0.Late Note: at 4:30 pm. Thurs. the NL and Labrador numbers were updated due to Aug. 26 data being available.
Grey Seals as Atlantic Salmon Predators
There is a sense of unease among Atlantic salmon conservationists on exactly what role Grey Seals are playing in the mortality at sea. In the past decade satellite tags that provide clues of temperature and location have shown the important seal predator list has lengthened. We now realize that sharks, probably mostly Porbeagle Sharks, can be an important predator. Tuna are also there.
But we keep coming back to Grey Seals. Decades ago they were at relatively low numbers. Then for a couple of decades they increased in number quickly - DFO in a 2016 assessment was using a figure of 13 per cent per year. And lately the research is indicating that could be tapering off to a 4 per cent increase per year. Certainly they are out there in great numbers..
The present population estimate is in the range of 424,000 or more, with about 44,000 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Those at sea spot them regularly, sometimes dozens of kilometres from land. They are large predators, with males tipping the scales at 350 kg / 770 lb. and are fast, agile predators at sea.
Atlantic salmon in a Gaspé rivers with major wounds from a seal attack.
South of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, meaning off Nova Scotia and in the Bay of Fundy area, there are somewhere around 380,000 Grey Seals. That means perhaps 400 Grey Seals for every Atlantic salmon coming back to a native river in this region. While Grey Seals eat other prey as well, those numbers are not auspicious for Atlantic salmon swimming the gauntlet towards rivers where all the Atlantic salmon are at critically low and endangered numbers.
Grey Seal about 20 km south of Grand Manan Island, in the Gulf of Maine. Photo Tom Moffatt
A couple of years ago we asked anglers for evidence of seal-inflicted injuries on salmon that got away and continued their migrations into rivers around the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The reports we received were numerous, and were in rivers from the Margaree in Cape Breton to the Miramichi, in Gaspé rivers like the Cascapedia and Bonaventure, and also from the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
These are not predators merely working the estuaries of rivers, as one might expect with harbour seals, but at sea as well.
Greg Lovely who lives in the Margaree River valley recently visited the waters around Sea Wolf Island off the Margaree on Mon., Aug. 27. His observation was of hundreds of grey seals - and wondering what impact they were having on the Margaree's Atlantic salmon run.
Grey Seals, Sea Wolf Island, Aug. 27, 2018. Waiting for the next run of Margaree Atlantic salmon? Photo Greg Lovely
There needs to be a better understanding of predation of Atlantic salmon. Work done a few years ago in the Baie des Chaleurs showed that cormorants were only a minor predator of Atlantic salmon in general, and of smolts in particular. A thorough study was completed of a colony in the bay.
Elsewhere, ASF biologists saw large numbers of dolphins in the Strait of Belle Isle. There is no indication one way or another that they are important predators - at least there isn't evidence at this time.
Stresses pile upon stresses. Hot water conditions in rivers, Grey Seal predation at sea, Striped Bass in the Miramichi and other rivers. All of these plus human actions build on each other. In the next few years things could even escalate. The Grey Seal population may not presently be increasing by double digits, but it is still growing. Other predators could come on the scene, such as if the Smallmouth Bass escape from Miramichi Lake. This invasive species could be yet one more major stress the Miramichi's natural food web does not need.
We need a better understanding of predation forces on Atlantic salmon, and Grey Seals would be a good place to start.
However, one thing to remember - overall, humans are still predator #1 as far as Atlantic salmon are concerned.
Low water conditions were a major factor affecting angling success to date in August. But with a little bit of luck and a few September storms from the south angling should improve.
Considering the challenging conditions on most rivers this season, a few places have had improvement over last season.
Data used in the Quebec river notes is compiled from various river websites, social media and Quebec government sources.
Rivière St-Jean in Gaspé last week. While water is low, certainly it is adequate in this stream for salmon. Photo John Burrows
Pourvoirie Nabisipi UnapeuHipu Outfitter - Nabisipi River
Eric Walsh, manager and owner reports Striped Bass are present this season in the estuary but in lower numbers than in 2017. Low water has also hampered their activities but he’s looking forward to September rain which will bring in a new batch of Atlantic salmon from the ocean.
