Northumberland Strait Rivers Have Sporadic Rain and Sporadic Salmon

River Philip as it appeared on Wed. Sept. 10, 2014. Photo Lewis Hinks/ASF

River Philip as it appeared on Wed. Sept. 10, 2014. Photo Lewis Hinks/ASF

All Atlantic salmon anglers are optimists, and perhaps that is one of the reasons they are great people to hang around with. But there is a special breed of optimist known as the Northumberland Strait River Salmon Anglers. Each year they cheerfully say the rain will come, to bring gorgeous Atlantic salmon surging up the River Philip, the Pictou rivers and the Antigonish rivers. And once in a while it actually happens, and the runs can be really healthy. Last year, unfortunately, the rain was mostly conspicuous by its absence. But this year will be different…

Nova Scotia

Northumberland Strait Rivers

Gerry Doucet, Director of the Antigonish Rivers Association had this to say about present conditions:

Fall Atlantic Salmon fishing has begun on the Northumberland Rivers of NS.  All rivers have received some sporadic rain over the past two weeks and while water levels have not been high, they have sustained some early runs of autumn salmon.

The East River, Pictou County has reported salmon being hooked on the lower parts of the river.

The River Philip has had spotty fishing since late August.

The West River in Antigonish reported good fishing 2 weeks ago and fish being angled throughout the river. Last Sunday saw 20 ml of rain and resulted in a moderate bump in water. Fish have been hooked daily and dry fly’s are working as the water temperature continues to hover around 60 degrees. A good soaking would still be welcomed by salar seekers.


Bill Haley, writing on Wednesday, notes:

The river has dropped four inches since last week and the North East Margaree is 16C today. There are fish in most pools from Doyle’s to the Tidal. The fishing does not seem as good as last week, but salmon are still being hooked daily. Photo is from Doyle’s Bridge Wednesday  morning.

Can you spot the salmon? Photo taken Sept. 23 from Doyle's Bridge on the Margaree. Photo Bill Haley

Can you spot the salmon? Photo taken Sept. 23 from Doyle’s Bridge on the Margaree. Photo Bill Haley

Alex Breckenridge of The Tying Scotsman adds some exciting notes:

Water level a little lower but fish still being caught. On monday evening a beautiful 42 inch fish was returned at the Dollar pool.

Another large fish was returned at Seal Pool, while a number of smaller fish have been caught throughout the system over the last week. We could use some rain but anglers who persevere are catching fish. Early morning and evening seem to be the best taking times. Weather and water temps have dropped slightly.

Greg Lovely says:

Water is low and we need more badly.The cooler mornings the last few days have improved the fishing. Still some bright fish being hooked. Flies, Lies and Fiddles is on this weekend….sounds like it’s going to be a good time. I have attended it the last 2 years and it was a blast,with everything from fly tying contests, to casting lessons, even sushi.

Sackville River

DFO has released its Sept. 15 numbers, and the count is 29 grilse and 2 large salmon, certainly a significant improvement over the 7 grilse and 3 large salmon to the same date in 2014. But the 2007-2011 average was 74 grilse and12 large salmon to provide a sobering perspective.

New Brunswick

Northwest and Little Miramichi

Debbie Norton of Upper Oxbow Adventures notes:

Had a fisherman hook up this am and fish bent his hook but we didn’t land it. Paul Elson hooked up with 4 yesterday and Stephanie his wife had 1 the day before. Water is low but cool.

DFO has released most of its Sept. 15 counts for New Brunswick, and the numbers provide some food for speculation. On the Miramichi, are the salmon just waiting

The Cassilis Trap Net now has counted 1,325 grilse and 310 salmon, for a total of 1,635. Everyone is breathing a sigh of relief that this is much better than last year’s disaster where 71 grilse and 58 large salmon, a total of 129 were counted. So a total more than 10 times better this year. The 2007-2011 average was 973 grilse and 272 salmon with a total of 1,245.

Far upstream, at the Northwest Barrier, the picture is very different. There have been 222 grilse and 72 large salmon totalling 294. This isn’t the great leap forward when compared with the 145 grilse and 56 salmon (total 201) of 2014, and still far below the 2007-2011 five-year average of 565 grilse and 172 large salmon, totalling 737.

It certainly is true that the water is low, and likely will remain that way for the next week or so. Like so many other rivers, a major deluge of rain, or two of them, would be welcomed by the salmon.

Southwest Miramichi

DFO’s Millerton Trap Net counts 1,220 grilse and 481 large salmon, to total 1,701. This is almost three times the 2014 count of 379 grilse and 289 large salmon that totalled 668. Nevertheless it remains below the 2007-2011 average of 1,505 grilse and 549 large salmon totalling 2,054.

The Dungarvon Fence has counted 157 grilse and 152 large salmon for a total of 309. By comparison, for 2014 there were 77 grilse and 58 large salmon totalling 135. While 2015 is better, it does not compare favourably with the 2007-2011 five-year average of 396 grilse and 155 large salmon totalling 551.

