Late Breaking News: Salmon Retention Dropped in Labrador for Remainder of Season. Click here

LATE FRIDAY: DFO Closes part of Margaree River in Cape Breton due to high temperatures. Click here

Live release is all about good technique, experience - and style

In the photo below, taken on 10 July, 2018, Ben Carmichael releases an Atlantic salmon in Gaspé doing all the right things.

He supports the Atlantic salmon but lets it breathe easily through its gills as it recovers. He hasn't played the fish too long,

Before he even got his waders out, he made sure the water temperature was not excessive. It is important NOT to stress the Atlantic salmon when water temperatures rise above 20 C.

Ben doesn't mind getting his shirt cuffs wet, and he definitely hasn't dragged the fish on the rocks.

But there is something else. Every accomplished live release angler has learned those extra pieces of puzzle, such as what to do with the rod once you have the salmon in hand. Ben nicely balances the rod on his neck, an excellent way to keep it out of the way. We have seen other solutions, like handing it off to a helper, or even holding the cork between the teeth. The rod across the neck is more elegant.

Ben Carmichael releases a salmon in Old Tracadie Pool on the Cascapedia

 The Moose, the Calf, and the Bear

The wildness of Atlantic salmon rivers is usually seen in the character of the water itself. It is knowing that immensely strong wild creatures like the salmon can live in the waters. It is often the sense of how important it is to be able to understand, or at least to be able to "read" the river.

But from time to time some other aspect of wildness intrudes, usually unexpectedly. It disrupts the sense of communing with the river, but for all that, it adds a window on the deeper sense of wildness that we seldom experience. Last week's account by Greg Lovely of being chased while salmon angling by a black bear on the Margaree River in Cape Breton was just such an experience. In this case  Just all be glad it turned out so well.

The Cap Chat River winds through a seemingly endless blanket of forests covering the Chic-Choc Mountains of the Gaspe. Here and there, quieter pools provide superb experiences of Atlantic salmon, hills and wildness. Charles Cusson/ASF

Charles Cusson, ASF's Director of Quebec Programs, and an ardent river explorer, had another tale that occurred some years ago that is worth sharing. So put yourself in mind of the Cap Chat River deep in the blanketing forests of the Gaspé country. The following is in his own words:

It was the great start to a day of angling. My fishing partner Colin Baxter and I were standing at the head of the Magone Pool rehashing a discussion from the night before. A discussion that had been prolonged in direct proportion to the amount of red wine consumed by our group.

Suddenly, a sound like a freight train travelling at high speed interrupted us.  With a mutual “what the hell is that” look on our faces, we searched downstream. A cow moose and her calf were being chased down the middle of the river by a very determined black bear.

This is a scene you certainly do not see every day.

The Cap Chat water level was on the low side, which allowed prey and potential predator to move so quickly. The chase continued for only a few seconds until the cow decided to head into the forest, followed by her calf and the determined bear.  As fast as they had appeared, they were gone.

We turned and looked at each other in wonder. We had just witnessed a wildlife drama rarely seen by human eyes.

Our discussion switched to who had the honour of starting down the pool first. Suddenly another loud sound, this one, even more desperate then the first, echoed upriver to where we stood.  We turned our eyes again downstream just in time to see the bear speeding across to the opposite side of the river as if the devil itself was in pursuit. 

Mama moose had obviously had enough and charged the bear and as they say “that was that.” Colin won our game of “rock, paper, scissors” and went on to hook and release a nice 12 lb Cap Chat salmon a few minutes later.

The Cap Chat river valley is one of the wildest places in the Gaspé. And although we don’t see a bear and a moose encounter every time, the haunting beauty of this river rarely disappoints.

Bear tracks along a fishermen's path next the Cap Chat River. The top track clearly shows the claws digging into the wet ground. Charles Cusson/ASF


At the half-way point of the 2018 season, counts through in-river assessments and data from fish counting infrastructure have been tabulated to determine if numbers indicate a harvest can take place as of August 1. 
Most rivers are reporting very extreme low water conditions, and any rain soon would be a blessing from above.
As of August 1, harvests have been authorized as per the management plan on the following rivers:

    • Matapedia
    • Big Mécatina
    • Napetipi
    • Saint-Paul
    • Old Fort

Please report your releases, the information is vital to have an accurate success rates for the river you fish.
All data presented in this report is sourced from individual river web sites, social media accounts and are regulated by the Quebec wild Atlantic salmon management plan.

License sales numbers for Quebec have been released from the 2017 year.

York River
As of July 31st, the water flow recording station located 1.4 km downstream from Dinner Island Creek indicated a flow of 2.80 cubic meters per second.
***Result of in-river count to Jul 22-23, Mandatory live release of large salmon continues.* Captures to July 30th

The Atlantic salmon is a fish to dream about. And the beauty of a close-up shows it off at its best. Photo Ben Carmichael.


