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RiverNotes: 26 May 2022


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Apple Blossoms in Antigonish County, Nova Scotia


The past two weeks on the St. Mary’s River have been magical: cool misty mornings and many sunny, mild afternoons. Wading is no longer a silent activity as I happily chatter to my son, pointing out the different trout snacks we see—mayflies drifting on the water’s surface, golden shiners darting along the river bottom and caddis pupae emerging from their intricate tubular casings.

Clusters of wild strawberry blooms, dainty bluets and purple violets dot the riverbanks. Overhead we spotted and stopped to take in the heady fragrance of an early apple blossom. And just this weekend, we encountered our first wood turtle of the season.

When there’s not a breeze, a bug net is now a necessity in Sherbrooke with the black flies out in full force. Water levels here are quite low for May and sadly, the forecasted rain continues to vanish.

The two spring tagging studies have wrapped up and DFO Biologist, David Hardie, shared: “Working with the St. Mary’s River Association (SMRA), we were able to tag 24 kelts in April (15 acoustic, 14 satellite, 5 of which were double-tagged). And we have just finished tagging 260 smolts.” These studies are a highlight for the SMRA, and members excitedly await DFO’s presentation at their upcoming AGM this Sunday.



ASF’s Graham Chafe returned May 15th from spending six productive days in the Miramichi area, tagging and deploying remaining receivers. Graham shares the following from his field work:

– 80 smolt were tagged on the SW Miramichi at Rocky Brook camp. Every year the staff there house and feed us as well as operate the smolt wheel in Rocky Brook, just above where it enters the main SW Miramichi.

– 40 smolt were tagged on the NW Miramichi at Wayerton Bridge. We have tagged here for many years as well, though the smolt wheel was moved a few kms from a handful of years ago. Lyndsay at the Miramichi Salmon Association and her summer staff operate the wheel, and help us by putting aside smolt of appropriate size (anything above 13cm) for tagging. – Katie, Kayla and Tara from Anqotum are partners on the project as well now and they have been a huge help. They helped deploy receivers two weeks ago and tagged half of the fish (20) since the runs on the NW and SW peaked on the same days and I had to run down to the SW to tag.

– In addition, I put out the last receivers as follows:

– One receiver about 8 km downstream of Rocky Brook, with the help of Jerry Price who works at RB and operates the wheel there.

– Two at Black Brook Salmon Lodge near Blackville, with the help of Eddie Colford, who helps every year. He runs me out in his boat to deploy and recover (in a month or so).

– Two at what we call SW Miramichi 1, which is in Boiestown, just in front of Vince Swayze’s home on the river. Vince assists every year in the deployment and recovery and let’s me take his boat. A strong salmon advocate and an invaluable asset to our field work.

– The Ledges Camp in Doaktown also lets me use a boat twice a year to deploy and recover.

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Kayla Ward, Field Technician at Anqotum Resource Management and Graham Chafe, Atlantic Salmon Federation biologist, prepare to deploy acoustic tags in salmon smolt at Wayerton Bridge. These Northwest Miramichi River smolt will be tracked down river, out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and into the Labrador Sea. Photo Credit: Katie Patles, Anqotum Resource Management.
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Two rotary smolt traps at Wayerton Bridge on the Northwest Miramichi. These traps, operated by Miramichi Salmon Association staff, gently capture downstream migrating salmon smolts on their way to the sea. Captured fish are held in a live well with running river water until staff check the trap. Smolt tagged for acoustic tracking are sourced from these smolt wheels. Photo Credit: Graham Chafe, ASF
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Vince Swayze, a long-time salmon advocate, uses his boat near Boiestown, NB, to take ASF staff on the river to deploy acoustic receivers. Salmon smolt tagged upstream at Rocky Brook will pass and be recorded by these receivers between days and weeks after deployment. Photo Credit: Graham Chafe: ASF


