ASF RiverNotes 8 Nov 2019

Nov 8, 2019

Website launched for Smallmouth Bass eradication

Smallmouth bass were confirmed in Miramichi Lake in 2008. They escaped and were discovered in the Southwest Miramichi River earlier this year. A voracious invader, unless eradicated, smallmouth pose an existential threat to the Miramichi ecosystem. Photo: Geoff Giffin/ASF
The fight to eradicate smallmouth bass has entered a critical phase. Applications have been submitted to treat the lake with rotenone, and a plan is being developed to treat a section of the Southwest Miramichi where bass that escaped Miramichi Lake were discovered in August.

The working group of First Nations organizations and NGOs dedicated to this task has begun engaging with people who will be affected by the eradication, and launched a new website last week to share information.

Here it is:

Check it out and don't hesitate to contact Neville Crabbe if you have any questions:

Game Changer in Aerial River Imaging

On Oct. 30 DJI, perhaps the most popular drone maker, announced a new drone having three gimbles, weighing 249 gm. Why is that weight important for those who might spend time angling on rivers? In Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. drones must be licensed if they weigh 250 grams to 25 kg. 

At 249 grams this very competent drone that takes tack sharp 12 MP still images and 2.7K video avoids virtually all the normal restrictions, except the one bottom line - don't be stupid and reckless.

How could it be used on the rivers. Check upstream or down to look down into pools at salmon, or in late season to for biologists to do redd counts. Or if angling wild Atlantic salmon, either to have a friend imaging you from a modest height with the river in the background. Or in the morning to take a photo or video of the fog lifting from the river with that beautiful golden light.

Weighing not much more than a cell phone and its flat profile almost the same, it can fit in one cargo pocket, and the controller in another. It is not waterproof, however.

At the Atlantic Salmon Journal it seems aerial photos are already nearly a standard part of the photography. For those interested in telling their river story to friends or family, this DJI Mavic Mini may be the entry.

According to the many who have reviewed it and put their results up on YouTube already, it has a simplified APP that is downloaded to your cell phone, which becomes both your view screen attached to the controller, and your "push button" control pad. It has a slowed mode labelled "C" for Cine, that cushions and slows all the moves, providing better quality video.

With 30 minutes fly time, that reviewers say is an honest number, there are lots of possibilities. Incidentally the actual release of this drone and the DJI Fly APP takes place on Monday, Nov. 11.

Map showing restricted flying areas.


A 30 pounder goes airborne on the lower Humber River in Newfoundland. Photo Bill Bryden
The final counts for Newfoundland counting sites have been posted. There are likely few surprises for those who have been out on the water - not a great year on the island.
Final Counts for Newfoundland
There are 9 rivers where the count is below 2018, and only 3 where the count is up. Two can be seen as similar to 2018, and 3 more cannot be compared.

Given that 2017 and 2018 numbers were already down significantly, this does not look good for returns this year, overall.

At its best, the Exploits was likely one of the top producing Atlantic salmon rivers in North America - and perhaps it was THE top producer, but not in 2018.

The 398 coming back to the Conne bodes poorly for other south coast Newfoundland rivers, impacted not just from issues at sea, but DNA degradation from farmed salmon escapees over the past couple of decades.

Even the Torrent River is lower, and that is not a good sign.

There are a few bright lights in the returns, of course. One wonders where the 2,551 came from for the Northwest River, Port Blandford, compared with 740 in 2018. Equally, the Terra Nova river has a solid return, with 6,607 that significantly beats both the 2018 return and the most recent five-year average.


A wet, foggy angling morning on the Forteau River in Labrador. Photo Tom Montgomery
Labrador numbers are also of concern, although the few actual counting facilities are inadequate to provide a true picture of the situation.

But certainly angling information confirmed that returns in southern Labrador were low this year. There are indications that it was a good year in the northern rivers of Labrador, however.
Labrador final counts for2019

Nova Scotia

Mike Bardsley prepares to release a beautiful Atlantic salmon in the East River, New Glasgow. Matt Dort photo
Matt Dort says:

The final week of salmon fishing has concluded on the Northumberland Strait rivers. The majority of anglers are reporting an above average year for returns and the pictures circulating on social media are indicating that as well.

The East River finished the final week with decent water levels. There were reports of a few fresh fish being hooked just above the tidal pools and also reports of fish being hooked 30kms up stream in the upper part of the river.

The West River Pictou County ended the season with low water conditions but there were reports of Atlantic salmon being caught on the final day of the season near the top of the river.

