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“How ya doin’ me old trout?”
“Why don’t you head to Newfoundland?” said Neville Crabbe, ASF’s Executive Director of Communications, while we were meeting to brainstorm Rivernotes’ summer content. “You could follow in Lee Wulff’s footsteps at Portland Creek and River of Ponds. Our audience would love to read about the fascinating people and places you encounter. You need to be there for Wild Salmon Watersheds in August, anyway.” Not being a certified genius, but possessing common sense, I knew the only response to a boss suggesting a chase after a fly fishing legend in the wilderness was an emphatic ‘yes!’
Swiftly, I swapped the allure of Cape Breton’s Margaree River for the exhilaration of clutching the final ferry ticket for an overnight cruise to Newfoundland. My sustenance: Doritos and beer from an Ultramar gas station. The nautical journey departing North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Port aux Basques, Newfoundland served as the overture for an attritious eleven-hour drive to St. Johns.
As I waited to board, a woman asked me about my truck, job, and destination, then suggested catching up on the ferry. She quickly evolved from a stranger to an impromptu guide, exemplifying Newfoundlanders’ signature hospitality.
Once I found a serene corner on the boat, my newfound guide appeared, holding a glass of rum and coke on the rocks. “This round’s on me,” she winked, “but you’ll need to buy the rest if you want the Newfoundland insider scoop.”
We shared stories over a few rums. Mine revolving around ASF, my Rivernotes pursuits, and my mission to honor Lee Wulff’s legacy. Her’s covered her Air Force days, family wrestling matches, and growing up amidst Newfoundland’s rugged forests. When I suggested in jest that she buy a J3 Cub (the plane that got Lee started) and serve as my personal pilot, she misunderstood but proposed a few days of trout fishing at her wilderness cabin with her family, guided by her expert uncle.
I arrived in Port aux Basques to find it rain-soaked and fog-laden. When Google instructed, “drive straight for 600 miles,” I realized I was in for a test of endurance. Nevertheless, ‘The Rock,’ as Newfoundland is affectionately called, offered endless amusement as it unveiled a raw expanse of untamed rivers and sprawling wilderness, each waterway teasing with the promise of fly fishing. Though its pine forests and rocky terrains echoed Maine and Eastern Canada, the landscape possessed a unique, wild charm.
After the grueling 11-hour drive, even a budget hotel felt luxurious, and a restorative 15-hour sleep eased the fatigue of roughing it and lengthy drives. Given that I had slept in my truck or under a tarp for 18 of the last 20 days, I felt blissfully content.
Feeling reenergized on the second day, I embarked on my mission to delve into Lee Wulff’s legacy and immerse myself in the local culture. My journey led me to Elaine’s Used Books. The friendly shopkeeper, charmed by my newfound storytelling endeavor, offered me two intriguing titles: ‘River of Dreams,’ and ‘In on the Pond – A Trouting Excursion in Victorian Newfoundland.’
Encouraged by my curiosity, she also suggested a visit to ‘The Rooms’ – https://www.therooms.ca/ —a renowned museum and archive that preserves Newfoundland’s rich history. There, I immersed myself in the treasure trove of information about Wulff and the local history contained within those walls.
For two full days, I navigated through as much of Wulff’s writing, as time and attention permitted. His insightful words provided a wellspring of inspiration and motivation. From his narratives, I began to see parallels with what I knew of the experiences of a new generation of Newfoundlanders. Like Wulff in his era, these individuals have turned the wilderness into more than a scenic backdrop—it’s their dynamic, living playground and the backbone of their daily lives.
The opportunity to weave together these contemporary narratives with Lee’s timeless adventures presents a unique prospect. I envision these stories illuminating the spirit and tenacity of a dynamic, driven group. It feels like I’ve stumbled upon a chance to add a new chapter to Wulff’s legacy while shedding light on the present-day pioneers who continue his traditions amidst the raw, rugged beauty of ‘The Rock’.
At the Atlantic Rivers Outfitting Company – https://www.atlanticrivers.com… -, three anglers invited me to join their fishing expedition at Salmonier the next day with little coaxing. We shared conversations about flies, ASF, and the excitement of fishing for salmon and trout. Their anecdotes were so engaging that I found myself musing about relocating to ‘The Rock,’ even before casting a single fly.
The following evening, I met up with Jesse Buckle at the Salmonier Nature Park parking lot – https://www.gov.nl.ca/ffa/wild… -. Upon his arrival, I admitted needing to purchase a salmon license. Surprisingly, he informed me that it wasn’t possible online; a physical store was the only option. Fortunately, the rest of the crew was running late, affording us a chance to procure the elusive license.
