River Reports – June 8, 2016

Today, June 8, is World Oceans Day, but for wild Atlantic salmon every day needs to be Wold Oceans Day.

If you look at the map, you can see that wild Atlantic salmon utilize vast parts of the North Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas, whether as migration routes or as feeding areas. ASF has been unraveling the mysteries of the higher mortality at sea being experienced by salmon, but we need even more resources devoted to understanding what is taking place and how.

Atlantic salmon are also one of a relatively small number of species, about a hundred, that grow up in freshwater, but are able to survive the change to ocean conditions. Along with the their migration across thousands of of kilometres of ocean and ability to make amazing leaps, it sets them apart as a species – but they remain connected with all the oceans have to provide.

Every river Atlantic salmon utilize is an extension of the ocean, and is a critical component of the species’ future. So give a shout out for World Ocean’s Day and the hope we all have for the future of wild Atlantic salmon.


Penobscot – As of Monday there have been 123 salmon at the Milford Fish Lift, vs. 168 the previous year. It is still early, so we need to wait and see – just like everywhere else.

Note that on Tues, June 14 at 10 am EDT there is a celebration of the completion of the Penobscot River Restoration Project. This has been the largest reconnection of a river to the ocean in U.S. history and together, all who worked on it for the past 18 years have shown what can be accomplished to set the stage for the rebirth of a river.

New Brunswick

Above: Fishing on the Nashwaak, May 28, 2016 - photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

It is still early days. Debbie Norton of Upper Oxbow Adventures notes:

“Not seeing many yet. A few have been angled, especially at The Loop on the Northwest Miramichi. We were out angling on the Sevogle yesterday, and did not see anything. We are going out on the Little Southwest today, but will need to wait and see. Water levels are good, a bit high, and more rain expected.
The salmon coming in are likely taking advantage of the water and moving further upstream right away.”

Keith Wilson of Wilson’s Camps says:

“We’ve seen some nice sea run trout but no salmon yet.
Have heard of a nice salmon in Doaktown about six days ago, and of another at Ludlow. We have perfect water, but salmon numbers are typical for the first few days in June.”

Brock Curtis at Blackville notes:

"Not a lot to report in regards to early runs of salmon yet. Shouldn't be long though. We did hear of one being caught on the Southwest Miramichi this past weekend. That is about it. Tributaries are low and the rain this week should bring them up and make for better canoeing and fishing on some. Lots of reports of shad, striped bass and trout."

The Dungarvon Counting Barrier is reporting so far just two grilse.

Restigouche Watershed

David LeBlanc of the Restigouche River Watershed Management Committee reports high water and a few salmon in the Restigouche, Matapedia and Causapscal.

Danny Bird of Kedgwick Lodge says, “We are just beginning to fish. Water is above normal as a result of heavy rains.”

Nova Scotia

Greg Lovely notes:

"Not many fish around yet, but the salmon have started to show up in the Margaree river...yeah!! Water levels are perfect and very cold, which sets things up quite nicely for the "new arrivals". I expect things to improve over the next week or so.”

Alex Breckenridge, “The Tying Scotsman” says:

"A quiet few days on the Margaree. Heard of one fish 10/12lbs caught on Saturday morning at the Tidal pool. No name as to the angler, but two guests in the shop witnessed it. Good water on the lower river so far with more rain forecast this week."

Bill Haley adds:

"The Margaree is in good shape and some large brown and speckled trout, as well as stripers as large as 40 inches are being caught. I’ve only fished salmon opening day (June 1) and did not see a fish. I have heard that salmon have now been caught."

On the LaHave, the Morgan Falls Fishway is reporting 20 large salmon and 1 grilse as of Monday.


ASF's Don Ivany notes the returns remain spotty. There have been a few on the Codroy, including an 18-pounder!

On the Conne River on the south coast, the fish may be a little late. As of earlier this week there were only four fish through the counting facility.

Meanwhile, conditions in Newfoundland have remained cool. In the Avalon Peninsula, it is too early for almost every river, and Don Hustins notes they should be arriving in another week or so. That being said, there were a couple of grilse angled on Piper’s Hole River on Opening Day, he notes. On the Avalon, water low but cold. Few fish at the mouth of Salmonier waiting for rain. Again normal for the first week of June.

