When Autumn Changes the Perspective

Fine weather in October is a gift. We can’t expect the temperature, cloud cover, fog, wind and quality of light all to be perfect on the same day. But it has happened, especially this year. And when all the conditions align, it becomes a day to remember long into the winter months ahead, and even becomes a day that finds a place among the long term memories – the ones we think about, year after year.

This past weekend had perfect weather across a large area of the range of the wild Atlantic salmon, and for any who had an opportunity to find themselves on a wonderful salmon river, the magic was there – even if the salmon themselves were not especially interested in taking a fly. Perhaps the weather got to them too.

Coldwater Pool

Early morning, Oct. 13, Coldwater Pool on Southwest Miramichi, looking toward the Priceville Suspension Bridge. Photo: Bill Taylor

River Notes

New Brunswick

nwmiramichi-oct13Northwest Miramichi – The Oct. 13 numbers have 250 large salmon vs. 141 in 2012, which is no real surprise. For grilse, there has been a more modest increase, with 230 in 2013 against 206 in 2012. Every day last week both large salmon and grilse were coming through the barrier, a good sign.

Overall, the Northwest Miramichi, including all its tributary rivers and streams, has a long way to go to reach full health, but it is certainly a start to have numbers in 2013 an improvement over 2012.

Southwest Miramichi – Perhaps at the Dungarvon Barrier it has been more of a trickle of salmon, but they are coming in. To Oct. 13 there were 276 large salmon this year vs. 128 in 2012. For grilse, there were 238 in 2013 vs. 166 in 2012. Numbers still not great, but improved.

ASF’s Bill Taylor was out on the Southwest Miramichi for this past weekend, the last of the season.  In his own words:

Beau the salmon dog.

Beau the woodcock, grouse and salmon dog searching for Salar along the Main Southwest Miramichi River. Photo Bill Taylor

“As Suzanne and I have for the past 27 years we closed out the salmon season on the Miramichi River over Canada’s Thanksgiving weekend. The weather was spectacular, sunny and warm during the days and cool and clear at night. The scenery and brilliant fall foliage along the Miramichi valley were at their peak.  The river was in very good shape, a nice height for fall fishing with water temperatures fluctuating between a very comfortable 7 – 10ºc from morning to evening. Great conditions, pleasant weather and what appeared to be good numbers of fish in the pools, provided for excellent fishing but disappointingly poor catching. Reports I received from anglers and guides up and down the Main Southwest Miramichi and Cains rivers were much the same. Good numbers of fish seen in most pools but surprisingly difficult fishing.  Our group of 8 friends managed to hook several fish but we released only four nice grilse, all dressed in their handsome autumn colors of molted bronze, copper and sienna.

As another season comes to an end we can reflect upon a mostly promising season.  Much improved returns of both large salmon and grilse on most rivers compared to last year. ASF’s work along with the important efforts of our Regional Councils and affiliates is making a difference.”

Saint John River – Oct. 15 returns are in, and the numbers remain critically low. There were 132 large salmon returning to Mactaquac. Historically, the only return lower was last year with 116. For grilse, there were 291, certainly up from last year’s 84, but well below other recent years and far behind the 4,269 average of 1995 to 1999.

Nashwaak – There were 39 large salmon counted to Oct. 15, one less than the 40 in 2012. There were 55 grilse in 2013, vs. 17 in 2012. These numbers are all depressed, compared with other recent returns.

Magaguadavic – This river in southwest New Brunswick has had three large salmon and three grilse in 2013 to Oct. 15. It has also seen a large influx of salmon farm escapees – more than 70, that has raised concerns about interbreeding risks this year for other rivers along the Bay of Fundy.

Jacquet River – There have been a very few Atlantic salmon trickling into the river in the past week or so. The barrier count for Oct. 13 has 200 large salmon vs. 75 in 2012, and an actual drop in grilse numbers, with 145 in 2013, and 194 in 2012.

Nova Scotia

LaHave – The Morgan Falls Fishway continues to have somewhat good news, with 111 large salmon to Oct. 15, vs. 38 in 2012. It also has had 75 grilse vs. 29 in 2012. Those grilse numbers are far below returns in recent years however. Plus, the 1995 to 1999 five-year average was 731.

Sackville River – Very low numbers still being reported. There were three large salmon and five grilse counted to Oct. 15, vs. five large salmon and nine grilse last year. In the 1995-1999 five-year average there were just 13 large salmon, but also 123 grilse.

Northumberland Strait Rivers – The story this year has been the need for more rain. While no one else likes to get a hurricane sweeping across, the salmon in these rivers surely do – and have had no luck in 2013. There was some rain mid-week that did help bring up water levels in the Pictou and Antigonish areas.

Margaree – There are fish present throughout the system, and they are being caught, but word from the river is that the fishing is a bit slow. Remember that the season on the Margaree continues for another couple of weeks, so you still have a chance to enjoy the magic of this charismatic river.


Don Ivany, ASF’s Director of Newfoundland Programs, took a moment to reflect on the 2013 season, and this was his summary:

“Overall, in 2013 there was a moderate  improvement in returns over 2012.  Returns were up on 11 of the 15 rivers where counts were collected, and down on four rivers.  There was also an increase in the number of large salmon returns over 2012.

Returns to rivers on the South Coast are still low and returns to rivers on the Northern Peninsula are also down this year.    Returns to rivers on the north coast of the Island continue to be very good.

In Labrador, returns were down on two of the four rivers monitored (Sandhill and Paradise River).  But Northern Labrador seems to have done well with excellent runs on the Flowers Rivers. Water levels improved over last year but water temperatures were still warm for much of the season.  As a result of these warm water temperatures it appears that angler exploitation was  low again this year (like it was in 2012).”

Leaping Salmon - Big East River

Leaping Salmon – Big East River

Final Reflections

Poling upstream, Southwest Miramichi. Photo Bill Taylor.

Poling a canoe upstream, Southwest Miramichi. Photo Bill Taylor.



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