Overview of  European Salmon Rivers 2016

Just as there are differences between the salmon returns of each river in North America, and between regions, so it goes in Europe.

Overall there is comparatively good news from most European salmon rivers in 2016. In the open Atlantic, Iceland, Ireland and some of the Scottish rivers are having particularly good years. In the Baltic, the Torn has already had 96,000 Atlantic salmon counted!

However, in general terms, a number of correspondents have noted low grilse returns in 2016 in many areas, while commenting on the great number of very large salmon.


Iceland is having an excellent year, one right up there with last year's extremely productive salmon runs. From Orri Vigfusson, Chairman of NASF & the Big Laxá sportfishing Club:

The salmon  fishing season has been extraordinarily good in Iceland this year.  The salmon came very early into all the rivers and catches have been very, very prolific.  This includes both large and small river systems and the size of the spring fish comprising mostly of two-sea-wineter salmon between ten and twenty pounds in weight.  

I have to go back to the summer of 1980 to find comparable early runs of fish.  Then like now the fish came in good quantities around May 20 instead of June 20th which has been the norm in the last 30-40 years.  

The rivers that rely on sea ranching techniques have also fared very well. There is still concern this summer that the grilse may not appear in as good health and number due to a very cold spring  season in Iceland in 2015 and there are signs that early grilse this year are low in weight unlike their multi-sea-winter cousins.
In 2015 Iceland salmon runs had near record runs so overall the Icelandic salmon fraternity in very optimistic and books for 2017 are pouring in.

Salmon Numbers for individual rivers in Iceland



salmon to date



End of Season -Total 2015

Ytri-Rangá & Hólsá, vesturbakki.

Aug. 3. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016



Ţverá + Kjarará

Aug. 3. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016



Laxá í Ađaldal

Aug. 3. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016



Laxá í Dölum

Aug. 3. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016



Selá í Vopnafirđi

Aug. 3. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016



Vatnsdalsá í Húnaţingi

Aug. 3. 2016



Laxá á Ásum

Aug. 3. 2016



Jökla, (Jökulsá á Dal).

Aug. 3. 2016



Grímsá og Tunguá

Aug. 3. 2016



Laxá í Kjós

Aug. 3. 2016



Skjálfandafljót, neđri hluti

Jul. 27. 2016



Hofsá og Sunnudalsá.

Aug. 3. 2016



Affall í Landeyjum.

Aug. 3. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016



Hrútafjarđará og Síká

Aug. 3. 2016



Miđá í Dölum.

Aug. 3. 2016



Flókadalsá, Borgarf.

Aug. 3. 2016



Laxá í Leirársveit

Aug. 3. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016



Straumarnir (Í Hvítá)

Jul. 15. 2016



Svartá í Húnavatnssýslu

Aug. 3. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016




Jul. 27. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016




Jul. 25. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016



Ţverá í Fljótshlíđ.

Aug. 3. 2016




Aug. 4. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016



Gljúfurá í Borgarfirđi

Jul. 30. 2016




Aug. 3. 2016




Jul. 13. 2016




Jul. 13. 2016





Releasing a salmon on the Morrum River in Norway. Photo Mattias Helde. From Fiskebloggen.com

Gaula River - Per Aleksander Arneberg, Chairman, Norwegian Flyfishers Club AS Reports:

The Gaula fishing season started off with a bang. The river was in perfect conditions, fish were caught from June 1st, and shortly there after, fish were being caught about the Gaulfossen (Gaula waterfall), which is normally the natural division between the lower and middle/upper river, until the river drops below a certain m3 per second as well asa water temperature climbs above 7-8 Celcius.

As we were hoping and expecting this year, it has been a great “big fish” year on the Gaula. Our biggest fish- also the biggest fish take in the entire river so far this season, weighed in at 18.5kg! We have also had a lot of fish between 12-16kgs, lots of fish over 10kg, and countless more above 8kg.

While the fishing has been quite good, we have suffered dry weather in the later part of June, and most of July, meaning that the fishing slowed down, as the Gaula is unregulated, and therefore heavily dependent on rainwater. During these low water periods the fishing slowed down quite a bit, although we have seen, and knew that the river was full of fish. Now in the later part of July and early August so far, we have received some much needed rain, and the good fishing has continued.

