The Tales of September

A Fin Swirls - photo Charles Cusson

This week water is as big a story as the Atlantic salmon. It should set things up nicely for September upstream migration of the fish, and encourage successful spawning of more Atlantic salmon later in the autumn. According to Environment Canada’s seasonal forecast, we should have a drier autumn than average. For those interested in the lives of Atlantic salmon, the conversation is so often whether there is too much or too little water.

USFWS Worker With a Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon - USFWS Northeast Region photo

In western New England, the Connecticut River has taken a major hit with Hurricane Irene, and the Salmon Restoration Program is just in the first stages of putting things right. Ken Sprankle, Executive Director of the Salmon Restoration Program, says they have lost about 50% of their broodstock. Staff at facilities like the White River Federal Hatchery are working to reduce the impacts of siltation in the water and presence of pathogens that could impact the remaining fish. He notes the staff are doing everything possible to reduce the stress levels of the Atlantic salmon.

In the streams, he notes that parr surveys of index sites had already started, and teams will be revisiting those locations to resample and assess how it will affect the parr densities in the streams. He remains optimistic on this. “I have seen major flooding in the past where you would wonder how the fish could survive, but they do,” says Sprankle.

Atlantic Salmon Runs and River Reports


Narraguagus near "the Airline" - Salmon go far above this - photo Tom Moffatt

Narraguagus – This downeast river has now reached 184, and while this is a small fraction of its historic runs, it is a satisfying increase, making it the best return in 20 years.

Other Maine Rivers – The Saco has 94, the Androscoggin 45, Kennebec 62, all as of Sept. 5th.

The Penobscot River, Veazie Trap count is 3,065 as of today. (Mon. Sept. 12) In the last 10 days we have handled 20 new Atlantic salmon and 11 recaptured salmon (salmon previously counted and released).  We typically see an increase in the numbers of  recaptures we handle at the trap as the season progresses.  Currently, grilse or 1 sea winter returns account for 24% of the run.

– above from Oliver Cox

Veazie Trap - Sep. 12, 2011

New Brunswick

Miramichi – The lower stretch of the the Little Southwest Miramichi is too high to fish at the moment, as more rain came down in the past few days. But the Northwest Miramichi is fishing and parts of the Sevogle are good. Debbie Norton of Upper Oxbox Adventures notes the salmon they are seeing are generally extremely healthy and have been well fed at sea, a general characteristic of the fish this year.

Barrier numbers are in for Aug. 31., and the numbers could be higher. On the Northwest Miramichi there was a return of 209 large salmon, vs. 253 in 2010, although the numbers certainly hold up against the five year average (2003-2007) of 151. For grilse, there were 633 vs 647 last year, but better than the five year average of 151.

The Times Transcript newspaper is noting the high water, and rightly warns all anglers to take extra safety precautions in these conditions.

Restigouche – There has been a real increase in large Atlantic salmon returning to these rivers, as noted in the barrier counts. As of Sep. 8 numbers are still not posted for the Aug. 31 update, however. Anecdotal information is certainly exciting. This note from Mark Ramsay of Larry’s Gulch is worth reading – especially since all fish were released:

“The last party in did well, they helped break the 800 number with a total for summer of 801 being landed!  This doesn’t include the lost.  Also as one guest put it on Friday noon when I announced it, “All were released”. What a feat for the Restigouche Watershed!  This is our biggest season going back to 1934 as far as we can tell or verify!”

Hartland Pool, Saint John River - 1950s

Saint John – The large salmon numbers are truly encouraging this year, with 593 counted at Mactaquac as of Aug. 31, vs. 313 in 2010 and the five year average (2003-2007) of 430. However grilse numbers have taken a significant tumble from 2010, with 909 this year vs. 2224 in 2010. Still, it is reasonably close to the five year average of 1080.

Nashwaak – These numbers for Atlantic salmon are encouraging – 226 in 2011 to Aug. 31 against 313 last year and 53 for the five year average. For grilse, the same trend of a decline from last year – 391 in 2011 vs. 731 in 2010, but still above the five year average of 229.

