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RiverNotes 3 Apr 2020

Compiled by Tom Moffatt

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Anglers on the Northwest Miramichi space themselves well apart. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF


Travel restrictions and social distancing rules are affecting all aspects of our lives. Right now, governments from Maine to Newfoundland and Labrador are making decisions on how and if salmon fishing can proceed in 2020. ASF’s Regional Program Directors are monitoring the situation and bring us the following reports.


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John Burrows on the Sandy River in Maine. Photo ASF
John Burrows, ASF’s Executive Director of U.S. Programs says:

“There is no salmon season in Maine because the fish are listed as an endangered species, but state leaders are embracing angling as a way for people to safely break the monotony of social distancing and working from home.

“The traditional start of Maine’s open water fishing season is April 1, but Governor Janet Mills started the season two weeks early and waived license requirement until the end of April. She has regularly encouraged people to ‘get outdoors’ and do activities like fishing while still practicing social distancing.

“In her address earlier this week, where she issued a statewide ‘stay at home’ order for the month of April, she explicitly mentioned fishing as an activity that would be allowed to continue.

“I hit my local river on Saturday for two hours, but caught nothing. I did see one guy land a few sea-run brown trout.

“I’ll probably try some wild brook trout waters next. Stripers and shad ought to start showing up in about 5 weeks, unless it’s abnormally cold.”


Kris Hunter, ASF Regional Program Director for N.S. and P.E.I. says:

“In Nova Scotia, the opening of the sportfishing season has been delayed by at least a month from April 1st to May 1st.

“In his March 27th press release, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Keith Colwell said, ‘Nova Scotians love to fish. However this delay is consistent with the closure of parks, beaches, and other activities where people gather.’

“Fisheries and Oceans Canada made this decision formal when they issued a Variation Order on March 31st to ‘advise the public that angling for all species of fish in the inland and tidal waters of Nova Scotia, including the Bras d’Or Lakes, is hereby prohibited until April 30, 2020.’

“Needless to say, pushing back the start of the fishing season has upset many in the angling community. One angler, Billy Oickle, has challenged the delay by starting an online petition. Since launching on March 30, the petition has garnered over 7,500 signatures from people asking the Nova Scotia government to reverse its decision.”

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Kris Hunter manages ASF's programs in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Photo ASF
“However, not everyone agrees that reversing the decision would be the right move.

“A Global News article from April 1 quoted lifelong angler and Nova Scotia Salmon Association director Larry Shortt saying he was initially disappointed with the delay, but understands why it had to happen and ultimately supports the decision.

“In that same article Nova Scotia’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Robert Strang was quoted saying, ‘There’s a petition going around asking us to reopen. Now is not the time to be thinking about how I can get out and continue my usual activities.'”

For Prince Edward Island, Kris says, “The status of the fishing season is still uncertain.

“While it would normally open on April 15, no decision has been made whether to delay. In a Facebook message posted April 1st, Fish and Wildlife P.E.I. indicated they understood how important recreational fishing is to Islanders, but because of the evolving public health crisis, they are delaying a final decision on opening the angling season until April 13th.”


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Nathan Wilbur with a large salmon on the Restigouche River. Photo ASF
Nathan Wilbur, ASF’s Regional Program Director for New Brunswick says:

“Casting a line on a salmon river would be a great way to get out of the house, but there is still a big question mark around the upcoming season in N.B.

“No decisions have been made yet, but anglers are certainly hoping for the opportunity to get outside while respecting physical distancing guidelines. We do everything different now, and can certainly fish a little different too. We expect to hear information soon about N.B.’s general angling season and crown reserve stretches. Most rivers and brooks normally open on April 15th.

“For outfitters and lodges, there is not a single approach to Covid-19. Some are planning on being open for business if regulations allow, while others have closed accommodations but are still offering services like guiding.

“The travel restrictions, especially at the Canada-U.S. border may prove to be a major factor for businesses that depend on visitors chasing wild Atlantic salmon.”


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Don Ivany near L'Anse au Loup, Labrador, preparing to deploy a receiver in the Strait of Belle Isle. Photo ASF
Don Ivany, ASF’s Regional Program Director for Newfoundland and Labrador writes:

“As far as we know, the Atlantic salmon angling season will open as scheduled on June 1st. The provincial government has indicated that they are ordering the tags and licenses needed.

“Thankfully, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, which sets the rules for salmon angling in the province, was able to hold its regular consultation at the end of March, by video conference, with the salmonid advisory committees in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“These meetings provide stakeholders like ASF the opportunity to hear from DFO scientists about the state of salmon populations and provide advice and recommendations to the regulator.

“In total, 24 rivers were monitored last year in Newfoundland and Labrador. Eleven were in the critical zone, three were in the cautious zone, and eight were in the healthy zone. Overall, egg deposition in 2019 declined by 43 per cent compared to the previous year.

“Among the meeting participants, it was felt that given the current low returns and recent downward trend, a cautious approach is needed and there should be a minimal harvest by recreational anglers. The most common position was for a maximum retention of two fish for 2020; one to start the season and a second one if an in-season review warrants it. There was general agreement on a three fish daily release limit as well.

“We won’t know what the rules will actually be until the final management plan is released, something that’s usually done just days before the season starts. Here’s hoping that happens as scheduled on June 1st.”


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Charles Cusson with a large salmon. Photo by Jim Lawley/ASF

Charles Cusson, ASF’s Regional Program Director for Quebec writes:

“On April 15th, the Quebec wildlife ministry (MFFP) will announce details of the 2020 season, and all anglers await the news with great anticipation. That’s because in 2015 we had excellent returns of large salmon and grilse, and the offspring from that year will begin showing up as multi sea-winter salmon in 2020. It could be a good season if we’re allowed to get out on the water.”