ASF RiverNotes 6 June 2019

Jun 5, 2019
Losing Essential Smolts to Striped Bass Predation in Southwest Miramichi

Recently Geoff Giffin, ASF’s Director of Regional Programs, went angling for striped bass with two of his fishing buddies at the renowned public pool in Quarryville, where the Renous River enters the Southwest Miramichi.

They watched as the water occasionally “boiled” with striped bass, especially in the area of the larger river just off the Renous confluence. More disturbing, they saw at least one Atlantic salmon smolt leaping out the water in the midst of the swirling mass of striped bass. It was seemingly doing all it could to avoid being eaten by the stripers.

When Geoff cast out the first time, he immediately had a striped bass on the line, and brought it in. The striped bass were voracious and taking anything.

After getting the bass ashore and confirming it was in the legal slot limit, he filleted and gutted it, and pulled out two quite dead Atlantic salmon smolts. Of the three striped bass Geoff retained, there were 4 smolt pulled from their bellies.
Four recently dead Atlantic salmon smolts from the stomachs of the angled striped bass. Undoubtedly the numbers of smolt being eaten by the hundreds of thousands of striped bass in the lower Miramichi are high - smolt that will not stand a chance of undertaking their migration and possible return to the Miramichi. Geoff Giffin/ASF
Geoff and his friends watched as the striped bass seemed to boil first near the Renous confluence, then seem to follow a pattern of moving downstream. Were they moving in concert with schools of smolts attempting to move out of the Renous or down the Southwest Miramichi? Uncertain, but possible.
Where the Renous meets the Southwest Miramichi. Geoff Giffin/ASF
There is a critical issue here for the future of wild Atlantic salmon in the Miramichi system, a river that in times past was recognized as the most productive Atlantic salmon watershed in North America. But not at this time.

ASF’s tracking research findings clearly indicate that striped bass are causing acute localized mortality at a time when Atlantic salmon at-sea mortality is high. The Atlantic salmon of the Miramichi cannot support the pressure of this feeding frenzy on the vital smolt run.

This is true of both the Northwest Miramichi, and increasingly of the lower part of the Southwest Miramichi.
Video above courtesy John Bagnall/NBSC

There needs to be a more concerted effort to bring a balance into this ecosystem. Everyone recognizes that a healthy population of striped bass is a vital part of the equation ecologically and economically, but balance is not the situation we have at present.

One might hope that DFO’s commitment to implement the Wild Atlantic Salmon Conservation Policy, with a greater focus on the species and increased implementation of a precautionary approach to its management, will hopefully contribute to the restoration of runs.

Government needs to be made aware again and again of the critical times we live in for the future of salmon in the entire Miramichi system.

New Brunswick

Brock Curtis of Curtis Miramichi Outfitters

Rivers continue to drop and the rain that was forecast did not materialize. The Southwest Miramichi is holding steady, but some of the tributaries are getting low for canoeing.

Early bright salmon have been caught here on the Southwest Miramichi since late last week, mainly in the Blackville and Doaktown areas. The odd Sea Run Trout is still being caught in the Quarryville area, but most seem to have passed through the lower section of the river.

Striped bass are still popular and we are hearing customers speak of their catches in the Quarryville area. It seems most of the bass this far up the river in 2019 have been taking quite well on flies.

It is hard to believe how fast things have greened up along the river. There is quite a difference in just one week. An abundance of mosquitoes are making themselves known, so prepare your outing accordingly.
The picket trap for sampling the Petitcodiac was set May 29 in the Salisbury area, and is showing a variety of migratory species. This year it was moved upriver, above the confluence with Little River, to get above the head of tide. Photo Fort Folly Habitat Recovery Project.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Southwell's Pool on Middle Brook near Gambo, NL, with perfect water conditions the day before the season opened. Photo Ralph Hiscock
Don Ivany, ASF Director of Programs for Newfoundland and Labrador notes:

Season Dates and Management Changes

The 2019 Recreational Salmon Fishery on the Island of Newfoundland officially opened this past week-end, starting on June 1. The season for Labrador official starts on June 15, which is in alignment with previous years. There are a number of major changes to this year’s salmon management plan for NL. Particularly noteworthy are changes to seasonal retention limits and tag use, as well as new Environmental protocols for both retention and catch and release angling that restrict fishing to early mornings only when water temperature reach a certain level.

We encourage all anglers to consult the anglers guide and the fishery regulations closely before they start fishing this year. Also noteworthy is that DFO will be conducting an in-season review again this year after which time there may be adjustments to the angling plan. Keep an eye open for further announcements by DFO following the in-season review. We do hope all anglers have an enjoyable and memorable angling season; that you practise conservation, and practice good angling etiquette.

Early angling conditions and first reports from anglers.

Angling conditions on our early run rivers in Bay St. George were near perfect on opening week-end. Water levels were great, water temperatures were great, and the weather conditions were great. However, first reports from anglers fishing those rivers indicate that the season got off to a fairly slow start, compared to some years. This should not come as a surprise though, considering that we had a long hard winter with lots of snow, followed by a very late cold spring. There has also been much sea-ice along the Labrador coastline up until just recently.

