shape the way we see the world. In this case ASF hopes the new map of North American salmon rivers is a call to action for conservationists, and inspiration for explorers and anglers.



Returns to the Penobscot River are shaping up to be the best in nearly a decade. Last week the fish lift at the Milford Dam, the first major obstruction encountered by migratory fish, saw 107 Atlantic Salmon in a single day - a new record.

Jason Valliere, with Maine's Department of Marine Resources, had this to say:

Looks like we are having the best salmon year since 2011! We are currently at 597 Salmon.

River herring are just about done. We are just seeing a few a day. Salmon, Shad, Striper, and Sea Lamprey numbers continue to climb.

Although this is technically a “Trap Count” – a count of fish that pass through the Milford fishway – we have included the few salmon that Brookfield has assisted over the dam on the ledge side since they are known fish that have passed the dam. Brookfield staff made a decision supported by DMR to net these fish as they were easily accessible and could be quickly and safely passed over the dam in a matter of seconds rather than waiting for them to retreat down the egress channel from the large pool in the ledges, back to the main river, and then find the fish lift which could have taken hours or days.

Please note these fish are not stranded as some people have claimed. Brookfield has maintained adequate flow into the ledge pool to support these fish if they choose to stay and adequate flow to allow them egress if they choose to leave. There are radio tagged study fish in the mix and fish have made both choices. With current flows and river temperatures the fish in the pool are safe. Brookfield and Maine DMR will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as necessary.

In addition to the 597 salmon passed at Milford 18 salmon have been captured at the Orono lift. That brings the total for the Penobscot up to 615!


Jennifer Noll, also from Maine's Department of Marine Resources, had more great news, this time from the Kennebec:
Fish #22 was recently moved through the Lockwood Dam on the Kennebec River in Waterville, Maine. A state official said it was the first repeat spawning salmon counted in recent history. Photo Maine Department of Marine Resources
I thought you might be interested in knowing that we caught the first Atlantic salmon repeat spawner in recent history (since the construction of the fish lift at Lockwood on the Kennebec) yesterday evening.

It was a male, 86cm and of wild or naturally reared origin based on the scale reading. Also according to the scale reading, it had lived three years in freshwater, two winters in the ocean, returned to freshwater, spawned, returned to the ocean to feed for one winter and is now making its way back upstream.

The other interesting thing that should be noted is that it had previously been pit tagged. So looking back in our data, this fish was captured at Lockwood on 6/18/2017 and was used as part of Brookfield’s upstream passage study – it was tagged with a pit tag and a radio tag, and released at the Waterville boat launch. We kept the tag in it when it went upstream, so we know a bit about its upstream movements also.

This salmon's movements in 2017:
6/18/17 – Caught at Lockwood at 73cm long – pit tagged, radio tagged and released at the Waterville boat launch
6/23/17 – Recaptured at Lockwood, trucked to the Sandy and released
During spawning season, it’s location was noted via telemetry in the upper mainstem Sandy
6/18/19 – Caught at Lockwood at 86cm long, given a ride to the Sandy and released. (Notice the dates of initial captures)

July 1 is also the 20th anniversary of the breaching of the Edwards Dam on the Kennebec. People are invited to raise a toast to the dam removal that kicked off a nation-wide movement. 

Event name:
 Celebration of 20th Anniversary of the Removal of the Edwards Dam. Remarks and a Toast, to the Past and Future of the Kennebec River

Former Edwards Dam Site, Augusta, Mill Park, Canal Street (Past Augusta Dog Park). Parking at Farmers’ Market site.

