ASF RIVERNOTES - Sept 8, 2017


Norway's Alta - HERE BE MONSTERS

The boats of the Alta taking anglers to salmon pools are built with lapstrake construction, but in some ways resemble the North American canoes called "Grand Lakers". Photo thanks to Chris Buckley

Each Atlantic salmon river is different. Some are spectacular wilderness destinations, others appeal to people through memories and stories, some rivers become favourites over time as people get to know every pool. But the Alta River in Norway boasts something unique - monster Atlantic salmon.

The Alta, in Norway's part of Finnmark, is only about 175 km. from the northern tip of the country. It is one Atlantic salmon river among hundreds in Norway, but its reputation is known throughout the salmon word.

An Alta River Atlantic salmon recovering nicely in the cold water prior to swimming off with a powerful flick of the tail. Photo Chris Buckley.

ASF Director Chris Buckley, who just returned from the Alta River, reported earlier this week:

We had high water and tough fishing during the last week of August. My guest, Mike Engel, did catch and release a 20 kg /44 lb salmon.

Here are the "big fish" results for the Alta's 2017 season:

During the five week season for the visiting anglers, 21 salmon weighing 40+ lb were caught. Of those, 11 weighed 44+ lb. The largest weighed 55 lb.

The residents of the town of Alta also have five weeks on all the beats of two of the three Alta camps (Stengelsen and Sautso), as well as the Raipas section of the river (closest to the estuary) which they fish all summer. Tor Erland Nilsen, ALI's CEO, says that it would be fair to assume that they caught as many big fish as the visitors. This would mean that it is likely that a grand total of more than 40 salmon weighing 40 pounds or more were caught, and that more than 20 of those weighed 44 pounds or more.

Once a person falls under the spell of the Alta, the river and its powerful aquatic giants can pull an angler back again, and again.

Atlantic salmon of 44 lb brought in by Mike Engel,  being patiently held until it is ready to head off back into the dark depths of the Alta River to continue upstream to a spawning stream. Photo Chris Buckley

Tossing a line to connect with an Alta salmon below the towering cliffs enclosing the river. Photo courtesy Chris Buckley

The Special Flavour of Urban Atlantic salmon angling

Nothing is quite like the experience of angling for Atlantic salmon in rivers that are both healthy and pass through the centre of a city. People go about their normal lives a few feet away, pushing baby prams, driving home, getting groceries.

Where the Ness River in northeast Scotland passes through the city of Inverness, there are a group of passionate anglers that spend mornings and evenings connecting with returning Atlantic salmon. Photo Jonathan Carr/ASF

As car lights come on, and evening settles over Inverness on Aug. 31, another angler wades on the gravels to seek an Atlantic salmon. Photo Jonathan Carr/ASF

ASF's Jonathan Carr was in Inverness, Scotland for a conference at the end of August, little more than a week ago, and took an hour to explore this very special salmon angling area. Anglers can use a limited stretch of the river in the city and near its exit to the sea for 150 pounds per year.

In some cases anglers are able to walk five minutes from their homes to the river. No special "expedition" required to a distant river. After salmon angling, return to your home, settle in with a warm cup of tea, and then sleep in your own bed. Definitely an experience most North Americans are not used to - unless you live on the Miramichi or a place like Rimouski.

John MacDonald, ready for an evening close to home. Photo Jonathan Carr/ASF


Conditions were dry in Quebec right up through Labour Day weekend, but the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, and some other storms, are bringing up water levels. With a little bit of luck and a few more storms from the south, angling should improve this month. 
Note: Data used in the Quebec river notes are sourced from various river websites, social media and Quebec government sources.

Cascapedia River

Cascapedia Society manager Darlene Sexton sent the end of August figures.  Complete details below.

Sylvie Malo-Clark releases an approx. 21 lb. Atlantic salmon on the Cascapedia on Labour Day (Sept. 4, 2017). Photo courtesy of Sylvie Malo-Clark

Sylvie Malo-Clark says of the hen salmon above:

The fly was a #10 double John Olin tied on a 8 lb leader. Landed and released very quickly.


Jean-Paul Duguay Pool on the York River. Photo Jean-Guy Béliveau

Atlantic salmon lazing near the bottom of the Paul-Émile Pool on the Dartmouth River, Gaspé. Photo Jean-Guy Béliveau


The Angling season finished yesterday for the Island of Newfoundland, and the count for Sept. 3 is up on the DFO website.

