The Aux Rochers River is one of the many awe-inspiring North Shore rivers of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In some years it has a considerable number of Atlantic salmon more than 20 pounds, and has thundering falls to add to its aura.
Joé Champagne on the Aux Rochers River. Photo Serge Champagne
When confronted with a major landslide across the Cheticamp, a famous salmon river, Cape Breton National Park went into overdrive. They quickly assessed the situation, and immediately brought in earthmoving equipment to take away a dam created by debris of uprooted trees and boulders. It could have impacted the Atlantic salmon migration - which is early in this river.
They got the job done, and then went on to the next steps. They hydroseeded areas, spread straw, and kept fingers crossed that another segment of the hillside did not come down. Even better, Parks Canada kept open excellent lines of communication with the communities - the residents, the salmon conservationists, and others.
A drone view is needed to truly appreciate the impact this landslide had on the river. Parks Canada
So far, everything is holding. The slope itself has not slid again. The grass on the remaining debris is growing, as are trees that were planted. And the main Cheticamp and a side stream - both with salmon populations - are clear and available for the fish.
From the top of the slide, the new growing grass is growing nicely. It will help hold the dust, sand and gravel in place in the months and years ahead. Parks Canada
From chaotic debris dam to grassy peninsula is a remarkable change in about 6 weeks. Parks Canada
Greg Lovely notes:
We certainly need some rain now. Salmon are being hooked daily throughout the river, However things have slowed down considerably. Hopefully what appears to be a very good run of fish continues.
In some degree this was answered in the rain that fell Tuesday night and into Wednesday. It should be enough to help the Atlantic salmon get upstream, and cool things down, but even more would be nice. Check out Thursday's graph below.
With its entrenched valley sides, the water flows off quickly, creating very uneven flow regimes.
From other sources, it does appear the Margaree is having quite a decent run of salmon.
Lewis Hinks, ASF Director of Nova Scotia Programs, had some comments after visiting the Margaree early last week:
I was in the Margaree and Cheticamp area early last week for some camp visits and field work and took the opportunity to fish the Margaree in the evenings. I fished with Greg Lovely on the first evening and fishing solo on the second.
Both evenings I was in the lower part of the river, in the Tidal and Lower Thompkins pools. I was thrilled at the number of fish I saw on the incoming tides and the number of fish showing in the pools. There are fish all through the river. Water levels are ‘decent’ for this time of year, but the hot weather was making the water temperatures climb. Fishing was pretty much restricted to early morning and later evening.
While I was not fortunate enough to hook a fish, it was really gratifying to see that many showing. Also a little frustrating…every time I said to myself, “that’s it, time to go home” another fish would roll and I’d have to keep casting. Supper could wait….don’t care that it was after 9pm!
Some cooler weather came in the day I had to leave…’figures!!, so with cooler temperatures and hopefully some rain, the fishing should be great for a while yet. Hope is good when I get back there next!
DFO's July 15 numbers are out for Morgan Falls - and they are interesting, with the LaHave again having a very different return from other rivers. To July 15 there were only 20 grilse, compared with 173 in 2017. The average for 1995 to 1999 was 484.
However - and a big however - there have been 50 large salmon to July 15, compared with 23 last year, and in fact beats all years back to 2015, along with the 2009 to 2014 5-year average.
Morgan Falls Fishway is the counting facility on the LaHave River. Photo Lewis Hinks/ASF
DFO has released the latest counts, and they do make interesting reading, along with anecdotal information saying there have been some good runs in the past 10 days, but now things are getting hot and water levels low.
Heard especially from one angler about how good things were about 10 days ago near Big Falls on the Humber. But now things are heating up.
Fischells River in southwest Newfoundland is showing how the rivers could use a nice storm or two to top things up. Don Ivany/ASF
Exploits - Somewhat improved, but still well below recent years.
