Optimism on Miramichi, Concern in Newfoundland

New Brunswick

The Miramichi

Poling on the Southwest Miramichi above Boiestown on July 15. Photo Tom Moffatt/ASF

Poling on the Southwest Miramichi above Boiestown on July 15. Photo Tom Moffatt/ASF

On Wednesday, while looking upstream at Salmon Brook Camp, through the fine drizzle and cooler temperatures, it was easy to see why optimism is prevailing at this point in the season on the Miramichi. An angler had connected with a 31-pounder the evening before. Elsewhere, up and down the system, the talk continued of better returns, although in the past week the salmon have started to feel the heat and head for cooler pools.

Keith Wilson reported on Sunday the water continued low, and temperatures were climbing. While Atlantic salmon are “taking” slow, they are present in numbers in the cool spring-fed pools.

By the beginning of the week, the water temperatures had risen further, and DFO instituted a warm water protocol that has closed 23 cool water pools. The list and location is clearly given on DFO’s site for the Variation Order 2015-053. CLICK HERE FOR THOSE DETAILS.

In Blackville, Brock Curtis notes:

We continue to hear great news here at the Tackle shop from locals who live along the river and people staying in clubs and lodges in regards to seeing salmon moving up the river. Even though the water levels are low,  salmon continue to be seen moving up the river system. Most anglers seem to be fishing the mornings and are hooking into the odd salmon in the cold water pools. The long range forecast is for lower temperatures during the day and evenings and that generally switches it up quite fast. From everything I am hearing I think we are going to have a great year. The salmon are here – we just need rain and cooler temperatures.

Debbie Norton at Upper Oxbow Adventures on the Little Southwest River notes things are much better than last year.

The Southwest Miramichi near Bloomfield Ridge, showing the low water. Taken July 13. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

The Southwest Miramichi near Bloomfield Ridge, showing the low water. Taken July 13. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

The point is now to switch to those low water angling practices that include fishing only in the early morning, and perhaps evening, and to make certain not to play the Atlantic salmon too long. How long? Depends on the water temperature, and the salmon, but one to three minutes should be a guideline. If temperatures rise further, the salmon should not be fished at all.

The Trapnets have been providing interesting numbers.

The Cassilis Trapnet on the Northwest Miramichi – to July 15 had 346 grilse and 94 large salmon, vs 39 grilse and 31 large salmon to the same date in 2014. Taken as a whole, this is more than a 600% improvement.

The Millerton Trapnet on the Southwest Miramichi – to July 15 had 218 grilse and 168 large salmon vs. 51 grilse and 31 large salmon to that date in 2014. Taken together, this is a 470% improvement.

As to the numbers moving upriver, Mark Hambrook of the MSA noted a few days ago that the Cassilis trap, for the Northwest Miramichi, had seen as many as 80 grilse going through in some days during the past couple of weeks. He added that the trap samples perhaps seven percent of the fish travelling through. Thus seeing 160 grilse go through in four days last week represented as many as 1,120 moving upstream during those four days. The Millerton trap on the Southwest Miramichi has also been doing well.

The DFO Dungarvon Counting Fence on the Southwest Miramichi, to July 12, has seen 61 grilse and 78 large salmon this year, compared with 40 grilse and 39 large salmon in 2014. Thus in total there have been 139 in 2015 so far, vs. 79 in 2014, a 75% increase. One must remember that 2014 had critically low returns, so a description for 2015 so far of “better” is perhaps the best description. Also, noted that the 2014 numbers are partly a “guess” since this counting fence was swept away on July 4, 2014 by Tropical Storm Arthur.

The NW Miramichi Barrier is not showing the same bounce in numbers so far in 2015, but it is still early. To July 12 there have been 85 grilse and 45 large salmon, vs. 71 grilse and 44 large salmon to the same date in 2014. In total, that is 130 in 2015 vs. 115 in 2014, a far more modest improvement of 13%.

There are many reports from anglers that many Atlantic salmon, especially in the Southwest Miramichi, are holding in the lower part of the river, downstream from the mouth of the Cains. Most expect that when rain arrives and water levels rise, many of these salmon will move up through the system.

