The returns of Atlantic salmon this year have brought responses ranging from cautious optimism to ecstatic excitement. Naturally the reaction depends on which river, and also on how long one’s memory extends into the past. Those who remember runs from decades ago realize that the numbers of wild Atlantic salmon we consider excellent in 2011 are just a fraction of what the healthy runs used to be. There is a long way to go, but something good is certainly happening at the moment.
In the field, ASF Research continues to be active in retrieving the data from the sonic tracking program. This week receivers at the Strait of Belle Isle are being retrieved and data transferred to computers. This retrieval is being carried out during a time when icebergs are thick due to small pieces breaking from the massive ice island that drifted past the northern edge of the strait a month ago.
Atlantic salmon returns and river reports
Penobscot – Last Thursday saw the Veazie Trap pass the 3,000 Atlantic salmon milestone, and by Monday 3,013 had returned, making this now the best year since 1986. This is something to build on, as the estimated benefit of completing the Penobscot Project of removing Great Works and Veazie Dam should see a spawning capacity increase of 10,000 or more. With returns in some years now at 3,000, the possibility of reaching a goal of annual runs topping 10,000 is certainly possible. That is, if ocean conditions continue to improve, allowing greater survival of Atlantic salmon at sea.
Downeast Rivers – The Narraguagus now has 173 returned, as of Monday. Meanwhile, if anyone is in the Downeast area on Friday, the East Machias Aquatic Research Center is having an Open House from 2 – 5. The Centre has reached a major milestone of renovations, and they want to show off the facility designed to improve the prospects for Downeast Atlantic salmon and their rivers.
Restigouche – On the upper river, Larry’s Gulch was reporting that cool night time temperatures, in the mid-50s and low-60s Fahrenheit along with a considerable water rise on Friday replenished the river. While fishing was relatively poor on the weekend, Monday saw 11 Atlantic salmon landed, three of them more than 25lbs, one at 32lbs.
This season, 14% of the salmon landed have been 25 lbs. or more, with the largest being 47 lbs. As of Monday, 712 Atlantic salmon had been landed for the year, with more than 450 of them large salmon, and the balance grilse. Larry’s Gulch is entirely live release, of course.
At Kedgwick Lodge reports are similar – cool night temperatures, lots of water, and once the initial water increase subsided, good fishing.
Northwest Miramichi – The Cassilis Trapnet is running at about the same numbers of large salmon as in 2010, but with a major drop in grilse, with 373 large salmon and 1050 grilse to Sunday, while in 2010 it was 384 salmon and 1998 grilse.
Little Southwest Miramichi – Debbie Norton of Upper Oxbow Adventures reports there have been more torrential rains, raising the river level, and cooling the water, making angling a challenge – but the levels not nearly as high as they were a week ago.
Main Southwest Miramichi – The Millerton Trapnet is reporting 581 large salmon this year compared with 630 last year, and 1,734 grilse as of Sunday, vs 2,207 last year. Still, decent returns for recent years.
Saint John River – The grilse count is much lower this year, with 908 as of Sunday vs. 2,223 a year ago. However, the large salmon return has been 593 as of Sunday vs. 313 last year, and above the 2003-2007 average of 421. Still, far below the 1993-1997 average of 1,869 large salmon.
Nashwaak – 211 large salmon had returned to the counting fence as of Sunday, more than double last year’s 88. However the grilse numbers are reversed, with 382 returned by Sunday, vs. 729 in 2010.
Magaguadavic – This outer Bay of Fundy river, monitored by ASF is still critically low, but had 8 grilse and 9 large salmon return as of Sunday. While the grilse are down from last year, this is first time in recent years large Atlantic salmon have returned to this river, an encouraging sign. At 17, this is the largest return since 2006, and beyond that one would need to go back to 1999 to find a higher number, 24. Still these are numbers that remain critically low.
LaHave – Morgan Falls reports 72 large salmon and 274 grilse, so fish are continuing to trickle back to the river.
Sackville River – Salmon continue to trickle in here too, with the total now 47.
Margaree – Storms just passed across the Margaree late Tuesday, giving a modest bump in the water levels, and cooling things nicely. Fishing reports will be added as available.
