ASF RiverNotes - The European Edition

By: Tom Moffatt (

Aug 15, 2019

Across the Pond

Every year around this time, RiverNotes reaches out to contacts from northwest Russia to the Spanish-Portugese border and every country in between to bring our North American audience the European salmon perspective.

P.S: If anyone has contacts in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, please let us know.


Salmon leaping Sjávarfoss, on the Elliðaár River in Iceland. Photo Einar Falur Ingulfsson/NASF
The early summer was extremely dry, especially in western Iceland, putting a damper on angling in this small island country.

The Federation of Iceland River Owners updates the catch numbers on Icelandic rivers. Most rivers are down, compared to catches in recent years, but as always, any conclusion at this point is too early in the season. Note: 2018 numbers are for the entire year.
Data from Federation of Icelandic River Owners.


The Mandalselva River has not been especially productive yet in 2019.
Every year about 100,000 anglers fish Norway's 450 salmon rivers. The country continues to produce some of the largest Atlantic salmon in the world.

Erik Sterud
of Lakseelver says:

I have not yet seen any figures concerning salmon returns, but only catch figures. These are of course linked.

Apart from a few rivers, among those river Syltefjord and river Repparfjord, the fishing in Finnmark county has been quite poor.

The season started fairly well in river Alta but lately the fishing has not been very good.

In Troms and Nordland, the fishing has been at average level. Same in Trøndelag in rivers Namsen, Gaula, Orkla and Stjørdal,
but perhaps better that average in Namsen.  

Very poor poor season in a number of rivers further south in Sogn and Fjordane county. It is already decided to cut off the season by 14 days – ending in mid-August. River Lærdal is among the rivers with poor fishing.

This is a region where salmon farming intensity is high and where the Institute of Marine Research has estimated dramatic effects of sea lice on migrating smolts. Of course this cannot go on year after year without affecting the returns.

Further south the fishing has been better. That is in the Nordfjord area and the southwestern rivers. The season has started well in rivers Suldal and Bjerkreimselva to mention some examples.

In southern Norway there has been much better fishing conditions, with more water, this season compared with 2018 and the fishing has been better in rivers such as Numedalslågen, Otra and Tovdal. In river Mandalselva though, the season has not been very productive so far.

As far as I have heard the returning fish are in very good condition so any lack of fish cannot be attributed to feed shortage at sea.

My guess is that we will end the season well below the ten-year average in Norway. This depends especially on the august fishing in the top ten rives. Rumours tell that river Tana is a disaster (not one of our member rivers so I have no details). This will mean a lot for the total Norwegian catch.

Interesting fact about the Tana River: It stretches for 1,100 kilometres, making it the longest watercourse that holds Atlantic salmon in Norway. The Akerselva river in Oslo, at 2.3 kilometres, is the shortest salmon stream in the country.
The Tana River is generally known for very large salmon. It forms the border between Norway and Finland.

Northwest Russia

Ponoi River has long hours of sunlight in the summer. Some of the Atlantic salmon returning here go for as many as 22 months without eating. Photo Ponoi River Company

On Aug. 12, 2019 the Ponoi River Company sent the following report from the Ryabaga Camp:

Summer on the Kola Peninsula this year was characterized by cooler temps and stormy weather, which in turn put the river in good condition for the return of anglers.

Water level and temperature appeared to be ideal in early Aug., but the weather in the far north can be fickle. Unpredictably, the first group of anglers of our second half of the season arrived alongside some of the toughest conditions we’ve ever seen on the Ponoi.

On the day prior to their arrival, a windstorm flogged the Kola Peninsula, knocking down trees and stirring the headwaters of the Ponoi severely. This turbulent weather degraded underwater visibility severely for the start of the fishing week. To make matters worse, anglers and guides had to endure yet another windstorm on Sunday that produced gusts that reached the 75km/h mark. It was by no means easy fishing, and the catch for the first day surely reflected this. That said, things improved as the week unfolded.

Steve Estella with the Ponoi River Company reported last week that the summer run had been excellent, and that everyone was looking forward to seeing the fall run, which is usually the most important on the Ponoi.
Jerry and guide Juan with an 18 lb sealiced salmon released on the Ponoi. Ponoi Salmon Company
Kola Peninsula of northwest Russia, showing several of the important Atlantic salmon rivers.
The Kharlovka, Litza and Rynda on the north side of the Kola Peninsula are also known for their large salmon. For the week ending in early August 2, 2019, 14 rods caught 303 Atlantic salmon, with 29 over 20 lb., and seven of those more than 30 lb. The largest was more than 42 lb.

