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Rivernotes May 2nd, 2024

by Tom Cheney, Director of Marketing

Editor’s Note

Things are starting to heat up in salmon country, and this week’s Rivernotes is packed with the news you’re looking for.

But first, ASF is proud to announce a major partnership with Hooké! Many readers will be familiar with the iconic style of the Québec-based outdoors and fly-fishing brand. Hooké’s deep roots in Atlantic salmon angling make the company a natural partner for ASF. In the coming months you can look forward to a line of trendy co-branded clothing, exciting co-produced content, and lots more. ASF and Hooké are already working together to bring our message further and do more for wild Atlantic salmon.

This week’s blog offers a report of stellar spring salmon fishing on the Miramichi, the first bright fish of the year spotted in Newfoundland, an upcoming women’s fly fishing retreat in Nova Scotia, and lots more!

As always, don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have an image or a story to share!

In this edition’s lead image, Kate Sherin enjoys some early season trout fishing in Nova Scotia. Photo: Scott Sherin.

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New Brunswick

The birds were singing and the sun was shining on Sunday morning as I loaded up the canoe for a quick family paddle on the Nashwaak. We saw shoots of bright green skunk cabbage coming up on the floodplain, and noted some spots where fiddleheads will soon spring. I spoke with a couple of trout anglers who hadn’t yet caught anything.

On the Miramichi, however, the action has been good. Country Haven guide Ian Cavanagh reports that the first three days of the season were some of the best the lodge has ever seen:

“Both anglers and guides throughout the entire system experienced a great start, reporting solid numbers of both hookups and landings of salmon, grilse and brook trout. In fact, our anglers landed almost as many grilse in the first 3 days of this season and they did in all of our lodge’s 2023 spring season!”

More recently, things had cooled a bit, but the river was still rewarding anglers who put in their time. Ian writes:

“Last week we experienced wind, rain and cold which made for some tough days of angling up and down the river. Our anglers still managed to hook fish however, at least those who were brave enough to endure the conditions! The river is now dropping and the water clarity is unbelievable … almost too clear now! And we are now also starting to see more fish jumping & rolling on the river as they make they way back to the sea and as the temperatures start to warm the water. The success rate of hooking fish is also starting to pick up again after the cold and messy stretch of weather although now we are hoping for a bit of rain again to give the river a bump in height.”

Sadly, the Miramichi bade farewell to one of its legends this week when Gary Colford passed away unexpectedly. Ian pays tribute to his longtime friend and colleague:

“Our Country Haven family and its extended family made up of our many return guests and friends would like to extend our deepest and most sincere condolences to Gary’s family, including his wife, children and grandchildren. We picture Gary having found a beautiful cool and deep salmon pool, casting a long and gentle line across it, while looking down upon us all, with that kind and warm smile upon his face. Your Country Haven family and friends will forever remember affectionately your gentle voice, your wry smile and that beautiful twinkle in your eye. Godspeed Gary and may you rest in peace.”

Watch Gary with April Vokey here.

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Feisty spring salmon have been thrilling anglers on the Miramichi. Photos: Ian Cavanagh.

Nova Scotia

From Mary Atkinson comes an announcement about the 4th annual Women’s Fly Fishing Workshop. Hosted by Atlantic Women on the Fly, this workshop will take place on the St. Mary’s River on June 21-23. Mary adds: “These workshops bring in approximately 40-50 women anglers, with over half being new anglers. Participants cover topics such as fish handling, casting and spey casting, hatches and flies, tying, river etiquette, reading the water, and more.” To register, email:

Events like this make fly fishing more diverse and inclusive, and it’s great to see them taking off.

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A past Women's Fly Fishing Workshop. Photo: Tim Myers.

Matt Dort, of Antigonish, reports that in his area the smelt run has started and with it some great fishing. He writes:

“The sportfishing season is in full swing in Nova Scotia. We’re enjoying optimal water levels, and the smelt migration has kicked off. I’ve spotted them in numerous rivers along the Northumberland Strait. These smelt are crucial as a primary food source for our sea run trout and kelts making their journey back to the sea, adding significant value to our ecosystem.”

ASF’s Kristen Noel, Director of Communications, was at the annual ASF/NSSA dinner in Halifax last week. She reports:

“On April 25th the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the Nova Scotia Salmon Association hosted our Annual Halifax Dinner to raise funds and celebrate efforts to conserve and protect wild Atlantic salmon. This year’s honoree was Scott Beaver, a passionate salmon conservationist. Scott is the president of the Saint Mary’s River Association and was the driving force behind the successful designation of the Archibald Lake Wilderness Area, which will protect 684 hectares of wilderness, including three lake that feed into the St Mary’s River. Congratulations, Scott!”