Monday July 1, 2019, 10:00 a.m. EDT
On June 19, dozens of people visited the Narraguagus River in Downeast Maine as part of the 20th anniversary celebration of Project SHARE, which stands for Salmon Habitat and River Restoration. In concert with the Downeast Salmon Federation and other partners, people with Project SHARE have been working hard to improve fish passage, protect shorelines, and find other ways to increase numbers of Atlantic salmon and other migratory species. The water of the Narraguagus is heavily colored by tannins from the surrounding coniferous forests. Photo Maranda Nemeth
Project SHARE has helped coordinate and provided financial support for a wide array of necessary projects over the past two decades. Photo Maranda Nemeth

Newfoundland and Labrador

Big Falls on the Humber was roaring recently. Heavy rainfall made salmon angling extremely dangerous in virtually every location. As of June 26, the water was rapidly dropping, and nine salmon were hooked that day. Photo Ralph Hiscock
Don Ivany, ASF's Director of Newfoundland and Labrador Programs, provides an overview of counts and conditions:

Finally, some really good news!

When the recreational salmon fishery in NL opened on June 01, angling conditions were great for about two days, but overall, reports from anglers on our early run rivers were anything but encouraging. By the third day of the season heavy rain caused most rivers on the island of Newfoundland to rise quickly and water levels have remained high since then

All this high water has resulted in poor angling conditions for the past few weeks, and few people can be seen on the rivers. For the diehard anglers that have been fishing, they had limited success compared to other years, and reported seeing few fish.
The new Parks Canada counting fence on Deer Arm Brook in Newfoundland was installed last week. Counts should be available soon. Don Ivany/ASF
But earlier this week DFO released their first fishway counts for NL, up to June 23rd, and compared to last year’s numbers for the same time period, the results are actually quite encouraging.

Returns to most rivers have doubled or tripled from last year’s returns for the same time frame.

Up to June 23rd returns to Harry’s River show 260 fish this year compared to 135 in 2018; Campbellton River returns are 342 this year compared to 166 in 2018; Terra Nova River is 88 this year compared to 25 in 2018; and Middle Brook is at 29 this year compared to 4 in 2018. So, this is great news!

Unfortunately returns to monitored rivers on the south coast of the province continue to be critically low. Up to June 23rd Garnish River had only had 9 fish return compared to 119 fish in 2018 for the same time period. The Conne River has had 192 fish return compared to 200 in 2018. It is also important to note that only 450 fish returned to the Conne River in total for the entire season in 2018. So, the current numbers for this year are quite concerning.

Since returns to Labrador Rivers are later than on the Island and generally don’t begin until around the first week of July it is not surprising at this time that no fish have been recorded yet at the fishways in Labrador. 
High water reaches up the banks of the River of Ponds on Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula. Don Ivany/ASF
Reports from NL Anglers

Bay St. George - During the past week anglers have reported a decent sign of fish on Crabbes River in Bay St. George, and Southwest River has produced a few fish in the lower section. It is worth noting that the bay St. George South Development Association is operating a counting fence on Little Barachios River (not to be confused with Middle Barachios River) this year for the first time. As of June 23rd DFO reports that 50 fish have passed through this facility.

West Coast - Former SPAWN Director, Vance Belbin, reported seeing salmon schooling in the estuary on the Humber River. Despite high water levels a few fish were also hooked at Big Falls, but since then heavy rain has led to extremely high water in this area and fishing has came to a standstill.

Northern Peninsula - I was on the Northern Peninsula all last week and most rivers from Portland Creek to St. Genevieve were too high to fish. The exception was on Big East below the TCH. Anglers fishing that area report that a number of large fish have been seen in this area but none have been hooked to date.

ASF’s Steve Sutton and his brother Jim hooked three fish between them on Main River (Sops Arm), June 24, despite extremely high water levels. Anglers also reported decent fishing last week on Main Brook (also known as Salmon Brook) and Beaver Brook.
Don Ivany was part of the ASF team that recently installed a line of sonic receivers across the Strait of Belle Isle between Newfoundland and Labrador. It's an annual task done to detect tagged fish leaving ASF's long-term study rivers in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Central NL - Reports indicate that anglers have been hooking fish fairly consistently on the Exploits River during the past week or so, mainly on the lower portion near Bishops Falls, despite fairly high water levels. Dave Vardy reports that he fished Raggot Harbour River (in Gander Bay) for two days late last week, and fishing was excellent at the time. In addition to hooking a number of big grilse over the two-day period he also brought in and released an 11 lb fish and a 12 lb fish.