One additional hinderance to the good fishing is the commercial “kilenřt” (net) fishery in the estuary. While this fishery was stopped for 5 years between 2004-2009, it has been reestablished, although at a far more limited time period, and with far less commercial fishermen partaking. However, from the middle of July through the early part of August, which also coincides with the largest portion of the main run of salmon, there are multiple days per week where commercial netting takes place. One of the largest issues with this fishery is the lack or reporting, i.e.- while we are required by law to report all fish caught, killed, released, etc. in the Gaula river, and the landowners and fishery operators (such as ourselves- Norwegian Flyfishers Club), pay tax based on our annual income, the commercial fishermen have no obligation to report catches, and therefor no financial incentive or impediment in the form of taxation on their use of the natural resource. This makes it very difficult not only to control the harvest, but also scientifically, it makes it nearly impossible to analyze the impact of this commercial fishery.

Lastly, we have the impact of the salmon farming, and while the Gaula, which pours out into the Trondheim fjord, which is thankfully protected, and therefore there are no fish farms within the Trondheim fjord. At the same time, fish farming is heavily concentrated outside of the fjord, in the direct path of the smolt existing to the ocean, as well as the mature salmon returning to the river.

So ultimately, with 3 weeks left in the season, and with annually determined regulations, which continue to promote catch & release (Live Release), and a sustainable bag limit for those who choose to harvest, we seem to be seeing a positive trend from the mass-slaughter we experienced in 2012, when the fish could not run the river past the Gaulfoss, and the fishermen below the falls had a bonanza, and killed over 40 tons of salmon…leaving little fish to pass upstream to spawn when the opportunity finally presented itself. We have still to see the impact from that catastrophic season in 2012.

But positively, the spawning numbers have increased dramatically each subsequent year following 2012, and this also seems prevalent with the increased number of fish, especially 3+ sea-winter fish, which we have experienced this season.

Alta River - Chris Buckley reports:

My son Mark and I fished the second week of July. Frank Schurz and Mollie Fitzgerald were also fishing that week. The water was VERY high after several days of rain. It was like fishing in the Amazon basin during the wet season.We were literally landing salmon in the trees!

High water notwithstanding, Mark and I did pretty well given the conditions - 13 salmon and about an equal number of grilse. We lost nine salmon and pricked about a dozen more. Our largest was 16 kg (35 pounds). The six rods in our week totaled about 60 salmon - again, not bad given the conditions.

Mollie can speak to the last week in June, which she fished. My review of the catch record seemed to indicate that the last week in June and first week in July were so-so.

The usual number of 40 and 50 pounders has been taken this season, and a 26 kg (57 pound) male was taken a few days ago by a Norwegian. Unfortunately, it was killed.

I've looked at the 2016 NINA (Norwegian Institute for Nature Research) scientific reports on all of Norway's rivers - particularly the Alta. These reports are used by the Norwegian government. According to NINA, the Alta is achieving 100% of its spawning goals and its run is 111% of the number necessary to maintain the population. The question, of course, is how and when the baseline was calculated. The big problem on the Alta is genetic introgression from farm fish, which NINA says is significant. Steps are being taken to counter this, but whether they will stem the tide of alien genes is an open question.

Releasing an Atlantic salmon on the Stjřrdal River in Norway. Photo Mattias Helde. From Fiskebloggen.com

Stordalselva River - This is a typical river of the area near Alesund, north of Bergen. Looking at the weekly catch numbers below, it is easily apparent that 2016 is being a good year in this river.

Otra - A river in southern Norway, catches to date have been 732 in 2016, and were 681 in 2015. Like many other rivers in Norway, there have been some large fish

Johan Friberg releases a 20 kg. salmon on the Otra River in 2016.


Kharlovka - Kola Peninsula - Justin McCarthy of the Atlantic Salmon Reserve notes the following:

The fishing was up  about 20 percent this year in June with more than 1,000 salmon for the two camps with the average size of fish up as well, averaging 17-18 pounds through the first several weeks. Then the weather turned hot in early July and the temperatures soared to near 30C, and the water at or above 20C for the last several weeks. Nevertheless, although many of the big salmon have been less active since the sun came out, the rivers are still producing about 200 fish a week, so we are now 2/3 the way through the season, and all is going well.