Under these circumstances, it could just be that fish are going to be a few weeks late again this year, as they were in 2018. Anglers will recall that up to the time that DFO did their in-season review in early July of last year, returns to most rivers were very low. However, runs picked up considerably during the last half of the season on many rivers. It’s still pretty early in the season, and angler participation so far seems to be low, so time will tell if things pick up.

Also, it should be noted that heavy rain on June 3 - 4 caused most rivers in Western Newfoundland and parts of the Southwest coast to rise quickly. Currently water levels are high on many of these rivers and is limiting angling. There is also several days of rain in the near forecast.
Salmon anglers in the rain June 4, 2019 on Southwest River. Don Ivany/ASF
Specific River Reports

Bay St. George

Angling conditions were near perfect on most Bay St. George Rivers for the first two days of the season, yet reports are that fishing was spotty.

Colin Burridge was one of the lucky anglers who managed to hook two nice fish at Bottom Brook on opening day. There were also reports of an occasional fish hooked on Southwest River on opening weekend, including a 63 cm grilse by well known fly-tyer and veteran angler Rob Solo. But overall, most anglers reported not seeing any fish.

Similar reports have come in from Robinsons River and Crabbes River, indicating angling was pretty slow.

To date there have been no reports of fish on Harry’s River, which is not surprising considering runs are always a few weeks later on this river compared to other rivers in Bay St. George. Again, as a result of heavy rain on June 03-04 water levels are high on most Bay St. George Rivers currently, which is limiting angling opportunities. There is also several days of rain in the near forecast, so it could be a while before we see water levels run off.
Harry's River on June 4 had high water. View above highway bridge. Don Ivany/ASF
Water levels and conditions were great on Codroy River on opening week-end with an odd fish being seen. Reports are that a nice 34 in. fish was release at “The Pocket Pool’ on opening day. Currently, water levels are high on this river.

We are please to report as well that the Bay St. George South Development Association has received funding this year to operate a counting fence on Barachois River which is just west of Southwest River. As far as we can ascertain this will be the first time that an actual count will be done on this river. It will be interesting to see the end of season results on this river and how they compare to other rivers in Bay St. George.

Western Newfoundland

Currently there has been no reports of fish being hooked on any river in Western Newfoundland that we are aware off, with the exception of Torrent River on the Northern Peninsula, where unconfirmed reports are that two fish were hooked there on opening weekend.

Water levels on all rivers in Western Newfoundland are currently very high, and water temperatures are nice and cold. On the tip of the Northern Peninsula reports are that there is still snow on the ground along the banks of Main Brook (Salmon Brook) and Beaver Brook, and water levels are very high currently.
Barachois River in the Bay St. George area. This river will have a counting fence on it this year, and the results will definitely be interesting. Don Ivany/ASF
Central Newfoundland

We have received a couple of reports that indicate there are a few fish being hooked and seen this week on the Lower Exploits River, below the Bishop Falls hydro dam.

We have received reports that a lot of kelts were being hooked in Gander Lake this spring prior to the opening of the season. This indicates that these fish successfully made it to their spawning grounds last autumn and are now on their way out to sea to recondition. This bodes well for future returns. Otherwise we have not received any reports of fish being hooked on the Gander River to date.

South Coast

Water levels were low on Grey River and Conne River on opening weekend but heavy rain has since caused water levels to rise. Still no reports of salmon on the Conne River yet, and it will likely be another week or so before DFO posts the first counting fence results of the season online.

Water levels on rivers along the south east coast remain about average for this time of year or just below mean daily flows. To date we have not received any angling reports from these rivers.
One angler fishing in the eastern part of Newfoundland said:

“It is great to be on the river In pursuit of the Atlantic Salmon. I released my first silver grilse for 2019. I fished 2 rivers and hooked the fish on a # 6 Silver Blue.”

At Shellbird Island on the Lower Humber River looking upriver after the rain June 4, 2019. Don Ivany/ASF

The angling season for salmon does not open in Labrador until June 15. In the meantime, water levels are high on most rivers in this area, which is normal for this time of year. Water temperatures are also cold and word has it that there is still lots of snow on the ground in many areas of Labrador, and especially Northern Labrador.
Hughes Brook mid-week. This river normally has Atlantic salmon coming in beginning around June 20. Don Ivany/ASF

Nova Scotia

The landslide into the Cheticamp - a year later. The landslide occurred May 27, 2018, and Parks Canada acted immediately in order to free up fish passage in the river. They did an amazing job. While anything can happen, the landslide area now appears to be stable, and certainly Atlantic salmon smolt can exit, and soon adults from this early run river can move in from the ocean. This photo was taken June 1, 2019. Kris Hunter/ASF

Greg Lovely
writes midweek:

The Margaree river has high water again after more rain. The bench has not been put out at this pool at Ross bridge because it would be washed away.