ASF's Kirsten Rouse prepares to photograph Mary Wobma releasing a grilse at Wilson's Camp on the Southwest Miramichi, July 9. Photo Mary LeBlanc/ASF

ASF’s Kirsten Rouse prepares to photograph Mary Wobma releasing a grilse at Wilson’s Camp on the Southwest Miramichi, July 9. Photo Mary LeBlanc/ASF

Restigouche Region

The significantly cooler water temperatures in the rivers of the Restigouche watershed have also been showing somewhat improved returns of salmon and grilse this year. As with most regions, it appears that 2015 will be remembered for the higher proportion of larger fish – large even among the normal range of multi-sea-winter salmon.

One angler on the Restigouche noted this week:

“First four days, for four of us, yielded 47 fish landed, 2/3 salmon, so fishing is good. Last 2 days have been very warm and bright, and things slowing down now.”

David Boudreau of Camp Harmony noted that the angling has been slowing down with the rising temperatures,

“Generally we have been catching 4 or 5 per day. A week or two ago we had some really nice 30 to 35-pounders.”

He also noted that the new rules regarding single, barbless hook, instead of double barbed hook, had an unforseen impact – Many of the flies expecting to be sold were no longer being purchased, due to the restrictions of 2015. He did mention that most anglers at the camp adjusted their techniques to the single barbless fies with few problems.

Saint John River

Atlantic salmon at the Mactaquac Biodiversity Centre on July 10. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Atlantic salmon at the Mactaquac Biodiversity Centre on July 10. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

After a discouragingly slow start, wild and captive-reared Atlantic salmon finally showed up at Mactaquac dam on the July 4th weekend. Since then, there has been a steady stream of salmon showing up at the dam.

To July 15, DFO has reported 349 grilse and 63 large salmon, vs. 55 grilse and 37 large salmon to the same date in 2014.

The returns to date in 2015 (over the past 10 days) have exceeded the total annual returns for each of the last three years. From historical DFO data, approximately 57% of the grilse for the season have typically arrived by July 15. Approximately 63% of the MSW salmon have typically arrived at Mactaquac by July 15. Since the run is about a week later than usual, these percentages may be lower than the typical season and we can expect a higher proportion of the run to show up later than July 15. Stay tuned!

Nashwaak River

There have been 43 grilse and 19 large salmon counted to July 15, a significant improvement over the 5 grilse and 7 large salmon to the same date in 2014.

Nashwaak River showing low water, on July 14, 2015. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Nashwaak River showing low water, on July 14, 2015. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Nova Scotia

Margaree – At mid-week Greg Lovely reported:

“We had some rain last night and the river came up a bit. We could use a lot more actually. Every time I go out I see fish, which is a good thing but the water is warming and the catching is still slow. It doesn’t help that the nights are also warm.”

Meanwhile Alex Breckenridge, who operates a fly shop called The Tying Scotsman near Margaree Forks noted on Tuesday:

“Level rose slightly yesterday after the thunder storm of Sunday night. Several fish caught in the lower river since then, heard of one so far this morning from the Libbus pool.  Anglers tell me they are seeing plenty of fish, the catching seems to be the difficult part!

Bill Haley added these notes on specific pools this week:

As of yesterday, the water is relatively low and after a cool night appox. 14 C. below the Forks. There are fish in the pools, especially ones with fast flowing current. There seems to be fresh fish still coming in. The ones I saw yesterday were bright. The Tidal, Tompkins, Seal, Snag, etc. are all holding fish, while larger slow moving pools like the Big Mac are holding few if any.

The number of Striped Bass in the river seems to have declined during the past month to the point where it has been several days since I have seen any.

 

Flies to Art - An Atlantic salmon design composed of hundreds of salmon flies, hanging on a wall in Big Intervale Fishing Lodge, on the Margaree. Photo Lewis Hinks/ASF

Flies to Art – An Atlantic salmon design composed of hundreds of salmon flies, hanging on a wall in Big Intervale Fishing Lodge, on the Margaree. Photo Lewis Hinks/ASF

Cheticamp – Rene Aucoin noted that the water was dropping, but with many fish seen in the river. Fishing has been good, but slowing down, and still seeing bright fish in lower river.

