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Rivernotes May 30th 2024

by Tom Cheney, Director of Marketing

Editor’s Note

In some parts of salmon country, the anticipation is over this week: bright salmon have been hooked in Quebec and spotted in New Brunswick. Soon the run will be in full swing throughout Eastern Canada, and we’re excited to tell your stories and share your images.

This week’s edition covers striped bass on the Miramichi River, advocacy in Nova Scotia, exciting river restoration in Maine, and much more.

We’re also marking the end of an era. After over 30 years at ASF, Newfoundland and Labrador Program Director Don Ivany retires at the end of this week. Don’s unwavering commitment to and passion for wild Atlantic salmon fuelled a productive and rewarding career with the Federation. He is truly an exemplary colleague: kind, helpful, and enthusiastic. He’s accomplished a great deal for wild salmon during his time at ASF and he’ll be missed by the entire salmon community. Don also has the gift of gab, and his Rivernotes contributions have always been lively and thorough. Please, enjoy every word of Don’s last report and join the ASF team in wishing him a happy and healthy retirement.

In this week’s lead photo, Don Ivany implants a Passive Integrated Transponder, or PIT tag, in a salmon smolt on the Terra Nova River.

New Brunswick

The talk on the Miramichi was all about striped bass this week. Each year, in late May and early June, hundreds of thousands of bass from the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence population pack into the lower reaches of the river to spawn. It’s become a true wildlife spectacle, with the entire river boiling with spawning activity as far as the eye can see. Regrettably, the Miramichi has been paying the price; striped bass are voracious predators and have decimated many local fish populations. The spawning event coincides precisely with the annual out-migration of wild Atlantic salmon smolt. Just a few years ago, smolt were surviving their journey to the ocean at a rate of about 70-90%. These days that figure is down to 20% and 5% on the Southwest and Northwest branches, respectively.

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Anglers on the Northwest Miramichi during the striped bass spawn. Photo: Tom Cheney.

ASF and our partners are pushing Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to restore ecosystem balance on the Miramichi. We’ve campaigned—successfully—for a First Nations commercial fishery and for loosening the regulations on the recreational fishery. It’s a strong start, but there’s more work to be done. To help raise awareness about the issue, we’ve been working on some major storytelling projects. Last week wildlife cinematographers Rick Rosenthal and Nick Hawkins joined forces to document the striped bass spawn as never seen before. The footage will be featured in an international film project about challenges facing wild salmon. As well, incoming NB Program Director David Roth and Executive Director of Communications Neville Crabbe spoke with a documentary crew from Radio-Canada about striped bass predation of salmon smolt.

In other New Brunswick angling news, I’ve received a few reports of bright salmon spotted on the Miramichi. Tyler Coughlan of Country Haven writes, “Two guides spotted a salmon each in the Blackville area on the weekend, and a friend of ours saw one Tuesday night in Boiestown while out fishing for sea-run brookies. Nice to hear that, hopefully someone hooks up soon!”

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Rick Rosenthal films the action as striped bass spawn on the Northwest Miramichi (l); incoming NB Program Director David Roth gives an interview to Radio-Canada about the striped bass issue (r). Photos: Tom Cheney.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Program Director Deirdre Green met with two provincial ministers on the St. Mary’s River last week. She writes:

“Last week, I joined Scott Beaver, President of the St. Mary’s River Association in hosting Nova Scotia’s Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Kent Smith and The Honourable Greg Morrow, Minister of Agriculture, for a morning on the banks of the St. Mary’s River. Scott and I were thrilled to showcase the watershed and the SMRA’s many conservation successes. At McKeen Pool, while the ministers tried their hand at casting a line, we highlighted the need for further protections and the importance of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) completing an accurate abundance estimate for Atlantic salmon.

Save the date: On June 25th The NSSA’s Annual General Meeting will be held from 6-8pm at the Halifax Marriott Courtyard. A virtual option will also be available.

Your voice is needed: Environment and Climate Change is seeking input on the proposed Goldboro mine request for authorization to use seven water courses (approximately 0.27 hectares) frequented by fish for mine waste disposal. Please read and comment on the fish habitat compensation plan.”

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From left to right: Scott Beaver; The Honourable Greg Morrow, Minister of Agriculture; Kent Smith, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture; Deirdre Green; Jason Leblanc, Director of the Inland Fisheries Division of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Also in Nova Scotia, the Healthy Bays Network shared an inspiring video of some recent protests against open-net pen aquaculture. Have a look!

Newfoundland and Labrador

In his last contribution as Newfoundland and Labrador Program Director, Don Ivany offers some river conditions, conservation updates, and a heartfelt farewell. He writes:

“With the recreational salmon fishery on the Island of Newfoundland set to open in just a few days (June 10th), anglers are happy to know that fishing conditions on most rivers are currently near ideal. Except for a few rivers on the Avalon Peninsula and a few on the South coast, water levels currently range between medium to high, and water temperatures are in the low teens. With more rain forecasted for May 29th, most rivers should be in great shape to start the season. In Labrador, where the season officially opens on June 15th, river conditions are also looking pretty good currently, but a little more rain will help. After a slow start to the season last year, anglers, who are always the eternal optimist, are hoping to see a better start to the season this year.