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Scott on several projects over the years. His passion and dedication are truly endless, and all his hard work is paying dividends on the St. Mary’s River.

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Scott Beaver at the ASF/NSSA Halifax Dinner

Prince Edward Island

Jordan Condon recently joined the ASF team as Science Coordinator for the Wild Salmon Watersheds program. He’s based in PEI and was able to survey Queen’s County on the first days of angling season. Jordan writes:

“From the rivers I visited, the water levels were noticeably lower than recent years, and the mild weather conditions were favourable for anglers. The season’s first angling reports varied. I heard of catches including a 6lb+ rainbow trout, an angler’s first salmon kelt, as well as a modest 6-inch brook trout. Nonetheless the angling season is off to a great start, experienced and new anglers were happy to be back on the river, and it was great seeing familiar faces on the river again.

The damage from last fall’s Hurricane Fiona is still very evident in the surrounding forest landscape. Several high wind events during the fall and winter season added to the mess, but patience is key as watershed crews worked hard during 2023 to begin addressing damaged areas and will continue to do so over this field season. Conversations regarding the damage from the hurricane would usually circle around to the major concerns regarding forest fires because of the excessive woody material on the forest floor, so I strongly encourage folks to take extra precautions when out in the woods this spring.

Aside from angler conversations other signs of spring have been readily appearing. The smelts are up and into their spawning grounds, the salmon smolts are preparing to migrate down river soon, tree swallows have returned, and fiddlehead season is around the corner. Spring is in the air!”

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A Prince Edward Island rainbow trout. Photo: Chad Sanderson

Newfoundland and Labrador

ASF’s Newfoundland and Labrador Program Director, Don Ivany, offers a comprehensive report this week. Bright salmon starting to appear, research field work, and successful fundraising dinners. Don writes:

“The first news of bright salmon returning to our rivers always brings an air of excitement. So was the case the weekend of April 21-22, when Andrew Clarke and I were in Gander to set up an ASF booth at the outdoors show hosted by the Newfoundland and Labrador Outfitters Association (NLOA). During the show we were informed by a couple of locals that a fair number of fresh salmon had been observed entering the mouth of the Gander River—the first such news of the season. It may be a tad early to see fresh salmon returning to our rivers this time of year, but then again, it’s been an early spring in NL this year.

This week we also heard from Ross Hinks, the Director of Fisheries with the Miapukek First Nation on the South Coast of NL, who informed us that they have already started intercepting out-migrating smolt at their downstream counting fence on the Conne River. On Tuesday I also received word that DFO, in partnership with our affiliate, the Freshwater Alexander Bay’s Ecosystem Corporation (FABEC), have been catching and tagging kelt on the Terra Nova River during the past two days, as part of a research tracking program they are conducting this year.”

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DFO scientist Chelsea Bloom prepares to insert a transmitter in a Terra Nova River kelt. Photo: Derek Sparkes.

Don continues:

“This coming week I will be joining ASF’s Kris Hunter and Jordan Condon as we travel to central NL to deploy a smolt wheel (donated by ASF) on the Terra Nova River, as part of ASF’s Wild Salmon Watersheds program. The smolt wheel will allow us to estimate the number of smolt leaving the river, and when combined with the number of adults that return to the river next year, will help us determine sea survival of Terra Nova salmon. The smolt wheel will also allow us to tag smolt and to collect scale samples and tissue samples for other research purposes.

This past weekend I was in St. John’s, where I attended a dinner and auction hosted by the Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland (SAEN). The emcee for the night was former CBC host Anthony Jermain and the auctioneer was current NL NDP leader James Dinn, who did a marvelous job. I was pleasantly surprised to be acknowledged for my many years of service with ASF, as I prepare to officially retire in a few weeks time. I look forward to putting the beautiful salmon flies they gifted me to good use during my retirement. Thank you SAEN. But I am proud to say the honor of the night went to Bob Bishop, a long time salmon volunteer and current President of the Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador. He received the prestigious Dorothy Burton Conservation Award for his dedicated service to salmon conservation in NL during the past 40 years. Congratulations Bob…well deserved!”


Quebec Program Director Charles Cusson reports on ASF’s Montreal fundraising dinner, as well as striped bass and the Bonaventure River Sport Fishermen’s Association. (English text below)

“Le 40e édition du Banquet printanier annuel de Montréal a connu un succès retentissant. L’évènement, qui a lieu, comme le veut la tradition, un mercredi soir (17 avril), a fait salle comble. Plus de 260 invités étaient présents pour honorer Bill Taylor et ses trois décennies à la présidence de la FSA. Le comité organisateur dirigé par Stephen Bronfman a remis à Bill une mouche plume personnalisée magnifiquement encadrée appelée « Lady Suzanne », attachée par Lyne Trudeau. Marcel Pageau, monteur de mouches de Montréal, a monté la version noyée que tous les participants ont reçue à leur place. Un autre moment marquant a été la présence de M. Austin Clark de Gaspé. Il a été reconnu pour ses 60 années d’expérience comme guide de pêche au saumon atlantique.

