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RiverNotes – April 17, 2020

Compiled by Tom Moffatt

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The Cascapedia River on April 14. Photo Kenny Labrecque


The rivers of Eastern North America are open, full of melted snow, and rushing out to the sea. Mother Nature and wild Atlantic salmon are not shut in like us.

Driven by longer days and warmer temperatures, kelts that have spent a winter under river ice are on the move, out to sea to break a year-long fast.

Smolt have begun their transformation from freshwater homebodies to ocean roamers. They lose colourful parr marks for a silver-blue sheen, their body shifts shape for better distance swimming, and a burst of hormones triggers smolt to turn and face downstream for the first time.

On rivers like the Miramichi, there will be no anglers casting for the kelts. For the first time since 2004, ASF and DFO will not be tagging juvenile salmon on the Restigouche. These are strange and rare days for people, but life goes on for wild Atlantic salmon.

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The St-Jean River near the town of Gaspé earlier this week. Photo Quebec Sporting


Charles Cusson, ASF’s Director of Quebec programs writes:

“Rivers in Quebec continue their awakening in anticipation of another angling season, especially in the lower St. Lawrence and Gaspésie regions. Unless there is a change, May 4th is a date all river managers await – that is when the provincial government is scheduled to update everyone regarding the 2020 season.

“Thanks to the Cascapedia Society, Québec Sporting in Gaspé, and friends of the salmon along the Matapedia River for submitting photos this week.”

«Au Québec, les rivières du bas Saint-Laurent et de la Gaspésie continuent leurs éveils printaniers. À moins d’avis contraire, le MFFP émettra une mise à jour le 4 mai prochain sur l’état de la saison 2020 qui s’amorcera dès le mois prochain.Nous avons reçu des photos donnant un aperçu de différentes rivières cette semaine et nous remercions la Société Cascapédia, Québec Sporting et des ami(e)s du saumon de la vallée de la Matapédia.»

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The Forks Pool, where the Causapscal and the Matapedia rivers join. Image from April 15, 2020. Photo Guylain Raymond
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The Dartmouth River, like others on the Gaspé Peninsula, is opening up. Photo Quebec Sporting
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The Adams Pool on the Matapedia River. Photo Michel Pelletier


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The Southwest Miramichi River near Blackville on April 15, 2020, normally the opening day of the angling season. Photo Jason Curtis

Nathan Wilbur, ASF’s Director of New Brunswick Programs writes:

“To the dismay of anglers in New Brunswick who were hoping to get out for a fish and some fresh air on April 15, the Premier announced late last week that fishing season would be delayed until at least May 1 due to Covid-19.

“The season opener on most rivers and brooks is normally April 15, a date long awaited by anglers in the province after months of winter.

“Last Thursday, Minister Mike Holland explained that this delay was a tough decision for the province, and is meant to minimize overall traffic and interactions at essential services that support our fishing activities like gas stations, grocery stores, hardware stores, etc.

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On Apr. 9 Emery Miller and Lonnie were out for a canoe run on the Hammond River. Photo Andy Miller
“The consensus in government was that people would be ‘out and about’ more if fishing were open and this is exactly what health officials are trying to avoid. Some fresh air and time on the water would be good for us all, so hopefully this restriction is short-lived and people are soon able to get out safely by respecting the rules of physical distancing, sticking with family groups, etc.”

The DFO variation order for the season delay can be found here
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The Southwest Miramichi near Boiestown last weekend, flowing nicely. Photo Mark Gautreau
N.B. Crown Reserve Water

Many anglers in the province are wondering about the status of crown reserve. To date, there has been no announcement, so successful applicants should proceed to pay for their stretch as normal. If something changes, Minister Mike Holland has indicated that refunds will be issued. The deadline for crown reserve payment is April 17.


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On April 14 the Sheepscot River was surging, but not overtopping the recently opened up Head Tide Dam, an ASF-led restoration project completed in 2019. Photo Mike Burke/Interfluve
Maranda Nemeth, ASF’s Maine Headwaters Project Manager reports on the Sheepscot River:

“We had a big rain event, about three inches, combined with a lot of snow melt this week.