The Nabisipi has a wild quality that exemplifies the character of Atlantic salmon rivers on the North Shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Photo Charles Cusson/ASF
The Rivière St-Jean. Photo John Burrows/ASF
Panier Pool on the Matane - Salmon Angler Through the Flame. Charles Cusson/ASF
A Clear Connection
Those moments when one "connects" with Atlantic salmon can bring flash-back moments for years, even decades.
By Charles Cusson
La Grande-Rivière. Low water. It was September 2003.
I was visiting the Grande-Rivière River near Percé Quebec, one of the most beautiful salmon rivers in the world. Its clear, transparent water has few competitors for the title of Most Translucent.
The lack of rain made it possible for me to walk up river along the shore for quite a distance. There wasn’t another soul in sight. What an incredibly beautiful piece of salmon real estate this is, I kept telling myself. I had to pinch my arm to make sure I wasn’t dreaming and that I was actually connecting to this living and breathing body of water.
I walked by well-known pools like “Grand Sablé”, “Paisible” and “Grosse Roche.” There were very few fish to be seen so I walked up to “Longue Pool”. To my amazement, it looked like almost every fish in the river had gathered there. They were lined-up in different size groups from the head of the pool to almost as far as I could see down river.
A moment long remembered, even though 15 years have passed. Charles Cusson/ASF
I slowly approached them, when suddenly something made the fish bunch up directly in front of me. Perhaps the shadow of a falling leaf that looked like a predator or a sound. Whatever it was, they must have been able to see me, yet they somehow sensed I would bring them no harm. Quite the contrary, camera in hand, I was more interested in protecting than pursuing prey. I broke my trance long enough to capture this photo amongst others.
I keep it as a reminder of a connection with wildness incarnate, in one of my favourite places on this small blue planet.
This September, I’m going back to the La Grande-Rivière. I will certainly visit Longue Pool and perhaps I will connect with some of the grandchildren of those fish I saw back in 2003.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
Counting Atlantic salmon, one by one, and kilometre after kilometre down a river. Swims of 8 km. common. Robinson River in Bay St. George Area of Newfoundland. Checking map and GPS coordinates at beginning of site just below the falls. From left to right: Don Ivany, Zack Burrows, Kathleen Blanchard, Bailey Hulan, Jordan Locke, and Sherry Pittman.
If you haven't already looked at Don Ivany's blog
on conducting snorkel counts on Bay St. George rivers, take the time. It is an interesting aspect of learning anew what salmon numbers are in our rivers. Click here
HOT, HOT, HOT!
The season ends on the island of Newfoundland on Sept. 7, just a week away. How many rivers wll be open, given the warm water conditions.
It has been HOT again! Hot enough to see many rivers closed again. Below is the list put out by DFO on Tues. Aug. 28. BUT CHECK AT THE END OF THE LIST - SOME WERE JUST REOPENED AS OF FRI., AUG. 31!
NOTICE TO ANGLERS
Aug. 28, 2018
Salmon Rivers Closing in Zone 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14ADFO advises anglers that due to extremely high water temperatures, the following rivers will close effective one hour after sunset on Wednesday, August 29, 2018. The rivers will reopen as conditions improve.
