Note for Anglers in New Brunswick: DFO has again closed many deep pools on the Miramichi due to high temperatures and the need for enhanced conservation measures. For a full list of closures (GVO-2015-066), click here. DFO has also instituted morning fishing only (6:00 am to 11:00 am).
Good News in Many Areas, and Disappointment in Others
This week the ASF Rivernotes is providing an assessment of how the Atlantic salmon runs and angling year has been in Europe. As many will be aware, Atlantic salmon are found in Europe from rivers that flow down the western slopes of the Ural Mountains in Russia all the way to rivers in northwest Spain and the northern border of Portugal. Without doubt the healthiest runs continue in the northerly areas, including northwest Russia, Norway and Iceland. And yet in heritage Atlantic salmon have pride of place in the British Isles and France.
For anyone trying to locate a salmon river, one good resource is the Salmon Atlas site. http://www.salmonatlas.com. For any European nation click on the map to go to that country’s page. Then either press the button next to the name, to find its location, or hover your cursor over any dark blue river on the map to see the name appear after a few seconds.
Information from counting facilities is limited in Europe, and one needs to rely on angling counts for many streams. Given that angling activity can be variable due to economics, weather and other factors, one needs to treat the trends with a measure of caution.
In 2015 the late spring and summer has generally been cool and in many locations this has been combined with extended periods of significant rain.
From reports on Aug. 12 and later it is clear 2015 is being a good year for Atlantic salmon in Iceland; certainly far better than 2014. Last year there were reports of microgrilse, especially in the southwest of Iceland and lower numbers generally, while this year the salmon are healthy.
Two things always worth mentioning about angling in Iceland. First, whatever an angler might connect with, the landscape is so visually stunning and the lighting so exquisite that the experience is going to be a lifetime memory. Second, Icelanders take their relative freedom from disease seriously. Anglers need a certificate from a veterinarian that their equipment has been chemically sterilized following certain protocols, or on arrival at the airport you can pay to have your equipment, including any waders etc. chemically treated on the spot – before you leave the premises.
As of Aug. 19, the top rivers of the Federation of River Owners have seen a catch of 38,926 salmon, well above the 2006-2014 average. The fish are still moving upstream, indicating a very good year.
For those wishing to check the Iceland returns regularly, the Federation of Icelandic River Owners website has a statistics page kept up to date.
The best rivers are listed below (not in exact order from highest catch), with the reported catch to Aug. 19. The 2014 end of season catch is in brackets. The Blanda, Midfjardara, Nordura and Langa show a sensational rebound in salmon returns:
Blanda 4,017 —14 rods (1,931)
West Ranga and Holsa 4,174 —20 rods (3,063)
Midfjardara 3,703 —10 rods (1,694)
Nordura 2,480 —15 rods (924)
Langa 1,750 —12 rods (595)
Thyera + Kiarara 1,775 —14 rods (1,195)
East-Ranga 1,957 —18 rods (2,529)
Haffjardara 1,375 —6 rods (821)
Laxa in Asum 1,260 —2 rods (1,006)
Hitara 978 —6 rods (480)
Grimsa and Tungua 951 —8 rods (516)
Vididalsa 1,007 —8 rods (692)
Laxa in Adaldal 878 —18 rods (849)
Sela in Vopnafirthi 852 —8 rods (1,004)
Vatnsdalsa in Hunathingi 853 —7 rods (765)
Laxa in Kjos 857 —8 rods (605)
Ellidaarnar. 627 —6 rods (457)
Laxa in Leirarsveit 637 —6 rods (405)
Flokadalsa, Borgarf. 525 —3 rods (343)
Svalbardsa 467 —3 rods (403)
Skjalfandaflot, nedri hluti 410 —6 rods (Final 2014 Numbers Missing)
Olfusa 408 —6 rods (118)
Brennan (in Hvita) 415 —3 rods (Final 2014 Numbers Missing)
Leirvogsa 497 —2 rods (313)
Laxa in Dolum 609 —6 rods (216)
Hrutafjardara and Sika 445 —3 rods (280)
Jokla 425 —6 rods (306)
Svarta in Hunavatnssyslu 396 —4 rods (293)
Straumfjardara 325 —4 rods (316)
Fnjoska 323 —8 rods (292)
Hofsa og Sunnudalsa. 365 10 rods (657)
Budardalsa 348 —2 rods (247)
Straumarnir (in Hvita) 317 —2 rods (Final 2014 Numbers Missing)
Stora-Laxa 286 —10 rods (882)
Ormarsa 210 —4 rods (502)
Nordlingaflot 190 —6 rods (Final 2014 Numbers Missing)
Haukadalsa 375 —5 rods (Final 2014 Numbers Missing)
Andakilsa, Lax. 183 —2 rods (109)
Affall in Landeyjum. 239 — 4 rods (386)
Breiddalsa 192 —6 rods (290)
Mida in Dolum. 110 —3 rods (225)
Deildara 99 —3 rods (150)
Thvera in Flotshlid. 90 —4 rods (166)
Brynjudalsa 78 —2 rods (Final 2014 Numbers Missing)
Faskrud in Dolum. 69 —2 rods (Final 2014 Numbers Missing)
Fljota 64 —4 rods (Final 2014 Numbers Missing)
Kerlingardalsa, Vatnsa 23 —2 rods (183)
Orri Vigfusson concurs that the runs in 2015 are very good, especially following on the 2014 “disaster” year.