ASF’s Nathan Wilbur, Executive Director of Regional Programs enjoyed a family canoe trip along the Nashwaak, and writes: While we all await the arrival of big, bright early salmon, many are out enjoying nice May water conditions in their canoes and throughout the floodplains picking fiddleheads. The spring flush of cold water and river valleys coming back to life with greenery and singing birds is always invigorating, and a sure sign that fresh Atlantic salmon are just around the corner. There have been several bright salmon caught in the lower reaches of the Restigouche so far this May, notorious for its large salmon and in particular the special 3-sea-winter specimens that start trickling in very early. The first report that we know of was on May 12th, about a week earlier than the usual first Restigouche report. There have also been rumours of a bright fish or two being hooked on the Miramichi system. We are taking these as positive signs for the season to come!
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Nathan Wilbur and Julia Carpenter with daughter Ellie on her first canoe trip | Photo Credit: Tom Cheney
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ASF's Nathan Wilbur and Tom Cheney and their families on a weekend canoe run on the Nashwaak | Photo Credit: Nathan Wilbur
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Foraging for fiddleheads along the Nashwaak | Photo Credit: Nathan Wilbur


A report from Colin Gilks, Chief Guide, Miramichi Salmon Club: What a start to this season! I have been a guide and fisherman since an early age, following my father and family who have had a long history of outfitters and guides on the main Southwest Miramichi.

Thunderstorms and heavy rain kept me and my fiancé off the river until early evening. We debated about going fishing for some sea run brook trout, but once it cleared, the water was magical with fog and the warmth of spring. We decided to give it a try, or at least some serenity on the water.

Trying one spot first with no luck, we just enjoyed floating down the river and the beautiful views the Miramichi provides. Stopping at the next fishing pool we anchored and started to fish; hoping to get a trout. Within minutes my fiancé said she saw a fish roll. I asked where and she pointed where it was. I cast a line in the direction she pointed out and nothing. With a few different fly selections, thinking it was a big trout, I used a wet and dry fly; to no avail. Then I saw the fish come up exactly where she had said. Tried a couple more flies, wet and dry, nothing. I then went to a Miramichi favourite, the “Green Machine.” First cast and the beautiful hen was on. Still thinking it was a huge trout until it made a run and jumped! Now knowing what was on the line, we maneuvered the boat downstream where the water was calmer to hopefully get it landed and released. Which in fact we did! It was a euphoric moment for both of us. Getting a quick picture and putting her back to swim away for future generations of salmon to come.

I have caught one fish in May about ten years ago, but it is quite humbling to say the least to catch one this early. Water conditions were great for boat fishing in a great temperature. I am so happy I had this experience and to be able to share it with others across our great Atlantic salmon rivers

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Colin Gilks releasing a 40" Rocky Brook hen | Photo Credit: Shelley Newlands Skidd
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Colin Gilks | Photo Credit: Shelley Newlands Skidd



Fly fishing guide and metalsmith, Gioia Usher writes: With weather typically lagging a month or so behind the more southern parts of the province, the black flies and buds have now emerged. With spring always comes the excitement of ‘re-learning’ the river and its pools but this year shows more significant changes than in years prior. After the major rainstorm last year that wiped out bridges and roadways on the island, it’s no surprise to see its impact, specifically on the Middle and Baddeck Rivers. Some sections are unrecognizable and even re-routed entirely. With water levels still quite high, the difficult fishing has pushed us up into the tributaries and brooks of Middle River and surrounding area. We’ve been lucky to encounter brook trout and rainbows. The highlight of our season so far was this brook trout which we first spotted then patiently tricked with a stimulator.

You can learn more about Gioia Usher, her handcrafted jewelry and the work she is doing to break down barriers for women in fly-fishing at and on Instagram @metalandmayflies.

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Kyle Usher | Photo Credit: Gioia Usher
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Gioia releasing a beautiful Cape Breton Brook trout | Photo Credit: Kyle Usher


Angler & Elementary school teacher, Stefan Sears, spent a few days last week exploring the St. Mary’s River with friend and fishing partner, Tim Myers. Stefan writes:

The trout fishing on the St. Mary’s was excellent this week. Black flies were plentiful, as were aggressive, sea-run (and resident) brook trout. Muddler Minnows and hair-wing streamers produced several healthy trout. The water level was low, but still cold due to cool overnight temperatures. 

The fishing was good in most of the deep pools on the main branch of the river. And the abundance of animal and plant life in and around the watershed was very impressive. It amazes me that anyone would consider this majestic river as a good place for a gold mine. I expect the fishing should get even better with the next bump of rain.

You can follow Stefan’s fishing adventures on Instagram @ssearsy.