Southwest Brook, Newfoundland, on Opening Day - photo Don Ivany/ASF

Rick Maddigan:

"I fished Bay St. George rivers for the opening 4 days. SW Brook had some fish. Few large ones in the Codroy and some small MS Winter in Middle Barachois. All others had very few. All normal for early June. Water high but dropping - lower than normal for early June."

As to the central region of the province, Tolson Parsons says, “No Salmon in central yet; maybe in about two more weeks. Water levels are good yet but some rain wouldn't hurt.”

Barb Genge of Tuckamore Lodge, near the upper end of the Northern Peninsula says:
“The Salmon are not here in our river yet they usually arrive around the 20th. of June, lots of water, weather is cold due to so many icebergs around and the levels are high.  Beaver Brook salmon are returning early but just a few. That is how it always is in that river.”

For those into the mystique of WATCHING Atlantic salmon, remember that Beaver Brook is the river that flows through an underground karst cavern, and the Atlantic salmon swim upstream, through the total darkness of the cavern, to continue their migration into the light further upstream. If that took place in Scotland or Ireland there would be a myth about it.


In Quebec two important government documents need your attention.

This week, the government came out with the official assessments for the Atlantic salmon rivers in 2015. Normally the document is out in February. The 299 page document is entirely in French, but is quickly understandable if your language skills are rusty.  Click here for the full pdf. Among the results:

Some rivers did much better, with the percentage of the egg deposition conservation minimum much better in 2015:

Bonaventure 190% in 2015 vs. 67% in 2014
Petite Cascapedia 141% in 2015 vs 57%
Cascapedia a whopping 478% vs 249%
Saint-Jean (Gaspé) 212% vs 85%
Ste-Marguerite (North Shore) 134% vs 48%
One of the more unlikely rivers to benefit:
Petit Pabos – 146% vs 31% in 2015 and the highest since the series began in 1984. In that year it reached only 6%!

But not is all great.
Matapedia 82% in 2015 vs. 116% the year before
On the North Shore of the St. Lawrence, the Jacques Cartier did better at 30% vs 12% in 2014, but still has a long way to go.

Overall, 2015 was definitely a step up from the year before.

Quebec Atlantic Salmon Management Plan 2016 - 2026

No English version of the management plan has been published yet, but likely soon will be.

ASF’s Charles Cusson provides an an appraisal of the plan:

As of April 1, following many years of consultation with stakeholders of Atlantic salmon in Quebec, the provincial government has implemented a new10-year plan to manage sport angling for this iconic species.  

This marks a major departure from management methods in place since 1984.  Seen by many in the salmon world as the model for managing rivers on an individual basis, the management plan has been upgraded to an abundance based system.

As of June 1, 2016, it is mandatory to release all large salmon (measuring more than 63 cms) until a mid-season assessment is done to ascertain abundance. Anglers will be permitted to legally release back to the water three (3) fish per day regardless of size.

As of August 1, rivers that reach 95% of their conservation target can permit retention of large salmon based on a quota, which will vary on a river by river basis.  If targets are not reached, mandatory live release of large salmon continues until the end of the season.  The mandatory live release of large salmon at the start of a season will substantially reduce the number of large salmon harvested and ensure that rivers have the maximum number of fish for spawning.  In 2017, in addition to this measure, a new “tag license” is expected to be introduced that will permit the retention of one large salmon and three grilse (less than 63 cms) per angler per year.

There are three rivers exempted from this new measure, the Moisie, Causapscal and Natashquan, where anglers will be allowed to harvest large fish from June 1.  The status of these rivers will be reviewed by the government following the 2016 season.  

Peer reviewed research has proven that live release is a very effective conservation tool.  Also, when done properly (not exposing the fish to air at any time during the process) it has been shown that those fish are more productive spawners than the ones that have been exposed to the air.  With the fragile status of Atlantic salmon populations in mind, keeping the fish in the water is paramount. The future health of our rivers and fishery needs those big spawners to be successful each year in their quest to reproduce.  And this plan will help.

These new regulations also demonstrate on the international stage that Quebec is serious about substantially reducing the harvest of salmon and will enable Canadian delegations to negotiate from a credible position with its counterparts in Greenland, where many large salmon destined to return to Quebec rivers are harvested each year.

Certainly, the plan is not perfect, and there is always room for improvement, and it does not address harvest management by other communities and jurisdictions but is a big stride forward in the marathon that is wild Atlantic salmon conservation.