Dave fished the river again on Monday and Tuesday of this week and again reports good fishing during that time.

Ken McClean reports that the Gander River has not been fishing well due to high water, and there have only been reports of a few fish being caught there yet. Other reports indicate that there are still large numbers of grilse leaving the Gander River.

There are a few fish being hooked on rivers like Cape Rogers and Pipers Hole on the Burin Peninsula, and on rivers like the Salmonier on the Avalon Peninsula.

In Labrador, Dwight Lethbridge of Pratt's Falls Lodge on the Eagle River said he had never seen the water so hight this late in June.

Nova Scotia

High water is turning the Margaree River in Cape Breton brown. This picture shows the confluence of Big Brook with the Margaree. Greg Lovely notes that the brook often runs silty, but this is the first time he has seen the reverse. The tributary was running clear and the river was silt-laden. Photo Greg Lovely

René Aucoin
said early in the week that nearly 8 cm. of rain over a couple of days had sent the Cheticamp River level up about 1.3 metres. It has since dropped, and perhaps by week's end might be much lower. He noted that some Atlantic salmon had been seen in the lower part of the river.


Greg Lovely notes:

What a wild weekend here in the Margaree.

There was a 1.6 meter rise in water levels and 80 km per hour winds.

There was significant pressure on the Cranton Bridge, with trees piling up against it. The bridge is closed, and awaiting replacement. I am surprised it's still there.

I joined Nicholas MacInnins from Adopt-A-Stream on a survey of Big Brook about a month ago. We noted tremendous improvement in water quality, and after this weekend's huge rain event the result was very obvious. When the water levels settle, I hope there will be salmon throughout the system.
Cranton Bridge on June 22, with debris piling up against it. Photo Greg Lovely
Alex BreckenridgeThe Tying Scotsman, wrote this earlier in the week about the Margaree:

The water level peaked yesterday around 1.675 and it has dropped back to around 0.950. A busy shop on Saturday with visitors in for licences and flies. Hopefully when they go home next weekend they’ll take happy memories with them.

Kris Hunter, ASF Director of Programs in Nova Scotia and PEI noted late Wed.:

I was talking with several individuals last Friday at the Atlantic Salmon Ceremony hosted by Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR) at the Margaree Fish Hatchery. I also stopped into the Margaree Salmon Museum, which is now open for the season, and visited a number of Margaree Fishing Camps. By all accounts, the slow start to the Cape Breton Salmon season continues but many were optimistic that it might be picking up.

 At that time only five fish had been reportedly hooked so far in the Margaree, all down between Seal Pool and Tidal Pool, but there was a good rainfall on the weekend so that flush will likely bring in some fish. I saw a number of anglers out along the river which is a very good sign, although some might have been going after the sea trout run which seems to have started in earnest.

Sackville River

On the Sackville River there is no fishery again this year but the Sackville River Association is once again operating the annual count at the Sackville River Fishway. Walter Regan reports that there have been 8 grilse counted, which is already more than last year when there were only 7 captured all season.


Christopher Minkoff releases a beautiful Atlantic salmon on Sector 1 of the Causapscal River on June 13, 2019. Photo Jean-Marc LeBlanc
Charles Cusson, ASF's Director of Quebec Programs, says:

Most salmon regions in Quebec are reporting frustrating angling due to the fish being on average 2 weeks late. The optimist in me is saying wait until July 16th when the next full moon should bring fish in along with the bigger tides.

River levels continue to drop quickly with Mother Nature possibly providing some relief during the next seven days, at least in Quebec.

Reminder to anglers fishing Quebec rivers, take the time to report your releases in order to gain the most accurate angling statistics and for the river managers to calculate angling success.
ASF Director Dan Greenberg captured the moment on the Bonaventure River. Photo Dan Greenberg
Bonaventure River

The Bonaventure Zec says that to June 22nd, 40 fish had been reported landed (39 salmon released and 1 grilse harvested) compared to 34 salmon released to same date in 2018. At June 17th, 2017, 8 salmon had been released.

