Solar Eclipse of the Salmon

The attention being focused on the upcoming solar eclipse Aug. 21 caused some thought. Would a total eclipse have any effect on an Atlantic salmon at critical times of the year? We have a perfect opportunity coming up, just seven years away. Read more at the bottom of this week's ASF RIVERNOTES blog.

Adventures as Different as any Individual can Devise

Time spent on Atlantic salmon rivers is the stuff of memories. Whether it is the zing of a reel, a wild Atlantic salmon leaping through rapids, experiencing the full impact of a true wilderness setting or watching one's child bring in her first fish, these are times remembered for years, for decades, and one might even say for life.

Peter Coley took his family to the Cascapedia River last month. Rushing water, quiet pools and good company made the experience one to be remembered.

His daughter Juliette connected and brought in her first Atlantic salmon.

Ten-year-old Juliette Coley releases an Atlantic salmon on Back Up Pool on the Cascapedia, one of several she brought in and gently released back into the river. Photo Peter Coley.

There are moments that are sublime, beautiful, and perhaps long talked about.

Double Rainbow on the Miramichi River. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

All of these moments, plus the peace of connecting with the river and the opportunity to focus on it and the Atlantic salmon can be yours.


The numbers for the counting facilities are out for Aug. 13, and continue to raise concerns.

The Exploits River has just slightly passed the 50 percent of the recent five-year average, with 14,972, compared with 28,731.

Most other rivers, are down significantly. Look at Harry's River with 2,396 vs. 4,365 in 2016.

Releasing an Atlantic salmon on the Lower Humber River.   Photo Bill Bryden

A reminder that with the numbers so low, ALL angling on the island of Newfoundland is now Live Release, in an effort that should help the in-river production of Atlantic salmon.

Also, be aware that some of the rivers closed for low water and higher temperatures have now re-opened. Among those recently re-opened.

Check this page for further changes:


Aug. 16, 2017 - Salmon Rivers re-opening in Zone 6,7,9,10
 DFO advises anglers that due to improved environmental conditions the following rivers will re-open to catch-and-release angling only at noon on Wednesday, August 16, 2017.
Zone 6
 71. Bellevue River, Trinity Bay
Zone 7
72. Salmon Cove River, Conception Bay
73. North River, Conception Bay
74. South River, Conception Bay
75. North Arm  River, Holyrood
Zone 9
81. Salmonier River, including Back River below falls
82. Colinet River
83. Rocky River
84. North Harbour River
85. Little Salmonier River
86. Big Barachois Brook
87. Branch River
Zone 10
88. Great Barasway
89. South East River (Placentia) & tributary streams
90. Northeast River Placentia
For more information please visit the In Season River Status Report at

or call the Angling Line at 709-772-4423.

Then on Aug. 17, more rivers were opened:

 DFO advises anglers that due to improved environmental conditions the following rivers will re-open to catch-and-release angling only at noon on Thursday, August 17, 2017.
Zone 10
96. Nonsuch Brook
97. Cape Rodger River
98. Bay de l'Eau River
99. Red Harbour River, Northeast & Northwest branches & tributary streams
100. West Brook, Northwest 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 streams
105. Taylor's Bay River, Burin Peninsula & tributary streams
106. Salmonier Lamaline River & tributary streams
107. Piercey's Brook & tributary streams
Zone 11
108. Grand Bank Brook & tributary streams
109. Garnish River, including Lower Garnish & Upper or Black River & tributary streams
 110. Long Harbour River & tributary streams, Fortune Bay

Re-entry! Atlantic salmon attempting to scale Big Falls on the Humber River.  Photo: Tom Moffatt/ASF

Comments from anglers reinforce the scientific evidence coming from the counting fences:

Tolson Parsons' comment on the situation says much:

Worst fishing I've seen for 25 years. If DFO does not have total catch and release for the 2018 season our salmon will go the way of the northern cod. Very bad returns!

The one area that seems to be unaffected by the downturn in salmon numbers is the upper part of the Northern Peninsula.

The Torrent River IS down 15 per cent over either the five-year average or last year. However, closer to St. Anthony's, Barb Genge of Tuckamore Lodge notes:

We still have lots of salmon and the river has good water levels.

Meanwhile the centre of the island is definitely seeing many rivers closed, and the fishing slow.


So far there is no consensus on what is happening on the Labrador rivers.