A personal report:
“Fished the Matapedia River last week – 9 mile section of Cold Spring Camp which is just down river from Glen Emma water. Water temp was consistent to previous years but heavy rain all week brought high water and more difficult fishing. Highlight was first ever salmon landed by a friend (after 5 years of trying !!); a 14 pounder that fought hard before being landed and released under the watchful eye of the guide from Cold Spring Camp. The group in camp also had several other large salmon, although none that large, and several grilse. Salmon were rising to my fly at nauseum, giving me hope hope hope hope but sadly – I was not successful in hooking and releasing anything over the three day period.
Rain was continuing as we left on Friday.”
The great numbers of fish returning to this famous river continue at a steady pace. To August 12th, 2,823 fish had migrated (603 more than all of 2010) through the fish ladder. To August 11th, reported captures were 298 salmon and 468 grilse. Only a few releases have been reported. Water flow continues to be consistent which the major factor is in the angling success.
To August 14th, 964 salmon had been landed and released (111 more than same date in 2010). Captures are up from 356 in 2010 to 610 in 2011. The healthy runs of grilse are usually a good omen for Two Sea Winter salmon the next year.
The Cascapedia Society reported over 200 fish being landed August 1 to August 11th, 175 released and 25 salmon and grilse killed. A retention fishery with a quota of 100 mature salmon is in effect for the month of August. The society is urging anglers to keep only cock fish in the 15 lb range and to release any hen fish. Mandatory live release of all salmon will resume once the quota is reached or on September 1st.
To August 14th, 343 salmon had been released compared to 274 at the comparable date in 2010. The number of grilse landed increased to 146 from 83 in 2010. The Sainte-Anne has benefited from consistent water flows since the beginning of the season.
As of August 15th, 1,227 fish, 466 salmon and 761 grilse have migrated from their feeding grounds off the coast of Greenland. 768 fish had come through the counting facility by August 15th 2010 (444 salmon and 324 grilse). Again, we are witnessing a great increase in the number of grilse compared to last year. To date, 83 salmon and 281 grilse have been landed. In addition to these numbers, 38 releases have been reported.
The migration to date surpasses last year’s entire run by 422 fish.
To August 7th, 384 fish had been landed, with 160 retained, 177 salmon released and 47 grilse released. To date, 567 salmon and 204 grilse have gone through the counting facility. This is up from 448 at the comparable date in 2010 and surpasses the 533 total for the total 2010 run. Again, as on most rivers, the contributing factor to angling success has been consistent water flow.
As of August 7th, 321 fish had made their way through the fish way (217 salmon and 104 grilse), 90 fish have been reported landed consisting of 65 salmon and 1 grilse released and 24 retained. To the comparable date in 2010, 189 salmon and grilse had been counted. For all of last season at September 30th, 96 salmon and 134 grilse was the total run. To date, this represents an increase of 113 fish.
This index river for the North Shore of Quebec reports 232 salmon and 745 grilse had travelled through the fish way as of August 7th. Of which, 221 fish have been landed consisting of 49 salmon, 8 grilse released and 164 grilse retained. At September 30th 2010, the total run was 260 salmon and 450 grilse.
From Don Hustins, regarding eastern Newfoundland:
Water levels on the east coast Avalon rivers are well up as a result of the abundant rain all summer and this week. Most Atlantic salmon are well up in the headwaters and I expect to see a few late stragglers from here on in. Water temperatures are reasonable and good for fishing.
Exploits – Atlantic salmon continue to return in decent numbers, with 40,834 by Sunday, compared with the 44,102 in 2010 and the the 2006-2010 five-year-average of 32,728. The Exploits continues to outdo itself.
Campbellton – 5,433 returned as of Sunday, above last year’s 4,274.
Terra Nova – Another river with returns similar to last year, with 4,844 to Sunday, compared with 4,473 in 2010.
Harry’s River – The electronic counting facility was to be taken out around this time, but a few more Atlantic salmon are reported as of Sunday – 4,024.
Torrent – With 3,578 Atlantic salmon returned as of Sunday, the river still lags the return of 5,409 in 2010. Nevertheless it is encouraging that the salmon are still coming in, with 474 salmon counted in the past week.
Sand Hill – This river appears to have had a bonanza this year, with 8,391 grilse and 954 large salmon salmon to date, far above 2010’s 1,756 and 167 respectively. This is also about double the recent five year average of 3,634 grilse and 593 large salmon.