Kelts are also still being hooked in the estuary. I have not hooked a fresh salmon yet, but with this water it won’t be long.
High water once more on the Margaree, and everyone waiting for the Atlantic salmon to arrive. Photo Greg Lovely

Kris Hunter, ASF Director of Programs for Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island notes:

I was present at the inaugural Chéticamp Salmon Run held in Cape Bretons Highland National Park this past weekend (June 1-2).

This trail running event showcased the great work that is being done in northwestern Cape Breton for Atlantic Salmon in this  "International Year of the Salmon". The event, which was put on by Ocean Tracking Network, Big Spruce Brewing and Cape Breton Highland National Park, included 2km, 5km, and 9km trail runs as well as games for kids and salmon-related activities.
Kris Hunter helps a young participant learn how to cast at the Cheticamp Salmon Run Event on June 1. Photo Ella Hunter
More from Kris Hunter:

Some of the activities included a viewing of “Love Flows” a documentary on fish migration, information displays, fly tying and fly casting demonstrations by Margaree and Chéticamp River Salmon Associations, as well as a few Taproom Talks.

At the Taproom Talks, I outlined the exciting Greenland Tagging Program. Nikki Beauchamp of OTN presented on their work supporting salmon research, Jillian Baker of the Chéticamp River Salmon Association described their work to narrow and restore the river, and Garrett Momberquette and Danielle Latendresse of Parks Canada discussed the initiative to restore salmon to rivers in four different National Parks including the recently announced 6.1 million dollar investment in Clyburn Brook in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Big Spruce
was also on hand throughout the day with their Tag! You’re It beer which this year showcases a wild Atlantic Salmon. A portion of all sales of "Tag! You’re It" are donated by Big Spruce Brewing to conservation groups. 
The Cheticamp River is a river deeply embedded in the Cape Breton Highlands. The Atlantic salmon run tends to be earlier than most rivers in the region. Kris Hunter/ASF


Chris O'Neill of California releases a beautiful bright Atlantic salmon on the Saint-Jean River, Gaspé on June 4. Photo Quebec Sporting
Charles Cusson, ASF Director of Québec Programs writes:

Of the rivers which are open to angling to date, it’s been another slow start to the season due to high water levels.

Causapscal River

No salmon were landed during the month of May for the first time since 1996.

Water levels continue to be on the high side, but very ‘fishable”. To June 3rd, three salmon have been reported released compared to 5 killed and 2 released for the same date in 2018.
Yves Carpentier (left), guide Pascal Lévesque (centre) and Serge Boisvert enjoy a great day on the Causapscal river. Charles Cusson/ASF
Matapedia River

Levels had started to drop just prior to this report but Mother Nature stepped in and added enough water to raise the river back up at least  15 cm. / 6 in. Angling has been spotty in the Glen Emma sector, but action is picking up.

To June 3, seven salmon have been reported released compared to 10 released at the same date in 2018.

Moisie River
(ZEC and Winthrop Campbell sectors)

The Moisie has been plagued with extremely high water, curtailing angling activity.

As of June 3, four salmon were reported to have been released (including two kelts).

In 2018 as of June 6, 29 salmon (including 4 kelts) had been reported landed and 25 released.

As of June 7, 2017, 80 fish had been landed which included 56 salmon killed (including 16 kelts) and 24 released.
The Moisie is flowing at near record levels for this time of year, making angling difficult
York, Dartmouth and St-Jean (Gaspé)

After a very slow start as of the 25th of May due to very high-water levels, according to local source, angling success seems to be improving with levels quickly dropping. Ann Smith of Quebec Sporting reports their clients have started to get some action on the Saint-Jean over the last few days.

Bonaventure and Cascapedia Rivers

Reports of painfully slow and tough fishing are being reported with very few landings to date. Dropping water levels should improve angling soon. On June 3, the Bonnie was flowing at 140 cubic meters per second.

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

Note: Quebec released its Bilan - the assessment of the 2018 year on rivers less than a week ago, when it usually does so in February. To check it out, including an English translation of the introduction, click here


ASF Vice-President, U.S. Operations, stands beside one of the new interpretive panels at the commemoration event celebrating the completion of the Coopers Mills dam removal on the Sheepscot's mainstem. Photo Stephen Hobson

A celebration was held on May 20 for the completion of the dam removal at Coopers Mills. This removal was a win-win for everyone. Through the assistance of ASF and its partners, the dam was removed, the area was upgraded as a park, a fire hydrant system was installed, and the river had one important barrier removed for migrating fish.

The celebration event was also an opportunity to give to the town a maintenance and stewardship fund that will provide ongoing support for the Coopers Mills Dam area.
The Sheepscot is a continuing focus, and several projects are underway to removal dams no longer needed. Photo Stephen Hendon
At the site of the former Coopers Mills Dam there is a new kiosk with displays on the the river and its connection to the ecosystem including fish and other riverine species of the Sheepscot. Photo Stephen Hendon

As of June 3, there were 43 large salmon at the Milford Dam and another three at the Orono Dam, thus totalling 46 large salmon. There have been no grilse.

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