I heard all of the river have suffered lately with the heat wave that covered the Kola - especially some of the southern forested rivers further inland from the tundra and coast.

Large Kharlovka salmon being released. Photo Atlantic Salmon Reserve

On the Ponoi, the Ponoi  River Company reported good early runs of fish and then the heatwave in mid-July with air temperatures 30C and above. Since then there have been a couple of rainy weeks that have brought up the river levels, cooled the water, and are likely to result in "fall" salmon coming in within a week or so.

Connecting with a salmon on the Ponoi River that flows west to east for hundreds of km across the Kola Peninsula. Photo Ponoi River Company.


Jerk Sönnichsen, Chairman, Federation of Fly Fishers Denmark sends this report on Aug. 11:

The Danish salmon fishing has in recent years been much better because many people work with restocking and habitat improvements. So now the future looks much brighter for the Danish salmon population. Season in Denmark begins April 16 and ends on 15 October. All rivers have a fixed quota for the number of killed salmon, but also here in Denmark we see more and more fishermen who practice catch and release.
River Skjern - until now caught 627 salmon, of which 68% were released. The average size was 6.7 kg and the biggest salmon so far 14.1 kg 110 cm. The year will probably not beat last year's record of about 1,400 salmon caught. In 2016 there will be a stock estimate - we expect about 5,000 salmon.
River Storĺ - so far there have been caught 823 salmon of which 578 were released. Biggest salmon 18.9 kg 124 cm caught in April. Two thirds of this river is still blocked by a hydroelectric plant so the salmon are still kept from many fine spawning and nursery areas.

 Storĺ River in Denmark - Biggest salmon in 2016 18.9kg.

The Varde Ĺ - This river has a much greater potential, if many smaller creeks and streams can be improved That plan is on the way so it will be interesting to follow the development of this river. Biggest Atlantic salmon so far in 2016 is 14 kg, 116 cm. So far 476 salmon has been caught and 2/3 has been released this year.
River Gudenĺ - This river depends entirely on a hatchery program. The other rivers having a combination of natural fry and restocking. This year, catches of the early spring salmon was good. The upturn in 2016 is based on some extra parr/smolt releases in 2013 and 2014. So far around 80 salmon have been caught, of which the largest is 15.3 kg 116 cm.
River Sneum, Konge, Ribe, Brede and Vidĺen all have a smaller population of salmons combined with sea trout.


Good news from Ireland! Noel Carr is noting we are finally having good news on the salmon runs in Ireland:

As usual, towards the season's last quarter we have contacted our angling community on the main Irish salmonid rivers where many FISSTA affiliated clubs own and manage their waters.   We happily get confirmation for the first time in years that there is an encouraging improvement in the spring and grilse run for this season.  There are a number of rivers that have also seen a remarkable improvement in the sea trout numbers especially in the northern and western regions, but mostly out of range from the farmed salmon cages.


The River Moy numbers are once again the most prolific with anglers reporting good catches on the renowned fishery pools around Swinford and Foxford (250 salmon weekly averages)  and Ballina where the run has increased up to 50% average since last year's low base.  There are a number of closed rivers or rivers only open to catch and release that are showing good numbers of salmon returning which should assist in their reopening in the coming seasons.  Sadly, angling participation on our rivers has declined according to permit and license sales, but this is mainly due to the lack of investment in the sport and fisheries in the past.  FISSTA campaign of lobbying does not end as we now try to convince a new government and Minister to support a new plan to bring salmon and seatrout angling and stocks back to its former glory.  However, non angling visits to viewing points on our rivers under the FISSTA promotion of the Wild Atlantic Salmon Way (WASW) has increased nature lovers from all over the world to see at first hand our wild salmon and sea trout leaping the falls on the WASW which are located on the Irish west coast driving route called the Wild Atlantic Way (www.wildatlanticway.com)  The main and most popular one is at the Salmon Leap on the Glen River at Carrick in County Donegal where the coastline includes Europe's highest sea cliffs at Slieve League. Combining our angling with nature tourism at such locations enhances the visitor experience and more importantly raises the awareness of our wild Atlantic salmon life cycle.     