Cascapedia River

Manager Darlene Sexton reports fishing has picked up stating Zone B is " ON FIRE” with at least one fish estimated at 38 lbs. landed in Big Camp Pool. She also stated “the river is dropping like a stone and if we don’t get rain soon the boys won’t be using the canoes much longer…”

Matane River

As of June 24th, 2019, 93 salmon and the first grilse for this season, have been counted through the fishway and 15 salmon released by anglers.

To June 26th, 2018, the SOGERM (Société de gestion de la rivière Matane) reported 166 fish (158 salmon and 8 grilse) salmon had been counted through the fish way. To June 24th, 2017 74 salmon had been counted.

Causapscal River

To June 24, 2019, the “Causap” angling has improved greatly. To date, 111 salmon have been landed (55 released and 56 harvested). 

In 2018, as of June 24th a total of 111 fish had been landed which included 56 released in both sectors 1 and 2. There were 84 landed including 15 released by the same date in 2017.
On June 12, 2019 Jean-Marc LeBlanc released this Causapscal River Atlantic salmon. Photo Christopher Minkoff
Matapedia River

With an obvious late arrival of the first run of fish, angling success seems to be picking up.

At June 24, 2019, 80 salmon have been reported landed and released and 1 grilse harvested. To June 24th, 2018, 64 fish had been reported landed and released. As of June 24, 2017, 75 fish had been landed and released.

All large salmon must be released on the Matapedia until the mid-season assessment can be done to ascertain abundance.
The Patapedia River in early morning on June 16, 2019. Nathan Wilbur/ASF
Moisie River

As of June 24th 2019, the APRM (Association de protection de la rivière Moisie) is reporting a 2-week delay in fish arriving. This has translated into a total of 57 fish being landed (20 releases, 6 kelts landed and 31 harvested).

ASF (Canada) vice-chairman, Charles Langlois reports a slow start at the Moisie-Nipissis Camp. Water levels are still high but dropping nicely which will provide good water conditions for the foreseeable future.

To June 24th, 2018, the APRM reported that 54 fish had been landed, including 37 releases compared to June 18th, 2017 when a total of 124 salmon were reported landed. 

Aux Rochers River

This rugged river has been plagued with very high water and flow levels. As of June 26, conditions are calming down, allowing one to get on the river in a safe manner.

York, Dartmouth and Saint-Jean Rivers (Gaspé)

The rivers in Gaspé, especially the York and the Dartmouth have seen flows that have dropped very quickly and are looking to have conditions very similar to those at the same time last year.

Ann Smith of Quebec Sporting
reports that angling has picked up since last week and the fish have started to move upriver on the York.

Peter Khar, a passionate Atlantic salmon angler from Spain, releases a nice fish on the York River. Photo Quebec Sporting.

New Brunswick

Paul Elson releases his first grilse of the year on June 26 - a late year. Photo from Paul Elson

Paul Elson
says the fishing is just starting:

Sunday was the first day I saw a reasonable number of Atlantic salmon. I had a few salmon and a pod of grilse come flying by me. Same thing on Monday. Previous to this we might see a single fish a day. Seems to me they are late arriving this year.

I’ve hooked five fish so far but had not managed to land a single one until June 26. Usually by this time I have brought in and released around 20 fish.

Water levels on the Little Southwest Miramichi are good, while on the Northwest Miramichi they are good – but starting to fall, and could soon be low.

We had a good bump in water levels on Friday, June 22 due to the rain. Water temperatures have generally been around 16C in the mornings, and hitting 20C by the end of the day.
License, gear, and conditions checked - and nice to see it happening. Photo Paul Elson
Paul Elson continues:

We were checked by DFO Enforcement far up the Northwest Miramichi. It was nice to see the guys out monitoring the river so late, at 9:30 pm.