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Stefan releasing a resident Brook trout on the St. Marys River | Photo Credit: Tim Myers



DMR’s, Jason Valliere shares: 2022 is off to a good start. As of May 22nd, we have passed/captured about 1.3M River Herring, 2.5K Sea Lamprey, 1,157 American Shad, and 61 Atlantic Salmon. We are considerably ahead of recent previous years on all counts.
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Penobscot River Fish Passage Update Report for May 19, 2022 | Jason Valliere, Marine Resource Scientist 2 | Maine Department of Marine Resources


DMR’s Colby Bruchs writes: Cooler weather returned over the past week. The smolt run on the Narraguagus is nearing its end with trap removal at Route 9 slated for mid-week. The Sandy run is tailing off but surpassed last year’s total catch this week! See attached site summaries.

The Narraguagus River fishway trap was installed on 26 April at the Stillwater Dam in Cherryfield, Maine. The 2022 trapping season has been off to a slow start for Atlantic Salmon with no returns to report to date. As a reminder, our trap does not retain River Herring and small (<40cm FL) American Shad. The trap does retain larger shad allowing us to obtain an index of repeat spawners returning to the river annually. To date, we have captured 268 American Shad.

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Summary supplied by Colby W. B. Bruchs, Fisheries Scientist | Maine Dept. of Marine Resources
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Summary supplied by Jennifer B. Noll, Fisheries Scientist | Maine Dept. of Marine Resources

ASF’s Maine Headwaters Project Manager, Maranda Nemeth, says: The migratory fish ramped up in the last week with sea-run fish on the move and we are hearing reports of great American shad fishing in the lower Kennebec River. 

Herb Hartman of the ASF Maine Council snagged a 5-pound shad in Winslow, noting he caught 2 fish in just 4 casts of his fly rod. In addition, Trout Unlimited hosted an event on Saturday encouraging folks to get out on the river.

With partners, we have restored fish passage to thousands of acres for alewife to reproduce and now, alewife number in the millions across the rivers in Maine. Alewives are so numerous they can be easily hand caught right out of water as Mike Kinnison’s son demonstrates on Bradley Stream outside Bangor (photo below). Alewives are critically important to the survival of Atlantic salmon since the millions of fish provide predatory buffer to the out-migrating smolts and in-migrating adults.

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Herb Hartman with 5-pound , Kennebec shad
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Hand caught alewife on Bradley Stream

The following images and captions, supplied by Maranda Nemeth, summarize some of our recent field work:

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As part of the smolt recapture study, measuring the length of the fish is a critical data point along with weight. Scales are also collected to analyze the age and stage of each smolt.
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One of the largest smolts recorded for the day. Each fish is clipped on their caudal fin and released back into the river upstream of the smolt trap. If the fish is recaptured in a few days, the recapture will be recorded and, in the end, will determine how efficient the smolt trap is and help determine the population estimate.
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Jennifer Noll and Mattea Powers of Maine DMR maintain and run the smolt traps on the Sandy River. The Sandy River drainage has massive amounts of cold water and productive habitat. Last year, the smolt population was estimated at 13,000 wild fish and just a fraction the habitat is occupied.
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The Sandy River as seen Friday May 13. The lack of rain and extreme heat has caused this river drop to the red zone and labeled as ‘much below normal’ according to USGS ( A challenging effect of climate change.
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Jennifer Noll, an Atlantic salmon biologist with Maine DMR charged with overseeing the conservation work in the Sandy River drainage, measures a smolt right before a quick clip for the recapture study while Mattea Powers records the data.
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Teamwork is important to efficiently collect the data on each smolt and reduce handling time. Jen Noll is finishing the weight measurement before the fish is stored in a temperature-controlled cooler. Catharine Birmingham, Grants Manager with the ASF Maine office is opening the temporary storage and Mattea Powers is recording the data.
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Maranda Nemeth, ASF’s Maine Headwater Project Manager, releasing recaptured smolts downstream and wishing them good luck on their journey to the ocean. About 40 fish of the 133 total of the day were recaptured clipped smolts.
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Catharine Birmingham and Maranda Nemeth, ASF US Operation staff, releasing smolts in the Sandy River as part of the smolt recapture study underway by Maine DMR and NOAA. On May 13, the crew documented 133 smolts in total, all wild fish.
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The gate was opened at Walton’s Mill Dam, the only dam on Temple Stream, and the drawdown the impoundment is underway preparing the site for dam removal set to commence this summer. With the lack of rain and warm days, the impoundment water level dropped over 5 feet at the dam.
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Looking up the 1-mile-long impoundment, wetlands and streambanks are slowly exposing. ASF is collaborating with Maine DEP to monitor the water quality before and after dam removal and you can see the white buoy here positioned above the dam in the impounded waters. The baseline conditions were just published:
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Right above the top of the impoundment are cobble riffles, a promise of the habitat to come once the dam is removed. The Walton’s Mill Dam removal will restore fish passage to over 52 miles of cold-water habitat in the Sandy River drainage.
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Mattea Powers with Maine DMR releasing an adult male Atlantic salmon in the Sandy River today May 24. This salmon is the 3rd adult to return to the Kennebec River and with lack of upstream fish passage at the 4 dams on the Kennebec, the fish are trapped and trucked 60 miles and released in the Sandy River, where there is the most productive and suitable habitat in the drainage. Photo Credit: Max Saffer-Meng.