Erik Sterud and Øyvind Fjeldseth each contributed reports that have been combined below. The reports are current, as of this week.
Average salmon season so far in Norway
The salmon return to Norwegian rivers in 2015 has been dominated by a reasonably strong 2013 generation, giving good sport with 5-6 kg salmon from North to South.
In the far north, the Tana river reports very low catches – again. This river would normally produce more than 25% off the total river-catches in Norway, but is in deep trouble because of over-fishing. Hopefully Norway and Finland will soon come to an agreement on how to reduce the catches.
Overall, the salmon season in Northern Norway seems to be at an average level. River Alta has fished better than in 2014, while river Lakselva has experienced a slight dip in catches compared to last 10 years’ average. Rivers like Syltefjordelva and Repparfjordelva, where the catches are dominated by salmon less than 3kg, have fished very well.
The fish counter in R. Målselva in Troms has registered 4,500 salmon so far and the fishing season has been good. R. Reisaelva in the same region has a poor season.
R. Namsen has had a very good season. So far, more than 7,000 salmon have been caught – the highest number in ten years. The full-season 10-year average for the Namsen is 6.200 salmon. The same seems to apply for the rivers Stjørdalselva and Verdalselva
River Gaula and R. Orkla seem to be back on track after two poor seasons in row. It remains to be see if they will reach the 10-year-average by the end of the season, but probably not. Other rivers in the region have fished well. Besides a comparatively good year for numbers, the fish are significantly larger this year, indicating they are finding excellent ocean feeding areas.
The conditions in famous rivers like R. Eira, R. Nausta, R. Gaular, R. Årøyelva and R. Lærdalselva have been dominated by cold weather and high water levels through the whole season. The salmon returns have been good, and the lower beats have fished very well. Little fish were reported from the upper beats well into Aug..
Sea lice from the salmon net pens have had serious negative impacts on most of the rivers in Hordaland county. Few rivers are still open for fishing. River Bolstad/Vosso is in a re-establishment phase and some fishing is allowed. Smaller R. Daleelva is the positive surprise this season. Good fishing is reported.
Better still are the rivers further south. R. Årdalselva and R. Dirdalselva are into seasons well above the average. The best known river in this region – R. Bjerkreimselva reports a good salmon return.
Møre og Romsdal county will probably end up quite okay but a lot of the rivers are quite late here so we’ll have to wait and see. Rogaland county will probably end with normal catches compared to the 10-year average – which is quite good in this county (a lot of limed rivers).
Although the season starts in June, the fishing in reality starts in August in Norway’s southernmost rivers. The season in rivers like R. Mandalselva, R. Lygna, R. Otra and R. Tovdalselva lasts until September 15 and the best part of the season lies ahead of us. So far, the catches are signalling average seasons in these rivers.
Most of the best rivers in this region are limed and came back from the dead in the last twenty years or so (the region where acid rain still is the largest issue when it comes to in-river salmon production). My guess is that it will end up as an average season – which means good fishing and enough fish for the spawning grounds.
The fishing in River Drammenselva and R. Numedalslågen has so far been good, and well above the 2014 season. The same applies to R. Berbyelva/Enningdalselva at the Norwegian/Swedish border.
The reports indicate that the season will at least be better than last season. The fishing still goes on for approximately one month, but it seems good so far – some rivers on the average, some a bit under and a couple way better.
