Good News and Bad in 2013


The 2013 Salmon Season: Good News and Bad

by Paul Smith

Thereís plenty happening in the salmon world. The fish are entering their natal rivers to begin their cycle of reproduction and the runs are looking really good.

Thatís great news for anglers.

Last season was quite dismal. Not only were salmon numbers down on most rivers, but the environmental conditions here in Newfoundland were horrible, by far the worst I have seen in my four decades of salmon fishing.

The daily temperatures, both on the island and in Labrador were wickedly hot ... and the rain was oh, so scarce. This is a combination that inevitably leads to the anglerís most dreaded menace ... low and warm water.

I spent the first two weeks of July camped on the Pinware in Southern Labrador. The days were sunny and scorching hot. If it werenít for the incessant and always bloodthirsty blackflies, Iíd have worn shorts and wet waded.

It was my 15th season on the Pinware and never had I seen it as hot for so many days in a row.

The water soared to well over

200 F and the salmon become quite lethargic, with little energy to gobble Blue Charms or chase dead drifted Bombers.

The fishing was extremely tough. Much coaxing and fiddling was needed to tweak the slightest response from a resting salmon. The fish were stressed and so were the fishers.

At the beginning of the second week we tucked into our sleeping bags to the beautiful harmony of rain beating on taut canvas. It poured for hours, lulling me into a wonderful, long sleep.

Finally, a decent overnight rain cooled the river to about 180 F and the fish became totally revitalized. It was like a dark cloud was lifted and all were happy.

We caught a few fish and had a wonderful day on our favourite river. The Pinware was back to its old self. But the reprieve in heat didnít last long.

My river thermometer climbed steadily in the endless sunshine and the fishing slumped once again. It was to be the pattern all throughout the summer of 2012, hot dry weather, great for sunbathers and garden parties, but rotten for salmon fishing.

It looked for a while like summer 2013 could be shaping up for a 2012 repeat. May was hot and dry here on the Avalon Peninsula, but June brought cooler temperatures and greyer skies.

There was plenty of rain and water levels rose nicely to accommodate both anglers and incoming salmon. Now conditions are looking quite promising. Anglers are catching fish.

Iím heading to Russia this Wednesday night to fish the Ponoi on the Kola Peninsula. They had the best opening week ever. Iím cautiously optimistic and pumped for Barents Sea salmon

 I say cautiously because one can never knows for sure with salmon fishing. If you want a sure thing, take up golf or tennis. Angling is always a gamble, even on the worldís finest rivers.

Although on the actual salmon front, things are looking good, thereís still quite a bit of bad news in the political and environmental context.

By far, the biggest threat to wild salmon right now is the Greenland driftnet fishery.

From 2002-09, the Atlantic Salmon Federation and Icelandís North Atlantic Salmon Fund reached a private agreement with Greenlandís fishermen.

Private dollars were invested in alternative economic development opportunities in exchange for the voluntary suspension by Greenland fishermen of their right to fish salmon commercially.

The agreement allowed Greenlanders to conduct a modest subsistence salmon fishery of about 3,000 -7,500 salmon annually. The buyout was very successful and large salmon were on the increase.

The deal has now expired and the killing of salmon off the coast of Greenland is mushrooming. Talks are stalling and little progress is being made.

In 2012, nearly 10,000 fish were killed in the Greenland fishery. Itís predicted that if no intervention occurs, up to 22,000 might be harvested over the summer of 2013.

Greenland is a territorial holding of Denmark and talks are ongoing to persuade the Danes to scale back this potentially very destructive fishery.

Why do we care about the Greenland salmon fishery? Donít we have enough problems of our own?

The crux of the matter is that salmon know no international boundaries. Actually we are talking about larger salmon and not the smaller grilse that stay in North American coastal waters.

The big salmon from rivers on both sides of the Atlantic migrate to an area off Greenland to feed and winter at sea.

It is a golden opportunity for commercial fisherman to make easy money. We did it ourselves with the cod fishery on the Hamilton Banks and history speaks to the disaster that came out of that.

Those salmon that are caught off Greenland are the very same larger (over 63 cm) fish that return to Newfoundlandís rivers to spawn.

Donít be fooled by an abundance of smaller salmon or grilse as we call them. They can mask a disaster that may be occurring within the multi-sea winter fish population.

It is imperative that the Greenland fishery does not spiral out of control.

If you want to help you can do so by supporting the Atlantic Salmon Federation. Theyíre the organization that spearheaded the drive to buy out the fishery in the first place,  and it remains their highest priority issue.

On a brighter note, the Government of Canada just allotted $10 million to be spent over two years on projects to enhance recreational fisheries. This is fantastic news.

These funds will help sustain stewardship initiatives already in place and likely get new efforts rolling to enhance salmon stocks both in Newfoundland and elsewhere.

No doubt groups like SAEN and SPAWN are on the ball and writing proposals for Newfoundlandís share of the money.


Paul Smith, a native of Spaniardís Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every

opportunity. He can be contacted at