North River – Water is dropping. The river will be closed until August 31 as a warm water precaution. Observations are that the run is much stronger than last year and there now seems to be an increasing number of MSW fish. This is a good sign and there is a lot of optimism in that area for the North River.

St. Marys – Trout anglers that Lewis Hinks has talked with are noting that more salmon are being seen in this and some other rivers – not large numbers but still an encouraging sign for these outer coast rivers that have been so impacted by acid rain.

ASF personnel, including (from left), Biolgist Graham Chafe, Lewis Hinks, Director of NS Programs, and Jonathan Carr, ASF VP-Research and Environment, checking the counting fence on the West River-Sheet Harbour, where a lime doser project supported by ASF, NSSA and others has had a profoundly positive impact on the productivity of an acid-impacted river. Photo taken Wed. July 15.

ASF personnel, including (from left), Biolgist Graham Chafe, Lewis Hinks, Director of NS Programs, and Jonathan Carr, ASF VP-Research and Environment, checking the counting fence on the West River-Sheet Harbour, where a lime doser project supported by ASF, NSSA and others has had a profoundly positive impact on the productivity of an acid-impacted river. Photo taken Wed. July 15.

 LaHave – The Morgan Falls Fishway is reporting 130 grilse and 14 large salmon to July 15, a major improvement, at least in grilse, over the 36 grilse and 19 large salmon to the same date in 2014. But the 1997-2001 five-year average was 356 grilse and 109 large salmon. The river still needs a significant boost.

Sackville River – To July 15 had 22 grilse and 2 large salmon, vs. 7 grilse and 3 large salmon to the same date in 2014.

Newfoundland

Overall, returns are significantly lower in most Newfoundland rivers, as of the July 12 report of DFO on its counting facilities.

Southwestern Newfoundland – Two days of heavy rain caused water levels to rise on most Bay St. George Rivers and improved angling conditions and angling success.  SPAWN Past President, John McCarthy, reports hooking 6 fish a couple mornings ago before actually reaching his limit on Harry’s River. Unfortunately, the good fishing conditions were short-lived as water temperatures have risen sharply in the past few days on most Bay St. George rivers.

Harry’s River – This is one of the few exceptional rivers in 2015, with 3,353 counted with the Didson unit, vs. 3,086 to the same July 12 date in 2014.

The Humber was experiencing fairly good fishing late last week at Big Falls but since then heavy rain has caused the river to rise sharply and the river is now very high and fishing has slowed as a result.

Exploits – Fred Parsons of ERMA notes that 9,183 salmon had been counted as of July 14, down 2,007 from last year’s 11,190.

Dave Vardy plays a feisty grilse at Clay Bank Pool on the Castor River on July 11 prior to releasing it.  Photo Don Ivany/ASF

Dave Vardy plays a feisty grilse at Clay Bank Pool on the Castor River on July 11 prior to releasing it. Photo Don Ivany/ASF

Campbellton River – As of July 12, there were 1,497 counted, vs. 2,375 in 2014.

Middle Brook – A total of 699 counted, vs 983 in 2014.

Terra Nova River – A similar drop, with 652 salmon to July 12, vs. 944 in 2014.

Up the Northern Peninsula , Western Arm Brook has only 382, compared with 873 in 2014. The Torrent River has only had 356 salmon to July 12, compared with 731 in 2014, and the 2010-2014 five-year average of 1,275.

The rivers closer to the top of the Northern Peninsula appear to be doing better, perhaps in part due to rainy conditions this year. Barb Genge of Tuckamore Lodge located close to Main Brook, and not far south of  St. Anthony, says:

The rivers here are now filled with fish. The salmon were late again this year by approximately one week but there are fish everywhere now.  Sure looks good for the Salmon River, and there are many other streams are also being fished now.

Conne River, South Coast – While this river is not nearly as productive as it was even a few years ago, the count to July 12 is 2,004 salmon, almost double the 2014 return to the same date of 1,161. In the pre-moratorium 1984-1991 period, the average return was 5,582.