18. Ariege or Salmon River, including Southwest Brook and Rose's Brook, Hare Bay
50. Gander River Main Stem
71. Bellevue River, Trinity Bay
72. Salmon Cove River, Conception Bay
73. North River, Conception Bay
74. South River, Conception Bay
75. North Arm River, Holyrood
76. Renews River
77. Biscay Bay River
79. Northwest Brook, Trepassey
80. Peter's River
81. Salmonier River, including Back River below falls
82. Colinet River, including north and east branches
83. Rocky River & tributary streams
84. North Harbour River, St. Mary's Bay
85. Little Salmonier River, St. Mary's Bay
86. Big Barachois Brook, St. Mary's Bay
87. Branch River, St. Mary's Bay
88. Great Barasway
89. South East River (Placentia) &tributary streams
90. Northeast River, Placentia
91. Come By Chance River
92. Watson's Brook, Placentia Bay
93. North Harbour River, Placentia Bay
94. Black River, Placentia Bay below falls
95. Piper's Hole River
100. West Brook, North West Arm, Mortier Bay & tributary streams
101. Tide's Brook, Mortier Bay, including Main Brook, Shearstick Brook & tributary streams
102. Salmonier River, Burin
103. Little St. Lawrence River & tributary streams
104. Lawn River & tributary stream
s105. Taylor's Bay River, Burin Peninsula & tributary streams
106. Salmonier Lamaline River & tributary streams
107. Piercey's Brook & tributary streams
110. Long Habour River and tributary streams, Fortune Bay
131. Burnt Island River (Grandy's Cove)
132. Isle aux Mort River
135. Bear Cove River, including Billy's Pond Brook
136. Little Codroy River, including Cooper's Brook, Southern Brook & Western Brook
147. Fox Island & tributary streams
150. Humber River - that portion of the upper Humber River from the headwaters to outflow into Deer Lake including tributaries.
160. River of Ponds, including Kate's Feeder, Big Feeder Brook, Spring Tilt Brook (below Spring Tilt Pond) & Big Gulch Brook
161. Little Brook Ponds & tributary streams
163. East River, Hawke's Bay
164. Castor River, including Southwest Feeder
165. St. Genevieve River, Ten Mile Lake, Round Lake and all their tributaries flowing into Ten Mile Lake and Round Lake
For more information please visit the In Season River Status Report at
or call the Angling Line at 709-772-4423.
The Regional Director General, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Regions gives notice that Variation Orders 2018-327, 2018-328, 2018-329, 2018-330 and 2018-331 have been revoked and Variation Orders 2018-333, 2018-334, 2018-335, 2018-336 and 2018-337 come into effect on August 29, 2018.
August 31 - some reopenings:
FISHERIES AND OCEANS CANADA NOTICE TO ANGLERS na.18.042NFB
Aug. 30, 2018
Salmon Rivers re-opening in Zone 11, 12, and 13
DFO advises anglers that due to improved environmental conditions the following rivers will re-open to catch-and-release angling one hour before sunrise on Friday, August 31, 2018.
131. Burnt Island River (Grandy's Brook)
135. Bear Cove River, including Billy's Pond Brook
136. Little Codroy River, including Cooper's Brook, Southern Brook & Western Brook
137. Great Codroy River, including Broom Brook, Ryan's Brook & Mullchingnic Brook; the North Branch of Great Codroy, including Upper Brook, Lower Brook & Crooked Brook; the South Branch of Great Codroy; including Bullhouse
139. Crabbe's River & tributary streams
141. Robinson's River & tributary streams
144. Little Barachois Brook & tributary streams
As always, check the contacts mentioned at the end of the Aug. 28 closures.
Don Ivany, ASF Director of Programs for Newfoundland and Labrador has these recent notes:
Humber -Last week, there was decent fishing with some large samon and grilse.. Chris Wessel had a 20 lb. fish on the humber, and Scott Grant also released a gorgeous fish. John McCarthy was on the Upper Humber at Mercer’s Pool and there was a good sign of fish, but water temperatures were up in the afternoon. Also on the Humber, Corey White has found tht evening fishing has been good.
Gander – There were some fish on the Gander, but with low water.
Chris Wessel releases a nice 20lb salmon on the lower Humber. Photo Scott Grant
COUNTING FENCE DATA
DFO has just put up the Aug. 26 data, on Aug. 30.
While long term concerns remain, and caution is needed, many of the Island of Newfoundland rivers have been holding their own, as you can see in the results above.
Middle Barachois River, in the Bay St. George area of western Newfoundland. Don Ivany/ASF
In Labrador, the somewhat volatile Sand Hill River is doing quite well. The river does have great yearly variations. However, it would also be worth understanding better DFO's constraints on its counts - such as the high waters early this year that resulted in a late deployment of equipment.
Terry Byrne recently released a very large Atlantic salmon on the Flowers River in Labrador.
The lower water level and flow has at last hit the Labrador rivers.