Important to note that due to the heat, DFO has restricted angling to the mornings before 11 am. only

Brock Curtis of Curtis Miramichi Outfitters in Blackville, has the latest from yesterday:

We had a nice raise in water levels over the weekend on the Southwest Miramichi.

The Renous and Dungarvon also experience a bump upwards. Anglers are fishing the mornings. We heard of people seeing salmon moving up the river, and together with the combination of the raise in water levels and a full moon on the weekend it was expected. One of our friends was in on Monday and told us he landed a grilse on the lower section of the Dungarvon.

The heat wave is back on today, Aug. 1. I checked water temperatures at the end of the day yesterday and they were 25C. They drop in the evenings but come back up during the day. We really are ready for a break from the heat, and the salmon certainly could use the break. Lots of Atlantic salmon in the cold water pools and brooks so when we do get that break it should be good fishing.

More on Bass

Over the weekend my parents were down to visit with mom's family at their camps on the waterfront at the old family farm just below Blackville.

There is a beautiful brook fed by a spring that holds salmon in front of the main camp. Every summer as long as I can remember we have found a salmon or grilse in one of the canoes at the mouth of the brook. The talk among the family was how they saw a bass chase a grilse towards the mouth of the brook.

The grilse was able to out-manoeuvre the bass and the bass ended up on the rocks in the brook. We know the bass are eating the parr and smolts and this answers the question as to, do they feed on the larger salmon as well?

No wonder our locals are so concerned for the salmon.

Moose crossing the Little Main Restigouche River at dawn on 22 July, 2018. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

This week's counting fence information gives numbers to July 29.

On the Dungarvon, the fence providing information on the Southwest Miramichi sytem, there have been 65 grilse and 51 large salmon, compared with 82 grilse and 117 large salmon in 2017. With the continued heat, it could be that most are not moving in.

For the Northwest Miramichi there have been 53 grilse and 96 large salmon, compared with 82 grilse and 98 large salmon in 2017. Again, it is the grilse numbers that are down the furthest. Interesting that while numbers remain low historically, the large salmon numbers are at least holding up to the same level as 2017.

Nathan Wilbur, ASF's Director of New Brunswick Programs, has this update, which supports Brock Curtis's comments:

The Miramichi system received rain, particularly the Southwest, which rose to a nice level (nearly 1.0 m at the Blackville gauging station) on Sunday. However, even with the raise, water temperature is still hovering between 22 and  26 degrees Celsius at the monitoring station in Doaktown.
The Northwest system received less rain and only saw a 10 cm raise in water at the gauge station.


Release with a splash. John Whitelaw sends a grilse on its way on the Little Main Restigouche on July 20, 2018. Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Nathan Wilbur has this to say about the Restigouche:

Parts of the Restigouche system received significant rain last week, drastically improving conditions for fish and anglers. The gauging station below the confluence of the Little Main and Kedwick, where the main Restigouche begins, showed a 60 cm (2 foot) raise late last week.

Atlantic salmon congregate in a cold water refuge, likely where underwater springs are entering the Little Main Restigouche River. Nathan Wilbur/ASF


Greg Lovely writes the following about the Margaree on Aug. 1

The water is warming up,especially from the Forks down. There are still people fishing but I most certainly am not.
I was way upriver at the Big Intervale Lodge last night the air temperature was 15 C.When my wife and I left our house it was 27 C, and as the crow flies the distance is about 10 KM. Amazing the difference.
There is low water between the pools, so the fish won't be doing much travelling. I did not have a thermometer with me, but I did put my feet in the Wards Rock Pool and it was surprisingly cool.


As a follow up to Greg Lovely's encounter with the black bear that came after him, CBC Radio did an excellent interview with Greg, eight minutes in length. A fascinating piece for anyone that could be sharing a river with a bear in the future.


The water may be low and temperatures warm, but at least the landslide slope remains intact.

Lewis Hinks, ASF Director of Programs for Nova Scotia and PEI, checked the situation yesterday, Aug. 1. While the water IS low, the mitigation efforts of Parks Canada are paying off.

Cheticamp River on 1 Aug, 2018 showing the restoration work of Parks Canada - and the low water conditions this year at mid-summer.  Lewis Hinks/ASF


Don Ivany, ASF's Director of Programs for Newfoundland and Labrador, took the opportunity this week to reflect on the situation in the province.

The Province is blessed with approximately 200 scheduled salmon rivers.  But as a result of counts and conclusions of an in-season review by DFO’s Science Division in early July, returns were not looking good.
 A decision was made to close all rivers on the Island to retention fishing for the remainder of the 2018 angling season. 

Some anglers questioned DFO’s statistics, noting that a number of rivers that did not have counting facilities had a good run of fish.  Notably, anglers fishing rivers like the Humber, Main River (Sops Arm),  the Torrent, and Gander reported great fishing with strong runs. 

On those rivers that do not have counting facilities we have no reason to doubt those anglers, especially when all anglers report the same thing.  In fact, with 200 scheduled rivers in NL it should not be surprising that even when 2018 appears to be a bad year, some rivers will buck the trend.  However, what is really encouraging is that in the last two weeks’ returns have improved quite a bit on DFO’s monitored rivers, as well. 