Our quest for a license led us to a nearby store, which had unfortunately run out of tags. Unfazed, we raced to another shop downstream, arriving just as my gas tank approached empty. Jesse darted inside to initiate the paperwork while I refueled my truck.
Entering the store, I was ready for a straightforward transaction but was met with an unexpected obstacle: “We don’t have any licenses for Americans” Fortunately, Jesse’s experience with salmon tag sales for non-residents at AROC proved invaluable. Despite some initial resistance, he explained to the store owner that there is only one non-resident licenses and she finally agreed to sell me the tag – there was no such thing as “an American salmon license.” With the license secure, we resumed our adventure.
Our crew was complete when we met Devon House and Jake Burt at a secluded pool on the Salmonier. As we headed for the river, their banter filled the air, although their thick local dialect made much of it incomprehensible. However, their passion for fishing rang clear. I also couldn’t help but notice that each of them was subtly sizing me up, wondering, no doubt, if I could hold my own on the river.
They shared their experiences with SAEN (Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland, an ASF affiliate), local poaching problems, and their escapades on rivers both local and remote.
Barely 20 minutes into our fishing session, Jesse shouted, “I think there’s someone in the woods!” Emerging from the shadows were two DFO officers, almost conjured by Jesse’s cry. They were there to check licenses. We laughed, recounting our nearly thwarted tag purchase, and engaged in a lively discussion about the convoluted salmon access laws for non-residents. The conversation extended for almost two hours, well after sunset. Tina, one of the officers, finally declared with a smile, “Well boys, you’ve got fifteen minutes left to fish,” before vanishing as swiftly as she had appeared.
We resumed our fishing and conversation seamlessly. Although the fish eluded us that night, I considered myself fortunate to have garnered new friendships and a tale worth sharing.
Thank you for being part of the Rivernotes community and for following my adventures each week as I journey through salmon country’s marvelous and rugged landscapes. Up next, I’ll be exploring the Terra Nova River—one of ASF’s the Wild Salmon Watersheds pilot programs. Several of my esteemed colleagues await my arrival with anticipation, ready to share their experiences and insights.
I encourage you to share the Rivernotes blog with friends who are as passionate about conservation, fishing, and the great outdoors as we are. Let’s continue to build this community, spread awareness, and inspire action in preserving our treasured wilderness. Remember, every shared story becomes a ripple that can create a wave of change.
Until next week, stay tuned and tight lines!
Devon House, AROC Employee and SAEN Volunteer, Adds:
The Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland (SAEN) is an exemplary group of individuals who dedicate significant time and effort to the conservation of Atlantic salmon in Newfoundland. Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of acquainting myself with both past and present members of SAEN. Despite their diverse backgrounds, they all share a common thread – a deep-seated passion for protecting Atlantic salmon.
Their work is manifested through educational talks and promotional campaigns on social media, where they share strategies and insights on safeguarding this amazing species. Their collective enthusiasm and expertise have turned SAEN into a powerful advocate for Atlantic salmon conservation.
My interest gravitates particularly toward the research side of conservation for Atlantic salmon. I have been fortunate enough to undertake post-secondary courses taught by individuals who have dedicated their lives to understanding fisheries management. This immersion in academic research has only deepened my appreciation for the complex challenges and rewarding breakthroughs in the field.
I have also had the unique opportunity to participate in a catch and release study. Catch and release is an increasingly important strategy in maintaining stable salmon populations for future generations. When done correctly, it has numerous benefits, as observed in various regions across Atlantic Canada. It is a practice that requires not only skill but also respect for the well-being of the fish, which ensures that the released salmon can continue contributing to the population.
Through ongoing education, research, and practices like catch and release, I remain hopeful that we can ensure the survival and prosperity of Atlantic salmon for years to come.
Don Ivany, Newfoundland and Labrador Program Director, Reports:
Observing the latest fishway counts in Newfoundland and Labrador ending July 10, it’s evident that this year’s salmon returns are lagging compared to the same period in 2022 (refer to DFO’s counts here: https://www.nfl.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/en/atlantic-salmon-fishway-counts). The delay seems to be about two to three weeks, making comparisons somewhat uneven. The brighter side is that most rivers have witnessed an uptick in returns recently, corroborated by increased sightings and catches reported by anglers.
Moreover, substantial schools of salmon have been sighted in coastal waters near salmon rivers, predicting an increase in river entries in the coming weeks. Labrador is also seeing delayed salmon returns. For instance, on the Forteau River, fishing conditions are favorable, yet sightings and catches are scarce, as noted by seasoned guide Lester But. Eagle River’s Pratt Falls Lodge owner, Dwight Lethbridge, has reported that the primary catches remain larger fish, signaling that the main grilse run is yet to commence. These delayed returns are commonly attributed to late sea ice conditions impacting migration.