Mike Crosby of Flowers River Lodge has the following to say:

Water is very high on Flowers River now. There are still good numbers of large salmon around and grilse have arrived, albeit not in large numbers. Overall, fishing continue to be good.

Dwight Lethbridge of Pratt Falls Lodge, talking about the Eagle River, notes:

We left camp on Sunday for a 5 day break with people going in again on the 19th for a week.  The fishing ended on a high note with guests averaging 4-5 a day for the whole last week, and a surprising ratio of about 30 percent large salmon.  River conditions were excellent. Still a little high for the time of year, but a great fishing level. Fish were not hanging around pools for very long with such great conditions for travel upstream.  Water temperature was at 65F when we left the camp on Sunday.

The DFO counts were also out for their four rivers being assessed, as of Aug. 13:

As one can see, there is little pattern to any comparison with 2016. It is interestng that the Sand Hill grilse numbers are much higher, and yet the large salmon are half last year's run. Meanwhile in the English River the grilse are down slightly, and large salmon up considerably.


The Cascapedia weaves yet another moment of magic. Photo Peter Coley

Charles Cusson, ASF's Director of Quebec Programs:

Extreme low and warm water conditions are still a reality in the salmon regions of Quebec.  The Rimouski River managers have acted to protect their salmon by suspending angling activities until mother nature provides a helping hand with much-needed rain.

There have been somewhat random thunderstorms and drops of rain on certain rivers.  But for the sake of the Atlantic salmon, we could use the tail end of a hurricane to some advantage for the water levels. As always, one must be a little careful of what one wishes for.

Note that data used in the Quebec part of ASF RIVERNOTES are sourced from various river websites, social media and Quebec government sources.

George River - Ungava Bay

The George River is one of those wonderful Atlantic salmon rivers that has the special sense of true wilderness about it.

This river winds towards Ungava Bay in some of the most northerly land in Quebec. Smaller trees grow in the river valley, but the hills above have the special quality that comes with land above treeline. It has a haunting beauty of great sweeps of landscape with no sign of human activity.

The George River, flowing into Ungava Bay, supports a healthy population of Atlantic salmon that take five years or more to grow sufficiently to become smolt - due to the northern latitude and shorter summer season. Photo Catherine Parceaud

The Atlantic Salmon Journal had an article last year on fishing at Pyramid Mountain Camp, where it impressed the author of that article with the experience.

The Mays of Pyramid Camp note the following about the salmon in 2017 on the George River:

Since the end of the first week in August, the George River has been rising steadily and is about 5 to 6 feet above normal for this time of the salmon fishing season. The high water does not seem to be affecting the fishing although the salmon are holding in pools where one would normally stand from to fish.

Many fish are holding in the lies and fresh fish are coming into the river system daily.

Everyone is getting some good fly fishing action on the George River in the area around Pyramid Mountain. Salmon on average have been weighing in about 10 to 14 lbs but larger fish are also being caught regularly including some in the 20 lb. range. 2017 marks one of the best years for the salmon population on the George River.

Peter May with a fresh run Atlantic at the "Orange Rock" salmon lie on August 8th, 2017. — at Pyramid Mountain Camp on the George River, that flows into Ungava Bay. Photo Sarah May

Nova Scotia


Alex Breckenridge of "The Tying Scotsman" has this to say:

Fish are being caught daily from a few pools that are holding fish. The modest bumps of rain recently brought in fish and for a couple of days more anglers were on the water until levels dropped again. Water temperatures have been recorded 72-76 F a few days after rainfall.

Meanwhile, Greg Lovely notes:

It is the same old story this week - we need rain. Very few people are angling, and no reports lately of much success. Some rain in the forecast may help bring things around. I have been doing reconaissance alongn the river and I am seeing fish. I hope when we get rain and cooler temperatures, more fish enter the Margaree.

The steep-sided valley of the Northeast Margaree causes the river to rise swiftly after passing storms, but to drop just as fast. Periods of little rain mean a very low water level.   Photo: Greg Lovely

DFO has released its Aug. 15 numbers for the Nova Scotia rivers being assessed:

The comparative improvement in numbers is nice to see, but still remain far below numbers seen a few years ago.

New Brunswick

Brock Curtis of Curtis Miramichi Outfitters notes:

River levels remain low, and we are still waiting on much needed rain. The cooler evenings have brought the river temperatures down and angling is picking up. Starting to see more anglers coming through the tackle shop now that the cold water pools are open again.