Campbellton River - Doing amazingly well
Harry's - There has been something of a run on Harry's River, with 2,165, slightly better than 2017's 2,089
Harry's River earlier in the week. Don Ivany/ASF
The Conne on the other hand is abyssmal, with 456 to July 15. One should be seeing several thousand.
The Torrent is very disconcerting, with 26 reported to July 15, compared with 1,204 last year.
Don Ivany, ASF Director of Programs for Newfoundland and Labrador has the following comments on the past week's developments:
The big news in Newfoundland this week is that the DFO Technical Review was presented by their Science Division on Wed. indicating that salmon returns so far this year are well below what they should be and are on par with the significant declines experienced during the past two seasons.
As such, the advice from the Science Division to DFO Management was that catch and release angling only should be the rule for the remainder of the angling season on the island portion of the province. DFO Management followed this advice on Thurs., with the remainder of the angling season on the island catch and release only. Click here for notice from DFO
With respect to Labrador, an in-season review will be conducted in a couple of weeks when there is enough data available to do so, and an announcement regarding the remainder of the season in Labrador will be made at that time.
The Provincial Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources, Gerry Byrne, also provided an up date this week on a new catch and release research study that their government has initiated.
Don Ivany's Angling Reports
High water levels during the week of July 1-7, on rivers such as the Humber, Main (Sops Arm), Big East, Castors, Forteau, and Pinware resulted in limited fishing opportunities but a few fish were hooked in areas where anglers were able to fish. As water levels receded later in the week angling success picked up and most anglers reported a fairly good sign of fish including a mixture of both large and small salmon.
Runs continued to improve during the week of July 8-14 which produced some of the best fishing so far this year. Reports from the Humber and Main River (Sops Arm) indicate that anglers were enjoying excellent fishing. While no salmon were reported through the fishway on Torrent River on the Northern Peninsula anglers fishing downstream from the fishway reported many salmon.
While the Gander was fishing fairly well under good angling conditions early in the week, heavy rain in that area from the passing tropical storm led to very high water levels on the Gander reducing angling success.
Rivers in Bay St. George saw very limited success as elevated air temperatures resulted in warm water temperatures and very low water levels. Warm weather conditions in Western NL have persisted this week and water levels are very low and water temperatures have spiked. In fact as of July 19 DFO issued a news bulletin indicating that a number of rivers in fishing Zones 3 and 4 will be closing to all angling as of mid-night July 20 because of extremely poor conditions. Click here for list
Middle Barachois River, also in need of more water to fill it up. Don Ivany/ASF
DFO'S Counting fences are telling a disturbing story. The Sand Hill had 599 by July 15, compared with 736 last year and an average of 2,011 by the same date for average of 1998 to 2017.
The Paradise River had 58 to July 15, definitely better than the 2 in 2017 and somewhat in line with averages in past years.
Charles Cusson, ASF's Director of Quebec Programs, notes the following:
Water levels continue to be extremely low with temperatures on the rise in many rivers. How low can they can get before some river associations decide to suspend angling until conditions improve?
However, in some areas salmon continue to cooperate for the time being.
Reminder to anglers fishing Quebec Rivers, take the time to report your releases to have the most accurate angling statistics and for the river managers to accurately calculate angling success. And with warmer water conditions being the norm, please keep the amount of time your fish is on the line to a minimum and please keep them in the water during the entire release process.
York, Dartmouth and St-Jean Rivers
Results as of July 16 are available at
Bernard Poirier releases a nice Atlantic salmon on the Bonaventure. Photo Marie-Renée Allaire
Murphy's Camp on the Bonaventure. Photo Claude Hamel
Nathan Wilbur, ASF Director of New Brunswick Programs, was at a St. John River Management Advisory Committee meeting on Wed.
The Saint John River Management Advisory Committee annual meeting was hosted by DFO in Fredericton on July 17th. The meeting included science updates on returns to Mactaquac dam and the Nashwaak River Counting fence to July 16, 2018.
