ASF Rivernotes 8 June 2018


Standing on Ceremony

Jeff Bourdages releases a nice salmon on the York River in Quebec's Gaspé. Photo Guillaume Lord

Around the world Atlantic salmon are the focus of ancient and modern human ceremonies. What has been handed down for generations on rivers like the the Dee and the Tay  in Scotland is now posted on YouTube for everyone to see. Closer to home, youth in Eastern Canada and New England mark spring every year by releasing salmon fry raised overwinter in their classrooms through the Fish Friends program. Two such ceremonies took place this week,  one in Prince Edward Island, associated with the Abegweit Conservation Society, and one in the Skowhegan area of Maine.

This reverence for a great fish stands in stark contrast to the commodification and recklessness of 20th century commercial fishing and today's open net-pen salmon aquaculture, where fish are sadly considered nothing more than 'biomass'.

Today the individual, family, and community ceremonies built around Atlantic salmon underpin global conservation efforts. And in the scientific age, a new ritual has emerged. Every spring scientists from around the North Atlantic traipse into the field with satellite and sonic tags, gradually revealing the mysteries of migration.    

But what happens when salmon disappear? This is something that researcher Katrina Liebich has studied in Maine. Not surprisingly, people lose their connection and begin to care less about the environment around them. More on that, and how to get people reengaged in the weeks to come, but for now, let's take a trip around the salmon world where the 2018 season is unfolding quickly.

If you have any ceremonies or traditions you practice in relation to salmon, big or small, we would love to hear about them. Please contact me, Tom Moffatt at asfweb@nbnet.nb.ca .
QuebecOn the early rivers which are already open to angling, reports are of a slow start compared to last year. By this time next week many more will be open and we should get a better sense of early returns. A quick reminder, please make sure you are reporting all you released fish to the local river managers to help with population assessments.
Causapscal River
On June 1, rain came tumbling down in the Matapedia valley, giving a helpful rise to the Causapscal. By June 7, 27 salmon had been landed including 15 released. Seven were caught in the last two days alone. The majority of the released fish have been females weighing more than 9 kg/20 lb.  The number of fish being observed and those being angled are increasing as water levels drop. A year ago, to June 7, 2017, 42 salmon were reported landed on the Causapscal, which included 10 releases.

ASF (Canada) Director Jim Lawley from Halifax and Guide Pascal Lévesque of CGRMP release a nice hen Atlantic salmon on the Causapscal yesterday, June 7, 2018.  Photo Charles Cusson.

Matapedia River
Dropping water levels during the last four days have improved angling conditions.  As of June 6, 16 salmon have been reported released compared to June 7, 2017 when 28 salmon had been released.

Moisie River (ZEC and Winthrop Campbell sectors)
The Moisie has been plagued with extremely high water. On June 3rd the flow peaked at 2,150 cubic meters per second, and as of June 7, was at 1,450 cubic meters per second.  As of June 6, 29 salmon (including 4 kelts) have been reported landed including 25 releases. On June 7, 2017, 80 fish had been landed which included 56 salmon killed (including 16 kelts) and 24 released.

York, Dartmouth and St-Jean Rivers (Gaspé)
After a very slow start on the 25th of May, angling success seems to be improving according to local guides and outfitters.  No official catch data is available currently.
Bonaventure and Cascapedia Rivers
Reports of painfully slow and tough fishing is being reported with very few landings to date.  Dropping water levels should improve angling soon.

The bridge over the Cascapedia that washed out this spring along Quebec's Route 299 has been rebuilt. The loss forced drivers to take a multi-hour detour to reach some parts of the river. Photo Dan Greenberg

New Brunswick

Decent water levels on the Kennebecasis River on May 30.  Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF
Nathan Wilbur, ASF's Director of New Brunswick Programs, notes the following:
The first few bright salmon have been spotted on the Miramichi!

There have been a few hooked on the Northwest and some seen rolling and jumping on the Southwest. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come this season. Anglers on the Restigouche have also had the odd hookup as water levels drop to more fishable summer levels.

As anglers in New Brunswick gear up for the June 10th start date of the crown reserve system, and as others make their way here from out of province to chase silver, they can be optimistic that there are fish making their way up the rivers. With the first sign of bright fish showing up at the same time as the refreshing news of the Greenland Agreement, there is reason to be optimistic heading to the river this spring.  