This is echoed by Shane Gallagher of the Drowes River Fishery. The Drowes is an enchanting short river exiting from Lough Melvin, probably the least human-impacted lake in Ireland. Atlantic salmon return to this river, and the streams of the Lough Melvin system, as early as New Years Day!

The early season on the Drowes was notable for the highest floods we have experienced in generations. The Four Masters Bridge at the Mill Pool was damaged in the floods and remains closed. Once water levels dropped Spring fishing was quite good, especially in March and April but the spring run finished about 3 weeks earlier and more abruptly than normal with May numbers being well down on previous years.

The Grilse run has been the most prolific in many years with large numbers of well conditioned grilse averaging 4lbs running and catches have exceeded the last number of years. At time of writing, water levels are holding up well and the sustained good run of grilse of the past 7 weeks shows no sign of slowing.

At right - photo of Drowes River, Leitrim. Tom Moffatt

Northern Ireland

Bann - The Bann River flows from Lough Neagh in the centre of Northern Ireland north to reach the sea at Coleraine. Traditionally it had very large runs, and even in the 17th century there were skirmishes on rights to fish it! Perhaps Carnroe is the best known stretch of the Bann for salmon fishing, with a low dam on the western side of the river and a set of boat locks on the eastern side

At Portna on the Bann, 12,505 salmon had been counted as of July 26, 2016. Between July 20 and 22nd, with the rain, 1,200 had passed through the counter.

Carnroe on the River Bann is a nearly magical spot along the river. Sometimes it feels like one is angling salmon in the weeds perhaps, but there are many salmon swimming up through the grasses. Photo Tom Moffatt


Michael Wigan, who manages the Helmsdale River, an east-flowing salmon stream in Sutherlandshire, has this to say:

The north Highlands had a solid Spring run of salmon.  'Spring' now extends to the first week of June.  By early July most of the rod catches were composed of grilse.  However, summer salmon continued to form part of the migration.  In recent weeks some very good catches indeed have been enjoyed on the River Thurso, 442 being caught in a single week.  The river has 13 beats.  Salmon/grilse have been running in steadily on the main northern rivers.  Where there are fish counters in place records demonstrate this.

Alastair "Ally" Gowans provides a wider perspective:

Scotland’s rivers have had decent season so far. Catches on the R Dee have improved, the river did suffer some horrendous damage during a flood in December especially around Ballater area where a number of salmon pools have disappeared, homes were flooded and a trailer park lost most its trailers to the river. It will be interesting to see how this event affects catches in future but when I fished there in June parr and trout appeared to be plentiful so nature probably has a way of safeguarding things. Catches on Tweed and Tay and indeed most rivers are close to normal; both these rivers have the main salmon runs in autumn so there is still expectation of a good season to come. I live close to the R Tummel, the main tributary of the Tay and large numbers of spring fish appeared during May and June but curiously they were very difficult to tempt so despite the quantity catch returns are much lower than expected. The fish ladder count at Pitlochry is considerably higher than normal for this time of year, confirming the larger run.

The Scottish Government’s decision to stop all mixed stock interceptory netting for three years may have something to do with the huge numbers of fish that have recently produced some amazing catches on our northern rivers. The other important ingredient, of course, is that we have had some very wet weather to facilitate migration. Ghillies are reporting that there are more fish than they have ever seen.  Great news! I’m told that the Naver and Thurso are breaking records and if the fish are taking their usual route down to the east coast rivers this might be the harbinger of great sport for autumn.

The Tweed is one of the most important salmon rivers in the British Isles. While it is mostly an autumn river, the returns to date appear to be on a par with the past few years. Note: the following chart is from FISHPAL, and would suggest for those following returns on a regular basis to explore their wonderful website.

The Tay River appears to be VERY slightly behind the excellent 2015 run, but ahead of the 5-year-average as noted below in the FISHPAL graph. By Aug. 9, more than 2,500 Atlantic salmon had been angled.

