Miramichi Dodges the Heat

There is some great news on the Miramichi. The river has largely dodged the truly hot weather and DFO reacted quickly to reopen most of the cold water pools in the various branches of the watershed. Rain helped.

John Whitelaw in the rain on the Dungarvon on July 21, 2015. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

John Whitelaw in the rain on the Dungarvon on July 21, 2015. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

For the full list of reopenings, go to:
http://www.glf.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Gulf/FAM/Recreational-Fisheries/Closure-2015-07-14

For the Atlantic salmon as well as the angler, it is a pleasure to see the lower water temperatures again. Do note that the list above has a section with pools that remain closed.

Labrador

Accounts from those on the rivers are indicating quite decent runs of Atlantic salmon, but these are somewhat at odds with the counting fence data released for July 19.

First for the river accounts.

Eagle River – Dwight Lethbridge of Pratt Falls Lodge notes:

Eagle River is in prime condition.  Water levels have seen a significant rise after inland rainfall late last week and have been dropping 5-6cm a day since the weekend.  The water level is excellent for a wide pool selection.  Water temp is also very good at a cold 57-59F.  The fishing has been very good.

We are into the main grilse run and the lodge has been hooking 35-40 a day with several beginner and intermediate anglers.

Gabe Cavallaro, of Rifflin Hitch Lodge, notes:

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

Don Ivany, ASF’s Director of Newfoundland and Labrador Programs, has been on several rivers in Labrador this past week, and has these observations:

Forteau River –

“The salmon angling is very good, with lots of fish both large and grilse. Water levels are perfect, being very cold –  6 or 7 C during the day, and down to 4 at night.”

Pinware River –

“There are lots of fish. Along with Dave Vardy, fished there Monday evening. Naturally there were many grilse, but also large salmon up to 20 pounders. The salmon are choosy as to which fly they rise to, but connected with two Monday night.
Very few are out on the river fishing, but the conditions are really good. If you put in the hours, you can find several fish each day on the end of your line.”

Veteran angler Dave Vardy playing a grilse at Ladies pool on the Pinware River this week. Don Ivany/ASF

Veteran angler Dave Vardy playing a grilse at Ladies pool on the Pinware River this week. Don Ivany/ASF

Marys Harbour River –

“There are fewer fish in this river, at least so far. But locals are saying the numbers are picking up.

One note of concern is that there have been a high proportion of salmon showing net marks and gill net scars. There is concern that the capelin boats are catching the salmon. The capelin have also been late this year, incidentally.”

Meanwhile the Counting Fence numbers to July 19 are still indicating lower numbers in 2015 for three of the f0ur streams assessed.

Sand Hill River – A total of 558 grilse and 430 large salmon reported, totalling 988. For 2014, to the same date, there were 890 grilse and 394 large salmon, totalling 1,284.

Muddy Bay Brook – In 2015 to July 19 there were 53 grilse and 8 large salmon, totalling 61. In 2014 it had 83 grilse and 9 large salmon, totalling 92.

Paradise River – A total of 68 grilse and 15 large salmon totalling 83. To July 19, 2014 there were 107 grilse and 21 large salmon.

English River – A total of 22 grilse and 17 large salmon, totalling 39 makes the English River the exception, with improved numbers. In 2014 to July 19 there were 27 grilse and 7 large salmon, totaling 34.

Ice Impacts? – ASF’s Don Ivany noted on Tuesday that there are significant numbers of large icebergs off the coast of Labrador, as seen from various vantage points on his trip towards a Wednesday crossing on the ferry back to Newfoundland. One may wonder if this is somehow involved in the delay of some of the NL and LB salmon returning to their rivers.

Newfoundland

There has been something of a “salmon surge” in the past week or so. When last reported, the counting fence numbers showed most rivers lagging behind returns for 2014. But the July 19 counting fence numbers are now revising the story in a delightful way, with many rivers now closing the gap with last year’s numbers. The exceptions are the rivers on the west side of the Northern Peninsula.

Exploits – This great river reached 16,191 by July 19, not far behind last year’s 16,393. These numbers are still significantly lower than the superb returns from around 2011 and 2012 that created a 2010-2014 average of 27,296.

Campbellton River has reached 2,110, reasonably close to last year’s 2,461.

Middle Brook as of July 19 had 1,395 salmon, compared with 1,482 in 2014.

Terra Nova River has reached 1,588, ahead of the 2014 count of 1,244.

Conne River, on the South Coast, now has 2,227 vs 1,173. These numbers are still far below the 1984-1991 average of 5,884.

Ross Hinks also mentions the low water levels when discussing the South Coast rivers:

The Conne and Little rivers  are up from last year.  Conne now has nearly 2,300 salmon and Little River 30 salmon. Both seem to have more fish below the fence, but the water levels are very low.”