Magaguadavic – The count is 9 large salmon so far, which is heartening, considering that none came back last year, and only a single large salmon in 2009. The grilse return was 8 to Aug. 31 vs 11 last year, but with this river having so few returning salmon, each one counts.

Nova Scotia

Margaree - by Gord Magee

Unlike most other areas, Nova Scotia is looking for more rain. The fish passage at Morgan Falls on the LaHave remains closed. According to staff, the water has come up a bit on the northern branch, but still things are too warm and low flow to do anything.





Matapedia Looking Downstream - photo ASF Research

To September 5th for the season, a total of 2,021 Atlantic salmon had been landed, of which 281 were released.  River conditions have changed dramatically, with vastly increased flows, following Hurricane Irene. As of September 7th, the flow had increased to 2103 cubic meters/second from 703 cubic meters/second just 48 hours previously.  Obviously, angling will slow down during the next week until levels drop. Overall, angling results continue to outpace last season, with 762 more salmon landed  compared to the same date in 2010.


As of September 4th, 3,082 fish had migrated (1,385 salmon and 1,697 grilse) through the fish ladder. This represents an increase of 862 fish compared with all last season.  As of Sept. 4th, 379 salmon and 672 grilse were landed by official tallies.   Only a few releases have been reported to date, and an accurate number for releases will need to wait for season’s end.  Water levels spiked considerably on September 6th.  Over a period of only 18 hours, the flows skyrocketed from 603 cubic meters/second to 2003 cubic meters/second.  It is to be expected that angling success will slow considerably for the next week.


In total for the season, to September 4th, 1,078 salmon had been landed and released, somewhat ahead of last year. Grilse captures are also higher – up from 403 in 2010 to 678 in 2011. As of September 7th, angling conditions are rated as hazardous and will not improve much until flows diminish.  As of September 6th at midnight, the Bonaventure was flowing at 803 cubic meters/second and one day later at 4703 cubic meters/second – nearly a 6-fold increase.


From beginning to end of August, the Cascapedia Society is reporting 465 fish landed, 408 confirmed releases (88%) and a mix of 57 salmon and grilse killed during the month.  In total for the 2011 season, 2,460 fish have been landed (1,240 more landed compared to 2010) with 2,376 released, giving a 96.5% release rate.  As of September 6th, the Cascapedia was in the midst of the second extreme water flow increase in 10 days.  The flow ballooned from 503 cubic meters/second to 2703 cubic meters/second within 24 hours.  Mandatory live release of all salmon resumed on September 1st.


For the season to September 4th, 393 salmon had been reported released compared to 304 at the comparable date in 2010.  The number of grilse landed increased to 201 from 113 in 2010.  The Sainte-Anne has not been spared the recent torrents of water that has fallen on the Gaspé.  On September 6th, within 12 hours, the flow increased from 303 meters/second to 1203 meters/second.  Needless to say this will curtail angling for a number of days.

Dartmouth, St-Jean and York Rivers

York River, Above Offie - photo Charles Cusson

Extreme increases in flows were recorded recently.  For the Dartmouth, in less than 12 hours the flow increased from 253 cubic meters/second to 1603 cubic meters/second.  Within the same time frame, the York went from 253 cubic meters/second to 1153 cubic meters/second.  Angling has slowed, to say the least.  Ann Smith of Quebec Sporting stated that anglers were fishing in “June conditions” just before the heavy downpour.  Conditions most likely will remain that way until season’s end on September 30th.


For the season to September 2nd, 246 fish had been landed, with 183 salmon released and 63 grilse retained. Continuing the trend for the 2011 season, these numbers represent 126 more fish landed than during the entire 2010 season.

Unfortunately, it is time to put the fly rod down for a while.  On September 5th, the river was flowing at 503 cubic meters/second and as of September 6th was at 1203 cubic meters/second.  This is the second extreme flow increase in the last 10 days.


Water levels have improved somewhat in central Newfoundland. No new fishway reports.

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