ASF RIVERNOTES is all about understanding the state of Atlantic salmon on the rivers, in near time.

Tommy Larocque at Kedgwick Lodge has a great eye for catching the moment of action. Taken yesterday, Thurs., June 14, 2018, and great to see salmon returning to the Kedgwick. Thanks to Danny Bird for passing this along.

Occasionally we need to look back in time, either over many years, or to discenrn details of  last year's Atlantic salmon events, to helps us understand status of this charismatic species today. ASF released our State of the Populations 2018 report on Monday. It relies on the reports created by dozens of scientists in Canada, the U.S.A., and in the U.K., Ireland, Norway, the European Union, and Russia. We look through more than 1,000 pages of their meaty results, as reported by the countries themselves, plus by Quebec, and DFO Regional Offices.
Download: English | French

We invite you to check through the 5-page report yourself. The focus of the scientists is really three-fold.

First, is to provide advice for the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization concerning any potential for the overall populations to support fisheries on feeding grounds such as Greenland and the Faroes.

Second, is to gain understanding about the numbers of eggs laid in rivers, resulting with in-river production numbers for Atlantic salmon.

Third, is to understand the dynamics of Atlantic salmon life history, including how and where they actually migrate, and how mortality rates are impacted by factors such as temperatures, food supply and predators at sea, and changing conditions such as the rise of striped bass in the great Miramichi River system.

Chromer of the Causapscal being released June 7, 2018. Photo Jim Lawley

But nothing is simple. For example, Quebec with its latest 10-year plan is taking a more precautionary approach. Most studied rivers begin with live release only, until there is an assessment around July 1. And the in-river production numbers are now based on not MINIMUM sustainable eggs, but OPTIMAL sustainable production instead.

Each segment of today's ASF RIVERNOTES has a few statements related to the 2018 State of the Populations report.


From Charles Cusson, ASF Director of Programs for Quebec:

Water levels and flows have been dropping steadily since the June 8 ASF RIVERNOTES.  Angling conditions are very good presently with our salmon beginning to show up.

Reminder to anglers fishing Quebec Rivers to take the time to report your releases, in order to have the most accurate angling statistics for the year ahead, and for the river managers to accurately calculate angling success.  Tight Lines! 

Gaspé Region - York, Dartmouth and Saint-Jean Rivers

Geneviève Fournier is reporting a very late start to the 2018 season with an early run of big fish being at least two weeks late.  Angling success has picked up recently.  Geneviève started on May 25 and finally landed her first fish on June 12. River levels have been dropping consistently since the beginning of this season. 

Geneviève Fournier with her June 12 Atlantic salmon on the York River.  Photo Dave Adams

To June 8th, the Zec Gaspé posted the following on their web site: 

2 salmon landed and released on the St-Jean, 2 salmon landed and released on the Dartmouth and 14 salmon landed and released on the York, for a total of 18 on the three rivers.

To June 9th, 2017, the Zec Gaspé had reported 15 salmon landed and released on the Dartmouth, 4 salmon landed and released on the St-Jean and 18 landed and released on the York.

Water levels on the York have dropped significantly over the past week.

Causapscal River

River conditions have been perfect during the last week which translated into incredible action for anglers.  To  June 12, a total of 60 salmon have been landed, including 36 released. Both the number of fish being observed and angled has improved due to dropping water levels. Rain will be needed soon.

By comparison to last year: to June 12, 2017, 66 salmon were reported landed which included 11 releases.

ASF (CA) Board Member Jim Lawley at Bateau Pool on the Causapscal on June 7, 2018. Photo Charles Cusson/ASF

Matapedia River

Water levels have been dropping slowly but surely since last week’s river notes.  Angling success has been spotty with the usual first run of fish being late this year.  To June 12, a total of 30 salmon were reported landed and released.  With the implementation of the new management plan in 2016, mandatory live release of large salmon is in effect until an assessment is made in late July to ascertain abundance. A year ago, to June 12, 2017, 43 salmon had been reported landed and released.

Moisie River

On the North Shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, dropping water levels are relative. A week ago, the Moisie was flowing at over 2,000 cubic meters per second.  As of June 13, the flow gauge is reporting 1,050 cubic meters per second.  Angling success has improved somewhat, to June 12, 45 salmon have been reported landed, which includes 34 released. In 2017, 101 salmon had been reported landed including 24 released to June 13.