Lunchtime twig fire on the Cains River on June 3, 2018. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

The "big news" this week was the closure of a segment of the lower Northwest Miramichi for spawning of striped bass. This population was reduced to just a few thousand individuals in the 1990s but has rebounded to an estimated number of just under 1,000,000 spawning adults. All these fish crown into the Miramichi at this time of yer. Being predators of smolt and parr, this has caused grave concern for wild Atlantic salmon in the river.

Check out the video footage of the striped bass taken by Nathan Wilbur last week, shown below.


Doaktown shore of the Southwest Miramichi on May 29, 2018. Waiting for the arrival of wild Atlantic salmon.   Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

The first reports have arrived from the counting facilities on the Dungarvon, and for the Northwest Miramichi. As expected, the number of salmon was zero in both cases.

On the St. Croix River, which runs along the Maine-New Brunswick border, a ceremony was held on Monday, June 4 to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the reopening of fishways for the passage of native alewives. Since they were closed without consultation by the State of Maine in 1995, the low point reached was about 900 alewives and DFO was trucking them past the U.S. controlled Woodland dam. To May 30, 2018, a total of 191,544 of these native river herring had been counted at the Milltown fishway on their way upstream.

Ceremony on banks of the St. Croix held by the Passamaquoddy First Nation in honour of the 5th anniversary of the reopening of the fishways to their migration. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Nova Scotia

The Margaree has had several recent upsurges of water levels, and is still high.

The Lower Thompkins pool on the Margaree earlier this week. Photo Greg Lovely.

Greg Lovely says:

Water still a little high and very cold ….good for the fish. Since connecting with those fish on Saturday, I have not seen an Atlantic salmon.

Last week's Rivernotes of June 1 showed a large landslip that blocked much of the Cheticamp River.

ASF's Director of Nova Scotia Programs, Lewis Hinks, has been on-site. Work is now underway to remove the obstruction, amidst concerns it could cause damming of the river should serious rain come down.

 ASF's Geoff Giffin inspects the work being undertaken to remove soil and trees from the channel of the Cheticamp River on June 6, 2018. The site is within Cape Breton National Park. Photo Lewis Hinks/ASF

The site of the landslide on the Cheticamp River is across from the National Park's campground. The Cheticamp River is gouged deeply in the highlands of the National Park, and can have very fast rise and fall of river levels. The Atlantic salmon returning to this river tend to be early.


Although licenses have finally begun arriving at retailers around the province, confusion around the salmon season in Newfoundland and Labrador still abounds. The federal and provincial governments have enacted dueling rules and neither has seen fit so far to clarify the situation. As a result, outfitters and guides around the province are bracing for cancellations. The situation is sad and unnecessary and highlights the most negative aspects of resource management, when wise decisions are trumped by small 'p' politics.

On June 4 there were duelling press releases. DFO | Province

DFOs management plan, handed down in May, received broad support from stakeholders. While limiting daily live release to three fish, the federal government, which has constitutional authority to set seasons and bag limits, has subsequently been blindsided by provincial rules that cap live release to 10 fish total until a mid-season review at July 20. Anglers need to stay attuned to the rules as the season progresses.

Don Ivany, ASF's Director of Programs for Newfoundland and Labrador gives some perspective this morning:

The good news is, the season has officially opened and anglers have hit the water. Early reports indicate that there are a few fish around but nothing to get too excited about yet. Water conditions on most of our early run rivers in Bay St. George are looking good at the moment. If anything, water levels are still on the high side, and a late spring this year means water temperatures are nice and cold. No reports are available yet from any of the counting facilities throughout the province.

Southwest Brook
As usual, the first reports come to us from Southwest River where well know angler Sterling Pitman reports that a few fish have been hooked since opening day, including a couple of large fish, a few nice grilse, and a couple of small grilse.  So run time seems to be pretty much on schedule for this year. Sterling reports that there was a decent sign of fish on Tuesday June 5, with one angler actually hooking three fish that day, and a number of other anglers hooked a fish as well.  There has been no reports from Bottom Brook to date.