On the upside, heavy rains in recent weeks have kept water levels in Newfoundland and Labrador healthy for this time of year. However, most rivers, including those in southern and central Labrador, are experiencing warmer water temperatures, ranging between 18-22 degrees Celsius. Continuation of warm weather might lead to some rivers restricting fishing to early mornings.
Regarding fieldwork, my team and I have been collaborating with the Freshwater Alexander Bay Ecosystem Cooperation (FABEC) on our Wild Salmon Watersheds Program (WSW). We’ve been helping them deploy water temperature monitors throughout the Terra Nova River system and assisting in a catch-and-release and temperature monitoring study. We’ve also been tracking fish movement using radio telemetry. Apart from this, we’ve toured the Mint Brook, another river under FABEC’s monitoring, and have been working on an article about the Gander River Lodge for the Atlantic Salmon Journal. During our visit, we also met with Calvin Francis, Chief of the Gander Bay Indian Band Council and president of the Gander River Ecosystem Cooperation, committed to the preservation and management of the Gander River’s salmon stocks.
Serge Collin, New Brunswick Program Director, Reports:
Even though rivers in New Brunswick are seeing high water conditions, the warm weather in recent weeks has noticeably raised water temperatures. This week the Restigouche river system was placed under Warm Water Protocol, reducing angling hours to morning fishing.
On a good note, as I was getting ready to submit my report, a new recreational fisheries notice was issued for the reopening of angling on the Restigouche. This is an example where partners involved in the Warm Water Protocol process are responsive, not only in implementing angling restrictions, but also in reopening rivers to recreational angling, as soon as conditions permit.
Please be mindful of the water temperatures when you’re fishing for trout and salmon. Some pools may be warmer than others and conditions can change rapidly. In these situations we must be responsible anglers.
Over the weekend I had the pleasure of fishing on the Northwest Upslaquitch for the first time. Our party of four drew the stretch as part of the annual Regular Crown Reserve lottery, which provides access to prime salmon angling water to New Brunswick residents.
The weather alternated between burning sun and pouring rain. The water remained cold, although low. We’d intended to canoe the entire stretch, but an impassable logjam at one of the pools—to which the party on its way out kindly alerted us—foiled that plan. We were confined to two pools at the upper end of the stretch, and they did not disappoint.
Over three days we hooked 7 salmon and 6 grilse, all of which were bright and feisty. The salmon were all in the 12-15 pound range and brought us into our backing several times. We especially enjoyed sight fishing with dry flies in the clear waters of the Upsalquitch.
We all agreed that the Crown Reserve system provided an easy and affordable trip, with excellent angling. We’ll definitely be putting in again.
Charles Cusson, Quebec Program Director ,Reports:
De temps à autre, certains vœux deviennent la réalité, mais pas de la façon espérée. Les rivières à Mars, du Gouffre, Jacques-Cartier, Malbaie et Sainte-Marguerite avaient besoin d’un coup d’eau pour améliorer leurs débits. Depuis quelques jours, elles ont reçu des précipitations extrêmes pendant peu de temps.
La rivière à Mars est passée d’un débit de quelques mètres cubes par seconde à au-delà de 100 m3/secondes en 12 heures. La rivière du Gouffre pour sa part a connu une montée en flèche de son débit jusqu’à 134 m3/secondes. Il ne faut pas oublier que cette dernière avait subi des extrêmes pendant le mois de mai dernier.
Dans le cas de la Jacques-Cartier, son débit est passé de 90 m3/secondes a plus de 700 m3/secondes en 12 heures.
Cette année, exceptionnellement, la ZEC Gaspé a complété un premier décompte des trois rivières de Gaspé la première semaine de juillet. Le but était de voir et de comparer l’évolution de la Saprolégniose (maladie de la peau du saumon qui peut causer la mort des individus infectés) sur les trois rivières. Si les conditions le permettent, le prochain décompte aura lieu durant la dernière semaine de juillet et vers la fin septembre.
Puisque la montaison bat encore son plein, il faut s’attendre à ce que les résultats ci-bas soient plus bas que lors du décompte de la ﬁn juillet. Voici donc les résultats
564 grands saumons 75 madeleineaux
725 grands saumons 95 madeleineaux
1 064 grands saumons 133 madeleineaux
Des statistiques de la pêche sportive des rivières de Gaspé jusqu’au 30 juin seront disponibles sous peu. Également, la Société Cascapédia fera de même ainsi que la Bonaventure et la Matane.