Harry’s River on the west coast of the island, has 4,108 salmon, compared with 3,549 in 2014. One wonders if this river’s greater percentage of large salmon is having an impact this year, with large salmon numbers improved all around the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Gander River Tolson Parsons notes the numbers have improved. The water levels are generally quite low, but temperatures have been particularly low this year, resulting in no river closures yet.

Paul Smith notes that the large salmon appeared on time, but the grilse were a week late in arriving. He also noted the weather:

“Everyone I talk to is having a fantastic season compared to the last two years.  For the most part I think it is the weather. Our summer (no summer really) has been very cool and wet.

He also had a special note on the Exploits:

“…As far as I can gather the Exploits is doing really well.  A guy just got back and said he had the best salmon angling of his life.  So overall the news is good — great for a change.”

Northern Peninsula Rivers – These rivers continue to lag significantly. The Torrent count is at 1,444, well below last year’s 2,173 by July 19. Western Brook Arm has 802 compared with 1,293 in 2014.

Salmon River Barb Genge of Tuckamore Lodge reported to Don Ivany Wed. evening that the angling has been much better than average.

ASF's Don Ivany preparing for a session on the Castor River in northwest Newfoundland last week.

ASF’s Don Ivany preparing for a session on the Castor River in northwest Newfoundland last week.

Nova Scotia

Margaree – Greg Lovely reports that often heard plea of the Margaree angler, “More Water.”

“Again we need water badly. The fish in the river have seen so many flies, I swear they can tie them now. The hooking up is infrequent. If you hook fish in the Margaree now,it’s like winning the lottery. It seems lately that most of the rain is by-passing us.”

Cheticamp – Réné Aucoin notes:

” Water levels are presently at their summer low on the Cheticamp River. Below a picture of the water level gauge on Cheticamp River from June 1, 2014 to July 22, 2015. The difference in water levels between the month of June, 2014 and June 2015 is astounding and perhaps reflects some of the issues related to the small salmon runs of 2014.

Fishing has been excellent up until early July.  Though water levels have dropped considerably, water temperatures are still excellent, hovering in the 17-18 C range.

Even this late in the season, fish are still being seen (first hand account) at the mouth of the river and yesterday the river restoration crew found a fresh 12 lb salmon which had been hauled out of the river by a Bald eagle.

It seems that catching bright salmon is still in the offing for the ones with a little patience willing to explore the river.

Water levels on the Cheticamp River show very low levels at this time.

Water levels on the Cheticamp River show very low levels at this time. Graph is from June 1, 2014 to July 22, 2015

LaHave – Morgan Falls Fishway only has a count as of July 17 – that is 131 grilse and 14 large salmon. Last year to the same date there were 36 grilse and 20 large salmon. Overall, a definite improvement this year.

New Brunswick

Miramichi

Although fish continued to move upriver during the low water conditions over the past couple of weeks, rain this week has brought many NB rivers back into action with great conditions for both fish and anglers. With the rains, water temperatures have decreased on the Miramichi system and the cold water pool closures implemented by DFO were taken out of effect. Click here for details

Brock Curtis of Blackville notes:

” I noticed over the past weekend anglers coming into the shop were speaking more about starting to hook into salmon. It rained quite hard Saturday night and by Monday morning everyone who came into the shop was catching fish. Tuesday and Wednesday were the same. A lot of fish were holding up in the cold water pools but anglers are now hooking salmon all over the river. All in all we are having a great week.”

The Dungarvon – Nathan Wilbur, ASF Director of NB Programs, noted that fish continued to move upriver during the low water conditions, evidenced by the climb in numbers at the barrier in the headwaters of the river between the beginning of July and mid July.

“This is particularly fascinating because the Dungarvon was extremely low. We expect to see a good increase in numbers at the barrier with the raise in water this week. Anglers reported that the river had come up about 30 cm since the weekend, similar to what we see on the Environment Canada water level charts for nearby watersheds, such as the Nashwaak and SW Miramichi Rivers.”

Dungarvon Barrier returns to July 19, 2015, compared with 2014 to same date.

Dungarvon Barrier returns to July 19, 2015, compared with 2014 to same date.

The barrier numbers up to July 19 are certainly encouraging – 94 grilse and 94 large salmon, compared with 40 grilse and 39 large salmon in 2014. On Sunday, 19 July 2015 alone there were 12 grilse counted at the barrier. It will indeed be interesting to see what next week’s count brings. Note the 2014 numbers are guesses, with the barrier out in much of July.

The Northwest Barrier has not fared as well when compared with 2014. There were 130 grilse and 53 large salmon to July 19, compared with 87 grilse and 50 large salmon to the same date in 2014.

It is important to remember that the returns for 2014 were definitely the lowest on record, and compared with returns from a few decades ago the returns on all branches of the Miramichi are critically low.