For Norway in general, it will probably end up as a season around or a bit over the 10-year average measured in number of fish. But the average size of the fish seems to end up a bit above the last years, so measured in kilos my guess is that the season will end up over the 10-year average…..but we’ll have to wait and see if that assumption is correct…
In late-breaking news, an unknown disease has caused the death of hundreds of Atlantic salmon, especially in the region of the Kola River that passes through Murmansk on its way to the Barents Sea.
As a result, late last week a total ban on recreational angling was instituted in the Kola River basin, including the tributaries Kitsa and Tuloma rivers. A press conference was held by Marina Kovtun, Governor of the Kola Oblast (she is also a keen salmon angler, incidentally). Government scientists are closely monitoring the disease, but for the present are not extending the recreational salmon angling moratorium beyond the Kola River watershed. A translation of the press release can be found here. Note this matter does NOT affect the Kola Peninsula as a whole, but just the one river system.
Initial thinking on the cause of the mortality has focused on ulcerative dermal necrosis (UDN), but that is far from certain at this time.
There has been great fishing of entirely healthy salmon on the Ponoi, the Kharlovkha, and associated rivers like the Rynda, as in years past, with the sometimes giant fish looking extremely healthy and robust. The Kharlovka has had that same wet, cold summer as the rest of northern Europe, but the salmon continue to migrate in from the sea.
The Ponoi, like most of the region, has had unseasonably cold temperatures with lots of rain, with most days the air temp. going to 15 C. In the first week of Aug. the count was 242 salmon for the Ponoi. The river had a strong summer run of salmon, with quite a number on the large side, and the conditions now appear excellent for the fall run. The 2014 season was one of the best in the history of Ponoi angling, so it remains to be seen how the 2015 runs will stack up.
Dr. Ken Whalen, Research Director of the Atlantic Salmon Trust notes:
No data on actual salmon returns as of yet but good information on catches. The Irish catches comprise a mixture of MSW’s which run between February and May (about 10% of the overall catch) and Grilse, which run between mid-June and September (about 90% of the annual catch).
Our spring this year was very cold at times and water levels were surprisingly low. As a result spring catches were generally poor to average. After some beautiful weather in early to mid-June the rain arrived and much to the horror of our many foreign visitors, we’ve had perfect salmon fishing conditions ever since: cool , wet and windy.
Overall catches have been much improved on 2014 (a very dry warm summer). I checked with one of our index systems, the Burrishole, where all of the salmon are counted through traps and they have recorded a modest improvement on last year returns – five percent smolt to adult returns last year and seven percent smolt to adult survival so far this year. In contrast catches on the neighbouring River Moy have been excellent with more than 6,000 salmon taken on rod and line to date this season.
To gain a sense of the salmon runs and angling success, one good source is this: http://fishinginireland.info/news/category/salmon-reports/
The following just came in from Shane Gallagher of the Drowes Rivery Fishery. This river in the northwest, reaches the sea at Donegal Bay, after winding just a short distance from Lough Melvin, perhaps Ireland’s cleanest freshwater lough:
Our season on the River Drowes opened on 1st January. Opening day was marked by floods of near biblical proportions and high water continued for much of the first month of the season. Due to adverse water conditions angling effort was low in the first few weeks of the season and there didn’t seem to be many fresh spring fish running at the start of the season. Indeed the first salmon of the season wasn’t caught on the river until 28th January, which was one of the latest ever starts to the season.
Although slow to start, once the season got under way the number of spring fish running seemed to be a definite improvement on the previous couple of seasons. The quality of the fish was overall very good also, with an average weight of just over 9.5lbs. The grilse run this year has been nothing short of prolific, helped in part by a wet summer after long summer droughts for the past 2 years.
By all accounts Lough Melvin is recovering well, and salmon fishing there has been the best for many years. The quality of the grilse has also been very encouraging, with few of the very small fish evident in other seasons and an average size of around the 4lbs mark. The smolt run this spring was also very healthy and we expect a good spawning season this winter given the increased runs of both springers and grilse this year.
Statistics are available for the Bann River at Carnroe. The fishing, entirely live release, has 295 salmon brought to shore so far this year, compared with 219 for the entire year in 2014.
Alastair Gowans, extremely knowledgeable on salmon, has the following to say about this year’s salmon returns in Scotland:
Scotland is well known for its changeable weather patterns and water levels in the rivers have profound influence on the fish entering freshwater and migrating upstream. Unlike 2014 when, unusually for Scotland, rivers fell to low levels during the hot summer this year conditions have been colder and much wetter resulting in generally speaking better angling conditions. Angling as we know is not an accurate way of assessing stock levels.