The returns on Newfoundland remain of great concern, with aboute a 30 percent decline from last year.

Parks Canada and the "MUST RETAIN" Fishery in Terra Nova National Park - in the year of low returns

In light of this great decline, and DFOs decision to end retention angling early, the actions of Parks Canada in Terra Nova National Park are hard to understand. If DFO determines that the retention fishery should end, shouldn't that apply to all of the arms of the Federal Government?

For a number of days recently we had a bizarre situation in Newfoundland. All Atlantic salmon rivers were closed to retention angling  - except for one.

In Terra Nova National Park there is a fishery on the Northwest River - that single river out of step with the remainder of the entire province. In addition, the river has a special rule. THE ANGLER IS NOT ALLOWED TO RELEASE THE ATLANTIC SALMON BACK INTO THE RIVER.

This is a forced retention policy.

The Northwest River angling finally closed on Sept 4, once 100 grilse had been killed.

While the argument can be made that since 1,418 salmon were counted, what did it matter? However, we do have a Canadian National Park forcing anglers to have a retention fishery, if they want to be on the river, during a year when the scientific advice was to close down retention fisheries.

And one final major point. A quick look at the data on the river, from a previous stock status report that included this river, shows the minimum conservation level and spawning requirement is about 1,600 fish. So the river was not meeting its minimum, and in looking back through the figures, it hasn't in years past.

Much food for discussion in this.

Colin Murray plays a 25-30lb salmon at Shellbird Island Pool on the Lower Humber river on the evening of Sept 6.  He landed and successfully released the fish. Photo Don Ivany/ASF


The angling season in Labrador has another week to go. Below are the counting fence numbers - remember that Sand Hill River's fence went in late.

Eagle River

Pratt Falls Lodge
has now closed, but Dwight Lethbridge described the last week:

We ended off our year with a small group of 4 in fishing from Aug 19-26th. And, despite the river rising nearly 3 1/2 feet during that time, guests still hooked up with fresh fish and some large fish as well! Had the rain stayed away we expect they would have had one of the best weeks of our season.


Nova Scotia


Greg Lovely notes:

We finally got some rain in the Margaree and the water levels are a lot better than they were. The salmon seemed to have stayed where they were and not moved into the Northeast Branch in any significant numbers. There are fish being hooked daily in the lower part of the river and that is also where all the fishermen are.

LaHave and Sackville rivers

The Aug. 31 numbers are in, and the LaHave especially has been doing very well with its grilse (188, vs 3 in 2016).

Numbers remain very low, but certainly better than they were. Now if we could only build on this.

Morgan Falls Fishway on the LaHave River in southern Nova Scotia.  Photo Lewis Hinks/ASF

New Brunswick


 Brock Curtis of Curtis Miramichi Outfitters says:

Rivers remain low but water temperatures are much cooler and with more anglers around we are hearing of quite a few salmon being caught. The odd angler is commenting on releasing a fresh salmon but most are fish that have been in the river for awhile. Everyone is looking forward to the rain in the forecast. With a full moon this week and rain in the forcast we are hoping to see the beginning of larger fall runs. We are also seeing the beginnings  of our fall colors. For some anglers this is their favorite time of year. There seems to be a feeling among anglers that with rain we will see good fall fishing.

Looking forward to deep Autumn - Geoff Giffin on the Cains River in mid-October. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

The Aug. 31 counts are in for the trapnets and barriers:

Hard to make any trends out of the data, except that grilse are down on the Southwest Miramichi, while no trend is evident for the large salmon.

Certainly the entire summer has had low water. Check out the photo below, taken on Sept. 1.

Southwest Miramichi in need of several rainstorms on Sept. 1, 2017. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Debbie Norton of Upper Oxbow Adventures notes:

Water has come up a bit and a bit more rain on the way. Had two guys Saturday who landed one and connected with three. They used small flies. We have had really large salmon this year, while grilse numbers are down.

Dungarvon Barrier in a panorama view of this tributary of the Renous River, which is, in turn, a tributary of the Southwest Miramichi. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Cabin at the Dungarvon Barrier. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

St. John River

Continued low returns, below last year's critically low numbers:

Kedgwick River

Danny Bird of Kedgwick Lodge reports:

The water rose approximately four inches over the last two days. Our fish count over last year same time is up in both multi-sea-winter and one-sea-winter fish.