Southwest River near Halls Bay, Newfoundland.   Photo Don Ivany/ASF

In fact, many of those rivers are now showing that returns presently are on par or even exceeding the previous five-year average in some cases. Such news is welcomed by all anglers, and all conservation groups, especially ASF.   

However, we should remember that the latest five-year average also includes the very poor returns in 2016 and 2017.   We should also note that while things have picked up on most monitored rivers there are still some that are doing poorly and are well below minimum conservation limits.   So, the take home message is that we still have a lot of ground to make up and as such this is not a time to be careless with the resource.

Instead, we must continue to take a precautionary approach, at least for the immediate  future.    One thing is certain: we all hope the improved returns in the past couple of weeks continue.

Note: DFO’s Science Division presented their in-season review on Labrador Rivers last week and recommended that the remainder of the season in Labrador should be C&R only.   We are still waiting to hear from DFO Management as to what decision they will make on those rivers.  Decision is expected from them this week. 

In the meantime, despite good returns on the Island portion of the province most rivers are currently closed to all angling due to extremely low water and warm water temperatures.   A few rivers like the Humber and Serpentine were recently re-opened as conditions condition’s improved, but the Upper Humber has since been closed again due to warm water temperatures.  Currently, water levels in most rivers in Western and Central NL have good water levels as a result of heavy rain late last week, but hot weather is keeping water temperatures above 18C.  As a result many of the rivers in these areas are still closed to all angling.  Unfortunatley, the hot weather is expected to continue for the next few days.

Ray Humber has just reported on Aug. 1 that the Serpentine River has a good run of fish on right now. It reopened at noon on July 31 after a spell of warm water. This seems to be a second good run of fish on this river.

On the South Coast of the Island water levels and water temperatures have been better and a number of rivers in that area are open while a few are closed.   Anglers are encouraged to check DFO’s web-site to see which rivers remain open and which ones are closed as things are changing daily. 

West River near Halls Bay, Newfoundland. Another of the 200 Atlantic salmon rivers in the province, on July 29, 2018. Don Ivany/ASF

Most rivers in Southern Labrador remain open at the moment and water temperatures and levels are fairly good.  There are still a few fish being caught on rivers like the Forteau and Pinware.  While counts have improved on some of the DFO counting facilities in Southern Labrador, both Southwest River and Muddy Bay River, are not expected to meet their minimum spawning requirements this year.  The exception may be the Sandhill River which currently shows a notable increase from last year.  Not surprisingly anglers are reporting good fishing on the Sandhill River at this time.

In Central Labrador heavy rain have once again caused water levels to rise on most rivers, including the Eagle River. Indeed, they have spiked, making for relatively poor angling conditions at the moment. The good news is that cooler weather is helping to keep water temperatures down, so as water levels recede it is expected that angling conditions and success will improve.   

Reports from Northern Labrador indicate that returns were about 2½ weeks late this year but when fish did start to return they did so in fairly strong numbers according to Mike Crosbie, who operates the Flowers River Lodge.


High water temperatures are general, and this includes Maine, where salmon scientists do not want to handle salmon in  these conditions of excessive heat.

In the Penobscot, Biologist Jason Valliere said "Water temperatures continue to remain too warm to handle fish.   Mornings have been starting out around 26C (79F) and climbing from there – several degrees too warm to handle fish.  This is currently an issue at all our traps. Both the Kennebec and Narraguagus are in the same predicament.

Nevertheless so far there have been 463 large salmon and 274 grilse  to July 30 - for a total of 718. As noted last week, 2018 is the second best year since 2011.

John Burrows, ASF Director of New England Programs, described a walk on Tuesday, looking at temperatures along Temple Stream.

Temple Stream has clear flowing water, and has great Atlantic salmon spawning habitat. A temperature survey was conducted on Monday.   John Burrows/ASF

Temple Stream Temperature Walk:  On Monday, July 30, a team from ASF, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Maine Department of Marine Resources, and Maine Department of Environmental Protection conducted a temperature profile on Temple Stream, a tributary of the Sandy River in the Upper Kennebec River Watershed.

Teams walked and paddled four different reaches of Temple. Each was carrying a GPS unit to accurately record location, and a temperature probe that recorded water temperature every second. The temperature probe used is accurate to 0.001 degrees C.

The purpose of the survey was to document and record cold-water refugia and inputs to the stream and unusually warm sections. A map and thermal profile will be generated using the data collected and future management actions and habitat enhancement projects will be developed using this information.

Temple Stream has extensive salmon spawning and rearing habitat, and ASF is working to remove the one major dam on the stream. In addition, several undersized culverts would be replaced. Presently they block fish from accessing colder tributary streams.

Temple Stream is being mapped to find possible refugia for Atlantic salmon, potentially vital in hot weather conditions such as the present. John Burrows/ASF