Moisie water levels have dropped significantly over the past week.

Rimouski River

Although the season starts on June 15, the local association has announced that a research project will take place from July 15 to August 31, focused on the effects on reproductive success of salmon angled and released in warm water conditions.  Partners in this study are the MFFP, Laval University, Zec Saumon Rimouski and the Boralex company.

The Rimouski River Atlantic salmon will be the subject of a live release study this year. Photo Saumon Québec


QUEBEC attained 81% overall of the conservation limit for 2SW spawners in 2017. A total of 38 Quebec rivers were assessed in 2017. Of these, 23 met or surpassed optimum egg conservation limit including the Cascapedia (314%), York (185%), Dartmouth (244%), St-Jean (Gaspé) (150%), Matane (140%), Matapedia (119%), and Vieux Vort (770%), while 15 rivers did not, including the Petite Cascapedia (50%), Nouvelle (13%), Aux Rochers (55%) Jacques Cartier (20%), and Ste-Marguerite (49%).

New Brunswick

From Kedgwick Lodge, Danny Bird notes:

Rain just started here early last evening and has continued through this morning. We have experienced good fishing since opening and our staff have observed fish in our pools each day. Water levels had been dropping. However, they should increase with the steady rainfall today (June 14). So far this season all our fish appear to be in fantastic condition.

Andrew Bird with Veterans for Atlantic Salmon releases the first bright fish of the year at Junction Pool on the Restigouche River. Photo Kedgwick Lodge

Nathan Wilbur, Director of ASF Programs in New Brunswick, notes that angling success is picking up on the Miramichi, but is somewhat slow on the Restigouche.

Bartibog River on June 13, 2018. Water levels look to be ideal.  Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF


Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence:
Attained 62% of 2SW spawners, down from 84% in 2016. Grilse returns were again down significantly, at 22,720, from 26,100 in 2016 and 42,970 in 2015. Large salmon returns were also down, to 27,090 from 36,490 in 2016, a 26% decline.
The Miramichi system had estimated returns of 14,600 large salmon (down 20% from 2016) and 13,300 grilse (down 13% from 2016). Neither branch reached the Conservation Limit, with the Southwest Miramichi at 83%, and the Northwest Miramichi at 60%.

In the Restigouche watershed, salmon returns hit 79% of CL in 2017 based on an angling index used in-season. However, later spawner counts indicate that overall it met 135% of egg CL.

In Prince Edward Island there are 25 salmon rivers. Of 24 surveyed, 5 exceeded the spawner CL, and 17 were below 50% of the spawner CL. Rivers in the northeast corner of PEI appear especially productive.

St. John River and Nashwaak

For the St. John River at Mactaquac, the return in 2017 was 184 large salmon and 326 grilse, both down from 2016. The River attained 4% egg CL from wild fish only, but 12% when captive-reared salmon are included.

For the Nashwaak in 2017 estimated returns were 100 large salmon and 203 grilse, reaching 7% of egg CL, unchanged from 2016.

Nova Scotia


There are times when the wheels of government grind slower than slow. But Parks Canada has gone into overdrive in dealing with the large landslip of soil and tree debris that blocked the Cheticamp River a couple of weeks ago. They have done a magnificent job of bringing in earth moving machinery, and cleaning out a significant portion of the debris.

The exercise is particularly important in relation to Atlantic salmon, as the run tends to be early. In addition, there was certainly the potential for a flood and sudden burst that could have impacted the river's pools, etc. Parks Canada is now following up with hydroseeding and hay positioning as part of the recovery effort.

Below are two drone images, taken with a DJI INSPIRE 1 drone owned by Parks Canada that gives a better idea of the extent of the problem than does any ground level image.

Looking across the Cheticamp River, the size and nature of the landslump is very evident. Photo Parks Canada

Looking downstream towards the Gulf of St. Lawrence provides a better perspective on the angle of the slope, and gives a different perspective on the location.  Photo Parks Canada.