I am happy to note that the Pictou County Rivers Association were successful in capturing 2 females and 2 males from this river to be spawned out at the Fraser's Mills hatchery. The eggs will then be used for the Fish Friends program in the Spring for the Pictou County schools. Thank you to the volunteers involved with this effort.

Mark Dort fishing the Barneys River during the final week. Photo Matt Dort
Reports from River Philip during the final week indicated a few dark fish were hooked and some had already spawned. The Wallace River shared a similar story.

In Antigonish during the final week, the West River fish were on the move with the decent water levels. Reports from anglers indicate that earlier in the week some of the pools mid river didn't have many fish but by the end of the week a significant amount had gathered there. I personally observed a school of Salmon in the headwaters on the final week that were not there 2 days prior.

The South River and Barneys River had a decent number of fish as well, but with the lower water levels, most anglers focused on the West.
Mike Kennedy with an Atlantic salmon from the East River, New Glasgow. Naturally he is wearing orange during the NS Hunting Season. Photo Matt Dort
LaHave River

The counting fence data is in: 144 grilse and only 11 large salmon to Oct. 31. Numbers not available for 2018, but for the 1996-2000 five-year average, it was 750 grilse and 143 large salmon. Not a nice comparison.
Craig Keddy spawning Stewiacke Live Gene Bank eggs at Coldbrook Biodiversity Enhancement Facility on Nov. 6, 2019. Photo Zachary Burrows
Stewiacke & Gene Banking

Kris Hunter, ASF Director of Nova Scotia Programs says:

Although the salmon angling season came to a successful close this past week in NS, it doesn’t mean that that all salmon related activity in the province has stopped.

I recently spent a day working with Beth Lenentine and her staff from DFO’s Coldbrook Biodiversity Enhancement Facility on their Inner Bay of Fundy Live Gene Banking program, which is just starting to kick into high gear.

The program spawns out broodstock from the LaHave, the St. Mary’s, the Stewiacke, and the Gaspereau Rivers. Each spawning pairing is carefully pre-determined by DFO’s genetics sector at BIO. Each fish in the paring has their identify confirmed via an implanted coded wire tag before being photographed and measured.

Their eggs and milt are then stripped and spawned out. The spawn is then photographed so egg measurements and accurate counts can be made before they are placed in rearing trays to develop over the winter. In the spring the resultant unfed fry will be returned to the river of origin. The process is very interesting experience to witness and we had several people stop in to observe us as we worked.

In the one day I spent with the crew, we completed 48 spawnings, which is only about half the number that will be completed as part of this year’s live gene banking program for the Stewiacke. It is expected that should result in over 105,000 fry going back into the Stewiacke to help preserve its genetic integrity.
ASF's Kris Hunter measuring Stewiacke gene-banked Atantic salmon at Coldbrook. Photo Zachary Burrows


Celebration of the Head Tide Dam work at Alna on the Sheepscot River. ASF has been a leading partner in this work.
On Oct. 31 a celebration was held at Alna for the near completion of the Head Tide Dam work that improves greatly the fish passage on the lower Sheepscot River.
The fish passage at Head Tide Dam in Alna, ME was greatly improved. As a sidelight, it has also made it better for recreational craft like canoes and kayaks.

New Brunswick

St. John River

The Oct. 31 counts have been posted by DFO.

To that date, there have been 507 grilse and 192 large salmon, compared with 442 grilse and 62 large salmon in 2018. While these remain critically low numbers, the improvement, especially in large salmon, is much appreciated.


To Oct. 31, 2019 there were 120 grilse and 45 large salmon, compared with 92 grilse and 31 large salmon to Oct. 31, 2018. Again, any improvement is nice to see - especially of large salmon with their large egg laying capability.


The Northwest Barrier to Oct. 31 had 165 grilse and 55 large salmon, compared with 2018 numbers of 121 grilse and 119 large salmon. The 1996-2000 five-year-average was 661 grilse and 253 large salmon.

The Dungarvon Barrier, providing a partial assessment for the Southwest Miramichi, had 124 grilse and 91 large salmon to Oct. 31, compared with 113 grilse and 93 large salmon in 2018. The five-year-average for 1996-2000 was 468 grilse and 154 large salmon.

Patapedia, part of the Restigouche waterway

The Province of New Brunswick has just announced it is seriously proceeding on preservation measures for the Restigouche waterway system. See the CBC article

One might hope there would also be an improved assessment regime for the very important salmon runs related to this waterway.
Nathan Wilbur poling on the Patapedia River, part of the Restigouche waterway.

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