Runs of salmon this year are probably not a great deal different from 2014, poorer than generally expected but some rivers have enjoyed good sport to the rod. Those in the north of the country have fared quite well and the Tay which allows trolling, spinning and bait and fly fishing did very well in the high waters of spring including a few 30lb+ salmon at least two of which were caught and returned on fly, the largest being 35lb caught on a Tay tributary the River Lyon which is not a large river.
The River Dee, for several years the jewel in the crown of Scottish salmon fly fishing has been disappointing for the third year running partly due it is said by some to a resident pod of dolphins at the river mouth. The main concern of fishery managers however remains that sea survival has plummeted over the last 40 years and causes and solutions are evasive. In general it appears that the size of the multi sea winter fish is also bit less than it might have been some years hitherto.
Rod fishing for salmon continues in Scotland until November 30 so there is still some time for improvement. Compared to last year grilse seem to be more plentiful and their condition is better with less evidence of anorexic specimens. As in the past few years many of the fresh run fish exhibit bleeding vents due to the Anisakis worm.
Anglers, salmon conservation bodies and owners of rod fishing rights have welcomed proposals by the Scottish Government under its review of Wild Fisheries to end all mixed stock coastal netting of salmon. Reduced exploitation by estuary nets and rods by the issue of kill licences and tags is also proposed. Last year’s catch by coastal nets amounted to 13,343 salmon and grilse (almost a third of the rod catch) so assuming that a similar number enter rivers as a result perhaps one or two thousand additional fish distributed between our many rivers may be caught by anglers in future. A side effect of the removal of the nets will be undisturbed and increasing predation by the burgeoning population of seals around the coast.
To keep up-to-date on salmon numbers and angling in Scotland, the best single site is here.
England and Wales
There are 49 rivers in England and 31 in Wales that have salmon runs, although many of these are small. The River Tyne accounts for about a quarter of the salmon caught for all of England and Wales. In 2014 it had 1,081 grilse and 1,451 large salmon. Overall, the live release rate was 78 percent in 2014.
For the Tyne, on Aug. 16 of 2015 it was reported that a record number of salmon and sea trout had passed over the fish counter at Riding Mill in Northumberland. A total of 16,176 salmon and trout were counted, which is 800 more than the highest number recorded, beating the previous record in 2010. In July alone 10,500 salmon and sea trout were counted. While the count is not solely for salmon, it indicates 2015 returns are measurably better than 2014 and in other recent years. A multi-year record can be downloaded.
It is reported that in the past week salmon angling in the Tyne waters has been improving, with many fish having sea lice, and the largest weighing more than 25 lb.
Given the mouth of the Tyne is surrounded by the massive port city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, it is exciting to see such a comparatively healthy salmon run.
Not all rivers are doing well. The Wear to the end of July had salmon and trout returns of about half that of 2014. On the River Tees, the lowest number (113 salmon and sea trout) has been reported since counting facilities were installed in 2011.
The Wye River in the Wales/England border country and curving into Wales has a significant salmon population. To mid-Aug. in 2015 there were 852 salmon angled, the largest more than 35 lb. The average weight of all 2015 reported salmon is 11.94 lb. This is a significant improvement over last year’s 590, and beat’s the 10-year average of 795.
In France no river is more important than the Loire. Unfortunately the many tributaries have even more dams and so the issue of dam passage, and now the dismantling of dams is a major focus.
The year 2015 is being very good for the Loire. At the fish counting facility on the Allier branch at Vichy, as of July 31 a total of 1,177 Atlantic salmon have passed upstream. This is at least 20% more than in any recent year, more than double the 595 in 2014, and almost certainly the best year since 2003.
At Descartes on the Creuse branch of the Loire, the count was 202 salmon as of Aug. 5, up from 101 in 2014, and by far the best return in recent history. Other counting facilities are also showing the same greatly increased returns in 2015.
In southwest France’s Basque country a group of rivers flowing out of the Pyrenees, including the Nive, the Nivelle and the Adour have important salmon populations. Anecdotal angling information indicates these rivers also have had increased returns in 2015.
In the Oloron branch of the Adour there were 340 salmon captured by the end of May in 2015. This was more than the 311 in the entire 2014 year.
Across the northern coast of Spain, rivers tumbling to the Bay of Biscay and the open North Atlantic are afflicted with more than their share of dams impacting migration. But Atlantic salmon do hang on, and there is a recreational salmon season.