“Flows reached close to 3,000 cubic feet per second, which is almost four times the annual average flow stage for the Sheepscot River. Prior to our project last year to remove a section of the old Head Tide Dam near the community of Alna, these flows would have overtopped the dam but as you can see from the pictures, water is able to move through with ease and is broken up more by the upstream enhancements and the ridged side of the concrete wall in the overlook.

“Fish are not moving yet, but we expect to see smolt migrating downstream and river herring upstream starting in May.

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The Head Tide Dam, partially removed last year, is holding up to high spring flows. Photo Mike Burke/Interfluve
“These photos were taken Mike Burke of Interfluve. He was the lead engineer on this partial dam removal project and was also the lead engineer for the Coopers Mill Dam Removal project completed in 2018. He noted from the field that the flows were between a 2 and 5 year storm event stage and that the site looks great. He was excited to see how well the modification of the dam held up against these high flows, one of the first real tests since it was completed in September 2019.”

John Burrows, ASF’s Executive Director of U.S. Programs notes on the Penobscot and other rivers:

“From our conversations with state and federal agencies, we understand that fishways at hydro dams around the state will open as normal this year. Some of these sites have Maine DMR biologists on site and they will continue to be on site, though in reduced numbers due to social distancing protocols.

“Many fishways were required to be open by April 15 and river flow conditions will determine when it is safe for them to be operated. We typically begin to see fish being passed in early May.

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Head Tide Dam Apr. 14. Photo Mike Burke/Interfluve


Kris Hunter, ASF’s Director of Nova Scotia and P.E.I. Programs wrote a blog this week after speaking to anglers, guides, and shop owners in both provinces about the delay of the recreational angling season in both provinces.

Check out Kris’s blog on the situation in Nova Scotia: Click here


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The Exploits River on April 15. Warm weather triggered significant snow melt this week in central Newfoundland. Photo Kim Thompson/ERMA
Still no word on whether there will be a delay to the start of the recreational angling season in Newfoundland and Labrador, however with a June 1 opening day, there is still time.

Don Ivany, ASF’s Director of Newfoundland and Labrador Programs checked-in with a number of outfitters and lodge owners this week.

Don found that businesses with year-round clientele for winter and spring activities had seen a big drop in business, but operations that do their work in the summer and fall have not noticed a significant change.

Barb Genge, who operates Tuckamore Lodge, a four-season destination on the Northern Peninsula, has had to cancel bookings from 172 snowmobilers since March 16. Some anglers have cancelled bookings as well for later in the summer. Barb is concerned for her guides other operations nearby.

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Barb Genge of Tuckamore Lodge offers Atlantic salmon angling and hunting services on Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula. It is also a launching off point for whale watching, iceberg tours, and trips to the Viking settlement L'Anse aux Meadows...not to mention an ultra-rare ungerground salmon pool. Photo Tom Moffatt/ASF

Don Ivany, in conversation with Mark Romkey of Gander River Outfitters, found his operation was less affected. This was principally because most of his activity is after July 1. Mark did note that about half his clients were American, and it was vital to have the border open.

Outfitters and lodge owners in general are uncertain how government stimulus and relief programs will help their business.

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Hughes Brook in western Newfoundland on April 14. There is still significant snow in the hills and forests of this part of the island. Don Ivany/ASF
Don Ivany also spoke with Mike Crosby about the outlook in Labrador.

Mike and his partners have three camps – one on Crookes Lake for trophy trout fishing, another on the Hawke River for Atlantic salmon and a third on Flowers River, also focused on Atlantic salmon.

He says that to date they have had a couple of cancellations, but not a major impact on the season. But like Gander River Outfitters, Mike Crosby’s lodges rely on half their clients being American.

The Crookes Lake season runs from June 15 to July 15, and if the border is not open by early June, it will impact this part of their recreational fishing operation.

For Hawke River, the June 25 to July 25 period is key, and for Flowers River, the season runs from mid-July to early September, giving somewhat more time for travel conditions to improve.