Looks like they are doing something new and are issuing an inspection report to people when they are checked. Hats off to these guys for walking through the mosquito and bug-filled woods to get to us!

Yesterday I hooked a big grilse or small salmon which jumped 6 times straight across the river, then decided to go down river and head back to Greenland. The fish spooled 200 yards of backing and broke off when it hit the end. Would have been nice to have a picture but in the end I can only count about 5 times in 30 years of salmon angling that I’ve had a fish run and use all the backing….I may not have gotten the fish, but I have a memory not soon forgotten. (Picture of 11’ 3” switch rod bent already into the backing).

Geoff Giffin of ASF had a look at the first Miramichi barrier counts, comparing them with previous years.

The June 23 barrier counts on the Northwest Miramichi are really too early to provide trends. But they show the counts for both grilse and salmon are better than in 2018. Definitely they are better than the very poor year of 2014, but a far cry from the best season in recent memory, 2011.

For the Dungarvon, representing the Southwest Miramichi, the numbers are a little better than 2018, roughly on par with 2014, and like those for the Northwest Miramichi, a fraction of what they were in 2011.

Brock Curtis of Curtis Miramichi Outfitters gave an update yesterday:

his past week has been quite good salmon fishing, and we have been hearing of salmon caught all along the river.

River conditions couldn't be better.

Air and water temperatures have been cool and rain last week helped to keep the river at a nice height. We have more rain in the forecast this week and most anglers feel the angling will continue to be good. One text this morning from a friend in the Upper Blackville area said that his pool was full of salmon. They have been landing a lot of salmon and reports are coming in of others doing quite well here in the Blackville area. We should here of similar reports for the next while.
On June 21, water was rising on the Tetagouche River near Bathurst, N.B. Nathan Wilbur/ASF
Restigouche System

Danny Bird, Kedgwick Lodge says of conditions:

Salmon fishing conditions are normal here, for late June. We have released several large fish, and 1SW fish are now in the system. The water level is dropping daily, and there have been strong winds along with 20+ C temperatures. Rain in the forecast this week and that should help river conditions.
The Becaguimec enters the St. John River at Hartland, on June 17, 2019. Seventy years ago this stretch of river would have been lined with Atlantic salmon anglers. Geoff Giffin/ASF

Prince Edward Island

Releasing Atlantic salmon by canoe in the Morell River. Kris Hunter/ASF
ASF's Kris Hunter wrote on late Wednesday:

On Wednesday I helped Scott Taylor, Hatchery Manager at the Abegweit Biodiversity Enhancement Facility; Hannah Murnaghan, Watershed Coordinator for the Morell River Management Co-op, and numerous others from Abegweit First Nation, PEI Fish and Wildlife, and the Morell River group release salmon fry into the Morell River on PEI.

The Morell River is one of the best salmon rivers in the province.

Hannah said the release was designed to help give the existing population a boost and supplement the recreational fishery. A total of 50,000 unfed fry were released into 3 locations within the Morell River.

This release marked the seventh year ABEF had released fish into the Morell River , although this is the first time ABEF has released unfed fry having previously used fed fry. Despite some nerves, Scott felt that overall the release went extremely well. Scott sees healty fish properly placed into good habitat as the keys to a successful program.

There is a second release of 30,000 unfed salmon fry planned for the West River in Queens County on the following day. The West River program has been operating for the past five years. Dr. Daryl Guignion with Oak Meadows, Inc. is excited about this release and this year’s salmon assessment on the West River.

Daryl said there were reports last year of a few grilse returning, and some redds dug, a very positive sign, but this fall should be a key year as this is when those first released salmon fry in the West River should return as adults.

More from the Rivers

While we naturally focus on Atlantic salmon, to see healthy rivers we need a balance that includes all the native species to be found there. That includes sea lamprey, river herring and others.
In the Narraguagus River, lampreys were captured spawning on June 19, 2019. Photo Maranda Nemeth.

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