For the past two weeks I have spent most of my time on the Terra Nova River with my colleague Jordan Condon, who is the newly hired science coordinator with ASF’s Wild Salmon Watersheds Program. Together we have been spending time working with the Freshwater Alexander Bays Ecosystem Corporation (FABEC), helping them to collect smolt from a smolt wheel that ASF brought to the island for the program. All smolt collected have a pit tag surgically installed as part of a mark recapture study, designed to help us estimate the total run size. Scale samples and fin clips are also taken for analysis, and each smolt is weighed and measured. We are consistently capturing smolt every day, and it would appear the smolt run has not yet peaked. I am also glad to report that during the past two weeks we have hosted a half dozen classes of school students ranging from kindergarten to grade twelve, who dropped by the river to see and hear about the work we are doing on the Terra Nova River.

On Monday of this week, I spent the day on Corner Brook Stream assisting DFO and volunteers with the Salmonid Preservation Association for the Waters of Newfoundland (SPAWN), helping to clear debris from the entrance to the lower fishway on the system, and making preparations to clean out a clogged culvert near the fishway.

As some people may already know, I will be retiring from ASF at the end of this week, after a thirty-three-year long career with the organization, which I have thoroughly enjoyed. So, I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the ASF organization and all the staff who have supported me over the years. ASF truly is a great organization and has done fantastic work in the last 75 years in support of salmon conservation. So it is with mixed emotions that I have decided to retire at this time. But I leave knowing we have a very professional and highly skilled staff that will continue to carry the torch. Likewise, I want to thank the Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador (SCNL), and all of their affiliates in NL, for their great support. It has been most rewarding to work side by side with them throughout the past three decades. In closing, I am pleased to report that I will be spending the rest of this week visiting various salmon projects in NL with my supervisor, Nathan Wilbur, and with Kim Thompson, who has been hired to take over my position with ASF. Kim brings with her a wide range of skills, and years of experience working in support of salmon conservation in NL, and I have the utmost confidence that she will do a great job for ASF moving forward.

Thank you everyone…. and tight lines!


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FABEC President Derek Sparkes gets a chuckle from a class of kindergarten students from Glovertown Academy who propose funny names for some smolt about to be released back into the Terra Nova River (l). Photo: Don Ivany. Don Ivany passes the torch to incoming Program Director Kim Thompson, with Vice-President of Regional Programs Nathan Wilbur. Photo: Derek Sparkes.


Charles Cusson, Director of Quebec Programs notes some early run fish as well as good smolt numbers on the St. Jean River. (English text below)

“Alors que la saison 2024 débute officiellement samedi, des signes indiquent une migration hâtive du saumon au Québec.

Des rivières comme la Causapscal, où la pêche a commencé le 17 mai, connaissent un taux de succès respectable pour un début de saison.  À ce jour, 17 saumons ont déjà été remis à l’eau. La saison se termine le 15 juillet.

Don Bourgouin, guide chevronné des rivières de Gaspé, rapporte que « les niveaux sont excellents pour ce début de saison et plusieurs saumons ont été repérés dans les rivières York et Dartmouth. C’est de bon augure pour les pêcheurs qui ont choisi de pêcher plus tôt cette année. » De plus, le nombre de saumoneaux dévalaisons sur le Saint-Jean semble être plus élevé en raison des bonnes montaisons d’adultes au cours des cinq dernières années.

Récemment, le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé que toutes les rivières seraient assujetties au plan de gestion du saumon à compter de leur date d’ouverture. Jusqu’à présent, dans les rivières exemptées telles que la Causapscal, Natashquan, St-Jean (Côte-Nord) et Moisie, les pêcheurs devront désormais remettre à l’eau de manière obligatoire toutes les prises de grands saumons jusqu’à nouvel ordre.


With the 2024 season to officially start on most rivers this Saturday, there are signs indicating an early migration of salmon in Quebec. Rivers such as the Causapscal where angling started on May 17th has resulted in a respectable number of fish being landed and released. The season finishes on July 15th.

Veteran Gaspé guide Don Bourgouin reported, ‘levels are excellent for the start of the season and a number of salmon have been spotted in the York and Dartmouth. This bodes well for the anglers who chose to fish earlier this year.’ Also, the number of smolts being assessed on the St-Jean seem to be in greater numbers to date due to the good runs of adults over the last 5-year period.

Recently, the Quebec government announced that all rivers would be subject to the salmon management plan as of their respective start dates. Until now, exempted rivers such as the  Causapscal, Natashquan, St-Jean (North Shore) and Moisie, anglers will now, on an obligatory basis, release all large salmon until further notice.”