Conne River Counting Fence. Photo Don Ivany/ASF

Conne River Counting Fence. Photo Don Ivany/ASF

Labrador

Fishing has been rather slow on the Forteau and Pinware Rivers until recently, despite good water levels and cold water temperatures. However, anglers on the river are reporting improvement over the past few days with more signs of fish, especially grilse, in the river and greater anglers success.  Fishing conditions are excellent there currently.

Claude Wilton also reports slow fishing on St. Charles River and Mary’s Harbor River early last week but things picked up a little later in the week.

Eagle RiverPratt Falls Lodge reported 10 large salmon and 23 grilse brought to shore on Sat. July 11. The weather was damp and cold with intermittent showers and cooler temperatures. Water levels in the river seem to be holding for the time being.

 Rifflin Hitch Lodge notes:

“Things are picking up on Home Pool here at Lodge. Paradise River active as well along with North River and Alexis all producing moderate to excellent results.”

 English River – The DFO counting fence is reporting no grilse and two large salmon to July 12, compared with a single large salmon in 2014.

Sand Hill River – To July 12 there have been 234 grilse and 240 large salmon, totalling 474. In 2014 to the same date, there were 321 grilse and 218 large salmon, totalling 539.

Muddy Bay Brook is reporting 10 grilse and 3 large salmon, compared with 54 grilse and 7 large salmon. Thus 2015’s numbers are a small fraction of the 2014 count.

Paradise River – There have been 12 grilse and 2 large salmon, a great drop from the 59 grilse and 12 large salmon to the same July 12, in 2014.

Quebec

Beautiful 23-pounder being released. Photo Dan Greenberg

Beautiful 23-pounder being released. Photo Dan Greenberg

Some of our readers have expressed concern over the large retention of salmon on the Matapedia River.  Charles Cusson, ASF’s Director of Quebec Programs, responds.

Charles Cusson

Charles Cusson

Since joining the team at ASF in 2000, I have advocated along in conjunction with our regional council (FQSA), the benefits of wild Atlantic salmon conservation and the value in anglers releasing their salmon as an important contribution to conservation. Throughout the Matapedia valley, from the town of Matapedia to Amqui, in town halls and in private camps, the virtues of wild Atlantic salmon conservation have been presented to guides, anglers and many other stakeholders whose economic existence depends on the well-being of the resource.

Since 2000, the Matapedia, like most scheduled rivers in Quebec has a calculated minimum spawning requirement based on the number of deposited eggs in the available spawning habitat that will ensure the preservation of the species while conserving a level of abundance to optimally exploit the resource for the long term. (see 2014 Quebec Atlantic Salmon report)

During a given season, in order to ascertain if a harvest of the resource can continue, a visual mid-season count (conditions permitting) is performed by teams of divers who float down the different sectors of the river. There have been years, the most recent being 2014, when the mid-season count determined a deficit in the number of spawners and consequently live release was imposed for the remainder of the season. A final count is done following the angling season to get an idea of how many fish are in the river for spawning.

Many questions remain unanswered in regards to the Matapedia due to lack of data. In order to possibly answer many of the questions, smolt tracking began this year completing the work done to date within the Restigouche watershed. The work performed this year was to begin a data set on the number of smolts heading out to sea and will be followed up with sonic tracking in 2016, 2017 and hopefully beyond. An article about the project will appear in the autumn issue of the Atlantic salmon journal.

The results will help explain why the Matapedia River, despite the large kill by anglers of both salmon and grilse, has maintained a relatively high, though declining productivity over the years.

In the interim, if you wish to convey any concerns you may have, we invite you to contact the Minister responsible for Forests, Wildlife and Parks, the honorable Laurent Lessard at ministre-mffp@mffp.gouv.qc.ca

On the Rivers – needed rain has blessed many rivers with improved angling conditions which should reflect positively on angler success for the next week.

Bonaventure River
For the season to July 15, 508 fish have been reported which includes 350 releases and 158 grilse killed.

Peter Bennett releasing a 23-pounder on the Bonaventure River. Photo by Dan Greenberg.

Peter Bennett releasing a 23-pounder on the Bonaventure River. Photo by Dan Greenberg.

To July 15 2014, 135 fish were reported landed and released and 141 grilse killed for a total of 276.  And, to July 15 2013, 544 fish were landed and released in addition to 83 grilse killed for a total of 627.