Compared with 2018, the air temperatures were much colder - one could say closer to the expected norms, which was undoubtedly better for the Atlantic salmon, even if less comfortable for the anglers.
The Upper Litza River, one of the angling rivers of the Atlantic Salmon Reserve. Photo ASR


Atlantic salmon released by Henrik Nielsen on the Skjern River in Denmark on Aug. 2.

The Skjern River in the west of Jutland has become a major restoration success story, showing that salmon rivers can be returned to health. So far 2019 has not disappointed.
To check on reports of salmon, best source is:

Atlantic salmon on that page are listed by length, and there are many longer than 90 cm., and even more than 100 cm. in length.
The Skjern River winds through a very flat Danish landscape.


The Drowes River flows from Lough Melvin into Galway Bay, and is just within County Leitrim. Photo John Carver
Generally the runs have been later this year, but also some pleasant surprises.

Shane Gallagher of the Drowes River Fishery in northwest County Leitrim says:

The general trend towards a later start to the spring run was evident again this year. However we were happy with both the overall condition and number of spring fish running this season. While no specimen fish were recorded this spring, the average size of spring fish was almost 9.5lbs.

Towards the end of May water levels had become very low following almost six weeks of very little rain. It was looking like a repeat of last season's drought until we had prolonged heavy rain at the end of May, giving us a welcome, if unusual, summer flood of over 0.7 metres.

There was a very good run of grilse during June and the first three weeks of July. Probably the most prolific grilse run we have seen since 2010. Numbers of fish in Lough Melvin were also reported to be the highest in many years. Average size of grilse from June to mid-July was around 4 lb with smaller fish being recorded in the past fortnight.

As expected we had a number of pink salmon reported this season at the end of June and beginning of July, following the initial run of pink salmon in 2017.

Overall the number of spring fish and grilse running and caught this season has been very encouraging.

Conditions were much more favourable for fishing than those of last year and I would expect overall catch figures to be significantly higher than those of 2018 and perhaps 10% to 15% higher than 2017.


Helmsdale River on the east coast of Sutherland is one of many Scottish Atlantic salmon rivers
Michael Wigan, Manager, Helmsdale River in Sutherland says:

The Helmsdale had a strong Spring run, about 30% over normal numbers on our fish counter.

The grilse run is patchy at the moment and not going to be a large number, in my guess. However the grilse are of good size, up to 6 lb.

The springers were large and well-shaped.

The main event was an early attack on May and June springers of Saprolegnia. This is the same fungus that affects post-spawning salmon. It appears not to have hit the earlier March/April springers. But in May and June we lost fish to this. Several rivers in Scotland were affected.

We commissioned and were offered an assortment of pathology tests. Tests for viruses and bacteria were conducted and samples from living diseased salmon of egg sacs, liver, kidneys etc were taken and analysed.

The fishery scientists were looking for a primary cause having concluded that the early saprolegnia had lowered immunity and allowed the pathogen to penetrate weakened salmon. No primary causes could be identified. No fish contained any surprising or alarming bacteria, viruses etc. The primary cause remains a mystery. The Scottish Government’s Fish Health Inspectorate was involved and so too was the Fish Vet Group, an international agency serving the fish farming industry.

Meantime, since the water warmed to temperatures steadily above 60 F. the disease has abated and at time of writing it has gone. This accords with past experiences of saprolegnia on the Helmsdale in the 1970’s. Warmer water chased it off. Late summer fish were clean. That is the case in 2019.

Weather conditions can be characterized as cool and wet, without major flooding. Warm weather was very late in coming. River levels good.

For regular reporting of activity on the principal Scottish rivers, I would suggest going to FishPal.


Rain and an increase in river levels made conditions more difficult for the anglers, but likely encouraged migration into the river by the Atlantic salmon. For the week ending Aug. 11 there were 87 fish caught and released. There were many in the 15 lb. to 18 lb. range.
Ian Wilson returning a bright fish at Cairnton on the River Dee. Photo FishingPal.

Equally tough conditions of rain and water levels, with many fish brought to the river's edge still having sea lice, showing the fish were indeed coming into the river with the higher flows.


In general reports say the salmon numbers appear better than last year, and through July there were changing conditions, with the rain naturally increasing levels. Compared with 2018 numbers, the salmon returns are definitely improved - and the fishing conditions better, even if challenging during the higher water periods.


The Spey is definitely fishing better than 2018, with most early Aug. anglers finding grilse. Nevertheless there were a number of salmon up to about 16 lb. The Spey Fisheries Board is operating a major tagging project this year and asking anglers to report tagged salmon. Anglers will receive detailed information on their fish.
Upper Tay River tributaries. Photo Dr. Hamish Moir

England & Wales

Tyne & Wear

The Tyne and Wear salmon and trout counts are not yet posted for July.