Greg Lovely reported on Tues. June 12:
Woke up to a very cold(frosty) morning and went out fishing for a short time. Water in the river was 9C yesterday and still at very good levels. I have not seen a salmon for a week. Apparently there are some beautiful big trout still being hooked way downriver and in the estuary. Another smash of rain is due in the next few days and that hopefully will get the fish moving. Residents in the harbour are seeing fish jumping. It won't be long now.


The Margaree had an estimated return in 2017 of 1,513 large salmon, 146% of the large salmon CL but well down from the long term average of 2,750 fish. The provisional return of 371 grilse is far below the long term average of 900.

In eastern Cape Breton, the Middle, Baddeck, and North rivers reached 89%, 37%, and 91% of their egg CL respectively in 2017, an improvement in all three rivers from 34%, 30%, and 79% in 2016.

The LaHave reached 7% of egg CL in 2017, an improvement from the 4% of egg CL in 2016.


Amidst the continued confusion on regulations, especially the Province's new regulation of 10 live releases max, everyone is continuing to await the first large influx of salmon.

DFO has shared its first COUNTING FENCE returns, dated June 10.

Garnish River in eastern Newfoundland is leading, with 35. Happily, this compares well to the 6 for the same date in 2017.

Harry's River, however, is very slow, with only 28 to June 10, compared with 103 to that date in 2017.

Besides these two, the only figure is for Campbellton River with 1. Every other site is still waiting.

Keith Piercey of SPAWN had some excellent reports of the Bay St. George area, with special comments on the role of seals in reducing the returns:

We fished on four separate occasions for total of about eight hours. We saw only one grilse at the mouth of Robinsons. Here is the resident scuttle butt!
(1). The two wardens for the area (who took our licences, etc., for inspection) indicated they had heard of one large salmon released at Dribble pool above the highway. No fish reported in Crabbes and some released (less than three or four) above the bridge (highway) on Barachois. Less than half dozen fish reported hooked on Fishell’s. 

(2). Tons of seals. They are swimming guard over the mouths of the rivers. Lobster/crab fishermen are suggesting the same problem as last year. They are seeing salmon jumping offshore close to the river mouths as they haul pots. The two wardens we met felt someone should shoot them. I agree! Seals are a continuing problem which needs attention; these salmon won’t spawn in the ocean. As the water levels continue to fall (right now they are in my opinion very low) this condition will be compounded. They face too many obstacles (seals, mergansers love parr, white winged divers after the spawn, cormorants, low water, poachers, by-catch issues, etc.). Some of these predators have to be adjusted! Notice I put seals at the head of the list!   

(3) A resident of Heatherton saw an eagle take a salmon just below the highway on Fishell’s River and fly off with it.

(4) On a positive note (I think I can believe him) a  guide from St. John’s has released (among his five clients) nearly a dozen fish from the upper reaches of Robinsons since last Monday; most all where larger fish.                                                                 

(5) Its cold out there. The leaves have yet to erupt on the trees. In fact Humber Valley seems to be further ahead strangely enough!

(6) Over three days we saw one other fisherman on both Robinsons and Barachois. More wardens than anglers!

(7) We did see quite a few parr on both rivers. Interestingly enough they were quite large; nothing under five inches!

Don Ivany, ASF's Director of Newfoundland Programs, passed on some reports of angling success and water levels.

Grand Codroy - Modest success and water conditions are good, although cold.

Humber - Water levels remain high, and no fish are being seen yet at Big Falls.

Central Newfoundland, including the Gander - Rivers are above mean levels, and returns remain very spotty. The Main River continues to have high levels.

Northern Peninsula rivers remain at high water levels.

Beaver Brook - the stream with the Underground Salmon Pool - has some salmon coming in. Anyone interested in a fascinating natural feature, the web editor of this ASF RIVERNOTES recommends making the significant detour to observe.

Atlantic salmon returning to Beaver Brook near Rodickton, far up the Northern Peninsula, must swim up through an underground cavern in order to reach spawning areas of the river.  Photo Tom Moffatt/ASF

DFO has just put out another NOTICE TO ANGLERS:

Jun. 13, 2018

REMINDER - 2018 Recreational Atlantic Salmon Fishery Opening in Labrador June 15, 2018

DFO wishes to advise Anglers that the recreational Atlantic Salmon Fishery will open on June 15, 2018 for rivers in Labrador.