Fundraising dinners in Montreal and St. Andrews were an outstanding success with close to $250,000 raised. The common sentiment among guests was how great it was to be back together in-person after a two-year hiatus.

In downtown Montreal at the Windsor Hotel, the Paddle Raise resulted in an astounding $40,000 raised. In St. Andrews, an inspiring keynote speech was delivered by Nick Hawkins.

ASF wants to take this opportunity to extend our sincere appreciation to all who attended and who work tirelessly to make these events so meaningful. Thank you.

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Guests at St. Andrews Dinner in New Brunswick | Photo Credit: Tom Cheney
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Nick Hawkins presenting at St. Andrews Dinner. A biologist by training, Nick Hawkins is a photojournalist and wildlife cameraman specializing in natural history, science and conservation related issues. | Photo Credit: Tom Cheney
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Bud Bird, centre, turned 90 this year and was celebrated at the recent ASF St. Andrew's dinner. A resident of Fredericton, Bud has held office at all three levels of government. He continues a long and successful career in business and public service, still working every day. Bud is a long-standing wild salmon advocate and generous ASF supporter. He is pictured here with John Thompson, Chair of ASF Canada, and ASF President Bill Taylor. Photo Credit: Tom Cheney
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Guests at ASF’s Montreal Dinner enjoy hors d’oeuvres, while bidding on silent auction items, in the Grand Hallway of the Windsor Hotel on Peel Street in downtown Montreal. Photo Credit: Martin Silverstone
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Bill Taylor addresses the attendees at ASF’s Montreal Dinner.
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Laughter and discussion roars in the background at the Windsor Hotel as Rob Sibthorpe purchases an arms length of raffle tickets from Eline Collard at ASF's Montreal Dinner.


A kinder, more generous man you’ll be hard pressed to find. Bob MacDonald began his fly tying career over forty years ago in Mulgrave, Nova Scotia. Coming from a family with strong fly fishing roots, Bob’s natural talents were sharpened through lessons with his Uncle Len B. MacDonald, a long-time tier himself. Through these lessons, Bob met his mentor and best friend, the late Leonard J. Macdonald “Lenny”. Bob credits much of his skill as an angler and fly tier to Lenny.

Throughout the years, Bob’s tying has been featured in magazines and a collection of books. He has tied at numerous fly fishing shows and was an ASFI Exhibitor in 2017. His flies are found in fly boxes worldwide and are carefully crafted to seduce Atlantic salmon, trophy brown trout, stripers, tarpon, and much more.

Bob’s generous nature combined with his passion for the sport has been felt by many within our community. Despite working long hours, and filling hundreds of fly orders annually, Bob spends a great deal of his time tutoring novice fly tiers and fostering their passion and budding talent. He has an innate ability to simplify the complexities of classic salmon fly tying and with that has drawn many to this rewarding hobby.

You can follow Bob on Instagram @donaldbobmac. Happy tying!

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"Five Eyes" is a freestyle fly tied by Bob MacDonald in February of 2022. This stunning creation was tied on a Yuji Wabe handmade hook, and Japanese silk floss used on the body. The wing and underwing is made from the molted back feathers of a Malay Peacock Pheasant, with Mearns Quail used for the cheeks.
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Bob MacDonald in his element | Photo credit: Tim Myers