For the Tyne, up to the end of June the returns have been much better in 2019 compared with last year. The month of May was best since records began in 1996.

Tyne River Salmon and Trout Returns at Riding Mill. This river as tributaries far up into Northumbria.
The Wye River has in the past supported large and healthy salmon populations. The Wye and Usk Foundation is building a new fish passage at Lugg, north of Hereford, on the branch coming south from Leominster. Photo Wye and Usk Foundation.
Wye River

Things are not going well for this very important river that flows through western England and has its headwaters in Wales. Check the histogram below for the low numbers so far in 2019.
2019 River Wye Catch statistics compared with 2018 and five-year average. Data from Wye Salmon Association.



The salmon run in the Loire basin is being seriously jeopardized in 2019. At the fish ladder in Vichy, on the Allier branch, 80% of Atlantic salmon showing up have serious wounds. This is the worst situation since the Vichy fishway was built. Read more

As of Aug. 11, 2019, there have been 374 Atlantic salmon passed through the Vichy fishway. This is the lowest number since 2010.

Further upstream on the Allier, 847 km from the ocean, and 184 km above Vichy, is the Langeac counting station. As of Aug. 7, only 40 salmon have passed through.
Vichy fishway on the Allier branch of the Loire. Photo J. Viallard, LOGRAMI


Underwater viewing room at the Gambsheim Fishway on the Rhine. Photo from Passage 309 (Gambsheim Fishway Visitor Centre)

2019 has been a poor year for Rhine Atlantic salmon. The effort to bring back the Atlantic salmon in the Rhine has included a massive  clean up of the water, which has achieved remarkable success. But dams and fish passage remain a true barrier to improving numbers. At this time Atlantic salmon can only get as far as Strasbourg, and the power producers on the French side of the border area continue to drag their feet  on freeing up fish passage to Basle and beyond.

In 2019 there have been 59 Atlantic salmon that reached Iffezheim, with 24 further upstream at Gambsheim, and only four counted at the new Strasbourg fish passage.

In 2018 there were 96 Atlantic salmon at Iffezheim, with a 2014-2017 average of 158

In 2018 there were 47 Atlantic salmon that reached Gambsheim, and 6 at  Strasbourg.

The hope was to have a fully operating river migration corridor for Atlantic salmon by 2020, but it would appear that goal will not be reached.
Fishway counting facilities on the Rhine and its tributaries. Erstein and Huttenheim are on the tributary Il River. Graphic from Association Saumon-Rhin



Five rivers in Asturias are open to salmon angling, the Eo, Esva, Narcea-Nalon, Sella-Pilona, and Deva-Cares. The table below shows that some had near historic lows, and certainly the Esva did. But the Narcea-Nalon, the Sella-Pilona and the Deva-Cares did much better than in 2018, and were among the better years of the past five.
Catches of Atlantic salmon in rivers located in Asturias province, northern Spain. Data from Real Asociación Asturiana de Pesca Fluvial

The Minho River is the boundary between Spain and the northern edge of Portugal. It is also the most southwesterly Atlantic salmon river in Europe. In 2019 the best that can be said is that adult Atlantic salmon are hanging on, but at very low numbers. 

Nevertheless fishing is allowed by fly, spoon, and natural bait.

On July 3 a salmon was caught weighing 3.8 kg. On June 25 another salmon of 3.8 kg was caught. On June 8 there were two - 4.1 kg, and 1.7 kg, both on natural bait.


Nils Hoglund of Coalition Clean Baltic says:

So far in 2019, many salmons in  several Swedish rivers are being found dead or sick. The reasons are being investigated but it seems to range from viruses to vitamin deficiencies. This problem is not especially bad this year compared to some other years, but still is cause for concern.

In the major rivers it seems to be an average to slightly above average year. The major river Torneå, on the Sweden/Finland border, basically feeds the entire Baltic system with salmon catches. Ithad in 2014 a record 100,000 salmons returning.

So far it has about 60,000 fish counted which is 18,000 more than 2018. 

In addition the Kalix river has slightly better numbers than last year with some 8,400 returns so far compared to a 7,100 total last year at the end of the season.



This river forming the border with Sweden is having the second best return since 2015. There is an uptick in the returns at this time, with 60,043 as of Aug. 9.
Called the Torneå in Sweden, and the Tornionjoki in Finland, this salmon run is massive. There are no dams on the river, and this is a major source of its large run.