Angler on 6 June 2018 at "The Forks" where Bottom Brook flows into Southwest River. Photo Don Ivany/ASF

Two anglers at the Tide Pool on Southwest River, June 6. Don Ivany/ASF

Harry’s River

Since the run on Harry’s River does not usually begin for 2-3 weeks, there have been no reports from anglers, but DFO have had their Didson counter in operation for a few days now and workers on site have seen a few fish in the area. However, there seem to be more slinks going out than bright fish coming in at the moment. Things should pick up on this river after the second week of June.

On Harry's River the count is done by Didson units that are a "sidescan radar". Here DFO personnel inspect the partial fence as well as the Didson unit itself at left. Harry's River has a particularly high percentage of large salmon in the run. Photo Don Ivany/ASF

Harry's River from the Highway Bridge. It is a particularly interesting river, but always requires careful watching for potential poachers. Photo Don Ivany/ASF.

Middle Barachois River

(not to be confused with Barachois River) – Reports indicate that there was one fish caught on this river.  Water conditions are ideal.

Grand Codroy River

Don Hutchens, President of the Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador (SCNL) reports that a friend of his hooked a large fish (approx. 9 kg/ 20 lb) on Codroy River on opening day during the his first evening fishing.  Keith Piercey of SPAWN also reports that since that time a couple more large Atlantic salmon have been hooked and released at  ‘The Pocket Pool’  including one by Corey LeRiche.  Water levels and temperatures on the river are good.

Island Water Levels

A quick look at the provincial government’s water monitoring stations, which are reported online, indicates that water levels on most island rivers are currently between medium and high and water, while temperatures are nice and cold.  Water levels on Labrador Rivers are still high and temperatures cold.  No reports of fish from this area yet as these rivers have later runs.

Northwest River in Terra Nova National Park, is managed by Parks Canada on special terms. Below is the press release on its management that went out on Thurs. 7 June, 2018:

Salmon Numbers to Determine Opening of a Limited Recreational Salmon Fishery on Northwest River


Parks Canada will be monitoring the number of salmon returning to the Northwest River in Terra Nova National Park using the river’s counting fence and will complete the first in-season review on July 5. If, by that date, 250 salmon have passed through the counting fence, the river will open for a quota of 75 fish (total) on July 8. Should this threshold not be met, weekly assessments will continue and the river will open to angling only if salmon returns are on track to achieve the population target of 775 salmon for the Northwest River. If the weekly assessments indicate a return of less than 775 salmon, the river will remain closed to all angling in 2018.

Parks Canada is a leader in conservation. Canada’s network of protected areas have an important role to play by protecting and restoring healthy, resilient ecosystems and contributing to the recovery of species at risk. In managing the Northwest River within Terra Nova National Park, Parks Canada’s primary concern is to ensure the protection of the river’s ecological integrity and the health and long-term sustainability of its salmon population.


Parks Canada requires anglers to have a National Park Salmon Licence and Newfoundland and Labrador Inland Salmon Licence in order to participate in the Northwest River recreational salmon fishery. The National Park Salmon Licence is free of charge and will be available at the seasonal Northwest River shack in the park. A full list of regulations will be provided to each angler. The Newfoundland and Labrador Inland Salmon Licence must be purchased prior to picking up a National Park Salmon Licence and is available at community vendors such as convenience stores, garages and fishing shops.

For information and updates, please contact Terra Nova National Park at 709-533-2801 or the Northwest River Kiosk at 709-235-0703. Information is also provided on the Terra Nova National Park Facebook page


as well as the Northwest River Conservation Group – Facebook page



Ray Kenny

Public Relations and Communications Officer

Newfoundland East Field Unit

Parks Canada






Portland, Maine is hosting the annual meetings of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) this coming week. Meanwhile, check out the reports from the Penobscot.


Maine DMR is reporting 79 Atlantic salmon at the Milford Lift - 78 large salmon and 1 grilse. Meanwhile, river herring continue to come in, and there have now been 1.8 million, an amazing reboot for this native species.

There were disturbing reports last week about Brookfield Renewable, the owner of a dam on the Stillwater River, which flows into the Penobscot at Orno, dropping water levels for maintenance and killing 50,000 alewives and at least one salmon as a result. Considering how precious each and every Penobscot salmon is, this was not news anyone wanted to hear.