Saint John River

Those interested in the future of wild Atlantic salmon should be aware that NB Power has begun the public input process on what to do about the Mactaquac Dam – rebuild it, return the Saint John River to its original condition, or something between.

Meanwhile, the Sept. 15 numbers at Mactaquac continue to be nearly three times better than 2014, but less than half those of the 2007-2011 five-year average.

To Sept. 15 there were 603 grilse and 89 large salmon totalling 692, compared with 126 grilse and 67 large salmon totalling 193 in 2014. The 2007-11 five-year average had 1,219 grilse and 378 large salmon totalling 1,597. All the above numbers pale in comparison to numbers before the Mactaquac Dam was installed

Nashwaak River – There were 196 grilse and 30 large salmon, for a Sept 15 2015 total of 226. To the same date in 2014 there were 46 grilse and 15 large salmon totalling 61. The five-year average 2007-2011 was 385 grilse and 129 large salmon totalling 514.

Northern New Brunswick

David LeBlanc, Director of the Restigouche River Watershed Management  Committee (RRWMC) notes:

The water condition are extremely low but water clarity will insure that DFO
crew, helped by the RRWMC and Gespe’gewaq Mi’gmaq Resource Council staff,
will cover all tributaries of the Restigouche system with the annual
snorkeling count. The count started on Sept 14th and should be completed
this week.

The Restigouche River Watershed Management Council is just
completing a major project of a 250 m bank stabilization on the Little Main
Restigouche River. This project was made possible by the contribution of the
Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation and the Recreational Fisheries
Conservation Partnerships Program (DFO).

This bank stabilization project has been the single largest ongoing project for the RRWMC in 2015. Photos David LeBlanc.

This bank stabilization project has been the single largest ongoing project for the RRWMC in 2015. Photos David LeBlanc.

Jacquet River – Numbers continue to be very low this year. To Sept. 15, 57 grilse and 21 large salmon totalling 78. In 2014 there were 153 grilse and 113 large salmon, totalling 174. The 2007-2011 five-year average is 153 grilse and 113 large salmon totalling 266.

The view of Bob Baker is that the river has been low enough to impact salmon returns this year.

Nepisiguit River – Like some other rivers, the Nepisiguit is having a great return this year, with 933 grilse and 604 large salmon totalling 1,537 to Sept. 15. In 2014 the count was 108 grilse and 66 large salmon totalling 174. Thus a nearly 8x increase. The 2007-2011 five-year average was only 259 grilse and 230 large salmon, totalling 489.

Bob Baker has some comments on the great year for this river, citing a combination of factors.

“We had a good year in 2011 and from that I suspected we would have a good year in 2015 for the grilse. But we also had a good year in 2010 as well, so that I was not surprised that we have had such a great return of large salmon this year.

In addition to this, while it has been a dry year for most rivers, the Nepisiguit holds its water better than most and that has helped. Overall, we suspect strongly that the run this year is going to surpass the 2011 numbers.”

We DEFINITELY need more rivers like the Nepisiguit in 2015!

Nepisiguit counting fence in 2015. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF

Nepisiguit counting fence in 2015. Photo Nathan Wilbur/ASF


The big news for anglers is not on the water yet. The present regulations on tag numbers will be maintained in 2016.

Keith Piercey put it this way in a SPAWN newsletter that arrived by email this morning:

The fact more people are releasing salmon; we use barbless single hooks in NL and have been for years; we have excellent enforcement in place and it’s improving every year; we are allowed to release four fish a day (the two retained are separate; and many outfitters are now promoting release – only camps; and lastly – no salmon over 63cm may be retained. All of these points help.

Overall he has something. Yet other factors still may change the numbers – particularly the impact of extremely warm water conditions in the past several years affecting juvenile survival. We shall see.

ASF’s Don Ivany notes that there has been  good fishing on the Gander, and in addition to angling of individuals, some of the outfitters have also had angling guests achieving success with the salmon. Water levels are a bit low, but workable.

Dave Vardy motoring through Dark Angle Pool on the Gander River in a Gander River boat.

Dave Vardy motoring through Dark Angle Pool on the Gander River in a Gander River boat.

On the Exploits, he noted only seeing a single angler in the lower part of the river. It IS getting towards the end of the season.

DFO Counts have not been updated since Aug. 31. All assessed rivers except one were above last year’s numbers. The Campbelltown River was 0.3% below last year, with 4,504 returned, vs. 4,522 in 2014. Not exactly a serious decline… To review their numbers, click here.


As Charles Cusson of ASF notes:

Anglers are still waiting for Mother Nature to cooperate nicely in finishing off the season on a high note. Bring on the rains.

Bonaventure River
Ronald Cormier, DG of the Bonaventure ZEC is reporting the best run of fish since 1995. Also, the number of rod-days sold has been outstanding due to the abundance of the resource coupled with excellent angling conditions. It has translated into a banner year.

Bill Taylor releases a large salmon on the Bonaventure River earlier this summer.

Bill Taylor releases a large salmon on the Bonaventure River earlier this summer.







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