Dr. Eva Garcia-Vazquez of the Universidad de Oviedo rounded up the 2015 catch numbers:
“Only sport catch (angling) is permitted in Spain. The data below is the legal catch, with the rivers listed from east to west. Some rivers are managed by two regions, incidentally, and if so, the catch from each region are counted separately.
Each region has their own rules regarding season, period of fishing, etc. The angling season extends generally March to July, six days per week, but with great variation among regions. Several rivers have a quota.
As with most other rivers outside the Baltic Sea area, the Rhine river has seen improved returns in 2015, with more than 150 salmon counted at the Iffezheim fishway. Presently salmon can ascend as far as Strasbourg, and soon a fishway at the dam there will allow further travel upstream.
There is a major conference in early Oct. on “freeing” the Rhine to allow full travel to streams above Basel, in the ancestral spawning areas in Switzerland.
Nils Hoglund, Fisheries Policy Officer for Clean Baltic notes that the cold, wet spring impacted salmon in Sweden as well.
“The situation is very mixed indeed. The Torne, forming the border between Finland and Sweden had an amazing year in 2014, with more than 100,000 returning, perhaps making it the most productive Atlantic salmon river last year.
“Last year’s all time high in the northernmost and largest river Torne (border of Sweden and Finland) is not matched at all this year. Only about half the number seem to have reached the river in 2015, around 57,000 compared to more than 100,000 last year. However, everything has been delayed this year due to cold spring and very late snowmelting.
Several other rivers show rather weak numbers as well. The other main river, Kalix has somewhat lower returns than last year to the same date but may still increase. Some 5,700 salmons have entered the main river. It is far from the top year 2013, when 13,000 salmon had entered the river by mid-Aug..
Lubbe Ferrysom, a passionate salmon angler in Sweden adds some statistics to the report:
“Salmon season here ends 1 September so it is not complete. In some rivers, there is a fish counter and there are statistics on catches. At other rivers there are only statistics on catches. And in a few rivers are no statistics at all, or just some parts of the river.
Generally, we can say that 2015 is worse than 2014. In some rivers the number of salmon was almost halved. But set within the longer term, 10-15 years, the trend is positive. Last year was in fact an extremely good year, so this year’s decline is not a disaster.
Vindel river – there is a fish counter
2014 – 11,483 (1 Oct. 2014)
2015 – 5,963 (15 Aug. 2015)
Logde river – no statistics are available. It caught about 300-500 salmon annually. This year it is around 350
Byske river – there is a fish counter
2014 – 5,584 (1 Oct. 2014)
2015 – 4,611 (16 Aug. 2015)
Aby river – there is a fish counter in a fish ladder from the sea. Most salmons stay under the ladder.
2014 – 285 (1 Oct. 2014)
2015 – 35 (9 Aug. 2015)
Kalix river – there is a fish counter
2014 – 7,523 (1 Oct. 2014)
2015 – 5,038 (16 Aug. 2015)
Anges river – there is a fish counter
2014 – 900 (1 Oct. 2014)
2015 – 1,955 (16 Aug. 2015)
Torne river – there is a fish counter
2014 – 100,083 (1 Oct. 2015)
2015 – 57,804 (15 Aug. 2015)
Monitoring on the Finnish side of the Torne River and of the Simo is undertaken by sonar units similar to the Didson technology used in North America.
Simo – This river enters the Baltic Sea to the east of the Torne. Atlantic salmon continue to move upstream, with about 2,500 to date, compared with 3,200 to the same date in 2014 (see chart). The generally wet, cold summer appears to suit them well, but like the Torne the returns are approximately 30 percent less than 2014.
On the Teno, in the very north of Finland, there have been to date 3,055 Atlantic salmon caught. Of these, 2,050 were less than 3kg., 705 were 3kg. to 7kg., and 302 were at least 7kg.
East of Helsinki in southern Finland is the Kymi – 150 years ago a favourite river of the Czars of Russia. This is a river that has human activities nearby, including dams and farmland. While counts are not available, it appears that through June and July at least three salmon were in the neighbourhood of 14kg/35lb.
Final Thoughts for the Week
What a difference a year makes. With the exception of the Baltic salmon, it would appear that many salmon found adequate overwintering conditions, and likely the generally wet and cool weather across much of the Atlantic salmon’s range in Europe in 2015 has helped them successfully reach their original rivers. While not every river or region has seen improvement, in many cases the numbers are truly exciting. Whether it is record returns in the Loire in France, only a single reference to microgrilse this year, or the improved returns on rivers such as Norway’s Gaula, there is a reason for optimism – always being aware that nothing is simple in the world of Atlantic salmon.