Management measures for recreational salmon fishing in 2018 are as follows:

  • The season will start with one fish retention on all rivers in Newfoundland and Labrador that currently have retention. The department will conduct an in season review of returns and the results of the review will inform the management approach for the remainder of the season. Tag 1 is valid from the beginning of the season until one hour after sunset on July 20, 2018.

  • Catch and Release limits are reduced to three fish per day for all rivers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • Retention of salmon on non-scheduled waters is not permitted.

Details on the regulations pertaining to bag limits, river classification, closed areas and special management areas are contained in the 2018 - 2019 Angler's Guide which is on-line at http://www.nfl.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/NL/AG/anglersguide


Newfoundland: Attained 65% of CL for 2SW spawners, down from 84% in 2016.
Total return estimate of 155,200 grilse is an 18% decline from the 2016 return of 190,800, and 45% decline from the 2015 return of 283,300.

The Conne, an index river for Newfoundland.’s south coast population, where wild salmon have been assessed as Threatened, experienced a 64% decline to about 32% of its egg CL.  Harry’s River in western NL met 73% of the egg CL, while the Exploits reached 25%. Rivers on the Northern Peninsula had smaller declines. The Torrent reached 565% of its egg CL and Western Arm Brook at 336% of egg CL. (Egg CL numbers provisional.)

Labrador: Attained 143% of CL for 2SW spawners. The English River, in northern Labrador, achieved 249% of its egg CL, but in southern Labrador, the Sand Hill River, Muddy Bay Brook, and Southwest Brook achieved approximately 52%, 83%, and 22% of egg CL (Egg CL numbers approximate and provisional).


Jason Valliere, Marine Resources Scientist 1 for the State of Maine noted on Saturday:

We were off to a good start in May for salmon numbers.  Salmon catch has seemed to slow a little in June.  Water is very low in the river right now.  Average Streamflow according to USGS at West Enfield for this time of year is 12,200 CFS.  This year we are at 4,910!  We are currently at 126 salmon for the year including 4 grilse.

The Penobscot Narrows Bridge at Verona crosses the lower estuary of the river. Were wild Atlantic salmon preparing for their upstream migration when the image was taken on the morning of Wed. June 13, 2018? Neville Crabbe/ASF
Atlantic salmon return to rivers between Connecticut and Maine, but populations are at critically low population levels. There is no harvest of Atlantic salmon in the U.S.A. The Endangered Species Act protects the species and critical habitat.

U.S. rivers met 2% of their 2SW spawner requirement. The grilse return is estimated in 2017 at 363, up from 232 in 2016.
The 2017 large salmon estimated return was 678, an increase from 392 in 2016. In all, 1,041 Atlantic salmon returned to the U.S.A. in 2017.
Although the harvest of U.S. salmon at sea is low, the 2017 genetic sampling indicated that 1.4% of the west Greenland harvest was from U.S. rivers. In Labrador, a sample of 188 fish showed U.S. fish comprised 1.1%. The sampling indicates that at-sea harvests are still affecting U.S. returns.
The Penobscot River in 2017 had 539 large salmon and 310 grilse, totalling 849, the best return since 2011.
The Kennebec River had 37 large salmon and 3 grilse, totalling 38 in 2017.
The Sheepscot River had 15 large salmon and 4 grilse, totalling 19
The Narraguagus River had 9 large salmon and 27 grilse, totalling 36
In western New England, the Connecticut River had 20 salmon return in 2017, and the Merrimack River had 4 large salmon and 1 grilse.

It is noteworthy that genetic sampling of salmon harvested in Greenland waters suggested about 100 U.S. fish were killed in 2017 there.

Similar genetic sampling of harvests in Labrador suggested another 50 U.S. fish were killed in 2017 in that jurisdiction.


    • Grilse returns in 2017 were 340,600 - down 18% from 2016
    • Canadians harvested 32,439 grilse and 11,578 large salmon in 2017
    • Of the 2017 harvest, by the number of Atlantic salmon:
      • Recreational Fishery took 57%
      • First Nations 42%
      • Labrador Resident Fishery 1%

For more details, download the State of the Population 2018 report.

Wishes for 2018
Higher grilse returnsGreater survival at sea of large salmonNew management measures where excess predation is occurringImproved monitoring of Atlantic salmon numbers