This river in northwest Finland, like the Tornionjoki, is being monitored, and to Aug. 12 has had 3,175 salmon return, the second best year since 2016.
Simojoki returns to Aug. 12.

North American rivers

Generally cooler conditions have covered the entire range of the wild Atlantic salmon for the past few days. Undoubtedly this has improved temperature and dissolved oxygen conditions. In some areas rainfall has also helped.

New Brunswick


The cooler conditions resulted in the opening of normal angling hours on the Miramichi. Also, as of last Friday, there was a reopening of the cold water pools.

The July 31 counts for the trapnets are now available:

On the Northwest Miramichi, the Cassilis trapnet had 206 grilse and 38 large salmon, compared with 172 grilse and 37 large salmon in 2018.

On the Southwest Miramichi, the Millerton trapnet had 366 grilse and 85 large salmon, vs. 189 grilse and 91 large salmon in 2018.

Brock Curtis of Curtis Miramichi Outfitters has this to say about conditions:

The cold water pools reopened last Friday and things are slowly returning to normal. As more anglers get on the water we tend to hear of salmon being caught. It is picking up and the last couple of days produced a few salmon along the river. Principally grilse at this point.

Rivers are low and the rains we are getting just don't seem to raise the rivers to levels we would like to see. Cooler temperatures, especially the evenings, have brought the water temperatures down to nice fishing conditions. Salmon are taking again and that is what we have been waiting for.

The full moon is Thursday night. We do an annual full moon canoe run in August each year. This year we are going a day earlier, Wednesday night. Generally there is lots of activity on the water. A 10, 11, and 13-year old are coming with us this year. Three local youngsters who will hopefully be future stewards on our river.

Many anglers are hoping for a fresh run of salmon with the full moon. Rain is also in the forecast later in the week so we will probably see good fishing in a few days.

Saint John River

Slightly better returns on the July 31 counts, compared with 2018, but still near historic lows.

There were 496 grilse and 183 large salmon to July 31, 2019, while last year to that date there were 380 grilse and 59 large salmon.

Nashwaak River

There were 108 grilse and 32 large salmon, each number more than double last year's 40 grilse and 12 large salmon to July 31.


The Nepisiguit has now been reopened, after being closed due to warm water.

Nova Scotia


There is a total switch between large salmon and grilse numbers this year. As of July 31 there were 133 grilse and only 11 large salmon at Morgan Falls. To the same date last year, there were 20 grilse and 53 large salmon.

Sackville River

To July 31 there have been 17 grilse but not a single large salmon, compared with 6 grilse and one large salmon in 2018 to the same date


Occasional rainstorms give a small bump to water levels, and then they drop again 

Newfoundland & Labrador

The Aug. 4 count, latest  available as this is being written on Aug. 14, shows many of the rivers remain well below last year's numbers while a few, notably Terra Nova River, and Northwest River (Port Blandford) are doing very nicely indeed.

Newfoundland salmon counts to Aug. 4

Questions remain on the counts for the Labrador rivers, related to late positioning of the counting facilities. At best, and especially for the Sand Hill, one can give the numbers. Hopefully computational algorithms will come in to play in determining the actual returns and spawning success.

Labrador salmon counts to Aug. 4, 2019


Charles Cusson, ASF Director of Quebec Programs, notes:

At the half-way point of the 2019 season, counts by way of in-river assessments and data from fish counting infrastructure have been tabulated to determine if numbers indicate a harvest can take place as of August 1.

As of August 1, harvests of large salmon have been authorized as per the management plan on the following rivers: York, Dartmouth, Saint-Jean (Gaspé), Matane in the Gaspé region and the Big Mecatina, Napetipi, Saint-Paul, Old Fort on the lower North Shore region.

The information used for the Quebec RiverNotes is sourced from various river websites, social media and Quebec government sources. Information can change without prior notification regarding prior year comparative figures.

Please report your releases!
the information is vital to have an accurate success rate calculation for the river you fish.
Matt Sprecher from Colorado releases an Atlantic salmon on the St-Jean (Gaspé) River. Photo A. Zimmerman
York, Dartmouth and St-Jean Rivers

The rivers of the town of Gaspé float through count results are as follows: (performed on July 27 and 28)

York River:
1,020 large salmon and 139 grilse (optimal conservation level – 740 large salmon)

Dartmouth River:
654 large salmon and 92 grilse (optimal conservation level – 510 large salmon)

St-Jean River:
637 large salmon and 134 grilse (optimal conservation level – 523 large salmon)

Current angling results are available at:

Aux Rochers River

To Aug. 5, 2019, 142 fish have been reported landed including 122 large salmon released, 3 grilse released, and 35 grilse harvested. Also, to date, 334 fish (245 salmon and 88 grilse) have been counted.

