In For the Count

Nothing is simple when assessing Atlantic salmon numbers.

Atlantic salmon can return earlier or later, depending on temperatures, river flows and temperatures, and food supply at sea. Plus there are certainly a host of other factors, some we know about, and others we haven't even thought about.

It will not be until New Years that numbers get crunched, and the data from counting fences, swim counts, creel surveys, and tag surveys are all assessed and the mathematics applied.

But nevertheless we do get hints through the season, coming from anglers' accounts of their success, and more importantly from the barrier fence, electronic counting (Didson and other technologies) and trapnet systems.

From our archives: the power of flooding water destroys the Boston Brook Counting Fence in 1999. Photo ASF

It is both positive and appropriate that DFO shares these numbers with us. For example, in Newfoundland, the entire province became aware how there was a 30 percent drop in returns this year, on a province-wide basis. Instead of knowing just about one's particular river of interest, it became a shared understanding, and collectively that action needed to be taken.

But the cryptic nature of what is being shared leaves much to be desired. For example, the Sandy River Counting Fence in Labrador went in rather late this year, and yet there is no note on this, even though it may significantly affect the numbers that are rightly being shared with the public.

The same is true of other counting facilities. For any number of reasons the facilities may not be up when they ideally should be, or as on the Miramichi a few years ago, floods can take out counting fences, with nothing being mentioned on the DFO website.

The State of Maine makes those notes available, and even supplements them with insights in emails sent to anyone interested in the restoration of wild Atlantic salmon. Certainly DFO could follow this practice.

We all need that information, for the conservation of Atlantic salmon we care about requires that we all have understanding of what is happening, and encourage wise and better management by those entrusted with the species' future.

The Autumn Look Ahead

Overall this has been a dry summer. But here we are at the end of August, and the image below shows us what we can look forward to - beautiful colours, and hopefully rain to replenish our salmon rivers.

Sean Doyle sets out a line on the Cains River in the autumn.   Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF


Atlantic salmon leaping along the Hawke River in Labrador.  Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

The latest counts, for Aug. 27 are up:

As in so many other rivers in North America this year, there are questions about what happened to grilse returns.

White Bear River in Labrador has one of the great Atlantic salmon runs in North America.


The salmon year continues, and DFO in Newfoundland deserves praise for how quickly and consistently the website is updated. The need for a few notes has already been mentioned.

The numbers above do continue to show the depressed counts on most Newfoundland rivers, especially compared with the 2012-2016 five-year averages.

Recent reports say that there has been some decent angling on the Gander River. However, in Western Newfoundland it has remained hot, with low water.

Also, rivers at the very top of the Northern Peninsula, that appear to have had better returns in 2017.

Overall, things are cooling down and DFO has re-opened a set of rivers as of this past Tuesday:

Salmon Rivers re-opening in Zone 3,4,5,6,10 & 11
Aug. 28, 2017

DFO advises anglers that due to improved environmental conditions the following rivers will re-open to catch-and-release angling only on Tuesday, August 29, 2017.

Zone 3
26. Coney Arm River
27. Sop's Arm River, including Main, Doucer's, Nathin's, Corner Brook, and all tributary streams
28. Hampden River

Zone 4
40. Northwest Arm Brook
41. Western Arm River
42. Leamington River
43. Charles Brook, Bay of Exploits
44. Northern Arm River, Bay of Exploits
45. Peter's River, Bay of Exploits
46. All tributaries of the Exploits and water shed above Red Indian Lake

Zone 5
55.NW Brook, Indian Bay
56.Indian Bay River
57.NW Brook, Trinity
58.Traverse Brook
59.Middle Brook
60.Gambo River
61.NW Brook, Alexander Bay
62.Terra Nova River
64.Salmon Brook, Port Blandford
65.SW Brook, Port Blandford

Zone 6
66.Salmon Cove River
67.Trouty River
68.Pope's Hr River
69.Shoal Hr River
70.Deer Hr River

Zone 10
91. Come by Chance
93. North Hr
94. Black River
95. Pipers Hole

Zone 11

111. Bay du Nord River
112. Simmons Brook & tributary streams, Cinq Island Bay, Fortune Bay
113. Southwest Brook & tributary streams, Cinq Island Bay, Fortune Bay
114. Old Bay Brook, Bay de l'Eau
115. Taylor's Bay Brook, Bay de l'Eau
118. Allen's Cove Brook, Facheau Bay
119. Bottom Brook, Facheau Bay
120. Hare Bay Rivers, Southwest Coast

For more information please visit the In Season River Status Report at
or call the Angling Line at 709-772-4423.

Counting Fence on the Conne River in southern Newfoundland. Taken when water level was better. ASF Research

New Brunswick


An Autumn quest seeking Atlantic salmon on the Cains River, a tributary of the Southwest Miramichi. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

The latest counts we have for Dungarvon are for Aug. 20. Next week hopefully there will be Aug. 31 numbers.

As with most other salmon rivers, the wish is for more rain as flows continue low. Lately the cooler temperatures at night have eased conditions for Atlantic salmon already in the rivers.

Northwest Miramichi

For the Northwest Miramichi, questions also arise about the low grilse returns in 2017.


Salmon angling has been winding down, and in many of the rivers the water levels and flows are low.

Restigouche River below Kedgwick River, as of Wed. Aug. 30 at noon. Very low water.


Challenging water conditions persist in most salmon areas. 

Malbaie River (Charlevoix)

To August 29th, 190 fish have been landed (148 salmon released and 42 grilse retained).  To September 30th, 2016 anglers had landed a total of 318 (220 salmon released and 98 grilse retained).  Total run for 2016 was 919 fish (447 salmon and 472 grilse.  Latest count for 2017 is at August 1st, 421 fish having counted through the Fishway.

Malbaie River in Charlevoix.   Photo Wikipedia

Cap-Chat River

This small gem of a Gaspé river is nestled in a deep valley just west of Sainte-Anne-des-Monts.  The recent mid-season assessment resulted in 250 salmon and 35 grilse being observed which has permitted a small quota of 30 salmon. In 2016 the total run was 676 (371 salmon and 305 grilse).  Reported landings were as reported: 105 salmon released, 30 salmon and 75 grilse retained for a total of 241.

Cap-Chat River, Gaspé.  Photo Charles Cusson/ASF

Nova Scotia


Nearly dried out is the phrase that comes to mind. Certainly could use all the rains it could get.

Alex Breckenridge, the "Tying Scotsman noted on Wed.:

Quiet around the lower river this morning apart from the Forks, just a few cars around the other pools.
Rain forecast tomorrow and Friday, we certainly need it again, would be nice for the holiday weekend.