Upper Tay River, Scotland. Photo Dr. Hamish Moir

River Dee
- returns are much better than last year, but still below the five year average. So far in 2016, to Aug. 6, there have been 2,377 Atlantic salmon.

Spey River  - The salmon catches on the River Spey are the best since 2008. To the end of June 3,940 had been caught, and 94% were released. This is 38% higher catch rate than 2015.

Spey Fisheries Board

England & Wales

The Tyne has the potential for another near record-breaking year in 2016. This watershed in northeast England had a wonderful run in 2015, and with the great surge of salmon in June this year, is looking good indeed.

Riding Mills Counting Facility, River Tyne, England

Wye River
- Snaking up the English/Welsh border lands before curving into Wales, the Wye River is potentially en route to a record-breaking year in 2016. In 2015 the total for the year was 1,213, with Sept. and Oct. being important runs. This year there have been 1,086 salmon to Aug. 9.


In Brittany, at least some of the salmon runs are going well this year. The ELORN, that empties into the estuary of Brest, had reached 678 salmon by 22 July, 2016, compared with 497 for the entire year in 2015.

The Adour, Nive, Nivelle - These rivers flowing north from the Pyrenees have had much lower salmon runs than in 2015. A total of 336 salmon were kept, and 19 salmon released. Guillaume Barranco of the Fédération Departmentale de Pęche noted than the run this year has been closer to the average of the past 15 years.

Loire - So far a total of 464 salmon have passed through the fishway at Vichy. By comparison, as of July 31, 2015 there had been 1,117 salmon. Certainly something of a setback for a major salmon restoration effort in France.


Rhine - Just as the returns to French rivers were lower this year, so has been the return to the Rhine. As of the end of June there were a total of 125 salmon that reached Iffezheim, where there is a counting facility. To the same date in 2015 there were 228 salmon. A few km. upstream at Gambsheim, near the northern edge of Strasbourg, 49 salmon were counted as of June 31, 2016, compared with 152 to the same date in 2015.

Fish Passage at Gambsheim on the German side of the Rhine, just north of Strasbourg


On May 31 2016 it was reported two large salmon were reported caught in the River Meuse at Liege, with one of the salmon slightly more than a metre in length and weighing 7.3kg. The salmon disappeared from the Meuse in the 1930s, but there have been serious efforts to clean up the river, deal with dams and otherwise restore the population in the past few years.


Report from Lubbe Ferrysson:

We still have a month left of salmon season but it will be pretty good year for salmon in northern Sweden. It will not be as good as in 2014, but it will be better than 2015, which was an average year. Unfortunately, some rivers still have no fish counter, and statistics on the number of salmon caught is missing. But in most rivers there are counters. Sometimes, as in Byske river or Kalix river the counters are some distance from the sea, so the total number of salmon in the river is larger than the data from the counter.

Rivers in Norrbotten and Västerbotten (the northernmost county in Sweden) from north to south:

Torne river, the fish counter is placed very near the sea. 2016 has been a fantastic year. To 8 Aug. we have had 98,070 salmon pass the counter. It is the same number as in 2014. It was about 50,000 last year. Tributary Lainio River and Muonio River, which are more suitable for sport fishing, have also had a very good season despite the high water level.

Kalix river with tributaries Ängesĺn, Lina river and Kaitum river. Counter is in the ladder in Jockfall which is about 80-90km from the sea. For 25.july we have had 4,000 salmon passed the ladder. It's about the same number as in 2014 and 2015 at this date. In the Kalix River most salmon come during the August, so the figure will hopefully be much higher (in 2014, the total number of salmon was over 15,000).

Rĺne River, the counter is about 30 km from sea. To 25.july we have had 1,400 salmon pass the counter. This is considerably less than 2014 (3500), but more than 2015 (1000).

Pite River. Number of salmon, running the Pite river is only a few hundred, and data is not being collected. In the river, quite close to the sea, is one of Europe's largest waterfall and the spawning area for salmon is very small.

Lule River. The river has numerous dams and salmon production is based completely on artificial spawning. There is fishing between the sea and the first dam (about 35km) but it is some type of put-and-take.