Le long de la Basse-Côte-Nord de Québec, sur la rivière St-Paul, Garland Nadeau a eu l’occasion de pêcher le secteur du pourvoyeur Green Point et signale que les conditions d’eau basses et chaudes et qu’il y a un manque de poisson. « La montaison des madeleineaux devrait commencer d’une journée à l’autre, ce qui, nous l’espérons, sauvera notre saison ».
Les gestionnaires des rivières vous remercient de votre coopération pour la déclaration de vos prises et vos remises à l’eau. Les données sont très importantes pour le calcul du succès de pêche ajusté et en même temps peut présenter un aperçu de la montaison.
Les données utilisées proviennent de divers sites Web, médias sociaux et du gouvernement du Québec
From time to time, certain wishes come true but not in the way hoped. The à Mars, du Gouffre and Jacques-Cartier rivers needed a bump of water to improve their flows. For the past few days, they’ve received huge amounts of precipitation in a short period of time.
The à Mars went from a flow of a few cubic meters per second to over 100 m3/second in 12 hours. The Gouffre River experienced a sharp spike in its flow to 134 m3/second. Back in May of this year, the watershed suffered devastating extremes of precipitation that caused quite a bit of damage.
The Jacques-Cartier’s flow jumped from 90 m3/second to over 700 m3/second in 12 hours.
Early this month the ZEC Gaspé completed a first count of the three Gaspé rivers. The goal was to observe and compare the evolution of Saprolegniosis (salmon skin disease that can cause the death of infected individuals) on the three rivers. If conditions allow, the next assessments will take place during the last week of July and towards the end of September.
Since the run is still in full swing, these results should be lower than when counted at the end of July. Here are the results:
564 Salmon 75 Grilse
725 Salmon 95 Grilse
1,064 Salmon 133 Grilse
Sport angling statistics for the Gaspé rivers to June 30th should soon be available. The Cascapédia Society will be publishing their angling statistics next week as well as the Bonaventure and Matane.
Along the lower north shore of Quebec, on St-Paul’s River, Garland Nadeau had the opportunity to fish the Green Point Outfitters stretch. He reports low and warm water and a lack fish. “The grilse run should start any day now which we hope will save our season.”
River managers thank you for your cooperation in reporting your releases. The data is very important for the calculation of adjusted fishing success and to also gauge the migration to date.
Data used in this report are from various river websites, social media, and government sources.
Evan Rice, Local Guide on Margaree River, Reports:
13 year old Hugh Jacobs from Colorado releasing his first Atlantic Salmon on the Margaree river.
Hugh and His Father Peter both were here enjoying Cape Breton Island on a Family trip to the beautiful Cabot Cape Breton Golf Resort in Inverness. Both being avid fly fishers they decided to sneak away for a morning on the river with me.
The days before had been very hot and the water was low. But as luck would have it, the night before their trip heavy isolated showers poured over the highlands above the Northeast Margaree, bringing the water up several inches. This rain was not forecasted at all. The next day the river was dropping fast and the water was stained a beautiful peat colour. I knew as soon as I saw it that we’d have a good morning.
After a short walk to the river, I got Hugh started with a dry fly at the top of the pool. We made a couple of passes through and we had a large boil under the fly. The next pass we tried a wet fly, a large muddler variation. About halfway down Hugh hooked into a beautiful fish and after a good battle the fish was in the net. We took a couple quick photos and with a smile from ear to ear Hugh released the fish. I snipped the fly from the leader and gave it to him and shook his hand. Everyone at the pool was overwhelmed with happiness for him.
At times the Margaree doesn’t give up her fish easily. But that day it choose the perfect moment with the perfect angler to give the gift of an unforgettable memory between a father and son.
Maranda Nemeth, Maine Headwaters Project Manager, Reports:
The construction contractor, Sargent Corporation, has officially mobilized for our fishway project in downtown Danforth along Baskahegan Stream. The fishway construction will be completed this fall and restore passage to almost 9,000 acres of alewife habitat in the headwaters of the Penobscot River. It’s likely the single largest and farthest inland alewife project on the east coast. We are so excited to see this project come into reality because we’ve been working with partners and the community since 2017.
Here is the latest from the Penobscot… as of end of day last Sunday.
We still have a few salmon and shad moving upriver despite the high river temperatures and high flows.
Due to temperatures exceeding safe handling, the fishway gates are open for free passage and enumeration is being conducted via video.
Numbers will need to be adjusted to account for “in season” recaptures and are subject to change….
Temperatures are recorded in the morning at Milford so are a minimum daily temperature. Temperature exceeded 80F the end of last week and continue to hold.
We are up to 1455 salmon! It’s been a good year thus far. Let’s hope the keep coming and we see a another good push this fall!
For the rest of the year reports will be provided as data becomes available.