Matapedia River
For the season to July 15 the CGRMP is reporting 528 fish have been landed which includes 49 releases, compared with 433 in 2014 (including 66 releases).
To July 15 2013, 644 fish had been reported landed (including 80 releases

Causapscal River
A short (May 15 to July 15) season has come to an end. For 2015, 157 salmon were reported, the exact same number as for 2014  which includes 7 releases.

The previous six year numbers are as follows: releases are included in the total
2014, 157 fish landed – 9 reported releases        672 (621 salmon – 51 grilse)*
2013, 172 fish landed – 22 reported releases        1,056 (948 salmon – 108 grilse)*
2012, 129 fish landed – 15 reported releases        650 (614 salmon – 36 grilse)*
2011, 181 fish landed – 15 reported releases         1,416 (1,168 salmon – 248 grilse)*
2010, 90 fish landed – 8 reported releases        727 (680 salmon – 47 grilse)*
2009, 107 fish landed – 18 reported releases         524 (510 salmon – 14 grilse)*
* Total run of fish to September 30

Matane River
For the season to July 15, a total of 919 fish (660 salmon and 259 grilse) have been inventoried.
To July 14, 171 fish have been reported landed including 99 salmon and 1 grilse released, 71 grilse killed.

To July 15 2014, 289 fish (224 salmon and 65 grilse) have been counted, and to the same date, 27 fish had been landed (19 salmon and 8 grilse).

At July 15 2013, for the season, 596 fish (516 salmon and 80 grilse) had migrated though the counting facility.  Also to that date, 125 fish were reported landed (100 salmon and 25 grilse).

For the season at July 15 2012, 1,146 fish (701 salmon and 445 grilse) had been counted.
As of July 15 2012, 285 fish (165 salmon and 120 grilse) including 14 salmon released.

Cascapedia River
At July 9, 318 salmon have been reported  landed and released. No grilse number is available at this time.

“A couple of days of hotter weather might have slowed things down a bit since then, but the bump in water on July 15 did us good,” stated Darlene Sexton.

To July 11 2014, the Cascapedia Society reported 163 salmon and 11 grilse had been landed and released with “5 poor little grilse being killed”.

In 2013, for the first 11 days of July in spite of very low water conditions, 232 fish were landed (231 salmon released and 1 grilse retained).

Aux Rochers River
At July 12 for the season to date, 178 fish (134 salmon and 44 grilse) have migrated to the trap.  To date, 195 fish have been reported landed (129 salmon and 13 grilse released, 53 grilse killed.

As of July 14 2014, 115 fish had entered the trap for transport upstream and 81 fish were reported landed (51 salmon released, 5 grilse released, 6 salmon and 22 grilse have been harvested)

To July 11 2013, 333 fish had entered the trap for relocation further upstream.  To that date, a total of 149 fish were landed (125 salmon released, 2 grilse released, 4 salmon retained and 18 retained grilse).

Godbout River
To date at July 12 for the season, 251 fish have been landed (163 released and 88 grilse killed). Comparative figures to 2014 are not available.

To August 5 2013, a total of 207 fish had been landed. To July 29 2012, a total of 201 fish had been landed

Maine

Penobscot – Returns continue to be significantly better than in 2014. Mitch Simpson, Fisheries Biologist for the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources – Bureau of Sea Run Fish and Habitat, notes:

As of today,  July 14, we have caught 695 Atlantic salmon at the Milford fishlift.  Salmon have slowed down over the past week, due to high river temperatures (>25°C, >77°F)

Penobscot Count of Atlantic salmon to July 14, 2015.

Penobscot Count of Atlantic salmon to July 14, 2015.

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One Response to Optimism on Miramichi, Concern in Newfoundland

  1. Ken Clahane says:

    Fishing the Margaree is too say the least -a challenge- last week my cousin Scott had his photo taken with two heavy hens. I saw many others but they didn’t like what I had to offer. We have been fishing the river since we were much younger in the company of our grandfather. He always let us know that the reason it is called fishing and not catching is apparent on the Margaree. I understand what he meant as I breathed the air while I watched yet another rise.

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