Ĺby River. There are no exact figures, but the river is small and is considered a sea trout river. Trout fishing was good during the spring, now there are some salmon catches. But the total catch should be about 100-120 sea trout and 20-30 salmons. It is a normal year.

Byske River. The counter is in the fish ladder in Fällfors about 35 km from sea. For 25.july approximately 3,900 salmon have passed. It's about the same number as in 2014 and more than the average during the last 5 years. I fish in Byske River quite often, I can say that I have never seen so many salmon as I have in 2016. And I have fished the Byske River since 1980.

At Fällfors on the Byske River. There have been 3,900 Atlantic salmon past this point so far in 2016. Photo Lubbe Ferrysson

Kage River. Small river south of Byske river. The river is considered primarily as a sea trout river, but the last two years there has also been an increased interest in salmon. The data is based entirely on the catch statistics because a counter is not in place. This year caught 56 salmon and 199 sea trout. Last year it was 42 salmon and 176 sea trout.

Skellefteĺ River. The river has numerous dams and fish production is based completely on artificial spawning. There is fishing between the sea and the first dam (about 35km), but mostly in the autumn.

Logde River and Öre River have no counters and no statistics, at least not available but according to reports circulating among fishermen, Logde river has had a very good season with some 400 salmon caught. Öre river is regarded as sea trout river and catches are about 60 salmon.

Vindel River has a counter in the fish ladder near the sea. For 25.july a total of 5,850 salmon have passed the ladder. The total number for 2015 was 6,586 and 15,000 in 2014. There is no sport fishing for salmon in the river.

That is all for this year. Hope that the positive development of salmon fishing in northern Sweden will continue.


The northern Baltic rivers are having an exceptional year, and a slightly unusual one as well.

Tornionjoki - Already noted under Sweden, this river forms the border between the two countries. In addition to the exceptional run of 98,070 to Aug. 8, would like to point out that the main part of the run was two weeks earlier this year. The total number is almost exactly the same as the run of 2014, but with that difference. (see below).

Simojoki - This river, in the northern Baltic, and to the east of the Torn, may not have the massive run of salmon, but is still doing magnificently in 2016, with 4,925 Atlantic salmon counted as of Aug. 8, vs. 2,338 in 2015 and 3,180 in 2014.

Like the Torn, the main run was about two weeks earlier in June in 2016.

No information has come to our attention on rivers in southern Finland, such as the Kymi, that 150 years ago was a favourite salmon fishing river of the Czar of Russia, but is now much reduced due to dams, agricultural runoff and problems in the Baltic.


Atlantic salmon have a difficult time in Spain, where they inhabit the rivers of Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia. These generally short, steep rivers have multiple dams, and the conservation ethic needs to be much expanded in this set of regions.

There are limited fish counting activities, so angling success is the best measure of changes in salmon numbers available. Below are the rivers in Asturias:






























































It would appear that Atlantic salmon runs this year are in the middle range for recent years - and remain low.

Borja Fernandez Comas releases an Atlantic salmon, angled in the Piedra Blanca Preserve on the Esva River.


This is the province in the very northwest corner of Spain, and here the remaining Atlantic salmon are very much in trouble - and yet there is still an angling season. The river furthest southwest is the MINHO, that forms the northern border of Portugal, and is the southernmost Atlantic salmon river in Europe. Even here eight Atlantic salmon were caught this year.

The table below lists the rivers with Atlantic salmon in Galicia, and numbers caught, including 2016:

What is missing?

This year greater detail on Norwegian rivers has not been possible, and especially there are no numbers available yet on the TANA, perhaps the most prolific of all, especially of giant salmon.

On the south side of the Baltic, returns are not available for the salmon rivers of of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, although the salmon do hang on there. In Poland, it would be good to know the numbers on the Vistula and the Reda especially.

The biggest gap of all may be the PECHORA, the "anchor river" of the eastern edge of the Atlantic salmon's range, with dozens of tributaries spilling down from the Urals, some quite far south along the range. The various tributaries of the Pechora, much overfished commercially for Atlantic salmon in the 1960s and before, need better monitoring of returns, and might actually benefit from live release fisheries in Komi  and elsewhere.