The River Philip that flows through Nova Scotia's Oxford County into the Northumberland Strait has always had one of the better salmon returns of this set of rivers. Water may be low, but still manageable - but warm. Now the wait is for cooler water and hopefully some big storms. The strategy for these salmon is usually to wait for the autumn rains, then make a dash upstream to spawning bed streams. Taken Aug. 23. Lewis Hinks/ASF
Greg Lovely notes:
The Margaree River needs rain. What rain fell last week is certainly gone. The temperatures are remaning low enough to keep the entire river open. There are the occasional salmon being hooked, but the activity in general is low. Very few fishermen are around now, and all depends on getting that future rain.
Alex Breckenridge of The Tying Scotsman
has this to say:
Conditions not great, low water for weeks apart from one small spate. However temperatures are more conducive now for the salmon. Fish are being caught mostly on dry flies. We desperately need rain though.
Jason Valliere, Scientist with the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources, has this to say about the Penobscot:
The Milford Fishlift is back on line. We are still too hot to handle fish. This morning’s temperature was 24C which is our cutoff temperature. With the weather forecast for the next few days being in the high 80’s F and nights staying in the 70’s we will not see a reduction in temperature until possibly Thursday night when the predicted cold front comes through and cools us off into the high 50’s! Yay! We plan to start tending again Friday morning. Until then we will continue to rely on hopper counts.
At this time the Penobscot estimate is up to 747 total salmon. 275 grilse and 472 Multi sea winter fish. At this time there are an estimated 291 fish in river passed above Milford. 224 Grilse, 27 Males, 22 Females, and 18 unknown Multi -Sea Winter fish.
Just a reminder this number does not include fish passed Via the Denil fishway over the past 3 weeks as there was no way to document them, but the number may include double counted recaptured fish as there has been free passage since July 2.
Chain des Roches, Nepisiguit River, Aug. 21, 2018. Photo Bob Baker
Bob Baker notes:
As of today there have been 248 fish through the fence, which was installed in late July and is operated by Pabineau First Nation. The water is very low and warm, and not many anglers on the water.
Counting fence on the Nepisiguit, earlier this week. Photo Bob Baker
Overall, not a lot happening on the Nepisiguit – had about 2 in. / 5 cm of rain early August and a group of fish came in then, about 65% MSW/ The one foot rise in water lasted less than a week and water has been low for some time now, with very few anglers. We need significant rain and cooling to bring the fish in from the bay.
Bend it like a salmon. An Aug. 17 hit on the Nepisiguit. More rain needed to bring in the bigger numbers from the Baie des Chaleurs. Photo Bob Baker
Brock Curtis of Curtis Miramichi Outfitters in Blackville notes:
Most of the anglers coming into the tackle shop are saying the large numbers of salmon that were holding in the cold water pools during the heat wave here in the lower section of the river have either moved upriver or into the tributaries.
We have seen some great fishing here in the last week or so. Quite a few anglers reported large numbers of salmon hooked and released at some of the clubs and lodges. Even anglers new to the sport for the first time have been hooking salmon.
While those fish that were in the system for a while have moved on we have been hearing of fresh runs with sea lice on them being caught. Lately that seems to be the norm.
The rivers are dropping and the forecast is showing rain in the next couple of days. Hopefully it will be enough to maintain the good fishing.
Great salmon fishing on the Cains this past Saturday. Julia Carpenter heading to a favourite casting location. Nathan Wilbur/ASF
Nathan Wilbur, ASF Director of New Brunswick Programs says:
Although the days remain hot, the cool nights and shorter days are bringing the rivers back to life. Fish holding in the cold water pools are moving up into the runs and spreading out. Anglers on the Southwest Miramichi system have been enjoying much better water conditions, and reports are that fishing is now quite good around the recently reopened cold water pools. Other systems further north, like the Nepisiguit and Restigouche, need a good soaking to liven up the river as we move into the fall season. Good water on the Cains River, tributary of the Southwest Miramichi, on Saturday. Nathan Wilbur/ASF
The most recent barrier counts just came in, with disappointing results to Aug. 26.
The Dungarvon Barrier is showing decreased grilse returns, but even greater drop in multi-sea-winter salmon, with only 58 vs. 121 in 2017.