Grilse = 245
Salmon = 51
Grilse = 21
Salmon = 7
Note that the numbers are all well behind last year - and very far behind traditional returns. The Nashwaak had one high water event in late June where the fence was not operated and salmon were able to get by for 3 days, so the Nashwaak count is a minimum.
Nashwaak on July 19, in Marysville just 10 km. from downtown Fredericton. This was after a nice but moderate rain event on Tues. evening and into Wed. Nathan Wilbur/ASF
A DFO scientist also presented on a new research program that will explore impacts from aquaculture on wild salmon in the Bay of Fundy. We are pleased to see attention given to this issue.
The numbers to July 15 included 9 grilse and 2 large salmon, compared with 6 grilse and 4 large salmon in 2017.
Things remain warm. But Brock Curtis noted late last week a curious aspect - the salmon appeared to be moving in the heat of the day. He had this note from about a week ago, on July 12
An old friend has been trying to get me to go out fishing with him all week so that I could see how good the fishing is. He owns an old homestead in Upper Blackville. I agreed to go this morning and I am still shaking my head.
It has been quite a few years since I have hooked and released two grilse and lost one in twenty minutes. As he predicted, it shut down at 11:00 AM and the salmon moved out of the pool. You could actually see them moving upriver.
We jumped into his John-Boat equipped with a Jet motor system and moved down the river as he wanted to see where the next run was. He told me the fresh salmon usually move in around 12:00 - !2:30 PM. True to his word we floated over another school of Salmon probably 500' below his pool.
We then motored upriver to the Salar Haven water and floated down to his old farm.
On the way downriver we saw two deep slow water holes with STRIPED BASS in them. Probably 15-20 bass in each hole that we could see. The subject of bass came up during our fishing in the morning but he wasn't aware they were that far up the river. Now he is. What was an excellent salmon fishing experience was quite a letdown for him. He showed a real concern for the survival of our salmon. I couldn't help to feel somewhat sorry for him as he took it so hard.
As we left the boat and stood talking and looking at such a nice piece of river he started telling me that the salmon seem to be wary and don't appear to be showing like they should. He was thinking they might be this way due to the pressure of bass in the river.
We talked about getting out again and maybe trying to video the bass/salmon with my GoPro. There seems to be a steady run of salmon going up the river at this time and this has been going on for a while. We also heard later yesterday of other anglers catching grilse here in the Blackville area. So, we are continuing to hear good news even though the water is warm.
The latest counting fence data is in, for July 15.
Southwest Miramichi - The Dungarvon barrier has 26 grilse and 38 large salmon as of July 15, compared with 44 grilse and 84 large salmon to the same date in 2017. In total, that means 64 salmon this year and 128 last year.
Northwest Miramichi - The Northwest Barrier to July 15 has had 41 grilse and 87 large salmon. In 2017, to the same date, it was 59 grilse and 79 large salmon.
What has happened to the grilse? Low again.
Jason Valliere, Scientist with the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources, noted the following late last week about the Penobscot:
The latest from the Milford fishlift. . .We are up to 612 salmon at the Milford fishlift! Plus 12 more from Orono = 624 salmon returning to the Penobscot this year do far!
Additionally we have counted:
3777 American shad
1976 Sea Lamprey
772 Striped Bass
2,174,763 River Herring
As of 7/2 the Milford Sorting facility has been left with “Gates Open” allowing free passage of all fish into the headpond. Salmon and shad counts are coming from Brookfield via the camera they have on the main hopper. This is due to the high river temperatures we have been experiencing, and those temperatures exceeding the point at which we can safely handle fish without causing too much stress on them. Our policy restricts us from handling fish over 24C. This criteria was set from years and years of handling fish and learning from our observations. River temperatures have not receded below 24C since 7/2 even early in the morning with many days climbing as high as 26C+. Typically we do not see many salmon moving during these high temperatures. Generally we experience this high temperature period in late July and early August and it lasts 2-3 weeks, which is why we schedule the annual summer maintenance shutdown for early August to coincide with this event. This year it is obviously greatly extended and temperatures are as high as we have ever seen them.