Nashwaak River – Salmon arrived later than usual at the DFO-run Nashwaak counting fence, but they have been coming steadily since the beginning of July. Numbers are not high, but fish are steadily coming in and the First Nations and DFO crew at the counting fence have been processing 5-10 salmon and grilse in the trap each morning. Each fish is measured, identified as male or female, and non-intrusively marked to help in the final run assessment during seining in the fall. Scale samples are taken from some fish for genetic analysis.

Nashwaak Barrier on July 22, 2015. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Nashwaak Barrier on July 22, 2015. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Nathan Wilbur visited the trap on the morning of July 22 after the nice rise in water and looked on as DFO staff member John Mallory released 6 grilse and 1 MSW salmon upriver of the counting fence. All fish were bright and in good condition.

John Mallory assesses a very healthy Atlantic salmon at the Nashwaak Barrier on July 22, 2015. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

John Mallory assesses a very healthy Atlantic salmon at the Nashwaak Barrier on July 22, 2015. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

John Mallory reported that they had put through over 100 fish since the first salmon showed up at the end of June, significantly more than they had put through in all of 2014 (keep in mind Tropical Storm Arthur wiped out the operation for a period of time last July and salmon could freely swim over and around the fence.

 

 

Restigouche

Neil Damon enjoys a float trip down the Patapedia - 17 July, 2015. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Neil Damon enjoys a float trip down the Patapedia – 17 July, 2015. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

From Nathan Wilbur:

Even with low water on the weekend and late last week, reports from the Restigouche system, including the Upsalquitch and Patapedia were that good numbers of grilse were running. A friend and I experienced some of this grilse action during a recent trip. Now with the rise of water, all are hoping and expecting to see an increase in the number of fish coming into the rivers and making their way through the systems. It’s a great time to be on the water.

Nathan Wilbur releases a grilse on the Patapedia River on July 17, 2015.

ASF’s Nathan Wilbur releases a grilse on the Patapedia River on July 17, 2015. Photo Neil Damon

 Patapedia River – The water has been low but the Patapedia watershed has been the lucky recipient of intermittent rains over the past week and a half. These have contributed to modest raises in water, which may have been enough to draw in a run of grilse. Nathan Wilbur and Neil Damon within the past week experienced the scenic grandeur and some decent grilse fishing during their annual trip.

Misty and mysterious Patapedia River, on July 18. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Misty and mysterious Patapedia River, on July 18. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Kedgwick RiverDanny Bird of Kedgwick Lodge reports:

“Rains off and on have raised the water levels significantly over the past week. Temperature of the water has lowered as well. Fishing is great! Lots of bright fresh grilse and although it’s difficult to forecast, it appears the number of large salmon is comparable to last year.”

Restigouche – Todd Kennedy of the Restigouche Salmon Club notes:

“The river is up a few inches over the last couple of days.  With the rise, we had a drop in water temperature.  Fishing has been good.  The slow start in June was worrisome, but we have had good numbers through July, and are up over last season.  The past week has been productive with some nice fresh fish being caught and released.”

David LeBlanc of the Restigouche River Watershed Management Committee (RRWMC) says:

“In general, catches on the Upsalquitch, Restigouche and Kedgwick Rivers are good, reports showing a trend being 30% over the 2014 results for the same period. With the rain of last days and cool weather, water conditions are perfect and many grilse are seen in the system.

To improve the access to the Little Main Restigouche River for anglers, the RRWMC did some works on the Jardine Brook Daily Crown Reserve stretch, by cleaning the boat ramp of debris and improving the parking surface and drainage.”

RRWMC work on the Jardine Brook Daily Crown Reserve stretch of the Little Main Restigouche to improve access.

RRWMC work on the Jardine Brook Daily Crown Reserve stretch of the Little Main Restigouche to improve access. Photo David LeBlanc

Nepisiguit River – Bob Baker, President of the NSA, reported that the counting fence went in this past weekend. The fence is operated by the Pabineau First Nation in conjunction with the NSA. On one of the operation days so far they put through 23 salmon and grilse. There are fish in the Nepisiguit and some have even made it up past Pabineau Falls, but it’s still early for this fall-run river. Bob noted that the Nepisiguit held its water level well during the two-week drought and the water remained cool.

Quebec

Full reporting on Quebec rivers will return next week.

Releasing an Atlantic salmon in a Gaspe river. Photo Dan Greenberg.

Releasing an Atlantic salmon in a Gaspe river. Photo Dan Greenberg.

Maine

In the past few days the number of Atlantic salmon at the Milford fish lift have decreased. However, to July 21, there have been 711 counted, the best of the last four years, but far below the much better years of 2008 through 2011. About 90%+ of the returning fish are large salmon, and fewer than 10% are grilse.

Penobscot Atlantic salmon returns at the Milford Fish Lift to July 22, 2015

Penobscot Atlantic salmon returns at the Milford Fish Lift to July 22, 2015

Kennebec River – A total of 25 large salmon and 2 grilse have been reported at the Lockwood Dam as of July 20.

Androscoggin – A total of 2 large salmon have been counted at Brunswick as of July 20.

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