At the same date in 2018, 127 had been reported landed including 81 large salmon released, 7 grilse released, and 32 grilse reported to have been harvested.

Rivière À Mars

The team managing this small stream that flows into the Saguenay river report to August 11th, a total of 255 (salmon and grilse) have migrated through their fishway. Also, 40 salmon have reported released and 11 grilse harvested.

For the prior year at August 12th, 224 (salmon and grilse) had been counted. 45 large salmon were reported released and 18 grilse were harvested.

Matane River

As of Aug. 14, the Matane is still observing a good migration of fish.

To August 12th, 1,604 fish (1,027 salmon and 577 grilse) have been tabulated passing through the fishway. 187 large salmon and 19 grilse are reported to have been released, along with 33 large salmon and 166 grilse harvested for a total of 405.

At the same date last year, 889 large salmon along with 716 grilse had been counted for a total of 1,605.

A total of 295 fish had been landed, including 120 large salmon and 29 grilse had been reported released, along with 146 grilse harvested.

Matapedia River

To August 11th, 2019, 4,750 rod days have been sold compared to 4,578 to same date in 2018.

To date at August 11, 893 fish have been reported landed (558 large salmon released as well as 335 grilse harvested.

Prior year to date, 835 fish had been reported landed (439 large salmon were released, and 396 grilse harvested).
Rouge Pool on the Mitis. Photo Charles Cusson/ASF
Mitis River

Mitis Zec Director General, Alexandre Dionne, is reporting some improvement but the number of fish being counted to date is down 14% based on the 2013-2107 average. The optimal spawning threshold at August 1 is calculated to be 497 large salmon (Source: Quebec Salmon Management Plan).

To date at August 12, 401 large salmon and 399 grilse have been counted through the trap.

Neighbouring rives such as the Rimouski and the Matane are fairing much better.

Rimouski River

To August 11th, 554 fish have migrated through the fishway (275 large salmon and 279 grilse.

At the same date in 2018, 358 fish were counted through the fishway (211 large salmon and 147 grilse).



As of Aug. 12, there have been 839 large salmon and 282 grilse at the Milford Fishlift, and another 36 large salmon across the river at the Orono dam. Together that is 1,157 Atlantic salmon, and makes this a continued good news story for 2019.


At the Cherryfield Dam there have been 56 grilse and 10 large salmon. Likely more large salmon swam right over the dam this year, but redd counts in the autumn will clarify that.


At Lockwood Dam, lowermost barrier, the count as of Aug. 12 was still 47 large salmon and 5 grilse.


The Head Tide Dam fish passage improvement continues at top speed. Check out the video below.

Making Sense of this North Atlantic Roundup of Atlantic Salmon 2019 Returns - So Far

Map of the range of the wild Atlantic salmon on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
While it is still too early to draw conclusions on the 2019 season overall, the phrase that comes to mind is "fair to middl'n".

There is real cause for concern on some European rivers with high profile restoration projects. With 80% of salmon injured or diseased returning to the  Loire River, France, 2019 is truly a bad year. Meanwhile the low returns in the Rhine, plus the continued need for encouragement of the French to improve passage means more trouble ahead for the Rhine-Meuse system.

Meanwhile in North America the high profile restoration projects in Maine are seeing much action, and in the case of the Penobscot, quite good numbers - best since 2011.

Further north, drought and other factors appear to be taking a toll on Iceland returns, and the runs in Norway are mixed at best. It is nice to see rivers like the Laerdal having their designation of Gyrodactylus-free continued. One can only hope that the great Tana salmon are actually doing well, although that may not be the case.

Northwest Russia appears to be doing okay, especially without the heat experienced in 2018. The salmon don't mind a few gales and miserably cold temperatures for anglers. And in the Baltic, the Torn is doing extremely well.

In the south, Spain really needs to consider the future of its wild salmon, and guard them more conservatively for the future of the species.

In Denmark, the continued return of rivers like the Skjern is the story. Lovely to see.

In Nova Scotia the Margaree is doing well but where did the large salmon of the LaHave go. The concern there is that wild swings of the population could oscillate through that "floor" from which they don't rise again.

Newfoundland is overall down, but the season is not over. Last year there were good returns later in the season so we will have to wait and see.

In Quebec, numbers are likely to be better than in 2018. The heat and drought has not been as all-encompassing this year.

As far as we know, RiverNotes is the only source that attempts to give an overview of salmon returns throughout the North Atlantic, something we believe is worthwhile doing.

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