Les inquiétudes concernant les interactions entre le bar rayé et le saumon atlantique sont vives autour de la péninsule gaspésienne. C’est parce que les populations de Morone saxatilis explosent dans l’est du Canada. En réponse, le gouvernement provincial du Québec et les intervenants locaux tiendront une séance d’information à l’hôtel de ville de Causapscal le jeudi 2 mai. Cette rencontre permettra de préciser les efforts qui seront entrepris au cours de la prochaine saison pour mieux comprendre la relation entre le saumon atlantique et le bar rayé dans la rivière Matapédia.

L’association des pêcheurs sportifs de la rivière Bonaventure (APSB) a tenu son assemblée annuelle des membres le 30 avril à Bonaventure. Une centaine de personnes ont participé en présentiel et de façon virtuelle. Le fait saillant de la rencontre a été l’adoption d’une motion qui rendrait obligatoire la remise à l’eau de tous les saumons, quelles que soient leurs tailles. En se faisant, l’APSB contactera le ministère de l’Environnement, de la lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs (MELCCFP) demandant la modification du plan de pêche et de la règlementation sur la rivière Bonaventure. Il ne faut pas oublier le leadeurship démontré par l’APSB en 2008 lorsqu’ils ont fait la démarche auprès du ministère au sujet de la remise a l’eau obligatoire des grands saumons. Aujourd’hui nous observons les dividendes résultants de cette décision.


The 40th annual ASF Montreal Spring Banquet was a resounding success. The event, which is held, as tradition dictates, on a Wednesday evening (April 17) was a sell-out affair. Over 260 guests were present to honour Bill Taylor on three decades as ASF’s president. The organizing committee, led by Stephen Bronfman, presented Bill with a beautifully framed custom feather wing fly called the “Lady Suzanne,” tied by Lyne Trudeau. Montreal fly tier Marcel Pageau tied the hair wing version which all attendees received at their place settings. Another highlight was the presence of Mr. Austin Clark of Gaspé. He was recognized for his 60 years as an Atlantic salmon guide.

In other news, concern over striped bass and Atlantic salmon interactions runs high around the Gaspé peninsula. That’s because striped bass are exploding in eastern Canada. In response, the Quebec provincial government and local stakeholders’ will hold an information session at the Causapscal town hall on Thursday May 2nd. This meeting will outline what efforts will be undertaken during the coming season to better understand the relationship between Atlantic salmon and striped bass in the Matapedia River.

The Bonaventure River Sport Fishermen’s Association (APSB) held its AGM on April 30. Around a hundred people participated in person and virtually. The highlight of the meeting was the adoption of a motion that would make it mandatory to release all salmon, regardless of their size. This will result in the APSB petitioning the Ministry of the Environment, Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks (MELCCFP) for modification of the salmon angling plan and regulations for the Bonaventure River. We must not forget the leadership of the APSB in 2008 when they approached the Ministry regarding the mandatory release of large salmon. Today we are seeing the dividends resulting from this conservation measure.”


In Maine spring field season is ramping up. Maine DMR Fisheries Scientist Colby Bruchs reports that smolt wheels have been deployed on the Narraguagus River, continuing a 27-year data set! Meanwhile, Maranda Nemeth, manager of ASF’s Maine Headwaters Project, encapsulates all the optimism that comes with this time of year. She writes:

“Spring is settling in here in Maine and a favorite pastime is catching a brookie on the fly. Chuck Loring, the DNR Director with the Penobscot Nation, soaked in the sunshine with his young daughter, River, along the Piscataquis and caught a few brookies. The Piscataquis is a focus area of ASF’s Maine Headwaters Project because it holds some of the most abundant cold-water, resilient habitat. We are fortunate that the streams are a strong-hold for Eastern Brook Trout and our hope is that young ones like River will witness Atlantic salmon recovery in her lifetime.

The vocal osprey, eagles, and cormorants are signalling that sea-run migratory fish are just starting to ascend the rivers too. Soon enough, we will be out watching the alewives turning the streams black, enjoying the sturgeon leaping in the tidal zone, and experiencing shad giving our rods a run for their money. We can all agree that abundance of fish is bliss and this can only be achieved through our fish passage and advocacy work. Looking forward to awesome season with great work and fun moments ahead!”

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Chuck Loring and daughter River with a brook trout.
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As the trout lilies open their eyes on the Piscataquis River, Maranda Nemeth reports her first brookie on the fly—with no male assistance. Photos: Maranda Nemeth