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Forks pool on the Matapedia at the confluence of the Causapscal River - Rivière Matapédia à la fosse « Fourches » et à l'embouchure de la rivière Causapscal. Photo: Charles Cusson.


Each summer ASF’s Maine office selects a Jed Wright Fellow for River Restoration. Taking on the role this year is Laura Romania, a senior student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, who is pursuing a dual degree in Environmental Engineering and Environmental & Sustainability Studies. Laura shared some reflections after her first week on the job:

“During my first week with ASF I found myself immediately immersed in the world of river restoration across the state of Maine: attending a FERC hearing for the Kennebec River, participating in a state-wide working group meeting, and traveling up to the headwaters of the Penobscot river in Danforth to help run an open house for the completion of a new fishway. One experience from my week stood out from everything else.

On Friday morning, I met with NOAA staff on Blackman Stream to run an educational activity about fish passage for elementary schoolers. Watching hundreds of alewives at this site migrating upstream to their spawning grounds was pure magic to me on its own. I had never witnessed anything like it before. Schools of silver fish were presented with two paths: a rock and pool fishway, or a preexisting dam outlet where a steep stone wall marked a dead end for the gilled voyagers. With the help of schoolchildren, we set about to fill buckets with cool water and scoop up alewives en route to the dam. I found myself surprised with how willing every kid was to get their hands on a net, squealing with delight as they watched the alewives wriggle and squirm while being relocated to buckets. I quickly learned they were even more excited to handle the fish and release them into the fishway so they could continue their journey upstream. Perhaps the coolest part of the day was talking with kids who seemed especially invested in these fish; one girl asked me, ‘how many classes’ I had to take to get a job working with them. These moments reinforced my gratitude for spending a workday out on the water and inspiring the next generation to feel the same way.”

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An educational workshop on Blackman Stream. Photo: Kristen Noel.

On May 25th, ASF’s Andy Goode gathered with local residents and project partners in China, Maine to celebrate the completion of the Branch Pond Fishway Project in the Sheepscot River. Right on cue, sea-run alewives had arrived just two days before at the base of the dam and were observed passing through the newly opened fishway and into Branch Pond for the first time since the dam was constructed in 1817. The celebration, hosted by ASF and our local partner the Midcoast Conservancy, coincided with World Fish Migration Day, a global celebration to create awareness about the importance of migratory fish and free-flowing rivers.

The Branch Pond Project is part of ASF’s multi-year effort to reconnect the Sheepscot River to the ocean for Atlantic salmon and other native sea-run fish. Previously, ASF removed part of the Head Tide Dam in Alna and the Coopers Mill Dam in Whitefield.

“Aquatic wildlife are truly among the most precious—and vulnerable—resources in Maine,” USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Matt Walker said. “Conserving existing habitat and restoring degraded aquatic organism passages improve the odds that fish communities will thrive.”

“DMR is proud to support ASF’s work through the Maine Jobs and Recovery Act,” said Sean Ledwin, DMR Bureau Director of Sea Run Fisheries and Habitat. “The Branch Pond Project continues the exciting watershed recovery program for sea-run fish to the Sheepscot River.”

The total project costs were approximately $2 million for the acquisition of the site, engineering design, fishway construction, dam repairs, fire hydrant, and boat ramp. Project partners included NOAA Fisheries, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Maine Department of Marine Resources, and many private contributions.

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ASF's Andy Goode (r) and Melissa Cote (l) of the Midcoast Conservancy providing a check for future maintenance of the site to Branch Pond Treasurer, Mike Wozniak.

Kristen Noel, ASF’s Director of Communications, caught up with Jeff Reardon, Habitat Restoration Project Manager, about an event on the Sandy River. She writes:

“The Natural Resource Council of Maine (NRCM) recently hosted a paddling event on the Sandy River. Enthusiasts gathered to appreciate the river’s natural beauty and discuss its crucial role in the survival of endangered Atlantic salmon and other sea-run fish. Participants, including Jeff Reardon from the Atlantic Salmon Federation, shared a deep connection with the river. ‘It was great to spend a day on the Sandy River with so many people who love it,’ Reardon remarked, capturing the collective enthusiasm of the day.

The event highlighted local pride and conservation efforts, especially among residents from Farmington. Reardon noted, ‘Many of the paddlers lived in or near Farmington, and I heard a lot of rave reviews about both a restored Temple Stream and the new park at the Walton’s Mill Dam removal site.’

The diversity of participants, from vibrant kayakers to those in more rustic canoes, illustrated the unifying power of the river. Reardon humorously added, ‘My old camouflage canoe was not much of a match for a flotilla of brightly colored kayaks, but our common love for the river and the fish that should be in it made for great conversations across divisions of age and recreational preferences.’

The day on the Sandy River was more than just a recreational outing; it was a celebration of community, nature, and the ongoing efforts to preserve Maine’s precious waterways for future generations.”

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A great day on the Sandy River. Photos: Emmie Therberge.