Reading the Patterns of Salmon Returns

Here and there the weather is finally turning warm – and almost hot, which some would say is about time, it now being July. The downside is the dropping river levels and rising water temperatures.

Release, Ledge Pool, Grand Cascapedia on June 30. The salmon is being kept in the water, which is vitally important to a successful release - photo by Dan Greenberg

Note: for Quebec Runs, River Conditions and Success, go to bottom of post.

Video: In New Brunswick, we all hope the Petitcodiac and the Pollett Rivers will  begin their recovery this year. There were good early signs. In the early 1950s, Dr. Paul Elson did remarkable research – the first studies of the Atlantic salmon productivity of a river, and it was completed on the Pollett. This included the number of eggs laid, fry numbers, parr densities, smolt runs, etc. His work is still the basis of productivity estimates for salmon rivers in North America. He took home movies of his work – and below is a 5-minute excerpt. It shows what the Pollett River is potentially capable of becoming again in future.

Some updates of rivers and returns:

New Brunswick:


Restigouche River

Restigouche – There are considerable numbers of large salmon moving up. At Three Sisters Pool Crown Reserve, one group brought in (and released) 10 large salmon and 1 grilse, but also hooked 10 to 15 large salmon that were not landed – all the above in the first few days of early July.

Just before, at the end of June, another group on the same pool had 30 large salmon on line, and 5 grilse.

Upsalquitch –  Excellent fishing for both large salmon and grilse this past week.

NW Miramichi, Sevogle & SW Miramichi – Sections of these rivers are now live release only, as of July 6. Read more at:

Main SW Miramichi – Good reports of large Atlantic salmon last week, with water levels dropping to better angling levels. Reports that many public pools between Doaktown and Blackville are fishing well, and that a large upstream movement of grilse is occurring. Also fine reports from the Dungarvon and Renous. At the Dungarvon barrier, 55 large salmon and 11 grilse had been taken by June 19, and certainly many more since then. Water temperatures are going up rapidly getting towards the end of the first week in July.

Saint John River and Nashwaak – To July 5, at Mactaquac on the Saint John, 232 large salmon and 312 grilse had been counted. On the Nashwaak, there were 106 large salmon and 201 grilse as of July 5.


Penobscot: The returns of salmon at the Veazie Dam trap have now reached 2,874 as of July 5. This is fine news indeed. But temperatures are rising. Meanwhile the Saco has seen 82 come back.

Narraguagus – 106 returning Atlantic salmon have been recorded on the Narraguagus as of July 5. More than 70% are large salmon – and the total return to date is greater than any return since the late 1980s.


Water levels are dropping, and Atlantic salmon runs are now increasing


Torrent River Fishway 2011

Torrent River – Late July 5 three salmon finally showed up in the Torrent River Fishway, almost two weeks after the run usually starts. Then on the morning of July 6 more than 30 were passing upstream, so the run is definitely underway.

Exploits River – run to July 3 was 6,333, continuing far below the record of 16,637 set last year to this date.

Conne River – 1,056 to July 3, well below the 1,454 of 2010, and average of 1,697 for the 2006-2010 period. Reminder that COSEWIC has designated the south coast rivers as THREATENED, and the Conne River returns tend in that direction.

Harry’s River – the 1,835 seen to July 3 is not comparable to other years, since the counting facility is near tidewater. An electronic DIDSON unit is being used for the first time on the river.

Nova Scotia

Margaree – Margaree River – Water low, and weather is warm to hot. Several fish caught already. Activity centered on lower pools as fish congregating on lower end. Rain required.

LaHave – 64 salmon and 249 grilse have gone through the Morgan Falls Fishway. However, water levels are rapidly dropping, and water temperatures rising past 23 C.

St. Marys River – no reports on the salmon coming in, but river levels are dropping rapidly now.

St. Mary's River - Rapids


Lower St-Lawrence:

Matapedia, Causapscal, Patapedia rivers are continue to produce very well, increases in catch rates are double to July 5 2010.  79 releases reported on the Matapedia, also up from 49 last year.

Recent rains have just made conditions even better.

Matane River:

The river opened on June 15th, already 555 salmon and 99 grilse, have made through the fish ladder.  109 fish have been landed, only a few releases reported.  This is a very high number for this early in the season, usually most of the run does not start until late July.


Water levels have improved along with angling results, days of double digit releases have continued.  Overall numbers are +- same time last year.


Statistics are in for June.  Hold on to your hat, 995 fish were landed, 992 salmon released. That is 613 more fish compared to June 30th 2010!  Rain has just made conditions better.

The location could not be found.


Large Salmon - Dartmouth River, Gaspé - Photo by Charles Cusson

The York, Dartmouth and St-Jean continue to report excellent angling conditions, releases continue higher than last year, overall fish landings also up from last year.  Light rains have improved conditions even more.  The in-river count is scheduled for late July.

North Shore:

Moisie, water conditions are very good, early season levels continue into early July.  Many reported releases, up from last year, number of fish landed also.  River is flowing at 720 cubic meters per second which bodes well for ideal water conditions to continue well into July.

Saguenay Region:

Sainte-Marguerite River, very good water conditions continue, excellent angling accordingly, much higher fish landings and releases.

Lower North-Shore:  Mecatina river water level has been dropping since late June.  Fish are little bit late but are now arriving in good numbers.

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One Response to Reading the Patterns of Salmon Returns

  1. ward samson says:

    Just got in from fishing, My wife got two..I caught one and had to release one ..too big.I did not bring it ashore to be measured….but I could tell it was over the measure. Lost another one and rose three others..Great fishing. Rivers still high and the salmon are not stopping much…Catching salmon where I have not caught them before…


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