There are a few salmon being caught. I saw an angler hook and release a salmon at 3 PM last Friday. It really surprised me as the day was quite warm. Since then we have had others comment on hooking salmon. Yesterday an angler below Blackville hooked a large salmon that he thought was fresh in from the salt water. Everyone along the river is hoping for a good rain.

Debbie Norton of Upper Oxbow Adventures adds:

Cool nights are keeping the waters open.
We are catching some.
Waiting for the fall run.
Fish taking on small flies new miner 10's with the fall colors in them.

While the Aug. 15 DFO counts for the Miramichi are still not posted on their website, the weekly numbers are available:

These remain lacklustre returns, and it will be interesting to see how well the autumn run brings up the returns.

Southwest Miramichi following one of those rainstorms we could use in greater number.  Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

St. John River

The Aug. 15 numbers are posted for Mactaquac and for the Nashwaak.

These numbers continue to hover close to historic low returns for what was a great Atlantic salmon river in the past.

Jacquet River

The Nepisiguit count, just uploaded:

To Aug. 15 there were 100 grilse and 56 large salmon, compared with the 2009 to 2013 average of 168 grilse and 130 large salmon, and the 2015 count of 609 grilse and 451 large salmon. No count is available for 2016. Not a promising year.

There is a continued need for more rain throughout the province, and this includes the Restigouche region.



Jason Valliere, Marine Resource Scientist with Maine Dept. of Marine Resources reported yesterday:
I just wanted to give an update on where we are at Milford Fishlift and the Penobscot River for fish counts.  The fishway is currently shut down and has been since July 31.  Dam repairs are ongoing.
The numbers are up to date as of Aug. 16.  They include salmon passed - counted via hopper dump count by Brookfield - when the fishway was left open to “De-fish” pre-shutdown, all fish that were netted out of the fishway during the dewatering process, and one salmon rescued by Brookfield in the construction area and passed over the dam.
Currently we have sent 532 Broodstock to Craig Brook Hatchery.  Including 238 Female MSW, 232 Male MSW, and 62 Grilse 1SW.  Of those 10 Grilse and 2 Females were returned to the river to diversify run timing genetics and for fish health reasons.
16 MSW Females, 16 MSW Males, 22 MSW unknown sex, and 256 Grilse have been released into Milford Headpond.
We have also recaptured 43 Grilse and 1 MSW salmon that was originally captured at Orono and trucked and released into the Milford headpond.

The Kennebec River has had 3 grilse and 31 large salmon as of Aug. 14.

The Narraguagus, one of the Downeast rivers, has 27 grilse and 8 large salmon.

Total Eclipse of the Salmon - the Story

The media interest in the Aug. 21, 2017 Total Eclipse sweeping across the United States from coast to coast drew my interest. In the couple of total solar eclipses this writer has seen, the most amazing part was how birds began chirping as if evening was coming on, and how animals in general prepared for night-time. It was as if it was the most normal thing to have a second "night" in the middle of the day.

Naturally one might wonder how Atlantic salmon might view this situation, if it occurred at an important staging part of their life cycle. And, as it turns out, in a few years time that is exactly what will happen.

On April 8, 2024, there will be a total eclipse of the sun, with the shadow sweeping up from the Texas/Mexico border to cross both New Brunswick and Newfoundland

On the centreline of the zone of totality, the period when the sun will be entirely covered will last about 3 minutes.

Of interest in the Atlantic salmon world, the very centreline passes through Blackville on the Southwest Miramichi and Terra Nova National Park in Newfoundland.

The zone of totality is marked by the blue lines, while the centre, with maximum period of totality, is the red line. Blackville on the Southwest Miramichi is on the very centreline.

While many animals react to the coming on of darkness, will the Atlantic salmon? Probably not. Depending on ice conditions, the kelts COULD be moving downstream, but probably it is about right. For the smolts, while they move at night, it will be too cold on April 8. If the total eclipse occurred a month later, it might be a different story.

In Newfoundland, the zone of totality includes much of the centre of the island, with the centreline passing through Terra Nova National Park, with a period of totality of about 3 minutes.

In Newfoundand, the story for Atlantic salmon will be the same - April 8 is far too early for normal movement of smolts, with water temperatures too cold to trigger the migration.

Still, an intriguing question to ponder.